Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

Fall 2016

Kids’ Coding Game Released Commercially

Kids’ Coding Game Released Commercially
Photo Courtesy of Tangible Play

When Felix Hu was a student at Northwestern, he worked with SESP associate professor Michael Horn to develop an educational game for teaching young children computer programming. The game, called Coding, was recently released as a commercial product for the Osmo system by Tangible Play, where Hu now works.

Testing with kids through Horn’s Tangible Interaction Design and Learning Laboratory led to refinement of the game. A unique feature is that it uses colorful snap-together blocks with coding commands to make creating code easy for young kids. With the iPad app, children guide a cute little character on a quest for strawberries through a colorful, fun-filled world.

Next Generation Storylines Advance Science Teaching

Next Generation Storylines Advance Science Teaching
Photo By Steve Drey

Across the country, classrooms geared to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) reflect a new vision of teaching science. To provide teachers with curriculum materials, the Next Generation Storylines Project is developing innovative units, available at nextgenstorylines.org.

“Teaching with Storylines starts with a compelling phenomenon that is engaging to students,” says Patty Whitehouse, who teaches in Chicago. “They remain engaged as they figure out the answers to their questions. It’s what scientists do: ask questions about something in the world, and work together to figure it out.”

The Storylines design team of learning scientists and teacher leaders led by professor Brian Reiser includes Michael Novak, Tara McGill and Dan Voss (MS16). Reiser helped to create the Framework for K–12 Science that guided design of the NGSS and is working with states around the country on professional development for science teachers.

How You Argue Affects Your Health

How You Argue Affects Your Health
Photo By Steve Drey

Those who rage with frustration during a marital spat have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as chest pain or high blood pressure later in life, according to new research by SESP assistant professor Claudia Haase and the University of California, Berkeley. In contrast, stifling emotion during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles.

Using 20 years of data, the researchers connected specific emotions to corresponding health problems. “Conflict happens in every marriage, but people deal with it in different ways,” says study lead author Haase. “Some of us explode with anger while some of us shut down. Our study shows that these different emotional behaviors can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”

Dean Penelope Peterson to Step Down in 2017

Dean Penelope Peterson to Step Down in 2017
Dean Penelope Peterson (second from left) at SESP Convocation with search committee members Carol Lee, Nichole Pinkard (PhD 98) and James Spillane. Photo Courtesy of David Rapp

Penelope Peterson, SESP dean and Eleanor R. Baldwin Professor of Education, will retire from the dean’s position on August 31, 2017. A committee chaired by professor Carol Lee and including faculty, students, staff and alumni is leading the search for the next dean.

Peterson has been dean of SESP since 1997 and is currently Northwestern’s longest-serving dean as well as the longest-serving dean in the history of the School. She has led the hiring of an outstanding group of faculty, and during her tenure the amount of external research funding per faculty member has risen from approximately $400,000 to more than $760,000. In addition, SESP has ranked consistently among the top 10 education schools nationally by U.S. News & World Report. As dean, Peterson also has created innovative and impactful initiatives, including Northwestern Academy.

“Penelope Peterson has been a key member of the Northwestern community,” President Morton Schapiro stated. “Her dedication, innovative approach and tremendous leadership have benefited the University immensely, and we deeply appreciate her significant contributions to the University’s academic success.”

Study Finds School Leaders Widely Use Research
Photo by Steve Drey

Study Finds School Leaders Widely Use Research

The largest study yet of educational research use among school and district leaders finds that leaders frequently use research for decision-making. The report was published by the National Center for Research in Policy and Practice (NCRPP), funded by the Institute of Education Sciences.

In a survey of leaders from 485 school districts and 45 states, nearly 80 percent said they use research frequently or all the time. This widespread use is “contrary to folklore,” according to professor James Spillane, who along with professor Cynthia Coburn co-leads NCRPP with the University of Colorado and Harvard University. Now the SESP researchers will explore how research is used, through a study of instructional policymaking in four of the nation’s largest school districts.

Northwestern Academy Students Visit Colleges
Photo by Sarah Kokes

Northwestern Academy Students Visit Colleges

High school juniors in the inaugural class of SESP’s innovative college prep program for Chicago students toured universities across the country, a significant milestone in their journey to higher education. The first college trip for Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools gave students new insight into potential college choices.

Academy students are all first-generation college-bound, come from a low-income family or are part of a group traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The Academy’s goal is to provide year-round rigorous college preparation at no cost to ambitious students who may need a boost to enroll in selective four-year colleges. The Academy, which offers classes, tutoring, leadership training, confidence building, college counseling, family workshops and field trips, is now headquartered in Abbott Hall on Northwestern’s Chicago campus.

Civic Engagement Students Win $10,000 Grant
Rachel Sepulveda, Fannie Koltun, Matt Herndon and Imani Wilson

Civic Engagement Students Win $10,000 Grant

A program that began as a project for the SESP Civic Engagement Certificate Program won a grant of $10,000 to continue its work on youth philanthropy. Allow Good Northwestern, led by students Rachel Sepulveda, Fannie Koltun, Matt Herndon and Imani Wilson, received the grant from the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University.

“Our mission is to educate high school students in the Evanston area on issues concerning philanthropy, social justice and community development in order to ultimately empower these youth to be change makers in their communities,” says Koltun. In partnership with the Evanston nonprofit Allowance for Good, the program offers weekly classes on philanthropy.