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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: University of Washington

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July 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Computer scientist hopes to customize teaching and learning

Educators have been struggling for decades to resolve a fundamental problem: Students who are in the same grade because of age often vary greatly in skills, abilities and experiences, even on the first day of kindergarten.

Teachers are told to differentiate their instruction so that each student gets what she needs ­ a good idea in theory, but hard to pull off in a real classroom because teachers also vary in skills and abilities.

That’s the big puzzle that University of Washington computer science professor Zoran Popović hopes to solve with insights gained over the last five years of developing computer learning games that adapt to the skills of individual players so they progress more efficiently toward mastery.

Popović directs the university’s Center for Game Science.

He also is the founder and chief scientist at Enlearn, a not-for-profit organization started with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which partnered with the center in May. Enlearn is developing a commercial application for the interactive technology aimed at the global K-12 market.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: math instruction, Seattle Public Schools, technology

June 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New videos offer research-based tips to boost early learning

eyegaze

A diagram from the training modules shows a father using eye contact to interact with his child.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) is putting its research into action by offering parents and other caregivers virtual lessons in how they can support early brain development.

A series of free online training modules is now available on the I-LABS website. Some of the tips:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Bezos Family Foundation, early learning, University of Washington

April 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Looking to complete that degree? UW adds another online option

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

The University of Washington has OK’d the second of two online bachelor’s degree completion programs — one that’s expected to appeal to a broad swath of adult students wanting to earn a diploma from the UW.

The degree, a bachelor of arts in integrated social sciences, is meant to be a flexible, low-cost option for adults who have already earned about two years of college credit or an associate degree.

The classes will be taught by UW faculty members and will include popular upper-level classes from all of the disciplines that comprise the social sciences — including anthropology, communication, economics, history and political science.

The program will cost $199 per credit for Washington residents, or about $9,000 per year for full-time study. (For a comparison, undergraduates who attend the UW full-time in person pay about $12,400 a year in tuition and fees.) Out-of-state students will pay about 10 percent more.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: bachelor degree, higher ed, online learning

April 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New law should alleviate some tuition surprises

M. Ryder / Op Art

M. Ryder / Op Art

A new state law requires the state’s four-year universities and colleges to do a better job of notifying students if their program is going to become fee-based, which usually causes a spike in tuition costs.

It also requires administrators to work with students and create clearer criteria for which programs fit into the fee-based category.

The law, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last week, stems from a controversy that arose more than a year ago when the University of Washington moved a number of graduate programs into the fee-based category.

Fee-based programs are not subsidized by state funding, and students bear the full cost of the program. When a program becomes fee-based, students in that program often aren’t eligible for some types of financial-aid assistance.

Some academics say the switch to fee based is symbolic of a philosophical shift — a belief that higher education, and especially graduate degrees, benefit only the people who receive the training, and not society as a whole.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, tuition, University of Washington

April 1, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Guest: Double-majoring helps students balance passion and practicality

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan

We’ve heard it before: Studying the arts in college doesn’t provide financial stability and is a waste of time. Even President Obama hinted at that sentiment in his State of the Union address when he made a comment about the earnings of art history majors.

For many students, the arts are an identity. Some may have taken ballet classes or sketch self-portraits for fun. But as these students venture into higher education, many end up not pursuing the arts because of practical, personal or financial reasons.

Students who can afford it have a clear solution: double-majoring. In Washington’s state schools, pursuing two majors generally costs the same as one, if students can pack their coursework into four years. Many students who study two majors must enroll in a costly fifth year of classes, however.

School administrators and state legislators would do well to provide financial and institutional support for students pursuing two majors. Interdepartmental scholarships from the school or even state-provided financial aid can go a long way in helping undergraduates get the most out of their education.

Jordan Rohrs is a University of Washington senior majoring in business with minors in music and dance. He wanted to double-major in business and dance and minor in music, but the cost stopped him. Rohrs said he would have to pay an additional $12,000 tuition and stay an extra year to complete the two majors and minor.

Yet even now in pursuing his dance minor, Rohrs’ biggest challenge is balancing classes to maintain skills in both fields. Both the dance department and the business school only offer certain required courses at select times, he said.

“To try and bring yourself to an adequate level by doing both (business and dance) is difficult,” Rohrs said.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: arts, double major, higher ed

March 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

UW philosophers help small children ponder life’s big questions

Jana Mohr Lone guides a discussion at John Muir Elementary School in Seattle. Photo courtesy the University of Washington.

Jana Mohr Lone guides a discussion at John Muir Elementary School in Seattle. Photo courtesy the University of Washington.

Most people think of philosophy as a subject for college, not kindergarten.

But University of Washington philosopher Jana Mohr Lone believes young children benefit just as much from discussing big questions about life.

In 1996, she founded the Center for Philosophy for Children at the UW, which has grown steadily and this year is working in 18 public and private schools in the Seattle area. Last month, the center hosted Washington state’s first high school ethics bowl.

