LSI Joins With HECD To Welcome University Staff From Lebanon To FSU

Tallahassee, FL – Florida State University and the Learning Systems Institute (LSI) continued its partnership with the USAID/Lebanon Higher Education Capacity Development (HECD) Program by welcoming a group of 19 university staff members from Lebanon to Tallahassee. The group spent five days focusing on career development programs with much of the program hosted by The Career Center at FSU.

“Education Development Center (EDC) is fortunate to coordinate with Florida State on this project,” said Bill Potter, Project Director of the Higher Education Capacity Development Program. “We invited 19 Lebanese colleagues representing ten universities to FSU. They were here to observe best practices in career services. We had a series of presentations and visits at The Career Center, Innovation Hub and Alumni Relations Office.”

Lebanon university staff posing with flag at FSU fountain
Lebanon university staff posing with flag at FSU fountain

“We were so impressed with the level of facilities here at Florida State, the level of professionalism and the multi-layers of support FSU is providing to students through their career services outreach and resources. We are impressed with Florida State’s ability to accommodate these international visits.”

While at FSU, the university staff took part in sessions focusing on career advising and intake, individual and group career counseling, assessment and computer-assisted guidance, career-panning classes, experiential education, on-campus recruiting and numerous other topics focused on career placement.

Th program also included reviews of the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) theory that serves as the theoretical underpinning of the Florida State University Career Center, selected innovative student engagement career programs, the FSU Garnet and Gold Scholar Society, the FSU Innovation Hub and the embedded college liaison internship program. There were also meetings with the Office of the President, Vice President for Student Affairs, Learning Systems Institute and Alumni Association.

“Our Lebanese colleagues have been so impressed with all they have seen,” said Potter. “They are excited to take back with them the learning points from this week, synthesize those points and then develop action plans on how they go about improving the career services systems at each university. Moving forward, they will continue to be in touch with the FSU team as they develop plans for enhancing the career centers in Lebanon.”

Lebanese group visits FSU career fair
Lebanese group visits FSU career fair

Dr. Jeffrey Milligan of the Learning Systems Institute served as the Principal Investigator for the joint venture with HECD. Dr. Milligan focuses on international development and served as the LSI host for the Lebanese delegation.

“Over the past several years Lebanon has struggled both with the twin calamities of the COVID crisis and a virtual collapse of the Lebanese economy,” said Dr. Milligan. “Despite these difficult circumstances, our colleagues at the ten HECD partner universities have persevered and continue to work courageously toward a better day for their students and their country. It is inspiring to work alongside them in this important endeavor.”

HECD is a $10 million USAID-funded project which develops the capacities of Higher Education Institutions to better prepare their graduates to be successful in labor markets in Lebanon and around the world. HEIs are better equipped to deliver job readiness skills and career services to help students make the transition from academe to work, to engage meaningfully with local employers, utilize data to make programmatic decisions and to seek and secure external funding.

The Learning Systems Institute works to bridge the gap between theory and practice in education. Our experts apply the best research to help teachers utilize this knowledge in their classrooms. LSI strives to be an internationally recognized, university-based research and development organization that measurably improves the learning and performance of organizations and individuals.

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USAID-LSI Partnership To Improve Teacher Training Colleges In Malawi

By Bill Wellock 

Florida State University’s Learning Systems Institute (LSI) will lead a $15.6 million project sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve teacher training in Malawi.

The Strengthening Teacher Education and Practice (STEP) Activity will improve the higher education system that trains primary school teachers in the country as well as the professional development practices that support teachers through their careers.

“We will be impacting every single teacher that teaches primary school in all of Malawi, which means that we will impact every child,” said Adrienne Barnes-Story, project director and LSI research faculty member. “It’s just mind-blowing that we’re going to have the opportunity to impact the entire primary education system while strengthening the higher education network of institutions necessary to carry this work forward.”

LSI faculty will work with 16 teacher training colleges across the country to improve teacher education programs and develop new training materials related to literacy and numeracy education. Another part of the project will provide support to the Ministry of Education to deliver continuous professional development courses to teachers who are already in classrooms. The STEP project is a landmark investment by USAID to support the institutions of higher education that provide pre-service teacher education.

“We will be impacting every single teacher that teaches primary school in all of Malawi, which means that we will impact every child.”

The professional development portion of the work will build on a previous project through the Malawi Ministry of Education to digitize an online data collection system for student progress and teacher development. That initiative will help formalize the teacher certification process and give the Malawian government better data to inform its decisions about education.

