LSI continues work on teacher education in Northern Nigeria

Adrienne E. Barnes of the Learning Systems Institute at the College of Education, Kangere, in the Bauchi state of Nigeria, where LSI is working to improve teacher education.
Dr. Barnes visits with students at a school in Bauchi state, where she was observing the teaching of the Mu Karanta! Let’s Read! curriculum.

Adrienne E. Barnes, Ph.D., a Reading and Literacy Specialist with FSU’s Learning Systems Institute, recently returned from Nigeria, where she is part of LSI’s work in three states in the north of Nigeria that have struggled with educational quality as well as regional instability.

Dr. Barnes is part of LSI’s work to help with teacher training and curriculum development in Hausa and English reading instruction, employing the latest research and best practices.

Helen N. Boyle, Ph.D., Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education and a member of LSI’s research faculty, is the principal investigator on LSI’s role in the Northern Education Initiative Plus project administered by Creative Associates International.

Learn more about FSU’s work with the Nigeria Northern Education Initiative Plus at

Educators from Pakistan to visit FSU as part of LSI’s Community College Administrator Program

Jeffrey Ayala Milligan, Ph.D., is a professor in FSU’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Director of the Learning Systems Institute.

Learning Systems Institute Director Jeffrey Ayala Milligan is in Pakistan this week, conducting fieldwork in preparation for a visit to Florida by a delegation of education leaders later this year.

The Pakistani officials will be latest to take part in the Community College Administrators Program conducted by Florida State University and Santa Fe College and supported by the U.S. Department of State.

The program provides education leaders from abroad a week of intense study of the development, organization and administration of Florida’s system of community colleges, followed by five weeks of training in key elements of community-college leadership.

So far, educators and administrators from Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru have taken advantage of the State Department’s program.

Also this year, education experts from Egypt will come to FSU and Santa Fe College to take part in the program.

Learn more about the Community College Administrator Program at

LSI’s Ramos-Mattoussi returns to Ethiopia to work on reading and writing initiative

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.

Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi of the Learning Systems Institute returns to Addis Ababa this weekend to continue work with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education on a far-reaching reading-and-writing program that will reach 15 million children in the African nation.

Since 2013, Dr. Ramos-Mattoussi and LSI colleagues Dr. Marion Fesmire and Dr. Adrienne Barnes have worked with the Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Project in Ethiopia. READ TA is a five-year project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by RTI International and its partners, including Florida State University.

While in Addis Ababa, Dr. Ramos-Mattoussi, a senior research associate at LSI, will guide a team of graphic designers to produce the final version of the module designed for teacher instruction, developed by the FSU/LSI team of Dr. Fesmire, Dr. Barnes, Dr. Shannon Hall-Mills and Dr. Dawit Mekonnen,  a professor of education at the University of Addis Ababa and FSU’s National Coordinator on this project. The course-module has been piloted at 36 Colleges of Teacher Education in Ethiopia.

LSI faculty involved in the READ TA project have presented their work at international conferences.

Dr. Ramos-Mattoussi has been invited by the USAID Education Office in Washington to present LSI’s work in Ethiopia at the USAID’s panel on teacher education at the Comparative and International Education Conference (CIES) in Atlanta, GA on March 5-9.

FCR-STEM & on Discover Channel


FCR–STEM’s work with was featured today on the Discovery Channel’s NewsWatch Television. is a commercial partner that licenses FCR–STEM’s 3D curriculum and offers it commercially to others. develops the 3D models, FCR–STEM creates the curriculum and together they form instructional math and science kits.

Watch the Discovery Channel clip at

LSI nominated for Lloyd’s List award for port-security project

Dr. Aubteen Darabi
Dr. Aubteen Darabi, who developed the port-security system, is a senior research faculty at LSI.

The Learning Systems Institute has been nominated for a Lloyd’s List 2016 North America Award for the PortStar project, America’s only online & instructor-led training system on port security.

The system was developed at LSI out of a $6.2-million grant awarded to Dr. Aubteen Darabi by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. Darabi is a senior research faculty at LSI and a tenured associate professor of Instructional Systems and Learning Technology in the Department of Educational Psychology and learning Systems in FSU’s College of Education.

Lloyd’s List is one of the world’s oldest continuously running journals, Lloyd’s today covers all information, analysis, and knowledge relevant to the shipping industry, including marine insurance, offshore energy, logistics, market data, research, global trade and law.

The award goes to a North American company or institution for outstanding commitment in training its employees ashore or at sea or a company or institution that can demonstrate a contribution towards improving training standards across the maritime industry as a whole.

Judges will be looking for examples of investment in new facilities and courses, innovative training solutions and a sustained and effective approach to developing quality staff in the maritime sector.

LSI is one of nine nominees for this year’s award.

