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Assistant Dean Wins Research Accolades

Dr. Cassandre Alvarado works to help teachers better understand student success. Her most recent paper, “Using Early Warning Signs to Predict Academic Risk in Interactive Teaching Environments,” was selected as best paper at the 2013 Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference. Co-authors Julie Schell and Brian Lukoff are part of the Mazur Group, a research group in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics at Harvard University under the direction of Eric Mazur.

The paper addresses the problem of student underachievement in interactive teaching environments. “Studies like this give us greater insight into how we predict risk and provide support to students, both inside and outside of the classroom,” Dr. Alvarado explains. By offering instructors simple methods to predict student achievement, it directly addresses student underachievement in the classroom. The ultimate goal is for faculty to use these methods and intervene early with students at risk of underachieving. The paper also addresses the gender gap and self-efficacy, the belief that one is capable of completing tasks and reaching goals. It outlines a process to help faculty implement a process for tracking and intervention. The paper is currently under review for publication.

Data Driven Decision Making

In addition to her work in the College of Education, Dr. Alvarado is currently working on another view of data in education: a new website that teaches educators to harness the power of data. The site gives teachers a way to investigate hunches about the reasons behind student performance. Teachers who can gather and analyze data about students are more able to help students do better in school. The site’s development was funded by a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

The site is free for educators: teachers and administrators involved in all levels of education, from elementary school through post-secondary programs. Educators learn about and get to practice data-driven decision making, a method of improving student performance by using quantitative and qualitative classroom data to inform teaching decisions. “Our goal is to demystify the process of using data so that educators at all levels are empowered to use data to drive educational innovation,” explained Dr. Alvarado.

Written by: 
Julia Moskow Ferguson