Roundtable discussion with Nigerian visiting scholars at FSU

Challenges and opportunities for universities in conflict contexts: a discussion with Bayero University faculty from Northern Nigeria.

Date: Friday, January 25, 2019
Time: 10:00 AM -11:30 AM
Location: Center for Global Engagement – Room 2300
110 S. Woodward Avenue
Tallahassee FL, 32306

The speakers will lead a discussion on the role of universities in promoting peace and providing opportunities for development in settings that have been impacted by conflict. They will also discuss the partnerships that FSU is undertaking in the region to support educational systems and research infrastructure.

Dr. Muhammad Bello, Vice Chancellor, Bayero University-Kano

Dr. Ismaila Tsiga, Coordinator, Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development and Professor, Bayero University-Kano

Dr. Jeffrey Ayala Milligan, Professor and Director of the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University

This event is sponsored by the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University


Florida State University welcomes two fellows from Nigeria for the Spring 2019

The Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University—represented by Drs. Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski and Adrienne Barnes, welcomes Dr. Aisha Umar Tsiga and Dr. Amina Adamu both faculty from the Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development at Bayero University in Kano, Nigeria. The university fellows will be at the FSU campus in Tallahassee till June 2019 as part of a USAID-sponsored partnership between Bayero University and Florida State University. LSI.FSU.EDU

Foundations for Success: Developing Effective Mathematics Educators through Cognitively Guided Instruction

Over a five-year period, the Foundations for Success project will provide Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) professional development in mathematics for 2,790 elementary teachers and 120 elementary school principals. Participating teachers will receive eight days of professional development during each year of their participation. Designed and led by the CGI Math Teacher Learning Center under the direction of Linda Levi, the CGI professional development program is a three-year, eight-day-per year program focused on number, operations, and algebraic thinking at the K–2 or 3–5 grade levels. Working with an advisory board with extensive expertise and experience supporting equity and excellence in mathematics, the Foundations for Success program will integrate evidence-based practices in early mathematics, fractions, and problem solving with promising practices for teaching traditionally underserved and underrepresented students (and their teachers) in mathematics.

Project Goals and Expected Outcomes. The Foundations for Success project will enhance elementary mathematics teacher effectiveness through large-scale implementation of CGI professional development. The project activities are designed to achieve the following goals:

  1. Provide CGI professional development in mathematics for 2,790 elementary teachers in Florida over the course of five years;
  2. Increase teachers’ knowledge of mathematics and student learning progressions;
  3. Increase teachers’ implementation of evidence-based practices in math instruction;
  4. Increase students’ mathematics achievement with a focus on traditionally underserved and underrepresented students by enhancing CGI to meet their needs; and
  5. Establish structures to support teachers’ sustained implementation of high-quality mathematics instruction in Florida beyond the grant award period.

Program Evaluation. The program evaluation design will use several complementary methodological approaches, including (1) a mixed-methods evaluation of implementation to determine the extent to which the program is being implemented as intended and to inform potential improvements of the program, (2) a multisite cluster-randomized trial to enable causal inference regarding the effect of the program on school, teacher, and student outcomes, and (3) an exploratory study investigating factors in classroom instruction that mediate the impact of the CGI intervention on student achievement.

U.S. Department of Education through the Supporting Effective Educator Development program, 2018–23, grant award number U423A180115.

Principal Investigator
Robert C. Schoen, PhD
Associate Director, FCR-STEM, Florida State University

Co-Principal Investigators
Linda Levi, PhD
Director, CGI Math Teacher Learning Center
Walter G. Secada, PhD
Senior Associate Dean, School of Education and Human Development, University of Miami

Senior Project Manager
Amanda M. Tazaz, PhD
Associate in Research, FCR-STEM, Florida State University

District Partners
Approximately one-dozen Florida school districts.

New publication by RTI Press explores the many ways in which teachers around the world are supported throughout their professional careers to improve teaching and learning.

