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Faculty member receives national fellowship to help develop new measurement tool

Kristen B. Morales

June 19, 2019

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A College of Education professor specializing in quantitative methodology has received a fellowship funded by the Spencer Foundation.

Shiyu Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, is among 30 selected for the 2019 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows program. The awards of $70,000 are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, funded by a grant from the Spencer foundation.

She was selected based on her work to create a new family of psychometric models to help measure students' fluency of grade-level content. These new tools will help teachers monitor skill fluency and also evaluate learning interventions and school curriculum.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, educators are required to provide feedback on how well students master content—but there are few computerized assessments available to do this, and the ones that do exist rely more on measuring accuracy rather than fluency. That's why Wang's new tool, which will be developed thanks in part to the fellowship, is so essential.

"The current statistical models focus on measuring accuracy and use accuracy as an indicator for mastery," she said. "This could result in teachers making false-positive decisions to instruct students to learn a new skill rather than working on reinforcing the accurate, albeit not yet fluent, skills."

Wang will use a combination of response time and accuracy to measure students' fluency in subjects. Fluency is important, she said, because it helps students maintain a skill over time, and adapt it when they are required to do more complex tasks down the road.

"As a result of my study, teachers will be able to use the developed statistical tools to measure students' fluency of applying particular skills as well as predict the growth in students as a function of interventions," she added. "And educators and policy makers can use these methods to assess whether students achieve the learning goals set in a curriculum, and to evaluate it."

As the recipient of the NAED/Spencer fellowship, Wang will join a network of more than 800 alumni through this fellowship, representing many of the strongest education researchers in the field today. She is one of two from the College of Education to receive the honor for 2019—doctoral student Stephanie Toliver was also named a recipient.