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Funding new scientific frontiers

New Frontiers in Research Fund fuels Queen’s research in topics ranging from Lyme disease to climate change.

Early-career researchers are the backbone of Canada’s research infrastructure. Recognizing this area of research strength and its potential, the Government of Canada has launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to support early-career researchers as they pursue the next great discovery in their fields.

[Minister Kirsty Duncan]
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Seven Queen’s University projects earned a $1.72 million portion of the $38 million in NFRF funding announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, earlier this week. The successful Queen’s researchers are: Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) and Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Robert Colautti (Biology), Samuel Dahan (Law), Lindsay Morcom (Education), Jessica Selinger (Kinesiology and Health Science), Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry), and Laura Thomson (Geography and Planning).

“I am pleased today to celebrate the very first researchers to benefit from the New Frontiers in Research Fund. Our government’s vision is for our researchers to take risks and be innovative,” says Minister Duncan. “We want our scientists and students to have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, and we want the halls of academia to better reflect the diversity of Canada itself. This new fund will help us achieve that vision.”

Drs. Capicciotti and Ormiston are studying how cancer cells change the sugars that they express on their surface to avoid detection by the immune system. The researchers will work to develop technology to screen hundreds of sugar structures, with the ultimate goal of creating new cancer therapies that function by boosting an individual’s immune response.

As a member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN) based at Queen’s, Dr. Colautti is leading a diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers to disrupt the way that tick-borne diseases are identified and managed in Canada. Their approach includes the use of handheld DNA sequencers and cloud computing for rapid detection of known or potential tick-borne pathogens, summarizing this information into a risk assessment framework for medical practitioners, public health officials, and the general populace.

Professor Dahan, in collaboration with Xiaodan Zhu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and a team of 25 data scientists, Artificial Intelligence researchers, and law students, is working on an open source AI-tribunal for small claims in Ontario. This digital dispute-resolution platform will provide predictive legal services and negotiation support for self-represented plaintiffs. The NFRF funding will help develop the first stage of the product, focusing on severance pay and termination negotiation.

Using the skills of an interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and visual and digital media artists, Dr. Morcom and her team will work to create a network of virtual reality spaces across the country. The newly-created spaces will be used to stage cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and cross-generational encounters.

Dr. Selinger has formed an interdisciplinary team that combines expertise in fundamental human biomechanics, clinical rehabilitative medicine, and applied robotic control. The research has the potential to revolutionize the next generation of rehabilitation strategies by focusing on how people re-learn to walk after a stroke.

Focusing on a new area of research, Dr. Stamplecoskie and partner Guojun Liu (Chemistry), are researching new electrochemical devices, capable of capturing the tremendous amount of energy available in rainfall, waves, and evaporating water. The research is working to create new devices capable to meeting global energy demands.

Dr. Thomson has amassed an interdisciplinary team that will integrate modern glacier research practices and inter-generational perspectives on climate, to improve environmental monitoring in Canada’s high-Arctic. This initiative will provide open-access, real-time climate data for the first time in this part of the Arctic, and provide public access to rare historic data.

All of the Queen’s projects are funded under the Exploration stream of the NFRF program. The second stream is the Transformation stream that provides large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research. The third stream, International, will come online later, according to Minister Duncan.

“Through the NFRF program, early-career researchers at Queen’s are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from Lyme disease to climate change,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Importantly, they are increasing the potential impact and application of their work by collaborating across disciplinary boundaries.”

For more information, visit the NFRF website.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv.

A day of learning and exploring with Queen’s Research

  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019, part of NSERC’s Science Odyssey campaign, was the largest and most successful event to date with 5,200 visitors and 400 volunteers learning more about the groundbreaking STEAM research happening at Queen’s and in Kingston. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    Canadian Astronaut Drew Feustel (PhD’95, DSc’16), former commander of the International Space Station and Queen’s alumnus, was the special guest at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    An exciting performance at the Chemistry Magic Show with Queen’s Chemistry graduate students and faculty researcher Kevin Stamplecoskie at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    Grade school participants of the Ask an Astronaut Q&A with Astronaut Drew Feustel (PhD’95, DSc’16), former commander of the International Space Station and Queen’s alumnus, at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    Queen’s Faculty of Education professor, Lynda Colgan, co-coordinator of Science Rendezvous Kingston, attends the opening ceremonies of Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019 with Ingenuity Lab robot, Husky. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    An attendee learns about the anatomical sciences with Queen’s Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    Mark Gerretsen, MP for Kingston and the Islands, celebrates the opening of Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019 on Saturday, May 11. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)
  • Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019
    An attendee learns more about bee health and pollination with the Limestone Beekeepers’ Guild at Science Rendezvous Kingston 2019. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

As part of NSERC’s Science Odyssey campaign, Science Rendezvous Kingston was the largest and most successful to date with 5,200 visitors and 400 volunteers learning more about the groundbreaking STEAM research happening at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.

