Congress Earmarks Funds for Center on Adolescent Learning

Posted: March 22, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

The U.S. Congress has earmarked more than $700,000 to fund the creation of the Krasnow Research Center on Adolescent Learning. Barbara Given, associate professor of the Graduate School of Education and a researcher at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, submitted the preliminary proposal last year. The mission of the center is to discover the best ways to help at-risk students become successful learners.

In collaboration with the Fairfax County Public Schools, the research center will offer a five-week summer program beginning in 2001 for adolescents who are at risk for academic failure. While the primary objective of the center is to conduct research on how adolescents learn, the center also will provide a valuable service to the students and their teachers. In addition, insights from research results are expected to be useful in producing effective instructional strategies that teachers across the country can implement.

Steven Schiff of the Krasnow Institute and the Department of Psychology will lead the center’s brain research efforts. He and his team of researchers will use the electroencephalogram (EEG) to study electrical activity in the brains of the students participating in the summer program. By doing so, they hope to identify the neural processes involved in successful learning strategies. The center will also examine the effectiveness of the curriculum used in the program to determine which learning strategies work best for at-risk students. In addition, the center will conduct research to determine if the students’ attitudes about learning have changed as a result of the program.

Given plans to conduct a three- to four-week exploratory study this summer, involving 10 to 12 students, some of whom are failing academically and others of whom are succeeding. The exploratory study will help the teams of researchers work out the details for the full-blown study, which will commence in September with specific teacher preparation and continue through the summer of 2001 for the adolescents.

While preliminary plans developed with Teresa Zutter and other leading educators from the Fairfax County Public Schools were approved by Congress, Given and her colleagues are now drafting a full-fledged proposal to submit to the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Funding is expected to be forthcoming by mid- to late April.

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