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CURRY ALUMNI Scholars Alumni in Print

See what your fellow alumni have been up to! View a list of submitted alumni journal articles, book chapters, and books on the web : scholars-newsletter.

More Curry Connections Connect with Curry resources from the Curry Alumni Portal (curry.virginia. edu/alumni). From here, you can find all the following resources: • Curry Online Class Notes • Curry Facebook page • Curry Blog • Curry Alumni Writing Contest • Curry Magazine • and more!

Curry Alumni Scholars is published by the Curry School of Education and is sponsored by the Curry School of Education Foundation, P.O. Box 400276, Charlottesville, VA 22904, email:

It Starts Here

Curry Takes Lead in Efforts to Improve U.Va. Teaching


hen a university’s president and its board of visitors want to improve teaching and learning in the institution, who better than the education school to become the source of expertise on the subject? This is exactly what has happened at the University of Virginia, and the Curry School’s new Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (CASTL-HE) is tasked with the pursuit of a rigorous science of postsecondary teaching and learning. “Higher education — the very same enterprise that sees fit to study every other aspect of inquiry — lags behind in understanding the college teaching and pedagogical practices that lead to improved student learning,” says Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, director of the new center. The mission of CASTL-HE, she says, is to partner with academic programs across U.Va. to apply the principles of evidence-based assessment to the relationship between college teaching and pedagogy and student learning outcomes. “A number of professors and instructors have innovative ideas about how to teach their subjects,” Inkelas said, “but how do they know if their ideas were actually effective?” Few college professors have ever had to assess their teaching, she noted, and that’s where the center can help. Not long after Inkelas settled into her office last January, the center accepted its

“Understanding student learning, and applying our knowledge of learning to improve teaching, is our shared responsibility as educators.”

—continued on page 2 CURRY ALUMNI SCHOLARS • WINTER 2012


—continued from page 1 first University-wide role at the behest of President Teresa Sullivan. Inkelas worked with Dean Bob Pianta and the Inaugural Academic /// Karen Inkelas Planning Committee to coordinate the 50 faculty presentations and roundtable discussions that formed the backbone of an academic symposium on “Using Evidence to Improve Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,” convened in conjunction with Sullivan’s inauguration in April. “Understanding student learning, and applying our knowledge of learning to improve teaching, is our shared responsibility as educators,” Sullivan said in her remarks at the symposium. “We want to understand how learning happens, how curricula and instruction can foster learning, and how different environments support learning.” Continue the conversation...Go to the new Curry Blog to read how Curry professors assess their teaching and share how you assess your own teaching:

Grad Students’ Work Is Better When Teaching and Research Are Part of Mix


recent study published in the journal Science by David Feldon found that graduate students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics fields who both teach and conduct research demonstrate greater growth over an academic year in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design experiments around those hypotheses than do grad students who only conduct research. Feldon, associate director of CASTL-HE, suggests two possible reasons for why the students spending time both teaching and researching outperformed their research-only colleagues. The first is that practice makes you better. When teaching, participants needed to think through the problems with which their students were struggling. The more they worked with their students on these challenges — generating hypotheses and figuring out effective ways to test them — the more they practiced their own research skills. The self-explanation effect may be another reason these students performed better than their colleagues, Feldon said. A great deal of

previous research in learning has found that students who explain how they perform the skills they are trying to learn /// David Feldon tend to learn more quickly and develop better skills. When participants taught their students, it was likely that they were also spending time explaining how they approach their own hypothesis generation and experimental design practices. Conversely, students who spent time only doing research probably did not have these opportunities to practice and explain. Learning can certainly happen without the practice and self-explanation effects, Feldon said. “However, these opportunities bolster learning, accelerating it,” he said. Feldon’s is the largest empirical study of graduate students ever conducted using performance-based measures. Read more about Feldon’s study in the online edition of the Curry Alumni Scholar newsletter:

