We apply our groundbreaking ideas to build a better world. Our work this year included a student contest to develop new education technologies; a project to establish a Constitutional right to education; creation of a World Health Organization manual on treating depression among refugees; and development of a robotic device to assist in movement disorder therapy.

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EdTech Leadership

With a major priority to improve education technology – a booming field that nevertheless lacks quality control – TC launched an innovation contest in which teams of students, mentored by TC faculty and industry experts, developed concepts and prototypes for apps, games, software and other educational tools grounded in evidence-based research. 

Faculty also produced a major study highlighting the desire of buyers of higher education technology to make purchasing decisions based on independent research. 

The College strengthened its pioneering program in Learning Analytics, dedicated to improving education through technology and analysis of data generated by online learning systems. Under new leadership, the program is increasing its focus on data analysis and is more deeply grounded in sound hypotheses about how students think and learn. 

Faculty are also:

School Leadership

TC’s Education Leadership Program has a long and proud history, including decades of hosting the national Superintendents Work Conference, and an extensive roster of alumni who have led efforts to integrate schools and create more equitable school funding. Today the College is home to the Urban Education Leaders Ed.D. Program (UEL); the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership; the Summer Principals Academy; and The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals.

The Education Leadership program recently added to its strength with hires of a new director and other new faculty members. During the past year, work by program faculty included a study of pathways that different school leaders have taken to principalship; a data-mining analysis of five decades of educational leadership researcher literature; and a new developmental approach to learning and leadership rooted in studies of the different processes adults employ to make meaning of their experiences.

Civic Education

TC has launched a major initiative in civic education to address the nation’s mounting racial tension and violence; the extreme polarization of the electorate; unwillingness among all camps to listen to opposing views; the spread of fake news; and decreasing rates of voting and active political participation. Our work takes as its starting point the premise that schools have not fulfilled their critical mission of preparing young people to be active citizens, and that the decline of civics teaching has contributed to our divisive political climate.

Our work has included:

  • A course in which students from TC and Columbia Law School are laying the groundwork to bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to establish a Constitutional right to a quality education based on the need to prepare young people as capable citizens.

Internationalization of Teacher Education Research

The field of Comparative and International Education was created at Teachers College at the beginning of the 20th century. During the past decade alone, three TC faculty members have been elected to serve as president of the Comparative & International Education Society (CIES). Current President-elect Regina Cortina, TC Professor of Comparative & International Education, is organizing the Society’s 2018 annual meeting, “Re-Mapping Global Education: South-North Dialogue,” which will be held in Mexico City.

In addition:

TC signed an agreement with King’s College London’s School of Education, Communication & Society to establish a joint Center for Innovation in Teacher Development. The Center will promote greater opportunities for civic teaching in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

TC’s Department of Arts & Humanities piloted a three-week online professional development course for teachers in all disciplines on how to incorporate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into their course work. The 17 Goals touch on policy and civic dimensions for social studies, educational access with respect to teaching language and literacy, climate change and species extinction for science educators, and statistical measurements for mathematics teaching.

Seeking to understand why American students trail their international peers on benchmarks of academic achievement, the College’s National Center for Children & Families is studying early childhood policy, practice and service delivery in six high-performing countries. The study focuses on education, health and social welfare. 

Recent books by TC faculty members have offered case studies of best practices from education systems around the world; laid out a global vision for citizenship education that can be adapted to different cultures; and explored the enduring cultural importance of a popular 1970s TV sitcom in Latin America. And still other research has focused on the shifts in global education policy that have driven the significant growth of international large-scale assessments since the mid-1990s and the equally significant increase in the number of countries participating in these assessments.

Uniting the STEM Disciplines

Faculty in TC’s Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology are reshaping teaching in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to emphasize a core set of ideas and priorities, and to incorporate the arts (STEAM) as well.

