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UW-Eau Claire College of Education and Human Sciences Receives $104,000 in U.S. Dept.
of Education Grants

RELEASED: June 6, 2006

Dr. Joseph Morin
Dr. Joseph Morin

EAU CLAIRE — The College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire recently received two grants totaling more than $104,000 from the U.S. Department of Education through the Wisconsin Improving Teacher Quality Grant Program. Both grants — just two of 20 funded throughout the UW System — are intended to increase the academic achievement of students in core subjects by enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers, particularly in rural school districts.

Dr. Joseph Morin, associate professor of special education, is the principal investigator for "M-zone: Enhancing Teachers of Mathematics' Ability to Accommodate Students with Language-based Disabilities," which was funded for $39,538. Morin wrote the grant with emeritus professor of special education Dr. David Franks and Dr. Robert Hollon, a professor of curriculum and instruction and co-director of the Center for Collaborative Leadership in Education at UW-Eau Claire.

According to Morin, children with language-based learning disabilities can have special problems learning mathematical concepts due to information processing deficits. He explained, for example, that if a teacher is explaining the properties of an isosceles triangle, children with this type of disability might be able to understand the mathematical concept, but they would need to hear the term "isosceles," write it, and practice saying it many more times than the typically developing student before they could spontaneously retrieve it, repeat it, or recognize it in written work.

For this grant, which runs one year, UW-Eau Claire will partner with the Augusta School District to educate 25-30 mathematics teachers, special education teachers, and speech and language pathologists about how to work together to improve mathematics outcomes for these children.

The teachers will begin by meeting for a one-week workshop running June 12-16.

"This is an initial stab at this particular topic, so I'm hoping a culture of concern will evolve out of this and we'll continue to improve our strategies for teaching math to this particular population," said Morin. "During this workshop we'll introduce these three groups of educators to collaborative practices, including co-teaching and consultation. Another major component of the program will be to introduce the mathematics teachers to the characteristics of language-based learning disabilities — concepts with which the SPED teachers and language pathologists are already familiar," Morin said.

The workshop will be followed by two consecutive weeks of curriculum analysis and development, during which the teachers will work in their own districts with periodic consultations with M-zone faculty. The team leading the workshop, which consists of Morin, UW-Eau Claire assistant professor of mathematics Christopher Hlas, and UW-Eau Claire alumna Lori Loomis, a special education teacher in Mondovi, will then come to Augusta High School on June 30, and the teachers will meet once more to plan how to implement what they've learned for the fall and spring semesters. They will introduce the M-zone teaching techniques during the fall semester, monitor their students' progress and make adjustments as necessary for the spring semester, and then analyze the results. They will come together as a group to discuss their results once during the fall and again during the spring.

Karen Horan
Karen Horan

Karen Horan, a UW-Eau Claire professor emerita of art and curriculum and instruction, is the project director for "The Visual Journal/Book Arts Project: Teaching Language Arts Across the Curriculum," which was funded for $68,814. Horan wrote the grant in collaboration with Mary Kuzma, a UW-Eau Claire alumna and former student of Horan's who worked with the Gear-Up Program at the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation for six years.

According to Horan, 29 teachers from the Ashland, Bayfield and Glidden school districts will participate in a two-week summer institute, June 12-23, that will involve them in making handmade, illustrated journals/books documenting what they learn about the traditional culture of the Lake Superior Ojibwe from the Red Cliff and Bad River Indian reservations, as well as the unique geographic area and environment of the south shore of Lake Superior. Horan said the project is based on research that indicates that visual images are another form of language, and that their role in communication and knowledge acquisition is equal in importance to language-based communication skills. The teachers will learn how to tailor their curriculum and instructional methods to better accommodate visual/spatial learners through use of the book arts format.

"Research supports that the majority of Native American students are visual/ spatial learners," said Horan. "But even among non-native Americans, approximately 48 percent of all students turn out to favor visual/spatial learning over the language-based learning style currently favored in our school systems."

Horan said that book arts are a fairly new medium in the classroom and are viewed more as a venue for personal expression than the traditional book form, which has a set format and content to which it conforms.

"In book arts there is equal emphasis on visual communication skills (images/symbol) and language communication skills in the acquisition of knowledge, and creativity can be expressed through a variety of techniques, materials, formats, and content within the six elements of a book: typography, text, illustration, page design, binding and structure," Horan said.

The participating teachers will meet in the Bayfield School and on site at the Bad River and Red Cliff Reservations. They will have the opportunity to meet with ten elders from both reservations to learn about many of their traditional practices and skills, such as gathering medicinal plants for healing or making nets for fishing.

"Because 65 percent of the students in the Bayfield School District are members of the Red Cliff tribe, and 25 percent of students in Ashland's School District are members of the Bad River tribe, members of the education committees from both tribal councils were very interested in having these teachers visit the reservations and learn first hand about their culture and the environment of the lakeshore," said Horan, noting that Diane DeFoe, cultural representative for the Red Cliff Reservation and a cultural specialist in the Bayfield School District, will assist with coordinating activities for the summer institute.

The teachers will visit Madeline Island and the Ojibwe Museum at Ashland's Northland College and hear guest presentations on multicultural and contemporary Native American literature by UW-Eau Claire faculty members Dr. Tamara Lindsey of the department of curriculum and instruction and Dr. Debra Barker of the English department. Jane Herrick of UW-Eau Claire's art department will also visit to instruct them in journal media techniques.

The 29 teachers represent grades 2-12 and a wide range of disciplines, including math, art, language arts, social studies, music, and science. The group also includes a teacher of gifted and talented students and two home school coordinators.

"The book arts format is a natural for collaborative and interdisciplinary learning," Horan said.

In addition to attending the two week institute, teachers will be asked to integrate content from this professional development opportunity within their curriculum, keep records, analyze the data, and submit a project for final assessment. Horan will be available to consult with the teachers in the three districts on a monthly basis until the grant period ends March 31, 2007. Dr. Rick St. Germaine, a UW-Eau Claire professor of history, will assist in evaluation of the project.

According to Horan, there will be an opportunity for the book arts projects created by the teachers and their students to be displayed at the Washburn Museum and Cultural Center during the month of November 2007.

Depending upon the outcomes of the projects, both Morin and Horan hope to seek refunding of their grants for an additional year to reach more teachers in Wisconsin.

"Both of these grants provide outstanding opportunities for university faculty to collaborate with area educators to improve student learning in two critical content areas — literacy and mathematics," said Dr. Katherine Rhoades, dean of the School of Education and Human Sciences. "This is an ideal collaboration because faculty, teachers and students all gain from the process."

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