BY: Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi

New publication by RTI Press explores the many ways in which teachers around the world are supported throughout their professional careers to improve teaching and learning.  Thanks to David Evans, Silvia Montoya, Sharath Jeevan for reviews and to all co-authors including Tifa Asrianti, Adrienne Barnes, Guy Bostock, Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, Stephen Backman, Marion Fesmire, Jarret Guajardo, Karon H. Molly Hamm-Rodríguez, Simon King, Scott Kipp, Lee Nordstrum, Dawit Mekonnen, Alison Pflepsen, Mitchell Rakusin, Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, Emily Richardson, Timothy Slade. You can download the book “Cultivating Dynamic Educators: Case Studies in Teacher Behavior Change in Africa and Asia” by Sarah Remington Pouezevara from the RTO Press website.

In Chapter 2: “Changing Teacher Educators’ Conceptions and Practices Around Literacy Instruction: Lessons from Teacher Educators’ Professional Development Experiences in Ethiopia” the Florida State University team examined the contribution of the pre-service interventions within the Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Technical Assistance (READ-TA) program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from October 2012 through December 2017. The Learning Systems Institute at FSU was a partner to RTI International on the RAD TA project from 2012 to 2017.  The FSU team worked in five regions of the country, targeting seven national languages. Ethiopia has two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa) plus nine national region states: Afar; Amhara; Benishangul-Gumuz; Gambela; Harari; Oromia; Somali; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR); and Tigray. As of early 2018, more than 20 local languages were being used as languages of instruction in Ethiopia. READ-TA targeted seven of the most widely spoken languages of instruction.

The professional development activities implemented by the FSU/LSI team of researchers and teacher educators included engagement of Ethiopian educators in module development, adaptation of the modules and related materials into seven mother tongues, and training on the module contents. The pre-service teacher education program prepares student teachers to teach in the mother tongue used as the language of instruction in grades 1–8 in each of the nine regions of the country. Of particular interest were revisions of the mother tongue pre-service teacher education program and the related professional development for teacher educators and student teachers (we use the term teacher educators to refer to the lecturers and instructors at the colleges of teacher education and the term student teachers to refer to the students at colleges of teacher education, also referred to in Ethiopia as “teacher-trainees” and “wouldbe-teachers”).

The chapter describes the extent to which teacher educators’ involvement across multiple initiatives promoted changes in conceptions of literacy instruction; depth of understanding of literacy content; and student-centered, participatory teaching and learning pedagogy.

Suggested citation: Mekonnen, D., Fesmire, M., Barnes, A., Backman, S., Ramos-Mattoussi, F. (2018). Changing Teacher Educators’ Conceptions and Practices on Literacy Instruction: Lessons from Teacher Educators’ Professional Development Experiences in Ethiopia.  In Pouezevara, S. R. (Ed.) (2018). Cultivating dynamic educators: Case studies in teacher behavior change in Africa and Asia. (RTI Press Publication No. BK-0022-1809). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press. DOI: 10.3768/rtipress. 2018.bk.0022.1809.

Photo: Dr. Dawit Mekonnen of the University of Addis Ababa and FSU National Coordinator in Ethiopia, Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, center, the principal investigator on FSU’s element of the Read-TA project, and Dr. Marion Fesmire of FSU Panama City wear gowns and scarves given them by their colleagues in Ethiopia, where FSU has been working since 2013 on an ambitious reading-and-writing program.


PUBLIC PRESENTATION: International School of Sustainable Tourism-Philippines Dr. Mina T. Gabor, Founder and President Former Secretary of Tourism, Republic of the Philippines

International School of Sustainable Tourism-Philippines
Dr. Mina T. Gabor, Founder and President
Former Secretary of Tourism, Republic of the Philippines

Friday, October 26, 2:00-4:30 pm
Center for Global Engagement, Room 2300
Florida State University

Dr. Mina T. Gabor, President and Founder of the International School of Sustainable Tourism in the Philippines, will offer a public presentation on the development and current status of the International School of Sustainable Tourism as well as eco-tourism and farm tourism in the Philippines. Dr. Gabor’s presentation will be followed by an open discussion on opportunities for collaboration with ISST for FSU faculty and students.

ISST was established in 2010 to promote the education and technical training of manpower to develop, promote, and viably operate sustainable tourism in the Philippines and other ASEAN countries. It is dedicated to the improvement of the lives of the people of communities with ecological resources that need to be preserved and can be sustained for tourism. ISST helps inculcate in tourism stakeholders and visitors the values of responsible tourism where people interact with nature in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Dr. Mina T. Gabor is the former Secretary of the Department of Tourism and Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines. Dr. Gabor’s presentation is sponsored by the Florida State University Learning Systems Institute and the Big Bend Filipino American Association. Refreshments will be served.

