Academic Learning Lab comes to struggling students' rescueBy Gemma McLuckie, College of Education
In the 1970s, Janice Joplin insisted,"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." Some talented freshmen are singing a different tune. They have found that the free and open life of college left them with plenty to lose -- academic success.
Students can waste a lot of time, and their procrastination may lead to academic probation or worse, said Bruce W. Tuckman, professor of educational policy and leadership. Tuckman should know: He has spent his career studying what motivates students to learn. Now he directs the Academic Learning Lab (ALL) in Ohio State's Younkin Success Center.
The ALL comes to the rescue with a Web-based course, Educational Policy and Leadership 259, targeted toward students who are in an academic morass. Advisers from all of Ohio State's colleges refer students to the class after a quarter or two of low grades.
Follow-up studies show the grade-point average of all the students who took the class in autumn and winter quarters 2000-01 rose an average of .7 GPA points over their GPAs at the beginning of the school year. African- American students benefited the most, with a .8 GPA point boost.
Tuckman said the key is helping students"really get into their own heads and develop a much higher level of self-awareness." Students who are in academic difficulty have made poor choices. They must determine why they decided to skip class or hand in late assignments. Then they must learn to regulate their behavior to ensure success.
Tuckman's course is based on his own instructional model, called ADAPT Ñ Active Discovery And Participation Through Technology. It combines some features of a conventional class, such as requiring attendance and having an instructor, but its assignments are given on a Web site and completed on a computer."Students don't want us to hold their hands," Tuckman said."They come to Ohio State brimming with self-confidence, but they don't do enough of the right things. They begin to ask, 'What am I doing here (in college)?'"
He said students' self-doubts undermine their ability to get good grades because they don't trust their own judgment.
His new book, Learning and Motivation Strategies: Your Guide to Success, emphasizes that people who seek help are not dumb."The first page says, 'You're here because you want to bring out your best. It's commendable that you are here.'"
The book, published by Prentice Hall in July, combines all that Tuckman has learned in almost three decades of study. He came to Ohio State three years ago from Florida State University, where he was dean of the education college, and later, coordinator of the educational psychology program. Ohio State recruited him to set up the ALL, which he calls an outpost of the College of Education's School of Educational Policy and Leadership.
ALL instructors are graduate students from educational policy and leadership. Some doctoral students will do their research in the lab, and Tuckman is talking to other faculty members who may become involved in the work done there.
During autumn quarter, ALL began a new service. It offers three sections of 259 for incoming freshmen Ñ reaching them before they make those bad choices."Ideally, everyone would be given an opportunity to take the course," Tuckman said.
For those who were lucky enough to have already been referred to ALL,"students say, 'I kind of lost my balance here, but through this course I got it back,'" Tuckman said."They can get a nice big GPA boost and now are on track."
New program trains professionals who will take an interdisciplinary approach to child developmentBy Emily Caldwell, onCAMPUS staff
By the time children with disabilities reach school age, they and their families have likely made rounds to numerous therapists, physicians and educators for the services and treatment that will assist in their early development. And more often than not, at least in Ohio, the therapies are provided in a setting away from home.
A team of five Ohio State faculty from five different University departments has secured a federal grant to create an interdisciplinary program that will train future practitioners to take a more family-centered approach to serving very young children with special needs.
The program promises to affect a significant portion of the population: Statistics suggest that about one in 10 children has some level of disability, ranging from mild learning disabilities to the most severe disabilities requiring round-the-clock medical care. Especially for those parents raising babies with multiple special needs, a revised approach to early intervention could make an enormous difference on the entire family's well-being.
"With family-centered care, there is clear recognition that the context for child development is the family -- and the family's lifestyle, customs, interests, priorities and concerns," said Jane Case-Smith, associate professor in the occupational therapy division of the School of Allied Medical Professions and lead faculty member in the project."We've emphasized that services should be provided in a natural environment. Best practices suggest services should be provided in the home or the family's day-care setting."
With a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Case-Smith and four colleagues have designed a new specialization spanning five master's degree programs that prepare students for careers in fields focusing on the early development of children with disabilities: occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, speech therapy and special education. The affiliated faculty, respectively, are Case-Smith; Dale Deubler, lecturer in the physical therapy division of Allied Medical Professions; Mary Gottesman, assistant clinical professor of nursing; Marcia Taber, supervisor in the speech and hearing science clinic; and Diane Sainato, associate professor of physical activity and educational services.
"Therein lies the strength," Case-Smith said."This project unites health and education. As much as we talk about that as being the ideal, it's rarely done in such a unified way on campus."
Twenty students are enrolled in the program, which began autumn quarter. Upon graduation, they will receive -- on top of their master's degree -- early intervention certification from the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disability, verification of certification from the Bureau of Early Intervention, and graduate interdisciplinary specialization in early intervention from Ohio State -- an officially recognized interdisciplinary specialization approved last spring.
The collaborating faculty worked with Ohio agencies as they designed the new program.
"One of Ohio's primary issues is the family's transition from the early intervention system to school," Case-Smith said."In our many conversations with the state, we identified system problems in early intervention that need to be resolved and made those the emphasis of our curriculum. So we're training professionals who will help improve the way services are provided. I think this is a really great opportunity for students to understand best practices in early childhood before getting out into Ohio programs."
As part of the grant award, graduates of the program must work for at least two years providing services to young children.
Curriculum requirements include the addition of 15 credit hours and four hours of practicum to their master's program, 14 of which must be hours in disciplines outside their major.
"Typically, within these professional programs, students focus on their own specialization and discipline-specific services within a clinic or outpatient setting. They have very little exposure to other disciplines. And then graduates continue to work in this isolated and fragmented way," Case-Smith said."The major goal of this program is to prepare professionals to work in interdisciplinary models. This will translate into a sense of consistency and continuity for families, who, in the past, have been helped by people who are not communicating with each other."
An additional diversity component involves an effort to expose students to families representing various cultural backgrounds, Case-Smith said.
The practicum links students for six months with a family that includes a child with special needs. During that time, the students will interview and observe the family members in their natural environments"to experience the daily realities of living with a disability," Case-Smith said.
Such an approach -- moving a component of student learning from a clinical setting into the home -- has the potential to function as therapy for the entire family, said Jill McQuaid, parent coordinator for the project.
"To see what all goes on at home for the family will be very eye-opening for the student and empowering for the family," said McQuaid, a former special education teacher and a mother of three, including one son with cerebral palsy."One of the biggest challenges in raising a child with special needs is finding professionals who communicate well with me, who 'click.' It is so nice for a family to have someone around who wants to learn to be a better professional, and to learn it from them."
For example, McQuaid said, early intervention professionals may set progress goals for children with disabilities or recommend home-based activities that become unreasonable expectations for a busy family juggling jobs, other children and numerous additional responsibilities."By working with families, these students are likely to become practitioners who will be a little more sensitive, and a little more realistic about what they advise parents to do," she said.
McQuaid lined up the 20 families being served by this inaugural group of students in the program. She has compiled a waiting list with 10 additional family names."Every family I contacted about this project was so excited -- they feel they are going to make a difference in helping teach therapists about family needs," she said.
And they'll get a little needed reinforcement in the process, she added.
"So often, parents can have doubts," she said."You might say to yourself, 'How can I do this day-to-day?' It can be very rewarding to hear students' reactions to their stories, especially when they show their admiration. And it reinforces parents to hear a student say, 'You're doing a good job.'"