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Debbie O'Leary
School of Education

Heidi Ross
School of Education

Sam Odom
School of Education

Phil Carspecken
School of Education

Learning Matters

Tips about education from Indiana University

Researchers are concerned about the missing-girl phenomenon in China, India and other well populated regions of the world. In China, where it is conservatively estimated there are 120 boys to every 100 girls, scholars see danger in a generation with surplus males who are now coming of age. According to Professor Heidi Ross, who travels to China annually to study the relationships among secondary schooling, gender and social class stratification, the missing-girl phenomenon is a complex problem. "The skewed sex ratios are a result of more than China's one-child or, more realistically, one-boy population control policy," Ross explained. "Transforming gender relations, poverty and rapid transformation of China's economy, including the 'tidal wave' of China's migrating population and urbanization, should also be discussed as the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations work to address the situation." Ross is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. While conducting research at a junior high school for girls in Shaanxi Province, Ross said parents expressed fears that their daughters might be kidnapped. "Female kidnapping and trafficking are real issues for parents in the region," she said. Ross is currently working on several projects, including the contributions of U.S. liberal arts schools to teacher education, the development of girls' secondary schooling in China, the development and implementation of "gender-sensitive" curricula and environmental education in Chinese elementary and secondary schools, and an analysis of the concept of social capital in the context of the educational and social experiences of Chinese students and their families in rural and urban schools. Another key project Ross is involved in is designed to synthesize the growing but contradictory findings from girls' educational access projects in different regions of China -- and assess China's contributions to global efforts to promote girls' education as a key to economic and social development. For more information, contact Ross at 812-856-8389 and

Inclusion for children with autism has become a controversial subject in education. Autism, which affects an estimated one in 250 children, is a complex developmental disorder in which symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations ranging from mild to severe. "In inclusive settings, the major challenge is to provide sufficiently intense intervention in a naturalistic setting," said Otting Professor Sam Odom, who is currently conducting a doctoral seminar on autism. Odom is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Some experts suggest that inclusion prevents an intense and personalized training program, while others believe there are learning opportunities for autistic children in general education that will help them better navigate life in the real world. "Inclusion should be based on the learning needs of the child. If there are sufficient supports, the child should be mainstreamed," Odom said. "The challenge for educators is to figure out how to organize the classroom to provide a positive learning experience." He added that early diagnosis is the key to ensuring that children receive appropriate interventions. Doctors and parents should look for signs that the child is not communicating, not establishing a relationship with the parents, not making eye contact or resisting physical touch, or exhibiting a lack of joint attention -- when parents and the child focus on a common object or activity. "There are screening tests available to physicians for children as young as 18 months," he said. Autism, formally known as autistic disorder, is the most common of five disorders coming under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorders, as identified by the American Psychiatric Association. Other disorders on the continuum include Asperger's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett's disorder, and PDD-not-otherwise-specified. Four times more prevalent in boys than girls, autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year and could affect as many as 4 million Americans in the next decade. The Indiana Resource Center for Autism is located at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community on the IU Bloomington campus. For more information about autism, contact the IRCA at 812-855-6508 or Odom at 812-856-8174 and

Quantifying social research is changing social reality, according to Phil Carspecken, professor of research methodology and its philosophical basis. "The current push from Washington to make virtually all social research quantitative, with experimental research the 'gold standard' and overall paradigm, is just an exacerbation of social trends that have been quantifying social reality for a very long time," Carspecken said. "Quantification is not just a method for obtaining knowledge about social and human phenomena, but a substantive trend in social organization that has been growing since the 19th century as Western societies have become larger, more differentiated, and organized through markets and rationalized work structures." Carspecken, a professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, advocates the use of mixed methods in social research and the education of researchers in social theory and philosophy so they may better understand the significance of their work and its place within current social trends. "Social research should not be exclusively about the manipulation of variables to discover the means to various tangible ends," he explained. "That sort of research is often important, but when it becomes the paradigm for all social research, we are at risk of moving toward an engineered society devoted to manipulating people, with a large cadre of social scientists whose work supports values and trends of which they are barely aware. Social research should ideally include a large domain of work done outside the engineering model and more in line with democratic principles. This sort of research does not seek 'what works' but rather raises awareness of cultural contexts and processes, implicit morals and values, so that the collective decision-making distinctive of a democracy may be enhanced." For more information, contact Carspecken at 812-856-8356 and