Hosted at the Leon's Centre, the day featured three headline events. Attendees had an opportunity to meet Astronaut Drew Feustel (PhD’95, DSc’16), former commander of the International Space Station and Queen’s alumnus at the Ask an Astronaut Q&A. Upon entering the event space, visitors were greeted by Dippy the dinosaur, a casting of a Diplodocus standing over four metres high and 26 metres long. There was also an opportunity to learn about bee health and pollination with the Limestone Beekeepers’ Guild as they demonstrated a working beehive.

About 75 per cent of the researchers exhibiting at Science Rendezvous Kingston were Queen’s affiliated. Some of the highlights of the free, family-oriented event included hands-on exhibits from Queen’s Anatomy, Hexagon Magic Puzzles, the Art of Research pop-up photo exhibit, demonstrations from Ingenuity Labs, and the Chemistry Magic Show.

For more information about Science Rendezvous Kingston, visit the website.

A unanimous choice for inaugural award

[Concurrent Education student Afsheen Chowdhury]
Afsheen Chowdhury speaks at Senate after receiving the inaugural Margaret Hooey Governance Award. (University Communications)

During her time at Queen’s, Afsheen Chowdhury (ConEd’19), like many students, has been involved in numerous extra-curricular activities.

She has been a residence don for three years, serves as a Board Member for the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre (LGAC) and held several positions on the Concurrent Education Student Association (CESA), for example.

What makes her stand out from other students, however, has been her participation in the governance of the university – student Senator for the Faculty of Education; member and co-chair of the Queen’s University Board-Senate Advisory Committee; member of the Joint Board-Senate Principalship Search Committee; and, perhaps most significantly, member of the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE).

For all her contributions and continuing commitment, Chowdhury is the inaugural winner of the Margaret Hooey Governance Award.

The award was established in November 2018 by the estate of Margaret Hooey (LLD’02), the long-time secretary of Queen’s who was admired for her dedication to the university as well as the welfare of her colleagues, students, friends and family. The award is given to a student enrolled in any degree program at Queen’s who has made an outstanding contribution to the good governance of the university through work with Senate or any committee of the Senate.

For Chowdhury, receiving the award has been both exciting and humbling.

“It’s a little surreal. I think it is everything that went into it and this is the end of my journey here, after everything that has happened,” she says. “Receiving an award like this is an important reminder that the work you do has a real tangible impact to the people beyond the borders of that room and beyond the Senate.”

The award committee was unanimous in selecting Chowdhury as the inaugural winner. Letters of support mentioned her “thoughtful comments and opinions,” “impressive insights,” and keen interest in Queen’s governance processes.

While she had already been actively involved in governance at Queen’s, a turning point came when she ran for rector in 2017. During the campaign week she received many messages from students – Muslim students, international students, students of colour – telling her how important it was to see someone just like them standing up and trying to make a difference in the university community.

Ultimately, her campaign was not successful but the experience set her on a new path, one that led her to become a champion for equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives at Queen’s.

“We always talk about how representation matters but then you realize that it really does matter. This is about people feeling safe and realizing they can be someone,” Chowdhury says. “That’s when I really started to take it seriously and I said even if I don’t win the election I was still a senator and I’m still going to sit on the principal selection committee. I was going to move forward and I still wanted to do the things that I promised during the campaign.”

As much as she has contributed during her time at Queen’s, Chowdhury is quick to point out all that she has gained, particularly through her various roles with Senate. In the end her time as a senator wasn’t about networking but about personal and community growth.

“I think what really went a long way for me, especially sitting on Senate, was building community and genuine connections. It’s sharing our stories with each other,” she says. “The people who nominated me for this award were my friends, they are people who I had dinner with and it is such a blessing to have friends who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, who are giving this wisdom but also treating me as an equal and feeling that I can have some wisdom to provide for them. It’s people who genuinely pick you up and pick each other up throughout the process.”