With contract extension, LSI will continue work in Ethiopia on training teachers in reading instruction

Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, Ed.D., at left, is principal investigator on the project and senior research associate with LSI’s Center for International Studies in Educational Research & Development. Carla Paredes-Drouet, at right, is an early childhood education and development specialist with more than eight years of international experience who is assisting on the project. Paredes-Drouet, a native of Quito, Ecuador, is also a Ph.D. student in FSU’s College of Education.

A team of experts from FSU’s Learning Systems Institute has received extended funding to continue work with officials and educators in Ethiopia to reform reading instruction in the African nation.

“This is a challenging project, because Ethiopia has one of the most inclusive policies on language of instruction, with more than 20 mother tongue languages being used in classrooms,” said Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, the principal investigator and a senior research associate with the Center for International Studies in Educational Research & Development, part of the Learning Systems Institute.

The FSU team in Ethiopia, including Drs. Marion Fesmire and Adrienne Barnes, is working alongside local educators to develop up to seven modules (textbooks) in seven national languages and English.

FSU is a partner to RTI International on the project, “Reading for Ethiopia Achievement Developed Technical Assistance,” which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. With the new contract extension, the funding for FSU’s portion of the project now exceeds $2.2 million.

“This project is designed to ensure that reading and writing skills are sufficiently developed in the primary school in the seven most widely spoken languages.” said Ramos-Mattoussi. “Our FSU team focuses on development of teacher education, curriculum and materials and on training of teacher educators.”

The project’s goals are ambitious — it expects to reach 15 million children in all schools and all regions of Ethiopia.

Read more about this project at

CISERD’s project on teacher training highlighted by Indonesian media

The Center for International Studies in Educational Research and Development’s US-Indonesia Teacher Training Partnership was given feature attention recently by the media in Indonesia.

A workshop at Semarang State University in Central Java, part of CISERD’s US-Indonesia Teacher Training Partnership; second from right is Dr. Marion Fesmire of FSU-Panama City, who is working with CISERD on this project.

The partnership, a 2.5-year project to enhance the quality of effectiveness of pre-service teacher training in early grade reading, is a set of activities under the overall USAID PRIORITAS Project implemented by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) to improve access to quality education for children in Indonesia.

“As a manifestation of the commitment to develop the culture of literacy, Semarang State University (UNNES) and Florida State University (FSU), facilitated by USAID Prioritas, work together [and are] synergistically developing literacy teaching materials or modules in the Hall of the Faculty of Education, located on UNNES’ Sekaran North Campus,” according to the article.

“Literacy-based learning concepts should be explored and used in preference to old teaching models that still exist,” said Dr. Edi Purwanto, M.Si., the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, the Faculty of Education, UNNES. “In (today’s) teaching practices, using literacy-based instructions and basing the teaching on research are still uncommon. It is hoped that through this collaboration, the concepts of literacy-based instructions can expand nationwide.”

Feiny Sentosa, the Deputy Director of USAID Prioritas, said that reading and literacy skills of school students and university students should be developed early. “Students’ reading and comprehension skills need to be improved,” Feiny said. “Students might be able to read fluently; however, when they are asked intrinsic questions, many of them are not able to give proper or right answers. That is what we need to anticipate early.”

The article notes the participation in the workshop of Dr. Marion Fesmire of FSU-Panama City, who is working with CISERD on this project.

Dr. Helen N. Boyle, Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education and a member of the CISERD faculty, is principal investigator of the US-Indonesia Teacher Training Partnership.

The project’s $500,000 funding is from the U.S. Agency for International Development and RTI International.

Read more about the US-Indonesia Teacher Training Partnership here.


Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski honored for paper on child soldiers of Sierra Leone’s civil war

The Comparative and International Education Society has honored the Learning Systems Institute’s Dr. Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski for outstanding scholarly writing that explores themes related to people of African descent.

CIES honoree Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski: “Returning to school is one of the most powerful means of normalizing children’s lives after a conflict.”

The society gave Dr. Zuilkowski its Joyce Cain Award for Distinguished Research for her paper in the August 2014 edition of Comparative Education Review. Her paper examines the impact of two categories of post-war interventions on dropout among more than 500 boys and girls who fought in Sierra Leone’s civil war. More than 15,000 child soldiers were involved in the war, which divided the West African nation from 1991 to 2002.

“We found that social support and family financial support for education are far more powerful in preventing dropout than internationally funded programs such as the payment of school fees on behalf of former child combatants,” said Dr. Zuilkowski, who joined the Learning Systems Institute in 2013. She also holds an appointment in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in FSU’s College of Education.

Dr. Zuilkowski said the findings are relevant to current conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, including in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where thousands of children and youth are serving as armed combatants.

