Roanoke College

Education professors participate in project funded by U.S. Department of Education grant

  • Education professors participate in project funded by U.S. Department of Education grant

  • 03/17/11
  • Dr. Maria Stallions and Dr. Leslie Murrill, associate professors of education at Roanoke College, are taking part in an “Arts for Learning Literacy Lessons Project” funded by a five-year, $4 million U. S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation grant.

    The grant was awarded to the Beaverton School District in Beaverton, Oregon, in order to underwrite program development, implementation and evaluation of the arts-integrated literacy program. Murrill and Stallions, both authors of nationally-published reports, are training the onsite program assessment researchers.

    Murrill also is working on the pre- and post-assessment tools. Stallions is serving as a consultant for second-language learners, instructor modifications and English Language Learners ethnography studies. Beaverton, Oregon’s third-largest school district, serves a large number of ethnic and minority students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. The program is being implemented in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.

    Stallions traveled to Beaverton this past December to meet with administrators and visit two of the elementary schools. She will return to the district in early March during teacher training, and both she and Murrill will visit in April to train the project’s research coordinators.
    “Arts for Learning is such a promising project in literacy education,” says Murrill. “This is the type of school experience that can turn an at-risk child around and guide them toward future successes as a student and life-long learner. As a researcher, it’s a real privilege to have a firsthand opportunity to watch this unfold.”

    Several agencies and organizations are partnering in the Beaverton project. The nation’s leading education services provider, Young Audiences, collaborated with internationally-renowned cognition scholar and educator Dr. John D. Bransford and a research team from the University of Washington to design the literacy program. WestEd, a California-based non-profit public research and development agency, is working on the assessment studies for the Beaverton project.

    Stallions said she is enjoying the opportunity to work with Bransford and his team and consults with him regularly. She became involved in the Arts for Learning program in 2008 when Young Audiences Virginia established Arts for Learning research sites in select Roanoke city schools. The agency was looking for a Roanoke area coordinator and Stallions was appointed to the position.

    In 2009-2010, Roanoke College and WestEd worked together to study the effectiveness of the Arts for Learning program in seven Title I extended-day schools in DeKalb County, Georgia. Murrill and Stallions authored the research report.

    “Leslie and I are delighted to share the work we are doing with Young Audiences, WestEd and the University of Washington,” Stallions said. “We feel that our participation with the Arts for Learning Lessons national research, as well as the Investing in Innovation project, brings Roanoke College to a national level, and we anticipate increased possibilities for collaborative grants and student participation in future projects.”

    Stallions said that one of the benefits of her and Murrill’s participation in Young Audience programs is the opportunity to share their work with students in the College’s Education Department. In June 2010, Arts for Learning was a key focus at the department’s annual Copenhaver Institute for Teaching and Learning, an event attended by educators and preservice teachers. Last year, a group of Roanoke graduates also participated in WestEd’s assessment research.

    Murrill said that the work she and Stallions are doing will provide their education students with “instructional strategies that will extend into their own classrooms as elementary literacy teachers.”

    Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as one of the “Best 376 Colleges” in its 2012 guidebook, which includes the top nine percent of colleges, and U.S. News & World Report ranks Roanoke the number seven “Up-and-coming National Liberal Arts College.”

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