Tag Archives: education

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2015

Years in graduate school, teaching and research do little to prepare professors for administrative posts. Now, a compendium of advice for new faculty administrators, written by experienced academic leaders across the country, aims to fill the void.51CH6HgCPmL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Academic Leadership in Higher Education: From the Top Down and the Bottom Up” offers readers a view of leadership from many different perspectives and levels within the university.

“Faculty often go into leadership roles feeling fairly clueless,” said Robert Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and senior co-editor of the book published by Rowman & Littlefield. “The chairs, deans, provosts, university presidents and chancellors who so generously contributed chapters did so because they realize that people new to academic leadership desperately need advice.”

Despite the many perspectives presented, common themes emerge in the book. The vital importance of strategic planning, for example, is highlighted by Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology. His chapter discusses developing the college’s mission statement and creating a culture of community. Emphasizing educational and scientific leadership rather than administration, Charles Brainerd, chair of the Department of Human Development, demonstrates another theme – staying connected to your academic discipline. Sternberg concludes the volume with a distillation of the top 10 pieces of advice, starting with “don’t compromise on ethical principles.”

While the book is written for faculty members who are in, or are thinking of entering, academic-leadership roles, it offers insights into leadership and academia that may appeal to many other readers.

Sternberg co-edited the volume with Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University; April C. Mason, provost and senior vice president of Kansas State University; Robert V. Smith, vice president of Collaborative Brain Trust University Consulting; Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas; and Michele Wheatly, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 8, 2014

Ethics book cover

Equipping social scientists for ethical challenges is the aim of a new book, “Ethical Challenges in the Brain and Behavioral Sciences: Case Studies and Commentaries” (Cambridge University Press), edited by Cornell psychologist Robert Sternberg and Susan Fiske of Princeton University. The volume’s eye-opening and cautionary tales about real-world ethical dilemmas are intended not to provide “correct” answers, but to prompt readers to reflect on how to resolve ethics problems before encountering them.

“Students learn a lot of content knowledge in graduate school, but not necessarily much about the ethical expectations of the field,” said Sternberg, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology.

The advantage of case studies is that the lessons are more concrete and easy to apply than abstract ethical “principles,” he said. “This book provides ethical case studies in the whole range of situations that a behavioral or brain scientist might confront – in teaching, research and service.”

The volume is notable for its breadth – covering topics such as testing and grading, authorship and credit, confidentiality, data fabrication, human subjects research, personnel decisions, reviewing and editing, and conflicts of interest – and for the nearly 60 prominent scientists who took time out to share their wisdom by contributing a chapter. Each chapter includes a first-hand account of an ethical problem, how it was resolved and what the scientist would have done differently. Commentary on the greater ethical dilemmas follows each section, and the book wraps up with a model by Sternberg for thinking about ethical reasoning.

“Ethical Challenges” is intended for students, teachers and researchers in the behavioral and brain sciences. Although it is oriented toward those early in their career, senior faculty will also have a lot to learn from the case studies.

“After almost 40 years in the field, I thought I’d seen it all in terms of ethical challenges - I had no idea just how many different ones there were, and how many I have been fortunate enough not to have encountered … yet,” Sternberg concluded.

Next fall, Sternberg plans to teach a graduate-level course, Ethical Challenges in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, based on the book.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 23, 2014

Land-grantbookcover7-23The land-grant university, 150 years after its inception, remains an extraordinary and compelling model for higher education, with ideas and ideals relevant to even the most elite academies, contends Professor Robert Sternberg in his edited volume, “The Modern Land-Grant University” (Purdue University Press).

“Land-grant institutions perhaps best represent the very core of what greatness means in American society – namely, equal opportunity for all and, through it, the chance to make our society and the world a better place,” says Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

“Land-grant universities are about educating students, not just to be knowledgeable and smart, but also to be wise and ethical … to become future leaders, who will change the world in positive, meaningful and enduring ways,” he says.

The book provides a current and comprehensive review of the role and function of land-grant institutions, with four sections exploring the core mission, environment, public value and accountability of the modern land-grant university. The volume’s 20 chapters feature perspectives on teaching, research and outreach; undergraduate and graduate academic experience; economic development and entrepreneurship; diversity; promotion and tenure; and more. Sternberg’s epilogue concludes the volume with a summary of the values underlying the activities of land-grant institutions.