Jeffrey Ayala Milligan, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Director, Learning Systems Institute
The Florida State University

How do teachers learn to teach reading and writing in Honduras? That’s what a team of researchers at FSU are trying to find out.

By: Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi

In early 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of Honduras launched the “readers to leaders” program (De Lectores a Líderes, also known as the USAID Honduras Reading Activity). The project implemented by Education Development Center (EDC) and its partner Florida State University (FSU) targets regions according to two Development Objectives (1) Citizen Security increased in high violence zones; and (2) Extreme poverty sustainably reduced. The five-year project is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Education to implement evidence-based reading approaches to improve the learning rates in reading and writing of at least 700,000 students from first to sixth grade in 2,500 schools across 60 municipalities; train more than 15,000 in-service teachers in evidence-based teaching practices; provide 1,000 existing or new school libraries with a collection of 1,200 books to promote reading opportunities.

The “readers to leaders” project is also aimed at building the capacity of teacher educators at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán (UPNFM) to address current educational reforms affecting the teacher certification requirements in the country. FSU’s main role in this project is to collaborate with the UPNFM faculty to better integrate educational standards and evidence-based teaching practices applied to both pre and in-service teacher training programs. FSU will support UPNFM faculty teaching in the Basic Education Program and provide professional development focused on early grade reading instruction.

In September 2018, two research faculty members at the Learning Systems Institute at FSU, Dr. Ana Marty and Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi traveled to Honduras for one month to assess the current situation and readiness of UPNFM faculty, administrators and students to effectively embrace the new curriculum and impart evidence-based teaching practices aligned with current efforts to reform academic standards and formative assessments. The FSU team conducted a mixed-methods baseline assessment of how “lectoescritura” is being taught at the pre-service level, examining administrative structures, teaching methods, and specific strengths and constraints in the context of the UPNFM in Tegucigalpa as well as in its Regional Centers in Gracias, Santa Barbara, La Ceiba, and San Pedro Sula. They observed numerous classes at UPNFM and at primary schools; administered 134 surveys, and conducted interviews and focus groups with faculty, administrators, and students at all sites visited to better understand the context of reading and writing instruction in the Basic Education and Spanish Language Programs in Honduras.

Dr. Ana H. Marty was interviewed by TeleCeibaTV Station in La Ceiba during a site visit to the UPNFM Regional Center. See Link to interview in Spanish:



Posted by Teleceiba Internacional on Friday, September 14, 2018

From Readers to Leaders: The Learning Systems Institute at FSU launches a new project in Honduras

Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, Ana Marty, and Adrienne Barnes (FSU Principal Investigator for DLAL Project in Honduras).                                                                                                  
Site visit to the campus of Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) Francisco Morazán in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Meeting DLAL project personnel at EDC Office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. June 28, 2018                                

In June 2018, three faculty members from the Learning Systems Institute (LSI) at the Florida State University (FSU) traveled to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras to launch a new initiative to support country’s efforts to improve the readinperformance of students in grades one to six.  FSU will work with the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) Francisco Morazán to develop a new curriculum for pre-service teacher education as the country implements new policies that require higher educational standards for elementary school teachers. This initiative is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Education Development Center. FSU is a partner to EDC on the implementation of the 5-year project “De Lectores a Lideres” in Honduras (2018-2023).FSU expects to welcome five representatives from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) Francisco Morazán and the Honduran Ministry of Education to Tallahassee soon. 

LSI faculty members have years of experience with pre-service teacher training projects.  Recently, the FSU-LSI team led the pre-service training component of READ-TA in Ethiopia, as a subcontractor to RTI International. Working in seven national languages, LSI faculty have developed course content and textbooks, as well as training hundreds of teacher educators from 36 colleges of teacher education across the country in the new curriculum.

LSI faculty also developed content and training pre-service teacher faculty in Indonesia, under the USAID Indonesia Teacher Training Partnership (subcontractor to RTI International).  The FSU-LSI team is currently working in Nigeria, as part of the Northern Education Initiative Plus (subcontractor to Creative Associates). In addition, FSU is partnering with Bayero University-Kano to establish the Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development. 

