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Curriculum and Instruction News

Nathan, Alibali present at 'Bringing Cognitive Science Research to the Classroom'

April 26, 2016

UW-Madison’s Mitchell Nathan and Martha Alibali presented at a conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month titled, “Bringing Cognitive Science Research to the Classroom.”

The conference hosted a number of prominent scholars, practitioners and educational policy scholars to address ways to connect cognitive science research and mathematics educational practices and curriculum design.

Mitchell Nathan
Nathan is the director of the Center on Education and Work and is a professor of the learning sciences with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked departments of Educational Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, he is a faculty member with university’s Department of Psychology.

Alibali is a professor with the Department of Psychology. She is an affiliate of the Department of Educational Psychology, and also conducts research through the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Nathan and Alibali presented major findings of the five-year, $10 million National Research Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction project, funded by IES. This Center is a partnership with WestEd, CMP, Carnegie Mellon University, Temple University, University of Illinois-Chicago, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Pearson, Apple Computer, Inc., and UW-Madison.

Nathan served as principal investigator and Alibali served as co-principal investigator for UW-Madison.

The Center is a large Randomized Control Trial of about 140 schools and roughly 2,500 middle school students who used either the original Connected Mathematics Project (CMP2) math curriculum, or a treatment version that carefully implemented a set of 4 cognitive design principles, while maintaining the original math lessons and activities. The cognitive design principles used were:

  1. effectively combining graphics with verbal descriptions in ways that promote the integration of concepts, 
  2. structuring practice to interleave worked examples, 
  3. carefully spacing the learning of critical content and skills over time, and 
  4. using focused feedback on quizzes and homework to promote student learning.

Nathan also moderated a session of the conference titled, “Lessons Learned for Designing Instructional Materials using Visual Verbal Mapping,” which included Alibali.

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