“The Modern Land-Grant University” offers university administrators, trustees, educational policymakers, faculty and staff not only a vision for higher education founded on the commitment to public service, but also practical insights for navigating today’s challenges.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

Related Links:
College of Human Ecology
Robert Sternberg
"The Modern Land-Grant University"

 

By Bill Steele
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, May 1, 2014

 To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

To find food and evade predators you have to evolve. Learning how to do that is the key to the computer game "Cellvival," set in a world of single-celled organisms.

As in many computer games, the goal of “Cellvival” is to survive in a hostile environment. Unlike most others, though, this game teaches some basic science. And unlike a lot of educational games, it’s fun to play.

You play as Tetrahymena thermophila, a single-celled organism that lives in fresh water, trying to catch food and avoid being eaten, and ultimately to reproduce and survive as a species. When you get enough food, you can reproduce, and when you reproduce you can adapt. The trick is to choose traits that will make you better equipped to survive. There are trade-offs: Speed makes your organism less maneuverable, and vice versa. Instead of levels, the game puts you in different environments, and the traits that make you best fitted to survive will be different in each one.

Ithaca-area high school students have been playing – and enjoying – the game, and whether they realize it or not, learning how evolution works, how the characteristics an organism inherits interact with its environment. “In order to play a game, you have to learn how to play the game, so kids are used to getting information from games,” explained Andrew Jefferson, a graduate student in the field of human development, who spearheaded development of the game. “One reason we went with evolution is that it involves abstract things that are hard to visualize. In a game you can take something abstract and make it concrete and play with it and experiment. Even if they die [lose the game], that’s still teaching them something about how it works.”

The project grew out of Jefferson’s conversations with Walker White, director of the Game Design Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC). Coincidentally, White had just been approached by members of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s ASSET (Advancing Secondary Science Education with Tetrahymena) program, who were interested in creating educational games to go with laboratory modules they provide to biology teachers. Jefferson works with Steven Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Human Development, and human development professor Wendy Williams, and has recruited a team of computer science students as programmers. He will describe the project at the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison, Wisconsin, June 11-14. You can try out the game yourself at the GDIAC showcase, May 16 in Carpenter Hall.

After some polishing, the game will be distributed free to teachers through the ASSET program, along with lab modules that let students work in the classroom with the real Tetrahymena organism. Several teachers around New York state have already expressed interest, Jefferson said. The game is available in PC and Mac versions, with an accompanying lesson plan to guide classroom discussion.

The challenge, Jefferson said, is to satisfy both kids and teachers. “Educational games get a bad rap,” he noted. “Kids compare it with the games they paid for. Often in educational games you’re just answering quiz questions. … But if you don’t have those questions, teachers ask if kids are learning the game but not learning the content. It’s a balancing act.” But so far, he said, reception has been favorable. When he demos the game to adults the response is often, “That looks a lot better than I was expecting from an educational game.”

Testing will soon move to Ithaca middle schools, and Jefferson plans to create more games, in particular one that teaches critical thinking skills. The work so far has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

 

By Blaine Freedlander
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, April 24, 2014

Beyond the buds and the daffodils, another spring rite emerges: undergraduate research presentations.About 140 students presenting 115 individual pieces of research gathered for the 29th annual Cornell Undergraduate Research Forum April 16 at Duffield Hall, while 45 seniors convened for the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Senior Expo 2014, April 17 at the Biotechnology Building.

Ranging from cancer research and possible pharmaceuticals for diabetics to cooking a better steak, almost 200 undergraduates conveyed their academic prowess.

Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars presentations in the Biotech Building April 17. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars presentations in the Biotech Building April 17. Photo by Lindsay France/University Photography

Cornell Undergraduate Research Board

Michelle Duong ’14 showed that an environment influences food intake. In two focus groups – each before a bowl of chocolates – the people who discussed gym memberships ate fewer sweets than those who discussed a nonhealth topic.In her research, Shanique Alabi ’14 learned that Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which she found at the Cornell Plantations, may offer promise as a carbohydrate digestion blocker for diabetics.

Jessica Lebovits ’14, Nolan Reese ’15, Janet Kim ’15 and Olivia Roche ’15 studied the culinary learning process of off-campus college students to ascertain nutrition among young adults. Louis Levine ’16, Rachel DeMel ’14, Camille Kapaun ’14 and Paige Mintz ’15 learned how off-campus students manage their time in preparing meals with the aim of improving their meal choices.

