The Scope, the Official STEMscopes Blog

Who, What, Why of Common Core

Posted by Science Explored on October 29, 2013

The Lone Star State has a history of doing things differently.  Our state’s maverick spirit is indeed a source of pride for many Texans.  An education-related example of this is the adoption of the TEKS in place of the Common Core standards.  Though there is no motion at this time to bring the Common Core standards to Texas, the movement itself is fascinating.  Explore with us as we drill down into what exactly the Common Core is, how the standards came about, and how they could one day impact Texas.

More than a century ago, the seeds of the Common Core were sowed by a group of ten men in the hallways of Columbia University.  The group had convened in 1893 to discuss what constituted a good high school education.  Needless to say, the debate went on much longer than anticipated. Generations have argued about whether standards are too easy, too broad, excessively broad, or far too narrow for American students.  Consensus long remained impossible.  Lack of consensus contributed to the statistic that one in five high school graduates is underprepared for four-year college resulting in the need for a semester or more in remedial studies.  This delays their futures and inflates their debt, and has a simple reason:  a high school diploma in one state is not equivalent to that in another and colleges know it.

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Topics: Common Core, Education Insight, standards, NGSS

Could Learninformatics Transform Education?

Posted by Science Explored on October 22, 2013

This past October 7-11, STEMscopes’ Dr. Carlos Monroy, Data Scientist with Rice University Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship, was one of twenty-nine selected to participate in the The National Science Foundation’s Ideas Lab workshop titled: Data-Intensive Research to Improve Teaching and Learning. This five-day long workshop aims to foster novel, transformative, multidisciplinary approaches to tackle how best to teach STEM in terms of producing student results.  The NSF took a unique approach by recruiting not only educators but also practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and institutions.

In collaboration with scholars from Brown University, New Mexico State University and ETS, Dr. Monroy’s group proposed a proof of concept named Learninformatics to improve the way in which teachers teach STEM disciplines. Learninformatics takes a similar approach as the one Bioinformatics does in Biology and Biochemistry. With the use of information visualization, computing algorithms, psychometrics and pedagogy principles we aim at mapping learning pathways, that is, the method in which students go from “not knowing” to mastering knowledge on concepts and skills – for informing teachers in the development of effective scaffolding activities and curricular interventions to produce specific results (e.g. scoring advanced on an AP exam or passing the 8th grade STAAR™).  Data mining at this level may eventually reveal that teaching a specific STEM subject with a game, hands-on investigation, or virtual simulation inherently produces better results that other teaching methods.

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Topics: Dr. Monroy, Education Insight, learninformatics, big data

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