A Pillar of the Queen’s Community

During her more than 30 years at Queen’s, Margaret Hooey, was a valued adviser to four principals and their administrations, and a trusted mentor to students, staff, faculty and trustees. She played a key role in shaping Queen’s modern governances system and was an advocate for the unique form of student government. More than her role as an administrator, she was viewed by student leaders as a mentor and friend. For her contributions and dedication Dr. Hooey received the Queen’s Distinguished Service Award (1992), the John Orr Award (1998), and an honorary doctorate (2002).

Research storytelling events captivate audiences

[IGnite Research poster]

Featuring topics from medical miracles to environmental policy, the IGnite lecture series has showcased the diversity of research happening at Queen’s to a captivated audience of campus and community members. On Thursday, March 28 the public will hear about the future of gender policy in the Canadian school systems and innovative methods to solve environmental problems.

IGnite is a collaboration between the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and the University Relations portfolio. Each event features two researchers from different fields discussing their projects and research experiences, while also including interactive demonstrations and poster presentations from students and additional researchers. The series offers a public platform where researchers can share what first ignited their curiosity and motivates them to pursue their research.

Lee Airton (Education) is a SSHRC-funded researcher and will present “The future of gender: Policy and practice playing catch-up to an ever-changing phenomenon.” They recently published a popular press book on welcoming gender diversity in everyday life, Gender: Your guide. Dr. Airton has also received a 2017 Youth Role Model of the Year Award from the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity and founded They is My Pronoun (TIMP) and the No Big Deal Campaign

Dr. Airton explains that research should be shared with those it impacts. 

“I study something that is relevant to every single member of the public, but is thought of as something that only transgender people care about: how other people read and respond to our gender expression, every day,” Dr. Airton says. “Events like the IGnite lecture allow me to bring the implications of my research directly to people who might not have thought about how they participate in gender, and encourage them to act on what we know about making gender into a safer and more comfortable experience for everyone.”

Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry Philip Jessop (Chemistry) will discuss his research on carbonated water as it applies to solving environmental problems. An expert in switchable surfactants, Dr. Jessop received the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award in 2008 and is the technical director of GreenCentre Canada.

Dr. Jessop further elaborates that for him IGnite is an opportunity to return the public’s investment in his research.

“Society allows me to do research and it is only fair that in return I let society know what I’m doing,” he says. “I find that many people like to hear about new ways to reduce environmental harm.”

The event, the final in a three-part series for the 2018-2019 academic year, will take place Thursday 6:30-9 pm at the Biosciences Complex at 116 Barrie Street. Registration is free on Eventbrite and light refreshments will be served.

For more information on the series, visit the McDonald Institute’s website.  

Advisory committee — Dean, Faculty of Education

Dr. Rebecca Luce-Kapler’s term as Dean of the Faculty of Education ends on June 30, 2020, and Dr. Luce-Kapler has indicated that she would be pleased to consider a second term as dean. In accordance with the procedures established by Senate, an advisory committee chaired by Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris will be established to advise the principal on the present state and future prospects of the faculty, and on the dean’s renewal. 

Future Prospects of the Faculty and Advisory Committee Membership

Members of the university community are invited to submit letters with commentary on the present state and future prospects of the faculty, and to suggest individuals who might serve on the advisory committee. Respondents are asked to indicate whether they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to the members of the advisory committee. More information on the Faculty of Education is available on the faculty website and in the Dean’s Review report published in 2018.

Letters and advisory committee member suggestions should be submitted to Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), via provost@queensu.ca, by Wednesday, March 27, 2019. 

The official announcement can be accessed on the Provost’s website.

The Conversation: Dealing with test anxiety – and re-think on what testing means

[Students write an exam in a gymnasium]
Much like older students, younger students are increasingly experiencing test anxiety (Photo by Shutterstock)

The term “test anxiety” typically conjures up images of a high school or university student obsessing over an upcoming exam.

Certainly, older students have been the focus of more than a half a century of research examining test and assessment anxiety and its impact on grades. Researchers know that such test anxiety generally has a negative impact on academic achievement.

Yet we also know schools and parents are recognizing anxiety in younger children. Researchers have probed how, in particular, a rise in test anxiety in schools corresponds to an increase in the use of standardized testing increasingly mandated for accountability and evaluation purposes.

Coupled with growing awareness of responding to mental health challenges in schools, educators and policy-makers need to understand how to confront and minimize the effects of testing on students’ anxiety.