For more information about projects implemented by the Center for International Studies in Educational Research and Development (CISERD) at the Learning Systems Institute (LSI) at the Florida State University (FSU) visit our website:


USAID and FSU researchers partner to establish Nigerian Center for Reading Research

TALLAHASSEE — Acquiring reading skills can be difficult in an ideal setting, let alone an environment affected by crisis or conflict. That, however, is the harsh reality more than 2 million children living in northern Nigeria face each day.

Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski of the Learning Systems Institute is the principal investigator on the joint project with the Florida Center for Reading Research.

With the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a new partnership between researchers at Florida State University and Bayero University-Kano in northern Nigeria aims to tackle these problems by strengthening the country’s ability to provide high-quality education and improve children’s reading skills. Together, the two universities are working toward the creation of the Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to have a long-term impact on the quality of reading instruction in Nigeria,” said Learning Systems Institute faculty member Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski, assistant professor of international education and the principal investigator on the FSU project. “We’re not just doing a few trainings and moving on to the next project. It’s a multiyear commitment to helping Bayero University-Kano, one of the most prominent universities in northern Nigeria, to become a regional center for excellence, the place where African governments and nongovernmental organizations will go to find technical assistance to improve reading instruction.”

Funded by USAID, the lead U.S. government agency working to end extreme global poverty, FSU’s Learning Systems Institute and Florida Center for Reading Research will collaborate in the implementation of the project.

Yaacov Petscher is director of research for FSU’s Florida Center for Reading Research and associate director of the center.

“Research consistently links poor reading comprehension to extreme poverty, high infant mortality and slower GDP growth,” said Florida Center for Reading Research Associate Director Yaacov Petscher. “We hope that by focusing the efforts of researchers both here and in Nigeria on literacy efforts we can make an impact on some of the issues that children in Nigeria face.”

The project is more than a quick fix, though.

Each year, an integrated postdoctoral fellowship program will welcome to FSU two Bayero University-Kano reading education faculty. Ultimately the fellowships will lead to creation of the Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development and a master’s degree program in reading when the last two fellows return from their FSU residency.

“I look forward to assisting them in achieving their goal of creating the Nigerian Center for Reading Research,” FCRR researcher and Assistant Professor of Education Laura Steacy said. “This is an exciting opportunity to partner with Bayero University-Kano to improve reading instruction in Nigeria.”

At the end of the three-year period, FSU will assist in planning an on-campus conference in Nigeria. The conference, in which FSU faculty, the Bayero University-Kano fellows and other faculty will present research, will help establish a reputation of excellence for the Nigerian Center for Reading Research.

Laura Steacy is an assistant professor of education and a researcher with the Florida Center for Reading Research.

The conference will be at Nigerian Center for Reading Research’s new International Conference Center, now under construction.

The project with Bayero University-Kano is but one part of USAID’s commitment to the improvement of reading outcomes for 100 million children worldwide. To this end, USAID is implementing primary grades reading projects around the world.

And because of FCRR’s international reputation as one of the world’s preeminent centers for reading research and LSI’s decades of experience in international educational development, FSU has become a highly prized partner on a number of USAID reading projects.

Students in a classroom in northern Nigeria, where FSU’s Learning Systems Institute and Florida Center for Reading Research are teaming up with Bayero University-Kano in Nigeria to strengthen teacher education and improve children’s reading skills.

In Ethiopia, for instance, LSI faculty have been working for five years under the direction of Research Triangle International to improve primary grades reading outcomes by improving the quality of pre-service teacher education throughout the country, training hundreds of teacher educators and developing training modules in seven local languages. In a separate project in Nigeria LSI is working with Creative Associates International to improve pre-service teacher education as well as access to schooling among the poorest children in two northern states adversely affected by decades of civil conflict. And in Honduras LSI teams will soon partner with the Education Development Center to improve reading outcomes in that country as well.

In each of these efforts LSI faculty are bringing the fruit of FCRR research to bear in meeting USAID’s goals to improve reading outcomes worldwide.

“We are pleased about this collaboration and the development of the National Center for Reading Research at Bayero University. We look forward to seeing better prepared teachers and improved reading outcomes for Nigeria school children as a result of this program,” said Stephen M. Haykin, Mission Director, USAID/Nigeria.