Malawian Ministry of Education officials and teacher training college administrators will have exchange visits to colleges in neighboring Zambia, where FSU is implementing another USAID program to improve teacher education to share experiences, and best practices.

Classroom instruction in Malawi mostly takes place in the languages Chichewa and English. Students first learn in Chichewa for all subjects and study English as a separate subject, then begin reading in English in Grade 2 and slowly transition to using English as the medium of instruction, with Chichewa becoming a separate class. This method of learning and transitioning to English can be challenging for students who have limited English oral fluency. One project goal is to support teachers’ methods to understand and apply best practices for students transitioning from Chichewa to English.

“The impact that LSI delivers is immediate and lasts for years to come.”

The programs in Malawi, Zambia and elsewhere speak to FSU’s ability to lead international development projects that make an impact, ranging from early education to higher education settings, said LSI Director Rabieh Razzouk. LSI has projects in 13 different countries, including the United States, on four continents across the globe.

“The impact that LSI delivers is immediate and lasts for years to come,” he said. “Early childhood is a crucial time for positive interventions, which is why improving that curriculum is so important.”

LSI has partnered with USAID on projects across the globe, working on education activities in Nigeria, Lebanon, Rwanda, Honduras, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Indonesia. The institute also has worked on projects with the U.S. Department of State in Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Pakistan, Egypt, St. Lucia, Grenada and Suriname.

USAID promotes and demonstrates democratic values in more than 80 countries around the globe and advances a free, peaceful and prosperous world. The agency leads the U.S. government’s international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.

From surviving to thriving: LSI brings support and success to mathematics educators navigating virtual learning


Last year, students and teachers in Florida and across the nation were asked to do a lot when remote learning forced them out of the physical classroom.

That didn’t stop educators from pushing forward to learn new ways to best teach traditional subjects like math to their students, whether they were in person or on Zoom. And FSU’s Learning Systems Institute (LSI) was there to help.

Researchers were already in the middle of a U.S. Department of Education-funded project to help instruct teachers in how to use the principles of Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) — a method of instructional practice that prioritizes children’s natural developmental progressions in how they learn mathematics — and to research the effectiveness of those instruction methods. Researchers at LSI worked with the CGI Math Teacher Learning Center to convert what was intended to be four days of face-to-face professional development into lessons over Zoom and Google Classroom during summer 2020.

“We needed to invent new ways to do many things that we had never done before,” said principal investigator Robert Schoen. “That work paid off for more than 800 teachers who learned to use CGI and for researchers who gained valuable insight into how those teaching methods can help students in the future.”

The conversion to a remote platform prompted the creation of methods to enable teachers to view each student’s screen as they complete a task in a virtual setting to see the methods they are using, the same way a teacher might circulate in an in-person classroom.

A sixth-grade student turns up the volume as she attends class through the digital academy at the The School of Arts and Sciences on Thomasville Road. (Courtesy of Robert Schoen)

For example, a first-grade teacher who asks a class to add “5 + 8” might encounter a variety of methods for solving that problem. Some students might count each number out on their fingers or draw circles and count them all. Others might start with a mental “8” in their heads and add 5 to it by counting forward, one finger at a time. Other students might think about the 8 as 5 + 3 and add the fives first and then the three. A teacher using CGI pays attention to each of those methods, encourages students with different strategies to help each other and guides students toward mathematical fluency.

“CGI is based on decades of research on how children’s ideas about mathematics grow and mature over time,” Schoen said. “The CGI program helps teachers to remember what it is like to think about the mathematics from the students’ perspective. Teachers learn mathematics during workshops through the in-depth analysis of their students’ thinking processes, and they continually monitor their students’ thinking processes to make adjustments to their instruction to meet their students’ needs.”

Elizabeth Fravel, who teaches elementary school students at the School of Arts and Sciences in Tallahassee, can already see how the training has helped her as an educator.

“I now have a much better understanding of the natural developmental process that children go through as they develop an understanding of numbers and mathematical thinking,” Fravel said. “What CGI does is break down those very predictable stages in mathematics learning. It helps teachers to be able to identify what’s going on. If someone in third grade has to act out division problems with cubes every time, you can identify where they are in the spectrum of understanding and move them forward in a way that makes sense to them.”

LSI faculty and researchers are continuing to help teachers develop their skills with CGI lessons that can be applied in a face-to-face setting or in a virtual classroom. They will provide more virtual professional development this summer and plan to transition back to in-person workshops during the 2021-2022 school year.