In the big picture, current assessment methods must adapt to reflect contemporary knowledge of both children’s diverse cultural contexts and a more nuanced understanding of developmental competencies.

In the day-to-day, parents and teachers can empower themselves to be better prepared to support student well-being by re-thinking their own approaches to tests, and what adults are modelling.

What is test anxiety?

Test anxiety is generally regarded as a “nervous feeling” that is excessive and interferes with student performance. Symptoms of test anxiety may fall into four broad physical, emotional, behavioural and cognitive categories.

Children could exhibit physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, sweating and shortness of breath or feelings of fear, depression and helplessness. Behaviours might include fidgeting, pacing and avoidance. Cognitive disruptions could look like “going blank,” racing thoughts and negative self-talk.

[A young female students awaits teacher.]
Left prolonged or unattended, test anxiety can lead to negative outcomes. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Although not all students experience each of these problems, the impact of one or more of these symptoms can be debilitating. Left unacknowledged or unaddressed, in time such symptoms may lead to personal negative outcomes or harm, and difficulties at school.

The trouble with testing policy

Our research in Canada and abroad has consistently found that when policy-makers seek school reform, there is an ensuing emphasis on testing for accountability.

In these contexts, teachers and school administrators will focus classroom and school instruction on select areas and ultimately undermine a more holistic approach to children’s education. Standardized testing for accountability is also associated with heightened educator and student stress.

A narrow sense of “achievement” — such as is measured via standardized tests in select subject areas — is inadequate to capture key knowledge, skills and dispositions children need to be successful in contemporary schooling and life.

For these reasons, policy-makers would be wise to consider multi-dimensional approaches to holding schools accountable. For example, educational reforms are more likely to be successful when they use collective processes that incorporate perspectives of educators and communities.

What parents and teachers can do

In the context of these systemic and long-term issues, parents and teachers can intervene to reduce test anxiety for young children in the following ways:

1. Offer positive messaging

One of the simplest and most effective ways parents can combat test anxiety is through positive messaging.

For example, research demonstrates positive benefits when parents encourage positive self-talk, offer relaxation techniques and reassure children that anxiety is a natural feeling. Parents should know that psychological research suggests a certain amount of heightened arousal is necessary to perform well, a state of balance-in-tension.

2. Keep communication open

Parents also need to maintain open lines of communication with their child’s teachers — particularly since students do not necessarily exhibit test anxiety in all subjects.

3. Lower the stakes

Too often parent expectations increase the perceived “stakes” of the tests for students, assigning additional consequences or judging a child’s merit and ability on the outcome of a single test.

Instead, it is important for parents to understand and also convey to their child that tests are one indicator of their performance in a subject. No test is a perfect reflection of what a student knows or is able to do.

Seeing tests as one piece of information about how a child is progressing, and seeking out additional information as needed, will help parents gain perspective.

4. Take care of yourself

Ironically, one key issue both parents and teachers need to consider when attempting to assist students with test anxiety is to first take care of themselves.

Just as parents must be aware of what messsages they send, teachers also need to attend to their own well-being and avoid inadvertently transmitting their own anxieties to students.

For example, the relationship between teachers’ math anxiety and student math anxiety is well-established prompting some researchers to explore ways of breaking a mathematics anxiety cycle.

Similarly, teacher worry about large-scale test results, such as provincial or state-wide assessments, can transfer to students.

Thankfully, a positive development to emerge from some of these troubling findings is that there is a growing recognition of the relationship between teacher and student well-being.

5. Emphasize test skills, not drilling

Teachers can also help students combat test concerns by offering test-preparation skill development and reviews before important assessments.

The latter should not be confused with “teaching to the test,” which both narrows curriculum and may relentlessly drill test content.

Rather, practicing strategies such as re-reading difficult questions, writing brief outlines beside short answer questions and managing time during tests will be helpful.

Preparing students to write tests effectively also includes teaching students about test structures — question formats, the rationale of scoring schemes and common pitfalls with different question types.

Collectively, these skills can be applied to any curriculum or test. Students who have been prepared in both content and skills tend to have lower levels of test anxiety and are more capable of managing their time and responses.

Not surprisingly, these types of strategies are more effective when they are supported by parents and caregivers.

Optimally, parents, teachers and policymakers can work in their various roles to support children’s success while learning about possibilities for more complex and intelligent forms of accountability.