Curry Doc Programs Refined

Research apprenticeship strengthened in Ph.D. programs


onsistency across the Curry School’s doctoral programs is the goal of several recent policy changes. Beginning with the 2010-11 academic year, Curry draws a sharper distinction between the Ph.D and the Ed.D, based on purpose rather than level of rigor or prestige, says Dan Hallahan, Director of Doctoral Studies. “Although there is some overlap between these two programs, generally the Ph.D. now places more emphasis on preparing scholars whose primary interest is in undertaking original research. The Ed.D. now places more emphasis on preparing practitioner-scholars whose primary interest is in translating research into practice,” he said. The school’s Doctoral Studies Committee developed a set of schoolwide benchmarks for each degree path. In a nutshell, students in a Ph.D program must take a common foundational research course, undertake a research 2


apprenticeship with a faculty advisor, submit a manuscript for publication based on a predissertation project, and complete either a traditional dissertation or a new three-paper option. Students in an Ed.D program must build a strong foundational knowledge in theory, evaluation, and research methods through coursework and an aptitude for practice-based problem solving through internships in an institutional or organizational context. Students must then complete a culminating capstone project that directly benefits practitioners as a demonstration of their ability to carry out disciplined inquiry and argumentation. For both degrees, the Curry Doctoral Studies Committee has worked on defining a mentorship model that extends the advisor role. Faculty mentors are expected to be actively engaged in preparing doctoral students through teaching, mentoring, outreach/service,

and research. The concept of the “research apprenticeship” has also been solidified for the Ph.D. programs. “The focus on faculty engagement in scholarship with students and students’ production of scholarly work is now more explicit and emphasized as a focus of the mentoring relationship,” said Professor Jim Wyckoff, chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee. In addition to supporting students through advising, coaching, and providing feedback on their scholarly work, faculty members who accept doctoral students must themselves be engaged in scholarly activity so they can co-conduct research, as well as co-write and co-present about research findings. Read more about both Curry doctoral degrees at academics/degrees/doctoral-studies

Early Career Energy Stephen Schroth (Ph.D ‘06)


nly five years out of his doctoral program, Stephen Schroth’s scholarship and seemingly boundless energy have already made a mark on Knox College, a nationally ranked private liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, where he is an assistant professor in the Educational Studies Department. In the past four years his research publications with Knox colleague Jason Helfer on gifted education topics have won three awards for excellence in research from the MENSA Education & Research Foundation. Last fall Knox College presented Schroth with an award for distinguished teaching. “Curry really infused me with a love of excellence and a drive to be successful,” Schroth explains. “[It] has had a tremendous effect on my career.” His service and outreach activities include a current two-year term as chair of the Arts Network, a post in the National Association for Gifted Children. He also co-directs Knox College 4 Kids, a summer enrichment program for students in grades K-8, similar to the Curry School’s Summer Enrichment Program. He has collaborated with Lyric Opera of Chicago for five years producing educational materials that introduce opera to nearly 30,000 grade school children in the city. He has led five student trips through Knox’s Teaching in China and the Knox/Navajo Teaching & Learning projects.

“Curry really infused me with a love of excellence and a drive to be successful.” Schroth completed his doctoral work in gifted education at the Curry School in 2007, where he worked with advisor Carol Tomlinson. “I have been greatly influenced by Carol’s emphasis on seizing opportunities that will best serve my students,” Schroth said. “This involves watching them, finding out what motivates and excites them, and then trying to match this with opportunities where they

will be successful. The one thought that really terrifies me is letting a student down, so I try my hardest to have multiple projects going that allow me to have opportunities available for my kids where they can try their hand at being successful.” He credits all the members of his dissertation committee as being especially supportive of him, both while at Curry and since taking the position at Knox. In addition to Tomlinson they include Carolyn Callahan, Dan Duke, and Jim Esposito. “The mentoring I received at Curry was first rate. It prepared me to be an effective teacher, scholar, colleague, and advisor in ways that I did not realize or fully appreciate until I began teaching at Knox College. I still find myself discovering skills in these areas that were first introduced and developed at Curry.” Read more. The full inteview with Schroth is available at

Schroth’s Advice for Recent Graduates: • “When I left Curry, Carolyn [Callahan] emphasized to me the importance of a fast start, and the need to persevere with my research even when no one is looking over my shoulder. That was fantastic advice. • “I would also suggest being active in one’s national and statewide organizations, as I have made some fantastic connections at those.”