The Foundations for Success project has already shown successful preliminary results that suggest positive impacts on teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about math teaching, and many of these teachers are going on to great success in their classrooms and careers. Two of the three state finalists for the most recent Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching were involved in the CGI program.

This project was funded by a major grant from the SEED program at the U.S. Department of Education. The SEED program provides competitively awarded grants to support implementation of evidence-based practices in education. The project seeks to achieve several goals that include the development of effective mathematics teachers in Florida and meeting student needs across historically underserved and underrepresented populations in mathematics.

For more information about the Foundations for Success project or educational resources, visit the Teaching is Problem Solving website.

USAID-LSI partnership set to boost teacher training systems in Zambia

Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski, an associate professor with the Learning Systems Institute and director of the USAID Transforming Teacher Education Program. (Florida State University)


The Learning Systems Institute (LSI) at Florida State University will lead a five-year, $15 million project sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve pre-service teacher training in Zambia.

LSI faculty, in collaboration with partners School-to-School International and the University of Zambia, will work with 12 universities and colleges of education in the country to improve the training of primary grade teachers.

“This project is an exciting opportunity for FSU to take a lead role in improving primary teacher education at a national level, building on lessons learned in our previous projects in countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia,” said Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski, an LSI associate professor and the project’s director.

Over the five-year period, the “USAID Transforming Teacher Education Program” will give more than 60 Zambian teacher educators the skills to deliver effective instruction to 9,000 college and university students studying to become primary grade teachers.

Despite significant investments in early-grade literacy in Zambia, pre-service teacher education has been largely excluded from previous development programs. This work will connect teacher training with the evidence-based practices already used in Zambian primary schools, ensuring that teachers enter the classroom prepared to help children learn how to read and to provide safe learning environments.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Professor Zuilkowski and the LSI team to use their years of research and experience to help improve teacher training in Zambia and thus the greater educational system in the country,” said Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander. “We are incredibly proud of the work they do and are excited to see what they will achieve with this new project.”

To implement the program, LSI faculty will deliver graduate-level courses on reading instruction in Zambia. Six Zambian teacher education faculty will complete six-month residencies at the FSU College of Education, and four faculty members will receive scholarships to obtain master’s degrees in education at FSU. Florida State will also organize study tours for additional Zambian faculty.

With USAID support, FSU faculty and Zambian educators will work together to better connect teacher training with the country’s primary school literacy curriculum. The project team will revise pre-service teacher training courses, develop new textbooks for teachers and create centers of excellence dedicated to training new teachers.

The project also will build relationships between teaching colleges and universities and primary schools. Those connections will give teachers-in-training opportunities to practice their skills and provide settings where lecturers can conduct participatory action research about early-grade reading.

“Transforming Teacher Education brings the Learning Systems Institute to a whole new level of engagement in international educational development,” said Jeffrey Milligan, director of the Learning Systems Institute. “For the first time in 25 years, LSI will assume overall leadership for a large, nationwide, multiyear USAID project. LSI has a long legacy of international engagement, and this new project positions us to compete effectively for new international projects in the coming years.”

The Learning Systems Institute has partnered with USAID on several previous projects. LSI is a partner on the Northern Education Initiative Plus project, which is underway in two northern Nigerian states to train teaching instructors and learning facilitators in early grades reading instruction.

LSI also worked with Bayero University, Kano in Nigeria to establish the Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development, the first reading research center in the country. As part of that initiative, faculty from Bayero University, Kano visited Florida State to take graduate classes in education and to work with faculty mentors to design and implement a research project they carried out when they returned to Nigeria.

“LSI faculty have extensive experience working with college and university faculty, teachers and government education officials around the world to improve the teaching of early grade reading, including in conflict-affected and complex multilingual settings,” Zuilkowski said.

In the past decade, LSI faculty have also worked on USAID-funded education activities in Honduras, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Indonesia, as well as U.S. Department of State projects in Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Pakistan, Egypt, St. Lucia, Grenada and Suriname.

On behalf of the American people, USAID promotes and demonstrates democratic values in over 80 countries around the globe, and advances a free, peaceful, and prosperous world. In support of America’s foreign policy, the Agency leads the U.S. Government’s international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.


USAID Collaboration with Nigeria’s Bayero University in Kano Strengthens Early Grade Reading in Nigeria

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Professors Amina Adamu (left) and Aisha Umar Tsiga (second right) of BUK, with Stephanie Zuilkowski (second left), and Adrienne Barnes (right) of Florida State University, at the Learning Systems Institute on the FSU campus in Tallahassee, Florida.

