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On May 6, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh faculty members will present their research, which focuses on two areas of education, during Research to Reception at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Closing the mathematical gap

UW Oshkosh faculty members Judith Hankes, professor of curriculum and instruction, and Stacey Skoning, assistant professor of special education, will present their findings from the Closing the Math Achievement Gap of Native American Students Research Project (CMAG), a collaborative study of 34 teachers from eight school districts who served approximately 350 students with Cognitive Guided Instruction (CGI).

Hankes explained that CGI is one of the few approaches for teaching mathematics that the U.S. department of education recommends and acknowledges. In a CGI classroom, teachers make decisions based on what each child knows and how instruction should be structured to enable that child to learn.

As a faculty member whose expertise lies in elementary and culturally responsive mathematics, Hankes was asked to conduct an investigation to determine why the CGI test indicated that mathematics achievement of Native American students had not improved compared to significant improvement of non-Native American students.

“Investigation into the matter documented that a disproportional number of Native students were identified as learning disabled (LD) and that these students received mathematics instruction in pull-out special education classrooms rather than regular education classrooms,” Hankes said. “In Wisconsin, disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged children from all culture groups identified as LD fail to achieve academic success. However, this problem is not only unique to Wisconsin; it is a problem facing the nation.”

The study is part of collaboration across UW Oshkosh departments and colleges, as well as UW-Whitewater. The study’s main focus and goal was to use CGI to improve the mathematical thought process and understanding of students identified as LD.

Skoning said she came into the project excited about the potential impact it could have.

“The methods being employed had not been studied with children who have disabilities prior to this study and the potential implications were huge,” Skoning said. “Teachers worked to increase their content knowledge as well as change their teaching methods. The students made very impressive gains in their ability to solve mathematical problems and statistically significant increases in their standardized test scores were found, too.”

An adult nontraditional student experience

Marsha Rossiter, a UWO faculty member in the human services and educational leadership department, also will speak about the educational experience of going back to college. Her research focuses on how returning to the college experience influences the adult nontraditional student’s sense of self and sense of their future potential.

“I approach this research from an adult education perspective, which holds that adult learning differs from childhood learning,” Rossiter explained. “The fundamental differences stem from the maturity level and life experience of the adult learner, and the recognition that adult learning processes are intertwined with adult development.”

As an innovative part of her research, Rossiter used student-produced digital stories as data for qualitative analysis. She said that she has been interested in understanding adult students’ stories for many years, whether it be through autobiographical writing or a digital story process.

“The exciting thing about digital stories is that students can be very expressive and very creative—using photos and images, music and their own voice, as well as words,” Rossiter said. “I have not been able to find research that has actually used digital stories as a data set, so it is really quite exciting to explore and determine the best ways to ‘analyze’ the digital story data.”

Research to Reception, a semiannual event hosted by Chancellor Richard H. Wells and the UW Oshkosh Foundation, showcases the breadth of knowledge and depth of UW Oshkosh faculty’s scholarly and creative endeavors.

“The Foundation continues its commitment to promoting and celebrating the scholarly efforts of our academic community,” said Arthur H. Rathjen, UWO Foundation president. “Our goal is to inform, enlighten and engage our community leaders about research activities happening within our colleges, as well as the scholarly activities and endeavors currently managed by our outstanding faculty.”

Read more about UW Oshkosh student-faculty collaborations.