“Our data suggest that international organizations should find ways to support local means of reintegration rather than using more invasive interventions, such as processing children through lengthy programs in formal centers for rehabilitation and reintegration,” she said. “Returning to school is one of the most powerful means of normalizing children’s lives after a conflict, and failing to successfully reintegrate young people may have a destabilizing effect on countries in the long term.”

The Comparative and International Education Society’s Joyce Cain Award honors the memory of Joyce Lynn Cain of Michigan State University and her dedication to introducing individuals across ethnic boundaries to African culture.

The Joyce Cain Award is Dr. Zuilkowski’s second honor for publication excellence. Last year, the British Journal of Educational Psychology awarded her its Early Stage Career Research Prize for her paper on malaria prevention and school dropout in the Gambia, published in its September 2014 issue.

FCR–STEM’s MFAS featured in U.S. Department of Education’s Progress publication

Teachers in Florida know about the Mathematics Formative Assessment System developed at Florida State University and use it in their classrooms. Now, other teachers are learning about the value of the system through the U.S. Department of Education’s Progress blog.

Maureen Oberlin presenter FCR-STEM Conference 2012
Maureen Oberlin is the MFAS project manager for FCR–STEM.

The USDOE recently featured MFAS, as the system is known, in the online publication focused on “Teachers, Leaders and Students Transforming Education.”

“MFAS tasks have been an excellent resource for me,” said Kevin Mierzwinski of Pacetti Bay Middle School in St. Johns County. “They have allowed me to see the specific gaps and misunderstandings my students have about the standards. By identifying these misunderstandings, I am able to adjust my instruction to fill in the gaps and move my students forward.”

This is the primary purpose of MFAS, explained Maureen Oberlin, the MFAS project manager with the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at FSU. The center developed MFAS with support from USDOE’s Race to the Top fund.

MFAS is available at to all stakeholders in Florida, including teachers, parents and students, at no cost. It includes more than 1,300 formative assessment tasks or problems that teachers can implement with their students and rubrics that help teachers interpret students’ responses.

“MFAS is a process rather than a test,” said Oberlin. “Evidence of student understanding related to a specific learning goal is collected during instruction. The objective is to adapt later instruction to the specific needs of students in order to improve their learning and achievement.”

Each MFAS task is directly aligned to a Florida mathematics standard. With each task, there is a multi-level rubric that includes descriptions of the misconceptions or errors that characterize the levels, examples of student work, and targeted instructional suggestions.

Kevin Mierzwinski of Pacetti Bay Middle School in Florida’s St. Johns County uses questioning techniques to further probe student thinking as his class completes an MFAS task.

Tasks and rubrics are available for grades K-8, Algebra I, and Geometry.

Teachers using MFAS ask students to perform mathematical tasks, explain their reasoning, and justify their solutions. Rubrics for evaluating student responses are included so that teachers can differentiate instruction based on students’ specific level of understanding and their misconceptions and errors.

“Formative assessments that are well designed and correctly implemented can be very effective in improving student learning,” Oberlin said.

In a randomized-controlled trial in grades K-1, students of teachers using MFAS scored significantly better than the control group on a standards-based test of mathematical achievement. In addition, teachers using MFAS significantly improved their scores on a test of mathematical content and pedagogical knowledge over the course of the year.

Oberlin explained how each MFAS task and rubric underwent a lengthy development process. “After initial development, each task was field tested in an actual classroom with real students; rubrics were then drafted and the task was piloted by a teacher with his or her students and revised again based on the teacher’s feedback,” she said. “Finally, the task and rubric were sent to a reviewer external to the project. Final revisions were made before publishing it on CPALMS, where it became available to teachers.”

While MFAS is aligned with Florida’s teaching standards, educators from other states may also use the system. MFAS and its hundreds of tasks and rubrics are available free at

The Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (FCR–STEM) is a multidisciplinary research center created by the Florida Legislature and competitively awarded to Florida State University in 2007. The center’s mission is to help the State of Florida improve STEM teaching and learning in grades K-12 and prepare students for higher education and STEM careers in the 21st century.

Florida teachers learn about latest in STEM research and network with experts at the FCR–STEM Conference

Hundreds of Florida teachers gathered in Orlando December 10-12 for the biggest STEM education conference in the state, the FCR–STEM Conference, held by the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

For K-12 math and science teachers, the conference provided both an opportunity for high-quality professional development and a chance to engage world-class researchers and experts who shared the latest developments in STEM education.

Tiaerra McLaurin ED WHITE HIGH FCR-STEM Conf 2015
Tiaerra McLaurin teaches at Ed White High School in Jacksonville

“Being a second-year teacher, I’ve learned a lot of teaching practices that I will use in my classroom,” said Tiaerra McLaurin, who teaches biology, marine science and environmental science as part of the Bridge to Success program at Ed White High School in Jacksonville. “And I met with colleagues from the FCR–STEMLearn class this summer, so that was really, really awesome.”