Conor Gruber ’15 studied the early detection of circulating tumor cells in pancreatic cancer, working toward an assay that ascertains cellular nuances; and Karen Martin ’15 examined the process of RAC1 proteins as it relates to metastatic cancer.

While Marissa Tranquilli ’15, Simeon Markind ’14, Katherine Bruce ’14 and Benjamin Catanese ’14 characterized the carbohydrate content of the Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat and Green Trail beers with high performance liquid chromatography-refractive index detection, other student chemists Janette Guijosa ’14, Sarah Goodnow ’14, Daniel C. Lee ’14, Harrison Specht ’14 and Ashley-Lauren Mighty ’14 provided an aroma profile of Ithaca Beer’s Flower Power IPA in various stages of production.

Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars

Rachel Lumish ’14 correlated pica behavior (consuming non-food items like chalk, ice, powder, soap and dirt) and its relationship with iron deficiency among pregnant teens. And Quinn Kelly ’14 analyzed bicycling policies in major American cities, with an eye toward improving sustainable transportation. He found that cities with the strongest bicycling organizations had the strongest cycling infrastructure and policies, and the largest amount of cyclists.

James Zen Yui ’14 showed how to save energy and grill a better steak by pre-cooking the meat in a vacuum-sealed plastic and storing it in water, which keeps the meat tender. When ordered in a restaurant, the juicy so-called sous vide steak is grilled for a few minutes.

To create equity in discrimination lawsuits (based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), Hannah Clark ’14 assembled a database of factors that correlate with larger settlements and relief clauses in settlement documents.

Spenser Reed  ’14 evaluated chicken as a potential model for an inexpensive and sensitive zinc biomarker to quickly assess human nutritional needs, while Joseph Edwards ’14 explained how he used electrospinning and electrospraying to create membranes that use biochar to trap volatile organic compounds, for possible use as a smokestack filter.

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Department of Human Development well-represented!

Of the students involved in the presentations, 21 were Human Development majors or worked with a professor from the department: Victoria Atzl ’14, Martina Azar ’14, Olivia Butkowski ’16, Morgan Drucker ’14, Lara Gentilini ’14, Jeanie Gribben ’15, Amauri Gomez ’14, Azraa Janmohamed ’16, Corey Keane ’15, Kyle Kurkela ’14, Wei-Feng Lee ’16, Samantha Marfurt ’14, Meghan McDarby ’14, Nicole Meyers ’14, Hye Eon Park ’15, Carly Schuller ’16,  Leah Shabo ’16, Victoria Silverman ’15, Colleen Sullivan ’16, Masrai Williams ’15, Lilly Zhang ’14.

Related Links:
Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars
Cornell University Research Board

By Karene Booker

Deana Blansky leading a session for young adolescents on health and fitness - Mark Vorreuter

Deana Blansky leading a session for young adolescents on health and fitness - Mark Vorreuter

Last year Deanna Blansky ’16 jumped into a new initiative to translate faculty research into hands-on activities for teaching middle-school youth about the brain, health, and science. The initiative aims to develop a six-hour 4-H STEM curriculum on health and the brain and is led by Valerie Reyna, professor and director of the Human Neuroscience Institute in the Department of Human Development, and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility.

To start, Blansky, a Human Biology, Health, and Society major, developed two modules, one on nutrition and fitness and another on breast cancer genetics, based on Reyna’s ongoing research.  She piloted these modules with middle school campers at Bristol Hills 4-H Camp in Canandaigua, New York as part of her summer Cornell Cooperative Extension internship. Both modules combined aspects of health and neuroscience, while providing an interactive learning experience for the campers.

The campers particularly liked the hands-on lessons, such as competing in the nutritional breakfast cook-off and creating model brains they could keep, Blansky said. They had fun comparing breakfast ideas and seemed surprised by how easy it was to create their own healthy meals. They were eager to take their ideas back home, she said.

The combination of outreach through teaching at summer camp and empirical neuroscience research was really rewarding, Blansky concluded. What she learned about the research process, curriculum development and lesson planning for different age groups will come in handy - she is planning on entering the field of medicine and public health, and hopes to incorporate community health into her future career.