Overall, we need to re-think what matters in schools and what’s worth measuring.The Conversation

__________________________________________________________

Christopher DeLuca is an associate professor in classroom assessment and acting associate dean, Graduate Studies & Research, Faculty of Education, Queen's University. Louis Volante is a professor of education at Brock University. 

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: Social media fantasies can demolish confidence, but it’s not all bad

[Woman viewing her cellphone]
Sometimes faking it on Instagram is just fine. (Photo by Bruno Gomiero/Unsplash)

If social media was a person, you’d probably avoid them.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are loaded with pictures of people going to exotic places, looking like they are about to be on the cover of Vogue, and otherwise living a fairy-tale existence. And, like all fairy tales, these narratives feel a lot like fiction.

[The Conversation]When you compare the “projected reality” to your lived experience, it would be easy to conclude that you do not measure up. Research shows that young adults are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.

We have also studied this trend in graduate students, our next generation of scholars: they too, implicitly compare themselves to their peers, sometimes automatically. We’re socially trained to do this as shown by a litany of research studies exploring our relationships with other’s projected images.

These implicit comparisons can threaten your innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Not just one of them. ALL OF THEM. And such comparisons have shifted life online towards an unwinnable competition.

We are outnumbered and out-posted by other people and it can make us feel unequivocally terrible if we let it. It’s never been easier to be insecure about ourselves and our achievements thanks to the ever-present torrent of “updates” posted by mostly well-meaning people seeking opportunities for connection and validation.

Where did this come from?

Social media fills our days, but it hasn’t always. In fact, the birth of sites and apps like the micro-blogging platform Tumblr (2007), the bite-sized conversation builder Twitter (2006) and star-studded Instagram (2010) all arrived on the technology scene in tandem with the e-book revolution. And yet, in just over a decade, these tools have exploded across our browsers, into our phones and onto our self-perceptions.

People appear to be spending an hour a day on various social media apps, which doesn’t sound too rough if we assume everyone is only using one app. However, the tendency for younger users to embrace multiple social media apps (and to access their accounts multiple times a day) is increasing.

What that means for many of us is that we are spending hours each day connected and consuming content, from short tweets to beautifully staged #bookstagram images to painstakingly crafted selfies that sometimes make it seem like our friends are living the glamorous life, even when they’re waking up before dawn to take care of their little ones.

Social media presences are not inherently fake, but some people interacting in these spaces feel pressure to perform. And that’s not always bad!

As argued by Amy Cuddy, sometimes it’s helpful to pretend we are who we want to be in order to give ourselves the confidence to grow into our futures. There’s a rich history to “acting as if” in spiritual and growth-oriented spaces. But there’s a line between “fake it till you become it” and spending the afternoon shooting awkward photos to gain more “likes.”

Dark point of the soul

After conducting about 60 interviews and 2,500 surveys across two ongoing studies of post-secondary students, the findings indicate that being constantly compared to other people can demolish our confidence quickly.

For example, one first-year PhD student told us: “I feel like a failure because I don’t have any papers out and I haven’t won a major scholarship like the rest of my lab group.” A first-year student?!

Another commented: “All my peers are better than me, why am I even here?”

These are high-performing thinkers, and yet their confidence is being steamrolled in part because social media does not facilitate fair comparisons.

[Man looking at his cellphone in a restaurant]
Being constantly compared to other people is not good for us. (Photo by PJ Accetturo/Unsplash)

We wish these experiences were unique to certain contexts, but they are ubiquitous. We’ve become so used to seeing the world through social media that we give it false equivalence with our lived experience. We implicitly compare our lives against the sensation of social media and consider it a fair contention.

Of course, the mundane doesn’t measure up to social media. Social media posts need to be epic to be shared.

Hardly anyone posts a “meh” status update; our social media posts are typically at one extreme or another, good or bad, and we are left to compare our individual realities with an exceptional anecdote devoid of context. It’s all of the sugar, with none of the fibre.

It’s not all a pit of despair

Despite this relatively grim picture, the way we’re performing on social media isn’t entirely destructive. For starters, the awareness that we all seem to have about the inauthentic presentations of people’s lives that we consume online (and the painful comparisons that often follow) has also spawned subversively creative acts of satire.

[Woman and her child using a laptop computer on top of a bed]
‘It’s Like They Know Us’ posts stock photos with captions.

