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Debbie O'Leary
School of Education

Last modified: Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

The vast majority of undergraduate students are regularly using information technology in their academic work, according to findings from the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement. The recently released survey report, titled "Converting Data into Action: Expanding the Boundaries of Institutional Improvement," notes that 83 percent of higher education students frequently use the Web to obtain resources for their classes, while 80 percent report that their instructors often require them to use computer conferencing, the Internet and other forms of information technology to complete assignments. However, 87 percent say that their peers at least sometimes copy and paste information from the Web for reports and papers without citing the source. Some other conclusions from the survey are that intercollegiate athletes are generally as engaged in learning activities as other students; men are generally less engaged than women, especially in the areas of academic challenge and enriching educational experiences; less than half of seniors frequently have serious conversations with students from different racial or ethnic backgrounds; and more than one-third of all seniors only occasionally get prompt feedback from faculty members. "Substantial improvement in the overall quality of undergraduate education is possible by focusing on the performance of our least engaged students," said George Kuh, NSSE director and Chancellor's Professor of Higher Education at IU Bloomington. The 2003 NSSE report is available at For more information, contact Kuh at 812-856-5151 or

High school educators are incorporating real-world science issues into the curriculum in order to establish a scientifically literate populace. According to School of Education Assistant Professor Troy Sadler, many of these issues involve controversial subjects that stimulate debates among students. Sadler said teachers must be supported in learning how to effectively engage students in these discussions, since many topics center around divisive issues such as gene therapy and cloning. Students come to the classroom with a wide variety of experiences and beliefs. Those preconceptions will determine their responses and decisions related to the subject. "Students often respond to issues based on gut reactions," he said. "We need to make room for those discussions in the classroom." For more information, contact Sadler at 812-856-8145 or

Changes in the funding formula used by the state have led to several significant improvements in how Indiana funds education, despite the slow growth in funding for K-12 education in Indiana. In 1993, the state made significant changes in its funding formula, in an effort to more evenly distribute revenues across school corporations and to break the connection between a district's education funding level and the wealth of the district's community, as represented by property values. According to Robert Toutkoushian, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the School of Education, modifications in the formula have been made in subsequent years, and the Indiana Education Policy Center has worked to monitor the impacts of these changes on the distribution of education funding across the state. In both instances, the changes in the state's education funding formula have been an unqualified success. Since 1993, there has been a significant reduction in the variability of per-pupil funding across school corporations. Analysis by the Indiana Education Policy Center showed that this variability has been cut in half since 1993. Likewise, prior to 1993, there was a positive relationship between the assessed valuation of a community and the per-pupil spending levels. The state's funding formula has effectively eliminated this relationship. Today, the level of financial resources received by schools is related to factors such as size and diversity, and not the wealth of the community. For more information, contact Toutkoushian at 812-856-8395 or