Lone also teaches a UW class on how to discuss philosophy with children, has written a book on the subject, and will lead an upcoming webinar for teachers on how to lead philosophical discussions about literature.

But the center’s mainstay are the regular visits that Lone, other UW faculty members and trained UW students make to about a half-dozen elementary and middle schools, where they help young students ponder questions such as whether people are good only because they fear the consequences of doing something bad, and whether mental work is really work.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Philosophy for Children, Jana Mohr Lone, philosophy

March 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

UW researcher studying whether A.P. helps students succeed

Jordie Kvidera, left, and Helen Wong measure a liquid substance during their Advanced Placement chemistry class at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Jordie Kvidera, left, and Helen Wong measure a liquid substance during their Advanced Placement chemistry class at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

While some University of Washington professors are experimenting with how to add depth to Advanced Placement courses, as described in a Seattle Times story on Sunday, one of their colleagues is doing research into whether A.P. classes — however they are taught — help students once they get to college.

Mark Long, an associate professor in the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs, is one of three researchers exploring whether A.P. courses in biology and chemistry affect students’ college performance, and whether they spark students’ interest in majoring in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

The researchers will work with about 40 high schools across the nation that aren’t now offering A.P. Biology or A.P. Chemistry. Schools that sign up will receive the money they need to start the classes, mostly for training teachers and buying supplies.

The schools will randomly assign students who are interested in and eligible for the A.P. classes to the A.P. classes and non-A.P. classes.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, Mark Long

March 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Guest: Why we need to get more students enrolled in A.P.

Philip Ballinger

Philip Ballinger

One goal of my work at the University of Washington is to see students gain access to higher education and succeed in earning their degrees. One decade ago, our nation led the world in college graduation, but today we rank a disappointing 13th. There are many students throughout the U.S. who have the potential to enroll and complete their degrees, but too many lack access to the rigorous coursework that prepares them for success in college.

Advanced Placement courses and other rigorous curricula-based programs offer high school students the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed in college. On average, only half of all students nationally earn their bachelor’s degrees within five or six years, which is a great financial burden on students and their families. But students who earn qualifying scores on their A.P. exams more typically graduate within four years. These students are able to make the most of their time on campus — by pursuing a double-major or studying abroad without risking their ability to graduate on time.

Washington has made great strides to expand A.P. access to more students. In 2003, only 16 percent of the state’s public high school graduates took A.P., while 34 percent of graduates took A.P. last year. The percentage of graduates who earned A.P. exam scores of 3 or higher (scores typically required for college credit) rose from 10.4 percent a decade ago to nearly 21 percent in 2013.

Although we have made progress, the overall state-level picture still concerns me. Forty-seven percent of Washington’s public high school graduates in the class of 2013 either never took an A.P. course in a subject for which they had demonstrated the potential to succeed, or they attended a school that did not offer a course in the subject. This pattern is particularly prevalent in lower-resourced schools.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, higher ed

February 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

UW one of 19 colleges that offer access, affordability, success

The UW Bothell campus. Photo by Jim Bates / The Seattle Times 2008.

The UW Bothell campus. Photo by Jim Bates / The Seattle Times 2008.

The University of Washington appeared on an exclusive list last week when the Center on Higher Education Reform named its Seattle and Bothell campuses among just 19 schools that do well on measures of access, affordability and success.

The study looked for colleges in which at least one-quarter of undergraduates were low-income, at least 50 percent of students graduated in six years and where the “net price” for low-income students was less than $10,000.

Only 19 colleges out of 1,700 nationwide made the list.

The study’s authors were looking for schools that performed well on these measures because President Obama has proposed a new college rating system that would appraise colleges on measures of access, affordability and student success. The ratings would govern the allocation of federal student aid dollars.

The purpose of the report wasn’t necessarily to praise a small number of schools that made the grade, but rather to point out that it will be difficult to create an equitable ratings system because it’s hard to improve one of the measures without negatively affecting the others.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, University of Washington

January 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Listen up, parents: Your baby can’t talk yet, but she’s absorbing every word

Researchers have long known that babies whose caregivers speak to them frequently learn more words — especially when parents use baby-talk, or “parentese.” Now, a new research study underscores the importance of the style of speech and the social context.

If you’re a parent, the quick takeaway is this: The more you talk to your baby face-to-face, using baby-talk, the more words your child will know when he or she reaches the age of two.

The most effective technique is to exaggerate vowel signs and raise the pitch of your voice. When you use these techniques, your baby is more likely to babble back — a sign that he or she is picking up the tools needed to learn new words.

The latest research comes from Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences and one of the country’s foremost researchers in language development in infants. The research is unique because “this is the first time babies have been recorded at home” while their parents spoke to them using parentese, Kuhl said.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: baby-talk, early ed, Research

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