One example comes from “It’s Like They Know Us,” a blog/book/parenting subculture that’s built around taking stock images of families and providing captions that poke fun of the impossible standards these images perpetuate. And articles like the recent “How to Become Instagram Famous Experiment” remind us all that behind the carefully cultivated images rests a series of failed attempts and sometimes ridiculous efforts to capture the perfect shot.

There’s a perverse kind of creativity that our image-saturated web presence has spawned. And as often as we fall into the destructive cycle of comparing our messy, authentic lives to the snapshots of perfection that we see online, we just as often step back and laugh at how silly it all is.

Perhaps we’re merely playing along; isn’t it fun to think, just for a moment, that somewhere out there, someone is really living their best life? And maybe, just maybe, if we arrange our books in an artful composition or capture a stunning selfie on the 10th attempt, maybe we will be able to see the beauty that exists in each of our imperfectly messy, chaotic, authentic realities beyond the picture.

Maybe it’s good for us to “act as if,” as long as we remember that the content we share and engage with online is only a fraction of our real stories. Remember, even fairy tales have a grain of truth.The Conversation

________________________________________________________

Eleftherios Soleas is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University. Jen McConnel is a  PhD Student in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: How analyzing patterns helps students spot deceptive media

[Demographics graphic]
All demographics of people are susceptible to being deceived. (shutterstock.com)

With the current pervasive use of online media for personal and academic reasons, it’s necessary for students to have skills to confidently filter and decipher what they’re reading.

As such, educators have called for a new approach to teach students how to analyze digital media and some tech and media organizations are getting involved.

Education policy-makers have added new media modules to recently revamped curricula that aims to help students become better-informed and critical future citizens.

But the questions explored in public school media units are also important for people of all ages to consider. Recent studies have shown all demographics of people are susceptible to being deceived.

Showing students how to determine source credibility, and to analyze tone, bias and motive, is a great way to help them with their media literacy. Another helpful way to teach students to think critically about media is to teach them to examine media formats and media patterns.

What exactly does that mean and how do patterns work to manipulate viewers?

Patterns structure our expectations

People have become familiar with, and expect, specific patterns within specific genres of media. Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously argued that “the medium is the message:” the media format or genre (including its patterns), can influence people’s thoughts and beliefs.

Each genre has a unique set of characteristics — for example, a haiku poem’s three lines have a particular number of syllables (five, seven, five).

[Haiku poem]
Haiku form: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. (shutterstock.com)

The genre of documentary film often includes suspenseful music, interviews with specialists and recorded footage or re-enactments.

Or consider the television news broadcast: there are often two anchors, and the colours blue, red and white are seen alongside an animated globe or map.

Even the news music itself has a common pattern. The “Six O’Clock Soundtrack” episode of the podcast Every Little Thing by Gimlet Media documented how news music is a global genre, and is difficult to create.

Yet news music composers from Israel, India, England and the U.S. all agree news music has three common patterns:

  1. The music starts by grabbing the attention of the viewer, and is usually quite catchy.

  2. The rhythm is constant, which often provides a feeling of reliability for the viewer.

  3. The tone of the music conveys a sense of urgency and importance, but at the same time, allows the viewer to feel things are still under control. The music, while tense, still provides a safe and authoritative feeling.

In my research, I have found that specific media forms and patterns can impact viewers’ understanding of important issues. Further, I have begun exploring how the success of deceptive media relies on manipulating viewers’ understanding of patterns. “Deceptive media” encompasses all forms of media that persuades or dupes, including fake news in all its possible formats (for example, print or video or other electronic content).

For example: Hollywood films can easily mimic such iconic aural or visual patterns of news to create a representation of reality which almost instantaneously invites particular viewer expectations. A movie like Anchorman is funny because it creates a satirical story based on viewers’ existing knowledge of news.

[Generic Breaking news logo]
Patterns associated with news: red, blue, white and a globe.

Producers of deceptive media use such representational patterning techniques to deliberately stimulate the viewer’s expectation that they are delivering factually-based news — even when they’re not.

Patterns plus personal experiences

In some instances, drawing upon people’s expectations of patterns in particular media formats, plus their lived experiences can make deception possible.

For example, Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds radio play, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s book broadcast by CBS on Oct. 30, 1938 mimics an interruption of a radio broadcast: it starts with information about the weather, and later plays ballroom music, which is then abruptly interrupted by the events of an alien invasion of Earth.

The opening of Welles’s play actually explained to listeners that the broadcast is an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel.

Yet there were instances when some listeners believed the broadcast to be true.

