In today's episode, Dr. Lisa Dieker converses with some special guests, colleague Dr. Michelle Taub, and Ph. D scholars Tahnee Wilder, Molly Greer, and Monica Berns. Please tune in to today's episode to hear their discussion on Preparing Diverse Ph. D Scholars for Innovation in Special Education.
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Hello, welcome to our presentation from the University of Central Florida on preparing diverse PhD students for innovation in our field. My name is Lisa Dieker, and I'm a Pegasus Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar Chair at the University of Central Florida and co-director of the PhD program. I'm co-presenting with one of my Co-pi's on the grant, Michelle, many Introduce yourself.
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My name is Michelle Taub I'm an assistant professor in the Department of learning sciences and Educational Research at the University of Central Florida, and I'm excited to present with Lisa and some of our fellow graduate students in the PhD in special ed. Molly if you would like to start.
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Thanks, Dr. Taub I'm Molly Greer and I'm starting my third year as a PhD student. I have a bachelor's in elementary education as well as moderate to severe disabilities and I also have a master's of divinity and children's and family ministry.
Hi everyone, my name is Tahnee Wilder and I am a beginning second-year PhD scholar and I am also a practicing speech-language pathologist, Monica.
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Thanks, Tahnee. Hi, I'm Monica Burns Connor a PhD student also here at the University of Central Florida. I have a bachelor's and master's degree both in special education.
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And so we have the privilege of having our we call this Lead Next the next generation of innovation scholars with us today, as well as Tony is on another grant project with us called teleports and so you're going to hear us highlighting some of their innovations but Michelle and I are going to start but kind of giving you an overview, and I'll start by telling you, our conceptual framework. So we're going to talk a little bit about how we see innovation and diversity, a little bit about our scholar data, some of our current challenges we didn't even put the pandemic on there so just be warned that we've given your challenges beyond that. And then the scholars are going to give you their examples of their mission statements, and then we have kind of a fun wrap-up of five thoughts from each person in the group of what kind of innovation and diversity should we be seeing in doctoral preparation programs across the country. So kicking us off and thinking about what do we mean about innovations, Michelle, can I want to leave that that part and scholars, you can chime in.
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Sure, so when we say innovation as you can see on the slide there are several components to that. So first we talk about learning sciences, learning scientists can mean quite a few number of things so it could be a different theory of learning what theory of learning what is to be used to drive the research. It could also be the type of data, they're using so what type of data are they using to answer different research questions. It could also be the different, different type of learning environments so is it a simulation is that a classroom. It can be all these different components together or separately. So it is definitely a broad term, we say cross-content that also means it can be a cross really any kind of learning content, any kind of any kind of topic so it can be in the classroom it can be in the laboratory, it can be stem content, it can be reading anything. So the idea of doing research and learning sciences and special education means it can have several different components to it.
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Excellent. This is Molly I'm going to talk about multimodal data so multimodal data is basically the use of multiple means of data so it could be video data auditory data, gov on neck skin response data, but the use of all of these data to make decisions and research decisions about the impacts of education or the impacts of instruction and Monica is going to talk about school based project.
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Thank you. So here at UCF we have a lot of opportunities to participate in research-based projects as well as grant writing. We have a lot of partnerships and collaborations with, with for example the Down Syndrome Foundation where we have the students come in and we are PhD students have a chance to work with individuals with Down syndrome and we also have partnerships with TCP, where our students actually can participate and paid internships at UCP locations and one of the really cool, interesting projects that we are working on at the University of Central Florida involves artificial intelligence and development so what's really neat is that we're taking transcripts from the use of dialogue, as these kiddos are participating with robotics and we're analyzing the communications and we are looking at the most frequented words to figure out, more so automate more so automate prompts for students to initiate self regulate the learning so that's one of the really neat ways that we're involving artificial intelligence in our research.
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And I know all three of you are using something in the area of biometrics so I know Monica you're using the Toby glasses What are you thinking about doing in the area of biometrics.
