University of Vermont

Tarrant Institute Researchers Deliver A Record 14 Presentations At National Middle Level Conference

Institute director Bishop receives middle-level organization's highest award

Tarrant Institute associate director John Downes EdD '16 (center) leads a roundtable discussion at AMLE's national conference. Photo credit: Katy Farber.
Tarrant Institute associate director John Downes EdD '16 (center) leads a roundtable discussion at AMLE's national conference. Photo credit: Katy Farber.

Researchers and collaborators from UVM’s Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education delivered a record 14 presentations at the 2016 Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) national conference this week. This opportunity for the Tarrant Institute to share so much of its research at this level supports middle-level educators around the world in pushing their practice forward -- as well as helping guide the direction of emerging questions about young adolescents and their development.

Presentations shared by Tarrant Institute personnel covered personalized learning, student goal-setting, and partnering with students in co-creating learning, as well as findings from an ongoing case study on personalization and flexible pathways in Vermont middle schools.

Mark Olofson, Tarrant Institute research fellow and EdD candidate in UVM’s College of Education and Social Services presented his research on how adverse events in early childhood present unique challenges for students in middle school.

“Sharing at national conferences is an important way to contribute to the conversation about what is happening and what is possible in middle schools,” said Olofson. “Attending presentations and talking with teachers and researchers from other areas also highlights the unique nature of Vermont’s educational ecosystem.”

Several of the presentations involved distance collaboration with educators and students at partnering schools around Vermont. In a case-based examination of assessment in proficiency-based classrooms, educators and students from Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland presented jointly with Tarrant Institute researchers via videoconferencing.

A number of the presentations were also made in a roundtable-style setting, giving researchers the chance to more fully explain the implications of research findings on practice, as well as gather feedback from other middle-level educators in attendance.

Steve Netcoh, a Tarrant Institute research collaborator and UVM graduate student in educational leadership, said of the experience: “A number of the attendees at my roundtable and other Tarrant-affiliated presentations said educators in their states do not have as much freedom to personalize learning because of accountability pressures.” He continued, “Their responses made me interested in examining personalization in states outside of Vermont to better understand how educators are creating personalized learning opportunities for students within high stakes accountability policy frameworks.”

This year’s conference, held in Austin, Texas, also saw Tarrant Institute director and College of Education and Social Services Associate Dean Penny Bishop receive AMLE’s John H. Lounsbury Award.

The award constitutes the AMLE organization’s highest honor. It recognizes a superlative level of achievement in scholarship, service, leadership and contributions to the theory and practice of the ideals of middle level education.