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Aug. 31, 2006
Contact: Julie Tollefson, Center for Research on Learning, (785) 864-0624.

KU helping children with learning disabilities prepare for science careers

LAWRENCE — A $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation is allowing University of Kansas researchers to develop resources to prepare children with disabilities to pursue careers in math, science, engineering and technology.

Edward Meyen, professor of education and co-director of the e-Learning Design Lab, will lead the project, which focuses on developing lessons for teachers to use in their classrooms and online tutorials for students with learning disabilities.

The goal is to improve the math skills and abilities of students in grades six, seven and eight because those grades are critical for students to move onto advanced math studies, he said.

“Many students with learning disabilities have difficulties in math and so even though they may graduate from high school, by the time they reach college they are ill-prepared to pursue fields related to math,” Meyen said.

In 2001, people with disabilities accounted for 6.2 percent of employed scientists and engineers with doctorate degrees, according to the National Science Foundation.

Meyen said he is excited about this project because it allows the lab to further research he and John Poggio, co-director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, have been working on for the past year.

“You have the No Child Left Behind legislation, and it has great consequences for schools if their students don’t perform,” he said. “We think we can help school districts greatly, and we help schools by helping kids. If they perform better, districts perform better.”

Meyen’s research partners include KU professors of educational and scientific research. In the next three years, they will develop and implement new math lessons and tutorials, then measure their effectiveness in public schools.

“We’ll have to be able to get into public schools and we want to get into large numbers of schools, because you only have a small percentage of students in any given class with learning disabilities,” said Meyen. “We have to have a very large sample of students.”

Meyen’s co-principal investigators include Poggio; Don Deshler, director of the Center for Research on Learning; and James Miller, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

If their project enhances performance for those students, and if that curriculum is widely adopted, Meyen said, it will make a major contribution toward giving students with learning disabilities a better chance at careers in math, science and technology.

The e-Learning Design Lab is jointly sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning and the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.

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