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Recently I submitted an IRB for a pilot study with around 24 Middle School participants. And what we'll do is have the students participate in a reading task, and while they're reading, we will compare the individuals with dyslexia with the individuals without dyslexia we'll compare their eye-tracking movements and a quasi-experimental comparison group study.
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And finally at the University of Central Florida, we use a range of immersive simulations through programs such as teach live and we offer an A variety of means with this so like, I've had the ability to coach assistant principals and teacher evaluation meetings. Also coaching pre-service teachers in English as a second language in reading lessons, but we offer elementary and middle school in high school classrooms, as long as some adult simulations.
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And you know what's fun is, you know, I have to say that you know Michelle just came to UCF just what two years ago. I've lost track of time. Three. Three yeah that's what happens with the pandemic and, and three years ago she literally was walking on, we said would you write this grant with us? because of her skillset in learning science, multimodal data, this biometrics and then our work, we were already doing in artificial intelligence and simulation has really made for this partnership to really elevate the work of the scholars and the future. So I wanted to kind of highlight you saw kind of what we mean by innovation I wanted to kind of highlight what we mean by diversity. So you heard in the opening we have diverse teaching backgrounds, degrees, ethnicity, gender, disability, and I really think our culture both, we see culture, not just as the cultural diversity of the scholar's background, but urban rule International, and the culture of their school-based projects you know dyslexia LD verses and that's the hard part in our field is not only working across content but working across the range of disabilities. And so we really think diversity in a broader sense, but also really respect the fact that we've done very well with, with supporting diverse scholars. So you may not know but UCF is a Hispanic serving institution, which means that more than 25% of our student population is Hispanic which we're very proud of that fact and that has just happened since 2018. Since 2003 you can see here our numbers. We have about a really we have close to 100% graduation rate. We do have scholars in their first year that I've chosen to leave or not stay because they couldn't personally or they might have family issues but that's only been five over the course of the program. You can see that we have a range of scholars from backgrounds and I think we're really proud of the fact that ever close to 30% of our scholars are culturally diverse and close to 25% of our scholars have disclosed disabilities. So again we respect all these differences, all these strengths as our program, and our new cohort coming in is probably one of the most diverse cohorts collectively. You can see here at the bottom will have to international students, six wish disclosed, 10 from diverse backgrounds, and three parents of children with disabilities. And so I often think we think about innovation we think about diversity we think about those as separate buckets, we actually see the intersection of those being the strength of not only what we're doing, but the strength of the scholars that are leaving us because. Matter of fact, they're beating us out for own grants sometimes and we laugh because they've really created some new thinking in our field. And so I'm just going to just kind of highlight, very quickly. What are we doing in our discipline and I know Michelle you're going to kind of highlight some thoughts here too. But I think the first one I will share is just that you know we have to leave our discipline special ed is discipline free but very deep and it's discipline, I know that sounds like a great oxymoron, but we do know our field really well but our kids are contextualized in workforce, in math, science reading language arts, and this field of learning science, I think puts us on the cusp of understanding things like dyslexia, how students learn, how students learn speech, and that's where I think we have to go to provide even more diverse experiences Michelle your thoughts?
Yes. So from a learning sciences perspective I actually I think the relationship is you know is mutual so from a learning scientist perspective, coming into the field of special, special education. We are learning so much that is not always known from other fields so that just shows how important it is, as you said to leave your discipline, but also working with other scholars, so I'm able to learn all, all of this from different faculty from all these different students, and I think it's really wonderful and you know, we also are talking about shifting mentorship, mentorship, I get to mentor students who are in special education and that is a really wonderful experience. Yeah, yeah and you know again I get to learn from computer scientists, and what have you. So Tahnee, Monica. Molly we'll kind of go in that order. Do you want to share kind of things that you've had as diverse experiences and just a quick highlight from your thoughts.
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I think I always consider myself out of field because I'm a speech-language pathologist and so being immersed in the education world is just so amazing and mind-blowing because I'm getting a chance to see how the systems of the education works, where I'm extremely focused on the particular student at the time you know it's really interesting to see their settings so being embedded in a different education world is a really interesting way for me to learn and help these kiddos.