Media scholars Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow have determined most of the so-called hysteria was exaggerated. Researchers have found it was immediately fuelled by some newspaper journalists’ efforts to discredit broadcast media; later, the event’s legacy was amplified by a questionable academic study on psychological panic.

Still, because Welles followed the representational patterns of a radio broadcast, and drew upon people’s realities of surviving the First World War and being on the brink of the Second World War, Welles’s broadcast successfully convinced at least a portion of his audience the events were authentic.

Considerations for the classroom

A number of online resources offer ways for educators to help students detect deceptive media. Some provide checklists of characteristics to explore. PBS offers lesson plans on teaching students about fake news.

Such resources may be helpful, but coaching students to consider patterns in genre, and to look for representational patterns is also relevant.

I would like to thank collaborative researcher Ernesto Peña, with whom I have led workshops about genre and representational patterns in the Faculty of Education at UBC, and with teachers and teacher librarians in the Vancouver School Board.The Conversation

_______________________________________________________

Claire Ahn is an Assistant Professor of Multiliteracies inf the faculty of Education at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: Culturally-responsive teaching in a globalized world

In increasingly diverse societies, teaching must recognize the importance of affirming students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

 

[Elementary school students in a classroom]
Culturally-responsive student assessment and evaluation is key to student success in diverse, globalized societies. (Photo by Neonbrand/Unsplash)

Classrooms in many parts of the world are increasingly diverse. International migration patterns have significantly changed the cultural make-up of many industrialized societies and, by extension, their school-aged populations.

Such changes are particularly seen in traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In this increasingly globalized landscape, schools face significant challenges. Researchers have documented lower educational outcomes such as student achievement and graduation rates for immigrant students in the majority of countries around the world.

In response to these outcomes, more research is being devoted to understanding and supporting conditions for equitable learning. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is one idea to support these conditions. CRT is concerned with teaching methods and practices that recognize the importance of including students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

To date, much focus in the field of CRT draws attention to the need for a greater diversity of role models and learning experiences in the classroom, and an expansion of teachers’ capacities to truly support and affirm diverse students.

As education researchers who have worked with teachers in training, and teachers in K-12 schools as well as teacher educators in Australasia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, U.K. and the U.S., we argue that more attention needs to be paid to an overlooked aspect of CRT: both education systems and individual teachers must develop culturally responsive assessment and evaluation practices to boost student success.

How to recruit and prepare teachers?

CRT is sometimes also called culturally relevant teaching. This mode of teaching aims to be aware of how culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, gender identity and religious background may impact students’ learning experiences.

In many school contexts, student diversity far exceeds the diversity of teachers. Such an imbalance means students do not always encounter educator role models who reflect diverse cultural backgrounds throughout their schooling.

Thus, one aspect of promoting CRT is increasing efforts to attract a more representative demographic of teachers.

Recent analysis from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that in most OECD countries the typical person who expects a career in teaching at age 15 is a female with no immigrant background.

The findings are based on a question to 15-year-olds on 2006 and 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment surveys: “What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?” (4.5 per cent of non-immigrant respondents said teaching; only 3.1 per cent of immigrant respondents said teaching).

The OECD survey did not capture racialized identity. But more fine-grain analyses within the traditional Western destination countries suggest racialized people and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented among teachers.

For example, Canada’s largest and most diverse province (Ontario) has a significant teacher diversity gap as evidenced by fairly recent demographic data.

Racialized people represent 26 per cent of the provincial population, yet comprise only nine per cent of the 117,905 elementary school and kindergarten teachers and 10 per cent of 70,520 secondary school teachers.

Targeted teacher recruitment efforts are one strategy to improve racialized teacher diversity. Enrolment targets or quota admissions are others.

[Student in library]
When teachers don’t represent society’s diversity, students miss the opportunity to encounter educator role models reflecting diverse cultural backgrounds. (Photo by Elliot Reyna/Unsplash)

Specialized programs for Indigenous peoples such as the teacher program focused on Aboriginal Education at Brock University or Maori Medium Teacher Education in New Zealand demonstrate efforts to grow the number of Indigenous peoples in teaching.

But strategies such as as diversified recruiting, quotas or specialized programs would take time and will likely struggle to keep up with changing student demographics.

Hence, providing relevant cultural training and professional development for aspiring and experienced teachers becomes even more important.