Building on a tradition of interdisciplinary research and practice and the content knowledge expertise of the MST faculty, the department is designing a series of STEM initiatives and working to create a STEM certificate for teachers in the field. MST department chair Erica Walker, who has been named to direct TC’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), believes that mathematics, like literacy, should be addressed in an “interdisciplinary way, situational and complex, taking place in the real world as well as in people’s imaginations.”

The College held a symposium – “Cracking the Code: Teaching STEM for Citizenship in the 21st Century” – honoring the late Jhumki Basu, a TC alumna and science educator who died of breast cancer in 2008. A multidisciplinary cast of speakers and panelists addressed “the need in a democracy to prepare students to become knowledgeable, active participants in civic life who understand and can challenge the political use of science – in particular, its role in economic growth, often at the expense of poor and marginalized communities.”

Within MST, a STEAM Garage in the department’s Communication, Media & Learning Technologies Design Program enables students to design, build and evaluate technology that can function as interesting and entertaining learning tools. 

Faculty have also published work addressing:

The Global Refugee Crisis

Teachers College has emerged as a leader in providing educational and psychological support to those affected by the global refugee crisis.

A major TC report, presented at a forum co-sponsored by Save the Children, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Pearson Education company, outlines strategies to improve teaching for refugee children. This intensive professional development program, developed in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, focuses on the classroom skills of teachers who, at the primary school level, face classrooms of more than 150 students – and who themselves are often refugees, for the most part lacking any formal training.

In addition, the World Health Organization began global distribution of a manual, principally authored by a TC faculty member, which guides non-specialists in the use of an evidence-based psychotherapy shown to alleviate debilitating depression in refugee populations.  

TC faculty have also studied the schooling experiences of refugee youth in New York City’s international schools and explored the politics that surround “refugee selfies” – the photographs that refugees take of themselves, and which they and others disseminate online.

Mainstreaming Disabilities in Education

TC, a pioneer in the field of inclusive education, continued to conduct groundbreaking research on how students with different forms of disabilities learn, how teaching can best serve their varying needs, and how schools can best integrate and accommodate all students in their classrooms.

Work by TC faculty addressed:

Language, Literacy and Speech

Teachers College’s work in literacy development, language learning and speech therapy has always been guided by a deep respect for the different cultures of students and patients, and by the belief that students who acquire learning skills in their native language have a better chance of continued success in school.

The past year saw an outpouring of work across departments that included:

Movement Sciences and Education,​ and Community Health

Health and physical education has been an essential part of TC since the College’s founding, reflecting the belief that children, families and communities must be healthy to learn.

An alarming number of young children lead sedentary lifestyles, impairing development of basic movement skills used in play, learning and engaging with others. Faculty and students in our Applied Physiology program have developed, evaluated and refined a program at Early Head Start centers in New York City through which parents and toddlers exercise together. Now, working with Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology, they are adapting the program for home use with children recuperating from surgery for congenital heart disease.

Illustration of gun backpack

CLIMATE OF FEAR The impact of gun violence in American schools includes students’ fears that more such incidents will occur, argue Teachers College faculty.

Other efforts within our departments of Health & Behavior Studies and Biobehavioral Sciences include:

  • Scale-up of a major study on the use of resistance training – strength work with weights, elastic bands, or the body’s own weight – to help people quit smoking. TC studies are also spotlighting resistance training’s potential to help combat depression and other mood disorders, body image issues and other mental health challenges.
  • Development and study of a robotic device that could enable people with neurological and musculoskeletal disorders that affect their posture and stability to do movement training in a seated position. 
  • A call by faculty at TC and Columbia for a broader definition of what constitutes gun violence in American schools. While the rate of violent deaths on school property remains relatively low, the authors argue that the anticipation of gun violence, which can lead to heightened anxiety, fear, depression and trauma, is equally concerning, and requires the education and public health communities to embrace a true prevention framework.
  • A series of studies raising concerns about the proliferation of health information videos on the unregulated social network YouTube, and the growing reliance of the public, the media and health professionals on these sources.