Class notes have been submitted by the following alumni. Read them at 1980s & 90s Alfredo J. Artiles (’92) Douglas Ball (’99, Spec Ed) Mark Bardini (‘97 Ed Eval) Diane Browder (‘81 Spec Ed) Kara Dawson (‘98 AV C&I) Martha E. Downer-Assaf (‘97, Admin & Supv) Jeffrey A. McCubbin (’83) V. Darleen Opfer (‘97 Admin & Supv) Timothy Reynolds (‘99 C&I) Elizabeth Stroble (’87, C&I) 2000s Amy Azano (‘09) Lori Bland (‘00 Ed Psych) John Broome (‘11 Soc Studies Ed) Dan W. Butin (‘02, Soc Fdns) Jeff Carpenter (‘09 C&I) Kristin Conradi (‘11 Reading Ed) Kim Doan (‘08 Spec Ed) Gordon M. (Toby) Emert, Jr. (‘03, Engl Ed) Julie Gray (‘11 Reading Ed) Maureen Hall (‘03 Engl Ed) Ben E. Hancock, Jr. (’04 Soc Fdns) Mark Harrington (‘02 Ed Eval) Charles R. Heaton (‘10 Admin & Supv) Jonathan Hine (‘00 Ed Eval) Charles Igel (‘10 Rsch Stats & Eval) Kristen R. Jamison (’10) Michael Kelley (Ph.D. ‘08 IT) Brian Kissel (‘06 Elem Ed) Camille Lawrence (‘10 Ed Psych) Dawn LoCasale (’05 C&I) Ellen Markowitz (‘10 Applied Dev Sci) Patrick McGuire (‘10 IT) Erin M. McTigue (’06, Reading Ed) Charlynn Miller (‘05) Erin Miller (‘01 C&I) Billy O’Steen (‘00 Engl Educ) Erin Ottmar (‘11 App Dev Sci) Jennifer Pease (‘08 C&I) Nakia Pope (‘05 Soc Fdns) Walter “Chip” Prehn (‘05 Soc Fdns) Ryan Ruff (‘09 Rsrch & Eval) Stephen Schroth (Ph.D. ‘07 Ed Psych) Amy v. Scott (‘10 Admin & Supv) William Sterrett (’05 Admin & Supv) John Stroup (‘08 Soc Fdns) Stephen Trexler (‘04 Admin & Supv) Shih-jaey Tseng (‘02 Ed Eval) James Tuttle (‘11 C&I) Temple Walkowiak (‘10) Billy Wayson (‘08 Educ Pol Studies) Chris Wilcox-Elliott (’11 Soc Fdns) Susanna Williams (‘10 Soc Fdns) Echo Wu (‘07 Ed Psych) CURRY ALUMNI SCHOLARS • WINTER 2012



Curry Alumni Scholars P.O. Box 400268 417 Emmet Street South Charlottesville, VA 22904-4268


V. Darleen Opfer (M.Ed ‘90, Ph.D ‘97)


fter enjoying a number of rich experiences in higher education — most recently on the faculty of the University of Cambridge, England — Darleen Opfer’s career took a related but different direction when last April she became director of RAND Education. Opfer completed two degrees from the Curry School, an M.Ed. in special education (‘90) and a Ph.D. in administration and supervision (’97). She worked as an assistant professor at Georgia State and then directed The Ohio Collaborative: Research and Policy for Schools, Children, and Families at Ohio State University. In 2005, she moved to Cambridge. “Cambridge is one of the few Universities in the world that is truly international,” she said. That international culture had a significant impact on her work. Her intellectual network expanded, she said, and the contexts for her 4


research expanded, as well. “The most important thing I learned in Cambridge is that virtually every country struggles with the same education problems as the U.S. The context may differ, but whether it is England, Finland, India or Turkey, every country wants to improve its student outcomes, increase teacher quality, and decrease achievement gaps.” Opfer has seen herself primarily as a researcher since her time at the Curry School. She worked extensively with Bruce Gansneder, who put her to work on evaluation projects that provided invaluable experience. “Of everything at Curry and afterward, working with Bruce had the largest influence on how I think about and conduct research,” she said. “I learned to question, to search out new ideas, experiences and sources of information. Being open to new ideas and surprises is an essential orientation for being a good researcher.” Now at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institute, Opfer is able to make research her singular focus. “Research in higher educa-

“Being open to new ideas and surprises is an essential orientation for being a good researcher.”

tion is only one of many foci of the institution so the organizational processes and structures aren’t necessarily aligned to supporting impactful research,” she said. “[At RAND] everyone understands that we are doing research in the public interest and that how well we conduct that research and the impacts we have on policy, process or programs determines the success of the organization.” It is that impact orientation of RAND’s research that excites her most. “We’re thinking and talking everyday about how to make the most of the work we do and how we can make sure it gets used to improve the lives of students and staff in schools.” Read more: The full transcript of our interview with V. Darleen Opfer is available at

Opfer’s Advice for Recent Graduates: “Find that problem that you’re passionate about solving and then get to it!”

Her Recent Projects • Recruitment and retention of school leaders in Scotland • Teacher professional development in England • Globalization and the international context for literacy policy reform in England


Curry Alumni Scholars Newsletter  

A newsletter for Curry School of Education alumni working in research and academic disciplines.

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