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This is Monica. Definitely the eye-tracking experience that I've received recently is very much out of my field and out of my realm of expertise, and it's been a wonderful experience and something that I'm very grateful to have the opportunity, opportunity to do. And I know that I would not have been able to do that if it wasn't for the collaboration with learning sciences.
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For sure. And this is Molly, and I have had a variety of opportunities as well. I got to sit in with some learning science PhD scholars and some other trainings, as well as this past summer I was there thrown way out of my comfort zone. I was asked to provide support for an online visual schedule for a school district in the local area as a response to COVID-19 so all of these opportunities have really shaped who we are scholars
And Molly's been humble but she's probably written more grants as a doc student than some faculty so again she's been a part of some really great success we've had in grant writing. So Michelle. This is Lisa again I think you were going to share with us some of the intro challenges and then I'll kind of follow you.
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Yeah. So, we are, we are facing challenges but I would say they're good challenges and they get us to conduct more research and work together. But speaking of the content and depth in our fields in learning sciences, there is, as I mentioned before, there are a lot of different components and we need to teach our students and teach ourselves that we can't be an expert in every component of the learning sciences, I would not be able to talk about all of those components. And I think it's really important that we know that we don't have to be an expert in everything. We just have to be an expert in that Nisha of ours. And I think it's important to teach students that also and it you know in the learning sciences and Lisa you're going to talk a little more I think about the special education component. But I think that is something that we need to think about across all different disciplines least I don't know if you want to talk about special ed right now yeah so again. I think you know as we think about our challenges at, even in special ed before we met you know Michelle and learning sciences, it was, you know, am I going to be an expert in elementary, middle or high school or transition or preschool birth to 3am I to be more in reading, math, science, social studies language arts I'm going to be more LGBT Ed, I could go on and on and on and I know I'm preaching to the choir to no sub conference. But I think what we've really learned is helping scholars shape where they want to go in the future, but grounding want to go in the future, but grounding them early in their mission and vision which you're going to hear it a little bit, and yet say it's okay to be a disruptor, it's okay to not come and get a doctorate and leave. How you looked when you walked in the door, because I think often you get a doctorate and say I came in to do this and it's like well let me let you meet Michelle. And let me let you meet you know all of our other faculty across disciplines, and I think at the same time what we've tried to do well, is say you can shift your knowledge but it's going to go right back into the classroom and impact kids and teachers and families. If it doesn't, there's not a purpose to that. And so that's really what we've seen as our challenge is kind of getting that mixture, but moving people to that next level and saying, what job do you want? Don’t go so crazy that nobody's going to hire you because nobody's gonna hire you in a biometric multi modal learning sciences in the field of special ed. And so how do you build that bridge that gap right and Michelle I think you're in a highlight a couple of our initiatives and then the scholars to chime in from there.
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So first I guess this is more to talk about faculty so faculty development. Me in particular I came in the learning sciences, but I was so graciously included by Lisa and now I'm working on several different projects in special education. So thinking about the development of myself as a faculty has been really just great over these past three years, and I think faculty in special education are also learning about the learning sciences, so there really is that development there and that's just at the Faculty level and I can talk about the technology now. Something that I focus on is a lot with different types of technologies, augmented and virtual reality learning simulations. I'm going to talk specifically about AI motions because it's a really great company that we use to help us with data alignment and as students in special education as you heard them already talked about their learning these different using different types of data channels so a huge challenge is being able to interpret that data and put data together, one day to channel with another so I emotions helps doing that and Monica I'm sure it's going to talk a little more she has already about I tracking. So it's just using these different kinds of technologies and, and, you know, learning how to use them.
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Also in this program we use collaborative teaching experiences for us as PhD students. We are pulled into classrooms where there other PhD students who are not an exceptional education. So this allows us opportunities to learn from one another, but we also have this internship opportunity throughout the summers which broadens our field of collaboration. So I spent my 2020 summer doing and doing research and designing a virtual stem camp with the University of Kentucky in the University of Kansas and implementing it virtually for students. And we also have other partnerships with schools, and we have the opportunity to partner with some of our local schools to provide masters education to our leaders in STEM and Tahnee, can you share a little bit about Settle for us?