Over the past three years, a unique collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Nigeria’s Bayero University in Kano (BUK), and Florida State University (FSU) in the United States has helped Africa’s most populous country strengthen its ability to teach early grade reading, the foundation of lifelong learning.

This activity supported the training and mentorship of six BUK Faculty Fellows on cutting-edge research, teacher training, and the process of publishing academic articles during a six-month residency at the FSU Learning Systems Institute. The partnership culminated in establishment of a new Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development on the BUK campus.

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A participant speaks at the First National Conference on Children’s Books and the Teaching of Early Grade Reading in Nigeria, organized by the NCRRD in August 2019.

“This new focus on raising this quality of teaching and learning was borne out of the realization that reading is fundamental to education,” said Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello, Vice-Chancellor of BUK. “No nation can achieve meaningful development without inculcating effective reading skills amongst its growing generations.”

Now a permanent part of the BUK community, the new Research Center will facilitate research on all matters that affect reading and the teaching of early grade reading in Nigeria. The six BUK Faculty Fellows are thought leaders, researchers and champions for the adoption of the best teaching and learning practices in reading throughout Nigeria.

During their time on the Tallahassee, Florida campus, the BUK Fellows participated in scholarly activities, published journal articles, and presented their work at educational forums.

In coordination with other USAID activities, the fledgling Center hosted two national conferences attended by more than 800 education stakeholders at the national, state, and local levels to share and publicize reading research findings for the Nigerian context.

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Professor Umar Kabir, one of the first two NCRRD fellows who had advanced training at the Florida State University, stands in front of the Westcott Fountain at FSU

“At USAID we have a passion for education and high hopes for its future in Nigeria,” Mission Director Stephen M. Haykin said. “In that spirit, this partnership played a critical role in ensuring the next generation of Nigerian children is equipped with the reading skills that will serve as the basis for a lifetime of learning.”

The partnership promises to benefit education in Nigeria for years to come, having developed a new cadre of leaders and trainers in reading research who will champion the advancement of high-quality reading instruction, learning and research for future generations of teachers in primary grade reading strategies to effectively teach more children to enjoy a lifetime of reading.

The Center also serves as a clearinghouse where education stakeholders can leverage data and approaches to effect positive changes in the classroom and improve learning across Nigeria through stronger reading curricula for millions of students.

Research shows that a child who starts to read in a language he or she understands will be better equipped to take on learning a foreign language in later grades, and ultimately get more out of his or her education.

Since 2015, USAID has embraced this concept, distributing more than three million books and teacher’s guides for early grade reading in Hausa and English in the north. Similar materials are under development in Igbo and Yoruba to serve children in other areas of Nigeria.

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The NCRRD building under construction earlier this year. Its permanent presence will help improve reading instruction in Nigeria for decades to come.

Nigeria’s education system is challenged to keep pace with its rapidly growing population. USAID works to strengthen state and local education systems in partnership with all Nigerians. The Center is an important step forward to deepening early grade reading resources available in Nigeria.

U.S. Mission Nigeria


United States Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria. For official information visit

The Learning Systems Institute extends its reach to Uzbekistan in Central Asia

The Uzbekistan Education Reform Program is a new initiative sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development under the Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (STIP) in Higher Education Annual Program Statement. RTI International and its partners, Florida State University and Mississippi State University will implement the four-year program from 2020 to 2024.

In the past fifty years, LSI has worked in 36 countries, but never in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country has a high literacy rate, with about 99 percent of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. Nevertheless, due to severe budget shortfalls in its education system this figure may decline, as only 76 percent of the under-15 population is currently enrolled in education. This situation gives rise to a growing interest on the part of the government and international donors to engage in partnerships for education.

In July 2019, Mr. Rabieh Razzouk (PI) and Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi (Co-PI) traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan representing LSI at FSU to participate in the ‘co-creation’ process.  The one-week co-creation involved presentations by RTI International, MSU, and FSU followed by discussions with USAID, the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education and other stakeholders.

After a few months of deliberation, the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program was launched in February 2020. Again, the FSU representatives (Mr. Rabieh Razzouk and Dr. Flavia Ramos Mattoussi) traveled to Uzbekistan to participate in collaborative meetings with the Uzbek counterparts in Tashkent.

