Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2012

Kits ‘n’ Cats Day, Promote 360 Visits Encourage College Attendance
Evanston Township High School Students
Photo by Steve Drey

Evanston Township High School sophomores got a close-up look at Northwestern life during Kits ‘n’ Cats at NU, an event to increase college awareness for students who have not yet decided to attend college. The daylong event featured campus tours, science activities and a talk with Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. The Office of STEM Education Partnerships at SESP supported the event, and students from the SESP organization Promote 360 served as tour guides.

Promote 360 also hosts college awareness events of its own, with several school visits each spring. “We want to empower minorities in their educational journeys, starting at a young age,” says Leah Martinez (BS12), former co-president. “By bringing them to the Northwestern campus and exposing them to college life, we believe we are giving them an opportunity to see what’s possible for their futures.”

Promote 360 held daylong mentoring events for high schoolers from the METROsquash youth organization, third graders from a Chicago charter school and sixth-grade pen pals from a Palatine middle school. For the first time, Promote 360 also collaborated with Stan Polit (BS10) in hosting a speech and leadership conference to teach high school students public speaking skills.

SESP Ranks in Top 10 Again
SESP Ranks 9 US News and World Reports

Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) ranks number nine in the nation, according to the new 2013 ranking of graduate schools of education by U.S. News and World Report. For the past 12 years, SESP has consistently ranked among the top 10 schools nationwide.

Revamped Student Affairs Office a High-Tech Model Space

Revamped Student Affairs Office

Associate dean Coleen Coleman describes the renovated SESP Student Affairs Office as “a showcase student space... warm and welcoming but infused with technology.” She predicts it will serve as a model for schools across the nation.

The innovative space features cutting- edge technology to connect students with other students and alumni. A three-monitor media wall that is gesture-driven offers features related to campus, careers and communities of practice. Students can collaborate around video displays and at iPad stations. An interactive world map will highlight locations of alumni and foster two-way communication.

“We’ll be looking for alumni to participate via Skype,” says SESP assistant dean for student affairs Susan Olson, who envisions the opportunity for taking programming to a new level with the advanced technology. Alumni who would like to meet virtually with students to talk about their careers may e-mail

The new layout expands the Student Affairs Office by opening up a large central area, flanked by adviser offices. The space also integrates the undergraduate program with graduate programs, bringing their headquarters to the new space on the first floor of Annenberg Hall. Plans were developed with student input.

The renovation highlights the School’s dedication to students. “We’re modeling excellent student services and support, and we want to do it in a model space,” says Coleman.

Mike Horn:Designing Interactive Games for Museums Photo Courtesy of Michael Horn

Mike Horn: Designing Interactive Games for Museums

Assistant professor Michael Horn is known for the interactive exhibits he designs for museums. In his quest to determine what makes a museum exhibit engaging and educational, he and his colleagues designed and tested a tabletop touchscreen game to help museum visitors understand evolution and the diversity of life on earth.

The researchers’ results showed that the game succeeded in making learning engaging and collaborative. “Visitors were engaged in focused, on-topic interaction for prolonged periods of time,” Horn says. A multi-touch tabletop, which is similar to a desk-size tablet computer, allows people to play a game together as they learn difficult material in an engaging way.

Horn’s research team created a puzzle game with multiple levels called Build-a-Tree. It aims to help people understand diagrams called phylogenetic trees that show the evolutionary history of organisms. “In Build-a-Tree players depict these relationships by dragging icons on the screen.

The study, which took place at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, showed that tabletop games have high potential for museum learning. “Not only are tabletop games motivational, but they also cue social practices of game play that spark productive collaboration,” says Horn.

Mesmin Destin

Research Shows Money Facts Boost School Motivation

What motivates young people to study in school and work toward attending college? Minority and low-income students are less likely to perform well in school and attend college. However, assistant professor Mesmin Destin finds that showing students hardcore financial facts can boost their motivation and effort.

In a recent study in Evanston schools, Destin distributed different types of information to middle school students about college financial aid and the income benefits of college. Then he assessed the effects on school goals and motivation, and he found the information had a significant impact. “The experiment improved motivation by making the pathway to future goals feel open,” Destin says.

In an earlier study in Detroit with 561 seventh and eighth graders, Destin found that students who see the connection between college and higher income are more likely to do homework. Students shown a chart highlighting the link between earnings and schooling were eight times more likely to do an extra-credit assignment the next day.

Teacher-School Match Spurs Achievement Photo by Andrew Campbell

Teacher-School Match Spurs Achievement

Teachers are most effective when they have a good “match” with their schools. This is one finding from recent research by assistant professor Kirabo Jackson.

In fact, Jackson finds that match quality is as important as teacher quality in explaining student achievement. As part of this study, Jackson documents that teacher effectiveness — as measured by improvements in student test scores — increases after a teacher moves to a different school.

Jackson’s study, published through the National Bureau of Economic Research, is the first to highlight and quantify the importance of match effects in education, and the first to show that a sizable portion of what is seen as “teacher quality” does not carry over across schools.