This year, Noah Rubin ’16 will be refining the two modules and developing new segments. Rubin is majoring in Policy Analysis and Management and minoring in Computer Science and Math. He joined Reyna’s Laboratory of Rational Decision Making propelled by an interest in human behavior and the neuroscience behind it. An interest, he says, that was sparked in high school after reading a story about a man who had developed software that predicted investing behavior based on reactions to current events.

The new and revised modules will be piloted with youth this summer, with the plan of eventually making them more broadly available.

By Rachel Sumner

Sumner

This summer I taught the Thinking Like a Scientist class as part of the 4H Career Explorations program. The Thinking Like a Scientist curriculum was designed by my advisor Wendy Williams, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology. It consists of a number of modules covering science topics that are of interest to teens. As the instructor of this summer’s 3-day session, I chose which topics we’d cover, presented the material to students, and led discussions with the 24 students in this year’s class.

 After teaching this class last year, someone told me that the way the class goes totally depends on the group of students in the class, and I was surprised to learn just how true this is: Last year's group enjoyed thinking about future experiments that could be done, this year's group preferred discussing relevant experiments that have already been done. One year's group liked breaking into smaller groups for discussions, while the other year's group would rather have a discussion all together. One group of students seemed to enjoy building on each other’s ideas, and the other group reveled in respectfully challenging each other’s ideas.

I think one of the best parts of the Thinking Like a Scientist class is its flexibility. Taking part in this class gives students the tools to think about topics that matter to them in a scientific way. Topics like bullying and teen suicide, which have been in the news frequently but are not part of the Thinking Like a Scientist curriculum, were clearly on students' minds. Having the flexibility to discuss these important topics and encourage students to approach them in a scientific way seemed to be beneficial for the students.

The students' favorite part of this year's Thinking Like a Scientist class was probably having lunch with graduate students from different science and engineering fields. They had the opportunity to ask questions about applying to college, deciding what to study, and what kinds of things you get to do as a psychologist, physicist, electrical engineer, or natural resource scientist. Taking part in this discussion reminded me how teens are often equally enthusiastic and nervous about the future, but it’s heartening to see them grapple with serious questions – about science, about their own lives, and about ways to improve the lives of others.

 Rachel Sumner is a graduate student in human development in the College of Human Ecology.

  
By Rachel Sumner

“Maybe there are just too many of us trying to send messages with our minds at the same time,” suggested one student after our group’s third unsuccessful attempt to demonstrate the existence of Extrasensory perception (ESP). “That’s a great hypothesis,” I remarked, “How could we test that?”

This foray into the paranormal was part of a workshop on Thinking Like a Scientist, offered at the 4-H Career Explorations Conference. Thinking Like a Scientist, developed by Wendy M. Williams, professor in the department of human development, is an extension education program designed to help kids explore the science behind topics that interest them, such as ESP, lying, and self-esteem. Students are encouraged to develop hypotheses, seek out facts instead of opinions, consider previous research, and think about how science and scientific findings are related to real-world situations. So many science courses focus on content. The focus of this program is the process of scientific inquiry itself.

During one lesson about the science of smiling, students investigated this everyday behavior from a scientific perspective. With a level of creativity and curiosity that I’d come to expect from them after our two days in the classroom, they brainstormed potential support for a number of hypotheses about gender differences in smiling. Their suggestions ranged from “Girls have more to worry about and guys don’t really take things seriously,” to “Girls get to sleep in more and…they watch more soap operas, no offense.” Students were drawing on their own experience of the world and thinking about how or why their experience might be similar to or different from a broader pattern of experience that might be revealed by science and research.

Teaching the Thinking Like a Scientist course was a wonderful chance for me to share my enthusiasm for the rigors of research with these young students. Watching them struggle through defining a term or refining each other’s ideas for future research reminded me of my own introduction to science in college. “Thinking like a scientist” has since become the way I think about pretty much everything and has set me on the trajectory that led me here, one year into a PhD program in Human Development. My advisors, Wendy M. Williams, Stephen Ceci, and Steven Hamilton, continue to nourish and broaden my enthusiasm for exploring the world and solving problems by using research and scientific process.

Rachel Sumner is pursuing her PhD in Human Development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. She is interested in conducting research on gender and racial achievement gaps in education and ways in which those disparities can be eliminated.

By Karene Booker

Local early childhood program hosts Cornell undergraduate

Local early childhood program hosts Cornell undergraduate

A new workshop series for local daycare programs teaches state-of-the-art theory and methods and gives back to community partners who provide Cornell undergraduates with experiential learning opportunities.