While the Learning Systems Institute and the Florida Center for Reading Research have a long history of collaboration in reading research and development in Florida, this is the first opportunity for the FSU institutes to work together on an international project. “We appreciate FCRR Director Don Compton’s support for this collaboration and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with FCRR and USAID to bring FSU expertise to bear on the challenge of improving reading outcomes for children in northern Nigeria,” LSI Director Jeffrey Ayala Milligan said. “We hope it is just the first of many future collaborations with FCRR and other FSU research centers.”


FSU’s Learning Systems Institute aids Education Crisis Response Project in Northern Nigeria

The Northern Nigeria Education-in-Conflict Response Program (ECR) will draw to a close in October 2017. This project was funded by USAID and implemented by Creative Associates International, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, Florida State University, and local organizations. The initiative began in 2014 to address the gaps in education that internally displaced children and youth face due the ongoing conflict in the Northeastern states in Nigeria.

Learning facilitator Mark Philemon delivers instructions to learners at the Jambutu Non-Formal Learning Center in Yola, Adamawa state, in Nigeria. Credit: Helen Boyle

Internally displaced people (IDP) have had to flee their homes due to insurgency, violence and environmental risks; schools have been burned down in some communities and have stopped operating. Thus, to address a potentially growing educational crisis, the ECR project goal was to provide technical assistance to the Nigerian state governments, by collaboratively designing and delivering instruction in basic literacy, numeracy and social and emotional learning to IDP children and youth. Working with communities with high numbers of IDPs, the project established Non-Formal Learning Centers (NFLC) in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, and recently Borno. Communities participated in the establishment of the centers and assumed the day to day direction of the NFLCs. Lesson content was to include literacy, numeracy and social and emotional learning skills in an integrated fashion.

Experts from the Florida State University (FSU)’s Learning Systems Institute, were invited to work with Creative Associates International and International Rescue Committee on the design of an early grade literacy scope and sequence and then a related set of early grade literacy (Hausa) scripted lessons to guide NFLC facilitators. FSU also worked with the ECR numeracy team to provide technical feedback and quality control. The lessons were designed to align with the non-formal curriculum used by Nigeria’s State Agencies for Mass Education. In particular, FSU’s team drafted over one hundred scripted lessons, incorporating social and emotional learning messages, for Hausa and reviewed XX lessons for numeracy. The Hausa lessons incorporated existing Hausa language stories for the early grades, developed by a previous project. International Rescue Committee took part in the Social Emotional Learning. The program established learning centers complete with trained staff to teach the three subjects. The goal of these centers is to help the children transition back into formal education one day. Currently, the children come to the centers for a few hours, several days a week.

In the first year, 296 learning centers were set up and reached over 14,000 learners. In the second year, 408 learning centers reached over 25,000 children. Creative Associates International conducted baseline, ongoing, and end line assessments of the project. The results are promising. The following tables were taken from the USAID Report: “Education Crisis Response Year 2 End Line Assessment Year 2” from November 2016. See citation at the end of this article.

  • 16 percentage point increase of learners at highest literacy levels, meaning 16% more learners read at the highest level at the end of year two.
  • 45 percentage point decrease of learners at lowest levels, meaning 45% less learners read at a level zero at the end of year two.
  • 26 percentage point decrease of learners at lowest levels, meaning 26% more learners could now recognize numbers and moved the numeracy level scale.
From left, Musa Avenda, community coalition Chairman, Yola-North LGA, Helen Boyle of Florida State University’s Learning Systems Institute, and Torchau Musa, Secretary Yola-North community coalition, during a visit to the Jambutu non-formal learning center in Yola, Adamawa state. Credit: Chima Onwe

Positive change from from baseline to end line was also seen in the various Social-Emotional Learning scales. Please see results from that in the aforementioned USAID report.

The implication of the results is that the lessons were quite successful. Given that they were developed rapidly, not under the best of circumstances, since the project had to work fast, this is impressive and promising for the future of education in Northeastern Nigeria. Moving forward, the FSU team suggests expanding the centers and working with older IDP in the future.

Article refers to: USAID Nigeria. (2016). Education Crisis Response Year 2 End Line Assessment Year 2. Washington, DC: Creative Associates International.