McLaurin also got to know “Urban Science: Doing Research on School Grounds” presenter John Enz, a biology professor at Jacksonville University, who offered to help her out with field trips. “We have limited resources, so it is hard to do labs and field trips,” McLaurin said. “He said to send him an e-mail and we will figure something out.”

This is the kind of interaction FCR–STEM hopes teachers gain from the conference, said Rabieh Razzouk, acting director of FCR–STEM, which was created by the Florida Legislature and established at Florida State University. “We designed the FCR-STEM Conference to put teachers shoulder-to-shoulder with university faculty and other experts in their fields,” Razzouk, said. “This is part of FCR–STEM’s commitment to providing Florida’s math and science teachers with the highest quality professional development.”

The FCR–STEM Conference offered teachers more than 60 unique sessions to stimulate thinking across a range of subject areas and grade levels, from urban science to 3-D printing to Florida’s fossil record.

“Our emphasis is on providing Florida’s science and mathematics teachers with professional-development experiences they can carry into the classroom to enhance the learning of their students,” Razzouk said.

Franki Hurlburt Palmetto Middle School Dade FCR-STEM Conf 2015
Franki Hurlburt teaches at Palmetto Middle School in Dade County

This was the case for Franki Hurlburt of Palmetto Middle School in Dade County. “It has been really interesting to attend different workshops, not just math workshops — I’m a math teacher — but to explore some areas in science,” Hurlbert said. “I think that that is going to help me take something back to the students to incorporate some real-life applications of the math that we are learning so that students can see it’s not just about paper-and-pencil math but about problems in the real world…. Math and science are such a natural fit, but I need help to bring that to my students.”

Many teachers took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about CPALMS, the powerful web-based system, designed by FCR–STEM, that offers teachers more than 11,000 free lessons and other instructional resources vetted by content and teacher experts plus online tools to support teachers’ planning and instruction.

“I have most enjoyed attending discussions on CPALMS,” said Betsy Navin, a third-grade teacher at St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio, in Pasco County. “There are so many resources that we can utilize across the subject level. With each session I attend, they go into more and more detail into how we are going to be able to use these in the classroom. I was very impressed with the student tutorials and the formative assessments we can use in math.”

Eddie Butler McArthur High School Broward Co FCR-STEM Conf 20145
Eddie Butler teaches at McArthur High School in Broward County

Eddie Butler of McArthur High School in Broward County was impressed with what he learned about CPALMS. “I really enjoyed the conference,” said Butler, who teaches biology and, in some years, chemistry. “It was exceptionally well done. I wouldn’t mind coming back next year to learn more, especially about CPALMS, which is an opportunity to help my students out and give them a heads-up on how they can achieve and do well in class.”

Other teachers explored the STEM fields to prepare for curriculum enhancements at their schools.

“I’m here to solidify our vision for the STEM program for our school,” said Barbara Guerra, a curriculum coordinator at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala. “We are actually STREAM, because we incorporate the religion and the arts to the STEM. I need to find resources and curriculum.”

Barbara Guerra Blessed Trinity Catholic Sc Ocala w Hanna Olson FCR-STEM Conf 2015
Barbara Guerra, a curriculum coordinator at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala, learns about using 3-D printing in STEM classes from Hannah Olson of, at the FCR–STEM Conference in Orlando                 

For Guerra, the conference provided an abundant source of ideas and resources for her and her school. “Next year will be the first we have a STEM program, and that’s very exciting,” she said. “It is extremely helpful to have all the different workshops offered. CPALMS has been fantastic. It is a great resource that is under-utilized, at least in our school.”

Guerra said the FCR–STEM Conference allowed her to get a lot accomplished in just a few days. “To have everything STEM-related under one roof is a great, great opportunity to just shop, and know, and learn and even for our teachers seeking professional development next year,” she said. “I’m excited. This is our first time.”

In addition to the presentations and workshops, teachers heard addresses from three prominent keynote speakers:

• Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, commander of the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet, spoke on “Women in STEM: The Navy’s Cyber Commander and how STEM Shaped Her Career.”

• DeWitt Sumners, distinguished professor emeritus of mathematics at Florida State University, spoke on the mathematics of DNA in his address, “Calculating the Secrets of Life.”

• Bruce Means, president of the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy and a renown biologist, talked about “Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species.”

At the conference, Razzouk announced that the next FCR–STEM Conference will be August 2-4, 2016.

To learn more about the FCR–STEM Conference, see
The Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a multidisciplinary research center created by the Florida Legislature and competitively awarded to Florida State University in 2007. The center’s mission is to help the State of Florida improve STEM teaching and learning in grades K-12 and prepare students for higher education and STEM careers in the 21st century.