Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2015

Quinn Mulroy


Quinn Mulroy is a new assistant professor whose research focuses on policy making. She has a PhD in political science from Columbia University and has been on the faculty at Syracuse University since 2011.


Emma Adam, Spencer Foundation, “High Stakes Testing, Stress and Performance,” $50,000.

Cynthia Coburn, William T. Grant Foundation, “Fostering Research Use through External Partnerships,” $543,284; Spencer Foundation, “Data, Deliberation and Decision Making about Mathematics,” $303,337; Heising- Simons Foundation and Stanford University, “Development and Research in Early Mathematics Education,” $257,912.

Michael Horn, National Science Foundation, “Blocks, Stickers and Puzzles: Rethinking Computational Literacy Experiences in Informal Environments,” $130,739.

Kemi Jona, Motorola Solutions Foundation, “Advancing K–12 STEM and R&D Education through School, University and Industry Collaboration,” $75,000; Baxter International Inc., “Bringing Biotechnology to the K–12 Classroom,” $291,391; Siemens Industry Inc., “FUSE and Green Schools,” $21,103.

Steven McGee, Toyota USA Foundation, “Northwestern Leadership Academy for Primary Grades Science Improvement,” $76,745.

Brian Reiser, Connecticut State Department of Education, “Next Generation Science Exemplar Design to Support the Connecticut New Terrain Initiative,” $67,438; Department of Education, “New Terrain Next Generation Science Teaching Project,” $65,103, “New Terrain for Preservice and Inservice Teachers of Science and Mathematics,” $34,267 and “I-STEM Network,” $166,916.

Terri Sabol, McCormick Foundation, “Strengthening the Definition and Measurement of Family Partnership in Illinois’ Quality Ratings and Improvement System for Early Childhood Education,” $200,000.


Cynthia Coburn was named an American Education Research Association Fellow.

Claudia Haase gave a presentation at the inaugural meeting of the International Convention of Psychological Science in Amsterdam.

Michael Horn received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars. He will study informal learning experiences that can broaden participation in computing.

David Rapp received the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence Award for outstanding dedication to under- graduate education at Northwestern.

James Spillane gave a keynote address for the National Institute of Education of Singapore’s conference, another keynote to 1,350 principals at the Queensland Principals Conference in Australia and a public education lecture on distributed leadership at Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile.

David Uttal Tests Spatial Training for STEM Achievement

David Uttal Tests Spatial Training for STEM Achievement

Can spatial training improve student achievement in STEM—during the school years and beyond? Professor David Uttal’s new study will test that question, which has importance for the future of the U.S. workforce. Uttal and his collaborators will study whether spatial training can improve STEM motivation, course taking, achievement and career interest.

“Nobody has done a large-scale systematic study of whether improving spatial skills has these positive outcomes,” he says.

“Enhancing Middle School Mathematics Achievement through Spatial Skills Instruction” will study seventh graders in 50 middle school classrooms and will later follow up with the students during high school and college. The research is supported by a $431,366 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.

Faculty Share Expertise in New Books

Faculty Share Expertise in New Books

New books by faculty members feature the varied topics of lifelong personality development, Common Core standards, computer modeling and strategic leadership.

Dan McAdams on Personality across Life Span

In The Art and Science of Personality Development, professor Dan McAdams illuminates how personality evolves throughout a lifetime as individuals develop from infancy through old age. McAdams integrates the best research in personality and developmental psychology into what has been described as “the first comprehensive theory of personality development to emerge in the 21st century.”

The “art” of personality refers to the idea that every human life is like a unique work of art, and the “science” to regular patterns that can be observed and measured, says McAdams. Case studies of famous people capture the art of personality development, and research findings convey the science of how people develop over time. The book’s key premise is that each person’s personality develops in three layers— as social actor, motivated agent and autobiographical author.

James Spillane on Common Core Standards

Professor James Spillane, known for his expertise in education leadership, has a new book on the Common Core State Standards, a hot topic in schools and statehouses across the nation. Challenging Standards can help educators to build capacity and navigate political firestorms as they implement the standards in schools.

“This book moves us beyond the either-or narrative that has characterized much of the conversation about Common Core and the standards movement more broadly,” says Spillane. He and co-editor Jonathan Supovitz maintain that the high standards provide “a clarion call” for educators to rethink the organizations, structures and relationships that produce student experiences. Challenging Standards offers perspectives from 20 education experts, including SESP professor Carol Lee, on topics ranging from curriculum myths to the promise of rigor.

Uri Wilensky on Agent-Based Modeling

Professor Uri Wilensky is internationally known for his use of technology to deepen learning. Now he has written a highly praised book called An Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling that shows the power of agent-based computer modeling for investigating complex problems.

Wilensky’s book explains how agent-based modeling offers a new way of doing science—with computer-based experiments. Intended for teachers, students and scientists, the book describes key premises, methods and uses of agent-based modeling. For activities and examples, the book employs the computer language NetLogo, which Wilensky developed.

Olson and Simerson on Strategic Leadership

What do leaders who think strategically do differently? “The best leaders are strategic about how they lead, adapting their style to achieve their overall goals,” say SESP instructors Aaron Olson (MS98) and B.K. Simerson in their new book Leading with Strategic Thinking. They based the book on their teaching, 35 years of consulting and a study of more than 300 leaders.

Olson, who is chief talent officer at Aon, and Simerson, who is a consultant to private and public sector organizations, teach in the SESP Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change program. Using case studies, their book explains three things that leaders do well: see patterns, make choices and manage risk.


D. Oyserman, Mesmin Destin and S. Novin (2015), The Context-Sensitive Future Self,” Self and Identity; N.M. Stephens, S.M. Townsend, M.G. Hamedani, Destin and V.M. Manzo (2015), “A Difference-Education Intervention Equips First-Generation College Students to Thrive in the Face of Stressful College Situations,” Psychological Science.

Claudia Haase, U. Beermann, L.R. Saslow, M.N. Shiota, S.R. Saturn, S. Lwi, J.J. Casey, N.K. Nguyen, P.K. Whalen, D. Keltner and R.W. Levenson (2015), “Short Alleles, Bigger Smiles?” Emotion; M.J. Poulin and Haase (2015), “Growing to Trust,” Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Dan McAdams and J. Guo (2015), “Narrating a Generative Life,” Psychological Science; J.M. Adler, K. Brookshier, C. Monahan, I. Walder-Biesanz, L.H. Harmeling, M. Albaugh, McAdams and T.S. Oltmans (2015), “Variation in Narrative Identity Is Associated with Trajectories of Mental Health over Several Years,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Terri Sabol and Lindsay Chase-Lansdale (2015), “The Influence of Low-Income Children’s Participation in Head Start on Their Parents’ Education and Employment,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Shirin Vossoughi and K. Gutiérrez (2014), “Studying Movement, Hybridity and Change” in J.A. Vadeboncoeur (Ed.), Learning in and across Contexts; Vossoughi and M. Escudé (2015), “An Inquiry into the Politics and Possibilities of Video Research on Learning,” Anthropology & Education Quarterly.