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Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2002

Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

Creating a winter break routine and unique family traditions are keys to warding off the holiday blues. "There are many factors that cause stress during the holidays," said Tom Sexton, IU professor of counseling and educational psychology and director of the Center for Adolescent and Family Studies. "Because there's a disruption in the normal schedule with kids home from school, shopping, and other holiday activities, it's imperative to develop a routine that works for everyone." Without that routine, children aren't able to focus and anticipate their activities, inevitably leading to added parental stress. Unrealistic expectations can also lead to family stress. "During the holidays, expectations are raised for what is interpreted as the ideal family," Sexton said, "but no one's family lives up to the image of the Cosbys or the Waltons." So, he explained, it's important to look at the unique qualities of each family. "Focus on the family's strengths rather than their negatives and try to create your own family traditions. It's the special things that define who we are," he said. For more information, contact Sexton at 812-856-8350 or

Reducing recidivism of young females is the goal of a new collaboration between an IU School of Education faculty member and the Indiana Department of Corrections. According to Sheri Anderson, assistant professor of special education, the current recidivism rate at the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility for females aged 13-18 is approximately 70 percent. As part of her research, Anderson is analyzing pre-release questionnaires completed by female juveniles in the Indianapolis facility. "I'm in the process of analyzing data to determine the needs and concerns of female juvenile delinquents," Anderson said. Ensuring that the juvenile facility is adequately providing correctional tools for behavior modification is a key to reducing the recidivism rate. According to Anderson, female juveniles are the most misunderstood population in the system. "Studies haven't been done on the rehabilitation of these girls," she said. "We hope to make a more positive learning environment for those who are at risk of being incarcerated or those already in the system." Anderson said there are six common characteristics among female juvenile delinquents -- early sexual experiences, criminal history in the family, early drug use, negative perceptions of teachers, mistrust of authority figures, and lack of structure. Understanding and recognizing these factors could lead to preventing delinquent behavior. For more information, contact Anderson at 812-856-8138 or

Interaction between college students and faculty members is not extensive, according to the 2002 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) directed by George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor in the IU School of Education. The survey collected information from 135,000 first-year and senior students at 613 four-year colleges and universities. The results showed that 62 percent of first-year students and 47 percent of seniors have never worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework, and 41 percent of first-year students and 26 percent of seniors have never discussed ideas from their reading or classes with faculty members outside the classroom. Kuh said student engagement deals with how involved students become in their college experience, and studies show that more engaged students are more likely to develop habits that lead to success in life. "It's gratifying to see the improvement between first-year students and seniors, but there remains substantial room for improvement," Kuh said. For more information, contact Kuh at 812-856-5824 or

Culture shock, housing, transportation, classrooms, and securing resources in a foreign country are just some of the challenges experienced by those teaching abroad. To help those facing this situation, IU School of Education doctoral student John Hansen has co-authored A World of Teaching, published by Greenwood Publishing Company. Hansen, who taught science for two years to expatriates in Venezuela, collaborated on the book with Evan M. Smith, a Canadian high school English teacher, after realizing there was a need for comprehensive resources. Hansen and Smith compiled firsthand experiences and insights from educators who had encountered personal challenges and victories teaching abroad. Reaching across 13 countries, the anthology combines personal experiences of teachers of varying backgrounds, global placements and teaching assignments with practical resources such as listings of recruiting agencies, job fairs, country research tools and salary guidelines. For more information, contact Hanson at 812-857-6982 or