Professor Awarded Grant For Teaching Research

A SUNY New Paltz associate professor was one of 19 in the state awarded funding by the Research Foundation for SUNY for her research targeted at improving middle school student’s learning and writing.

Barbara Chorzempa, associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies, received a $3,000 SUNY Networks of Excellence planning grant for her project “Southern Tier Energy Production: Powering Up Middle School Writers to Learn About their Communities.”

Beginning in June, Chorzempa will work with middle school social studies teachers with the focus of enhancing student writing by teaching them strategies, she said.

Writing strategies are techniques used by some teachers to help students improve the clarity of their writing, often with the use of acronyms like DARE: develop a position statement, add supporting ideas, report and refute counterarguments and end with a strong conclusion.

“We want to make their writing better,” Chorzempa said. “We think we can do that by teaching them a strategy.”

The process is simple; Chorzempa and her colleagues will show teachers strategies, they will select one that works best in the situation, introduce it to students and then implement that strategy to make their writing stronger. These strategies teach how to write a better topic sentences, add supporting details and evidence in their own writing.

Chorzempa will be working in a collaborative effort with her SUNY Fredonia colleagues Kathleen Magiera, Jennifer Moon Ro and Mary Kay Szwejbka of Jamestown Community College on the project based out of Fredonia.

“I’m excited to collaborate with my colleagues out there in SUNY Fredonia and Jamestown because I’ve never really [worked with them] on a research project,” Chorzempa said.

Using such models for teaching strategies such as the Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD), she hopes using evidence-based practices will help the middle schoolers’ writing quality, and that strategies will be reflected in their work.

“I’m excited to bring in one of my strengths into the schools,” she said. “Strategy instruction is large in some areas of the country and I haven’t seen it as much in schools around here so I’m excited to go out there and get teachers’ perception of these strategies and how well they work.”

Dean of the School of Education, Michael Rosenberg made note of Chorzempa’s contributions to the development of opportunities for teachers across the state to make use of evidenced-based instructional practices.

“This project is an excellent illustration of how multiple stakeholders — colleges, school districts, and regional agencies — can work together to enhance learning outcomes and promote community participation among middle school students,” he said.

Chorzempa said she hopes this project is a stepping stone to more funding for further research.

“Unfortunately it’s only a few thousand dollar grant, so it’s not a whole lot of money, but one of the things we hope to do is apply for a larger grant,” she said. “So this, we’re hoping, is the start of years of collaboration.”

The abstract for the project is available at the SUNY 4E Network for Excellent website.