USAID is realigning and reorienting its policies, strategies, and program practices to improve how it supports each country on the Journey to Self-Reliance—or, put another way, a country’s ability to plan, finance, and implement solutions to address its own development challenges in a sustainable way. For the program, this means a focus on technical and managerial inputs that build MPE’s capacity to design and test, monitor, and learn from effective solutions. The Program will place added attention on using the lessons from pilot implementation to design sustainable scale-up strategies and plans, including identifying resource mobilization requirements.

The Ministry of Public Education (MPE) in Uzbekistan is committed to an ambitious program of systematic and comprehensive reforms. The country aims to create an education system that can produce graduates with the critical thinking, problem solving, and practical skills that will enable them to succeed. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has put in place an agreement with MPE for the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program. This program commits USAID to support the goal of sustainably improving the reading, math, information and communication technology (ICT), and English skills of students in the country’s public schools. Future students, therefore, will be more employable and/or more likely to gain acceptance into university studies. To attain the desired improvements in learning, MPE and USAID have agreed on a collaboration to achieve three components:[1]

  • Component 1: Improve reading and math outcomes in grades 1–6
  • Component 2: Support IT Nation initiatives for grades 1–11
  • Component 3: Improve English language instruction

RTI International is collaborating with Mississippi State University (MSU) and Florida State University (FSU) to provide the expertise and experience needed to help MPE achieve and sustain the above results.

This Program description benefits from the insights and agreements obtained during the co- creation workshop held in Tashkent, July 22–26, 2019. MPE colleagues from all concerned technical departments attended the workshop sessions, actively assisting the RTI team in understanding the needs, opportunities, and challenges present in the education sector. As a result, the Program now aligns its activities more closely to MPE’s needs, including taking into account and complementing other projects and initiatives.

At the close of the co-creation workshop, Minister of Education Sherzod Shermatov reaffirmed the guiding principles of quality, justice, and transparency that govern the reform agenda in the education sector. A commitment to quality is reflected in the Program’s focus on helping Uzbekistan adopt best practice approaches to standards-based education and state-of-the-art teacher professional development strategies. The Program will also assist MPE in making sure resources and support enhance equity and justice—advising MPE in developing and testing strategies that can be successful even in districts with fewer resources. In addition, the Program’s approach to instruction includes enabling teachers to focus on equity and inclusion, by responding to the needs of male and female students, as well as supporting students who are struggling and extending opportunities for those who are advanced.

The rigorous frameworks for monitoring, evaluating, and sharing the lessons from project activities will support MPE’s commitment to transparency. This approach is consistent with USAID’s commitment to collaboration, learning, and adapting (CLA) as core principles of project management. Lastly, throughout the co-creation process, MPE emphasized the importance of capacity development as key to sustainability. The Program’s approach is therefore centered on helping MPE on its journey to self-reliance by developing the technical, managerial, and operational capacities needed for MPE to put in place a standards-based education system.

The FSU-Learning Systems Institute (LSI) team composed of technical experts in instructional design for the specific areas of the project (Math, Reading, and English) will provide technical assistance to the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program in collaboration with RTI International and the Ministry of Public Education in Uzbekistan. FSU-LSI will bring to the table many years of experience in international development, and most of all the experience of working with Florida teachers on the development of standard-driven instruction for K-12 students. In addition to the technical assistance to local partners, FSU-LSI intends to build the capacity of the MPE to develop and maintain its own web-based platform with resources to support teachers and students in grades 1-11 beyond the life of the project. Rabieh Razzouk, Director of CPALMS, initiated the ‘platform’ idea — an online toolbox of information, vetted resources, and interactive tools that helps educators effectively implement teaching standards. CPALMS is the State of Florida’s official source for standards information and course descriptions.

The vision is that teachers and students in Uzbekistan will have access to a variety of instructional resources and the ability to interact with those resources as well as with educators from around the world to address the learning needs of 21st century students.










A Towering Task: The Story of the Corps #FSUglobal

In honor of Peace Corps Week “A Towering Task: The Story of the Corps” movie will be shown in the Globe Auditorium at the Center for Global Engagement at Florida State University. Monday, March 2, 2020 at 5:30PM. Sponsored by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of North Florida, COCA/ Tallahassee Arts.  #FSUglobal

Peace Corps Tallahassee email:

Discover how the Learning Systems Institute (1969-2019) has worked to improve learning and performance in Florida and around the world for the last 50 years.

Created by Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University

By: Robert Lengacher, Learning Systems Institute

Music from  |  “Imagefilm 041,” “Total Happy Up And Sunny,” and “Imagefilm 018” by Sascha Ende (  |  License: CC BY (

Learning Systems Institute (1969-2019)