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Debbie O'Leary
School of Education

Last modified: Friday, January 16, 2004

Learning Matters/January 2004

News tips about education from Indiana University

To promote problem-based historical inquiry in high school social studies classes, a Web site is being created that will enable teachers to share curriculum and activities on a broader range of social justice and historical issues. Located at, the Persistent Issues in History Network enables teachers to develop their own units. The project, which is a partnership between Tom Brush, IUB associate professor in Instructional Systems Technology, and Auburn University's John Saye, will provide students an opportunity to grapple with social issues and look for new strategies to promote a more just society. "Problem-based historical inquiry will help prepare students to be more effective citizens by not just knowing the past, but being able to make competent, knowledgeable decisions as an adult," Brush said. Through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and support from IU, Auburn University and the School of Education's Center for Research on Learning and Technology, Brush and Saye have been working with 20 teachers across the United States to formulate a set of curriculum and activities for the site. Teachers identified the civil rights movement as a subject which would provide them an opportunity to promote and implement certain strategies in social justice. It was also a subject for which teachers said they severely lacked materials. "Because we tend to minimize the overall historical perspective anyway, PIHN will provide teachers an opportunity to expand the curriculum to allow students to struggle with all aspects of the civil rights movement," Brush said. The site currently contains a civil rights database with 1,500 primary and secondary sources. It will soon branch out with more materials on the Spanish conquest, post-Civil War reconstruction and world history. For more information, contact Brush at 812-856-8458 or

Women are now teaching online in far greater numbers than just a few years ago, according to a recent distance education study. In a survey of college instructors who are members of MERLOT, a higher education association of more than 14,000 college professors and instructional designers who share and peer-evaluate their Web resources and materials, most of the respondents (55 percent) were female instructors. This is in contrast to a similar survey just two years earlier in which 60 percent of the respondents were men. The results surprised researcher Curt Bonk, IUB professor in counseling and educational psychology. "Two years ago, our survey of the same organization was dominated by male instructors who were full professors at tier one universities," Bonk said. "Today, it seems female instructors are more comfortable teaching on the Web and sharing their teaching practices. This is interesting since what is shared in MERLOT is also peer-evaluated for everyone to see." The study on the future of online learning in higher education found that the most important skill of an online instructor in the next few years will be how to moderate or facilitate learning, which was closely followed by skills in online course development. Online collaboration, case learning and problem-based learning were the preferred methods of the online instructor, with few simply relying on lectures, modeling or Socratic instruction. Most saw the potential of the Web in the coming years as a tool for virtual teaming or collaboration, critical thinking and enhanced student engagement rather than an opportunity for student idea generation and expression of creativity. Given these findings, Bonk said, "One cannot ignore the vast pedagogical possibilities that the Web offers." Most of the 500 respondents said they expect huge growth in online certification and recertification programs as well as associate degrees during the coming decade. The emphasis will be on blended learning and combining face-to-face with online offerings instead of fully online courses. Bonk, who recently presented his findings at the 9th Annual Conference for Online Learning in Berlin, said, "According to these early Web adopters, there will be a distinct shift from about a quarter of classes being blended today to perhaps the vast majority of courses having some Web component by the end of the decade. Of course, we will all need some internal training from our institutions to ensure that our courses and programs fully take advantage of it." For more information on the study's results, contact Bonk at 812-856-8353 or

Educators and community leaders can learn strategies for change in a new graduate certificate program offered by the School of Education at IUPUI. According to an article published by the National Association of State Boards of Education, "More funds will not solve the urban educational problems unless those funds are invested in ideas that work and are implemented by people who have the skills and expertise to make a difference with urban youth." The Graduate Certificate Program in Community Building and Urban Education brings together teachers, administrators, social service personnel, community professionals and others so they can solve problems together while developing those skills and expertise. The 18-hour program, which began accepting students last summer, includes course work in organizational management in urban school settings, collaboration in urban schools and communities, political perspectives in education and teaching culturally diverse groups. Students in the program also complete a project in which strategies for addressing specific community challenges are developed. For more information on the program, contact program coordinator Patricia B. Stafford at 317-278-3005 or visit

Projects intended to enhance student success rates at all eight IU campuses and several other institutions around the state will be examined using a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Lumina Foundation for Education. The Indiana Project on Academic Success will study how and why students succeed in college and will further develop initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates. "This support of the Lumina Foundation will help Indiana University and other colleges in the state improve educational opportunities for students, as we adjust to the expansion of the community college system and changes in high school graduation requirements," said Edward St. John, director of the program and professor of education at IU Bloomington. Faculty at participating campuses will work collaboratively using innovative research methods developed by St. John to determine whether and how well the programs work for students who participate in them. That knowledge will then be applied to strengthening or changing programs to enhance collegiate success. "Indiana has been a leader among states in expansion of higher education access in the 1990s. As we move ahead with new initiatives to improve academic success of students who have the opportunity to enroll, we hope to improve college completion rates and contribute to economic development in Indiana," St. John said. For more information, contact St. John at 812-856-8366 or 812-856-0107 or