Such training needs to extend beyond traditional multicultural education approaches, or what has been called a “tourist” curriculum characterized by occasional or “highlight” additions.

Instead, training for teachers must model a multi-dimensional approach that includes integrating content from diverse cultures and experiences, and critically examining how cultural identity impacts learning.

Our experiences with teachers and teacher education programs globally reaffirm research findings about recognized practices in teacher education that impact student success.

For example, teachers programs should help teacher candidates critically consider their own identities in relationship to societal inequities and prejudice; optimally, with growth and maturity, they learn how to model deep inclusion.

Assessment literacy: The missing link

We also want to draw attention to an area that has been neglected in broader discussions of CRT – namely, assessment and evaluation strategies.

Most educators now accept that student assessment is the beginning point for instruction, not simply the end. That means assessment can be a powerful support when used throughout learning stages to provide meaningful feedback to students. Teachers need to carefully consider assessment and evaluation before they begin a lesson or unit of study and to use assessment to monitor students’ learning.

However, assessment continues to operate in more traditional ways: it continues to be used primarily as a measure of students’ final learning in courses through tests and exams or through large-scale provincial, state or national testing programs.

Teachers’ competency in using assessment to support student learning and to accurately report on it is called “assessment literacy” — so named for the ability to “read” a class to develop fair, relevant and supportive assessment.

Teachers must learn culturally responsive frameworks to develop fair practices for obtaining accurate information about students’ learning. Our research suggests competency in developing assessment can be enhanced through effective professional development.

The issue of fair assessment also raises questions about system-wide standardized testing, often used for accountability purposes. Standardized testing can be biased, for example reflecting foremost the experiences of white middle-class students.

Thus we acknowledge the need to combine the dual movements of CRT as focused in teacher recruiting and training with greater attention to responsive assessment.

Unless that happens, CRT will only find limited success in creating classrooms that ensure learning and achievement is attainable for all.

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The ConversationLouis Volante, Professor of Education, Brock University; Christopher DeLuca, Associate Professor in Classroom Assessment and Acting Associate Dean, Graduate Studies & Reserch, Faculty of Education, Queen's University, and Don A. Klinger, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Te Kura Toi Tangata Division of Education; Professor of Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation, University of Waikato.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Virtual exhibit examines the digital future

Showcasing innovative Queen's technology projects that could change the way we live.

Close-up of hands using computer (courtesy of Glenn Cartens Peters, Unsplash)

Last fall, experts and audience members gathered at Queen’s University to discuss the future of research, knowledge sharing, and the student learning experience in the digital age at the first-ever Principal’s Symposium.

Hosted by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and emceed by CBC Radio’s Nora Young, the symposium examined advances in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data governance, as well as how ongoing digital transformation is influencing post-secondary students, Indigenous communities, and people in developed and developing countries.

“The speakers and panelists at our symposium shared a broad and detailed picture of how digital innovation is reshaping learning and discovery both here in Canada and abroad,” says Principal Woolf. “With their insights in mind, as well as those being revealed by researchers and students at Queen’s, we can build upon our institution’s digital framework and take advantage of the opportunities future technologies will surely present.”

The symposium also marked the launch of a supporting virtual exhibit – Imagining Our Digital Future – to highlight digital planning initiatives currently underway at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.

“For decades, Queen’s faculty and students have been leveraging technologies to advance learning and research,” says Principal Woolf. “Technological innovation will continue to change how we live, so our ongoing exploration of this new frontier is not only important, but essential to the future of knowledge, truth, and healthy societal progress. Sharing our ideas and efforts across disciplines will help us stay concerted in our efforts to create an open, inclusive, collaborative, and innovative digital future.”

The virtual exhibit features over 40 digital technology projects happening at Queen’s and in Kingston that have the potential to impact our daily lives, and create previously unimaginable learning and research opportunities across the disciplines – with plans to showcase new projects on an ongoing basis.

Currently, featured projects include everything from “smart” surgical instruments that will help doctors more efficiently remove cancerous tumours and state-of-the-art camera technology used for analyzing human movement, to online database technology used to help preserve Indigenous heritage and art or reunite communities with their history. There are also projects focused on augmented reality and VR simulators, ambient and artificial intelligence, astroparticle physics research, archaeology, surveillance, and more.

Faculty, staff, students, and Kingston community members engaged in interesting digital initiatives are welcomed to submit their project for possible inclusion in the virtual exhibit. Contact the virtual exhibit curators using the online form.

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