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Debbie O'Leary
School of Education

Last modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

There has been a steady rise in the number of Latino students attending schools in Bloomington, Ind. In order to seamlessly integrate this population into the daily life of school and stem the conflicts and misunderstandings that occasionally occur, IU School of Education faculty have initiated a project to create "sister" high schools between Michoacan, Mexico, and Bloomington. According to project co-directors Bradley Levinson and Gerardo Lopez, the school-to-school exchange of students will serve as the catalyst for a sustainable, long-term cultural exchange between sister high schools in Mexico and the United States. During the 2003-04 school year, a set of students and their supervising teachers from Bloomington High School North and the CBTIS 94 from Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, will travel to their counterpart communities for approximately two weeks. Students will stay in the homes of students, attend classes and take part in a variety of community activities. They will be trained in photography in order to document the daily life of the school and community. Students selected for the exchange will ultimately assume a leadership role in educating their fellow students about life overseas by creating a Web page that documents the exchange, providing an outlet for continued dialogue and lesson planning. "This will help institutionalize the sister-school relationship and serve as an ongoing means of communication between the schools," said Levinson, associate professor in educational leadership and policy studies. The project is designed to facilitate greater cross-cultural understanding and exchange. "It is also meant to encourage high school students to gain experience and motivation in serving as intercultural emissaries, brokers and educators in their own communities," said Lopez, assistant professor in ELPS. For more information, contact Levinson at 812-856-8359,; or Lopez at 812-856-8393,

A new model for scientific inquiry has been developed by an associate professor in science education at the IU School of Education. Based on interviews with scientists from a variety of disciplines, Bill Harwood, also an adjunct chemistry professor at IU, developed an alternative to what he calls the "simple but ineffective" scientific method. The Activity Model of scientific inquiry captures 10 activities performed during a scientific research study. Harwood asked scientists what they do when conducting scientific investigation. The great majority told him they don't use the scientific method because it is awkward and fails quickly. While many have attacked the scientific method, according to Harwood, no one has taken a scientific approach to see how science is done. "I decided to do science on science," he said. "The call for inquiry teaching in science classes has required us to develop a model that is a better description of authentic scientific inquiry and can be modeled in school." For more information, contact Harwood at 812-856-8164 or

Training has started in the Netherlands to incorporate a family therapy program co-developed by an IU School of Education faculty member. Professor Tom Sexton, director of the Center for Human Growth, helped create the Functional Family Therapy model, which includes families in the treatment of at-risk adolescents. In 1998, Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Ren Breuk was researching family interventions for children with oppositional behavior disorder when he came upon recommendations for FFT. He read about the program and began implementing it with his patients. "As I started to work with the families, I became more and more convinced that it worked," Breuk said. In 2002, Breuk contacted Sexton to implement FFT in De Derde, a mental health center in Amsterdam for juvenile delinquents with psychiatric disorders. Training has now started, and four other Dutch institutes will soon implement the FFT program as well. "We are also combining the implementation process with research to replicate the outcome studies of FFT done in the United States and the Netherlands. The Netherlands has had a very traditional view of how to treat juvenile delinquents, and it has not been very effective," Sexton explained. "The Netherlands is a multicultural, multiethnic country, leading adolescents to experience cultural and generational gaps that are creating problems within the family structure. FFT is the key to helping create good communication and support levels within the family." Sexton, who has traveled to Amsterdam twice in the past few months to work with Breuk and several families, said the program is making a difference and keeping the children at home rather than sending them away for years. School of Education students will be involved with the research project and possibly an exchange program. For more information, contact Sexton at 812-856-8350 or

Research that will give special education students a greater voice in their individualized education programs is the purpose of a student-initiated grant recently awarded to IU School of Education doctoral student Mary Kelly. Special education students regularly meet with a team that makes decisions about the students' academic lives. The team usually includes parents, teachers, administrators and counselors. "These meetings can be intimidating to the student," Kelly explained. The use of multimedia technical tools such as Powerpoint could help these students take a leading role in the meetings, provide a better sense of self, and help the team make more informed decisions about their future. "There is a body of research that concludes there is a need for special education students to be more involved when it comes to their futures," she said. Kelly will be working with four schools in Bloomington and Indianapolis. For more information, contact her at 812-856-8118, ext. 36590 or