Elizabeth Stilwell, Lecturer in the Department of Human Development, was awarded a grant from the Cornell Public Service Center to train early childhood teachers and administrators in Tompkins County. The program targets the many dedicated daycare providers who take on additional responsibility and spend countless hours supervising Cornell student field placements.

The new course is based on the full semester course at Cornell, The Role and Meaning of Play. Stilwell adapted it to address the unique role that early childhood teachers and administrators have in fostering play in children’s lives.  The course covers the developmental importance of play, how it shapes the mind, opens the imagination and supports life-long learning.

“Many teachers have asked about auditing a course in child development at Cornell.” said Stilwell. “They are interested in knowing more about what the students they host are learning.  The grant allowed me to provide the course and books at no cost to the participants.  I planned to limit the course to 15 but in the first two days, 18 registered!   This is a way to acknowledge and appreciate their role in continuing to support service learning for Cornell undergraduate students.   These field experiences are what bring student learning to life, as they apply theory to practice.”

student intern

Student intern leading activity with children

“I am really enjoying the class on play!” said Ellen Garcia, a teacher at the University Cooperative Nursery School. “First of all, I love getting new ideas and strategies to use in the classroom.  I also like to have the research-based information to make me confident in what I'm doing and to understand what Cornell students are learning so I can make their experience better.  And finally, teaching young children can be isolating. I love getting to know other teachers so that I can use them as resources as well.”

In addition to support from the Faculty Fellows in Service grant from the Cornell Public Service Center, the project collaborates with the Ithaca City School District and the Child Development Council of Ithaca.

By Karene Booker

Gary Evans

Evans

Children in low-income families lag behind their higher-income counterparts on virtually all measures of achievement, and this gap tends to increase over time. There are many reasons why, but a Cornell environmental psychologist and his colleagues add a new culprit to the list: chronic stress from adverse neighborhood and family conditions.

Chronic stress, in addition to parents not investing much time in cognitively stimulating their children, "can hinder children's cognitive functioning and undermine development of the skills necessary to perform well in school," says Gary Evans, professor of design and environmental analysis and of human development, who has been studying the effects of poverty on children for more than two decades.

"Their homes, schools and neighborhoods are much more chaotic than those of their higher-income counterparts," he added. "They live with such stressors as pollution, noise, crowding, poor housing, inadequate school buildings, schools and neighborhoods with high turn-over, family conflict, family separation, and exposure to violence and crime. These conditions can produce toxic stress capable of damaging areas of the brain associated with attention, memory and language that form the foundation for academic success."

Writing in the winter issue of the magazine Pathways, a magazine on poverty, inequality and social policy published by the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University, Evans and Columbia University's Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Princeton's Pamela Kato Kebanov describe their Risk-Stress Model. They point to research that shows how growing up in poverty is linked with dramatically increased risk factors and how this elevated risk is linked to higher stress levels among poor children.

They also describe their reanalysis of a national dataset of very young at-risk children to explore the relationship between family income and blood pressure and body mass index. Both are measures of stress, reflecting wear and tear on the body and are precursors of lifelong health problems.

The researchers found that babies growing up in low-income neighborhoods had health trajectories indicative of elevated chronic stress. Disturbingly, these patterns emerged very early in the lives of these children.

The authors also examined the link between chronic stress and achievement. There is some evidence that several areas of the brain -- language, long-term memory, working memory and executive control -- are sensitive to childhood poverty. New data are beginning to shed light on the question of whether these differences are attributable to cumulative risk and stress, Evans said.

In a recent follow-up in a longitudinal study of children in poverty, Evans and colleagues found that working memory at age 17 deteriorated in direct relation to the number of years the children lived in poverty. Importantly, this effect only occurred among the low-income children with chronically elevated physiological stress. Early childhood poverty did not lead to working memory deficits among children who had somehow escaped the stress that usually accompanies poverty.

Childhood poverty leads to lower academic and occupational achievement, in part, because the multiple risks typically faced by children growing up in poverty lead to chronic stress, which in turn, negatively affects children's cognitive abilities to succeed in school.

"We don't dispute the important roles of cognitive stimulation and parenting styles in socio-economic status differences in children's cognitive development," Evans says. "However if this new pathway is confirmed, it suggests new ways of understanding and ultimately intervening to break the income-achievement gap."