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Sure. So, one of the main missions of Settle is to support the appropriate use of technology, and one of the ways that they do a really good job at executing this mission is by empowering all of the faculty to understand and utilize UDL services so one of the really neat things that we're getting ready to do is, is to digitize a map of, of all of the different schools across the country, just so that we have a centralized location for special education programs across the state. So, Monica.
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Thanks Tahnee This is Monica amd I too have been working with Settle for about six months. It's been one of my favorite most favorite experiences at UCF because Settle is a, an organization that allows you to do research and get experience but also be creative and so I've gotten to create a few items that have actually been published, which has been wonderful. And I've really enjoyed my experience with Settle. As far as the eye tracking, Toby I tracker I have not been trained yet to implement the eye tracker but it's my understanding that I will receive extensive training. And then once we conduct the study I will be the one actually implementing the use of the Toby eye tracker so I'm looking forward to that.
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So just to kind of summarize you can see we have content area exams they do outside of the field of special ed they work outside their discipline, and we're going to wrap up today with each of them sharing their mission statement in case you want to hire them down the road, they'll be looking for jobs, it's always fun to say, and will fit in with our five kind of things to think about but that gives you kind of a sample of some of the work we're doing and we look forward to maybe talk with you at the round table. So we'll start with. Let's see whose mission statement is first Tahnee. Go ahead.
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Yep. So, one of my mission statements is to bridge the gap between social emotional skills and technology and so so often we see emotion and technology on almost opposite sides of the spectrum, but I'd love to explore different innovations of using technology as a tool to create more self awareness and students and increase independent learning. During the critical stages of development.
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This is Monica. My research topic is dyslexia and my ultimate goal is to streamline programs to serve individuals with dyslexia and low reading achievement within and outside the context of special education.
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This is Molly and my mission is to combine what I've learned with learning sciences and all the supports through that to support students to learn mathematics, also to support teachers with mathematical anxiety.
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Right. And so last word of wisdom from our scholars and then we'll wrap up with our five points. So, what advice from your experience to this point would you give to special education doctoral programs to share diversity is respected while extending your growth as a scholar?So we'll start, Molly, we'll start with you.
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Sure. So my advice is to just be as collaborative and be willing to push your personal comfort boundaries. So the more you step out of your field, the more uncomfortable we become but I've, I began to like live in that discomfort. So, I've worked with big data and computer science I've trained along with learning science scholars, and I've created different things with mathematicians, all on which have pushed me beyond my bounds of my comfort zone and but all of those have shaped me into who I am today.
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Thanks, and Monica.
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I would say don't make pre judgments about people and assume anything about anyone, and give everyone equal opportunities.
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I believe that one of the best advice that I could give to faculty and, and students is to be proactive in developing positive work relationships with the use of COVID, you know, communications, have substantially increased you know which is one of the good takeaways and so there's always an opportunity for people to develop those relationships and to help encourage the students also because the more secure they are in in their placement program, the better quality of work that they'll be able to do and so that's definitely something that I've experienced here at the University of Central Florida.
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And mine is leave thy discipline. I think I've only been successful because I am deeply rooted in special ed and I love the field but the more I leave the smarter I get and I think the bigger the impact so again, I say that with great humility but I think leave thy discipline.
I would say we’ve been really lucky here at UCF to get one on one mentorship and without that I don’t think that I would’ve developed my skill set as much as I have.
This is Tahnee and I would say to be proactive in whatever issues may come up and yes, be proactive in building relationships.
This is Molly and my suggestion is to lean into discomfort. Discomfort can do one of two things, it can keep you stuck in a place or it can teach you new lessons. And we want to choose to learn these new lessons.
This is Michelle and I would say hug thy data so don’t be afraid of your data. You can learn a lot from it, might take some time to do some analysis but don’t be afraid of it data will give you a lot of information. And I just want to thank everyone for attending our session and we hope that you will ask us further questions and we will be happy to answer them.