Directory of People & Offices
Jon R. Star
Nancy Pforzheimer Aronson Associate Professor in Human Development and Education
Jon Star is an educational psychologist who studies childrens learning of mathematics in middle and high school, particularly algebra. Stars current research explores the development of flexibility in mathematical problem solving, with flexibility defined as knowledge of multiple strategies for solving mathematics problems and the ability to adaptively choose among known strategies on a particular problem. Star also investigates instructional and curricular interventions that may promote the development of mathematical understanding. Stars most recent work is supported by grants from the Institute for Education Sciences at the US Department of Education. In addition, Star is interested in the preservice preparation of middle and secondary mathematics teachers. Prior to his graduate studies, Star spent six years teaching middle and high school mathematics.
- Ph.D., University of Michigan
- Rittle-Johnson, B, & Star, J.R. (in press). Compared to what? The effects of different comparisons on conceptual knowledge and procedural flexibility for equation solving. Journal of Educational Psychology. (forthcoming)
- Silver, E., Mesa, V., Morris, K., Star, J.R., & Benken, B. (in press). Teaching for understanding: An analysis of mathematics lessons submitted by teachers seeking NBPTS certification. American Educational Research Journal. (forthcoming)
- Star, J.R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (in press). It pays to compare: An experimental study on computational estimation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. (forthcoming)
- Jitendra, A., Star, J.R., Starosta, K., Leh, J., Sood, S., Caskie, G., Hughes, C., & Mack, T. Improving seventh grade students¹ learning of ratio and proportion: The role of schema-based instruction and self-monitoring. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34(9), 250-264. (2009)
- Star, J.R. & Chang, K. Looking inside Chinese mathematics education: A review of How Chinese Learn Mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(2), 213-216. (2008)
- Star, J.R. & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2008). Flexibility in problem solving: The case of equation solving. Learning and Instruction, 18, 565-579. (2008)
- Star, J.R. Foregrounding procedural knowledge. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(2), 132-135. (2008)
- Star, J.R., & Strickland, S.K. Learning to observe: Using video to improve preservice teachers ability to notice. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 11, 107-125. (2008)
- Star, J.R., Johnston, J., & Petty, L.I. Using contextualized instruction to remediate adult learners' mathematical attitudes and understandings. International Journal of Instructional Media, 35(1), 17-25. (2008)
- Star, J.R., Smith, J., & Jansen, A. What do students notice as different between reform and traditional mathematics programs? Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(1), 9-32. (2008)
- Star, J.R., Strickland, S., & Hawkins, A. What is mathematical literacy? Exploring the relationship between literacy and content learning in middle and high school mathematics. In M. Conley, J. Freidhoff, M. Sherry, & S. Tuckey (Eds.), Adolescent literacy policy and instruction: The research we have and the research we need (pp. 104-112). New York: Guilford. (2008)
- Halpern, D., Aronson, J., Reimer, N. Simpkins, S., Star, J., & Wentzel, K. Encouraging girls in math and science (NCER 2007-2003). Washington, D.C.: National Center on Educational Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ncer.ed.gov. (2007)
- Rittle-Johnson, B, & Star, J.R. Does comparing solution methods facilitate conceptual and procedural knowledge? An experimental study on learning to solve equations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(3), 561-574. (2007)
- Smith, J., & Star, J.R. Expanding the notion of impact of Standards-based mathematics curricula. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(1), 3-34. (2007)
- Star, J.R., & Seifert, C. The development of flexibility in equation solving. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 31, 280-300. (2006)
- Star, J.R., & Smith, J. An image of calculus reform: Students' experiences of Harvard calculus. Research in Collegiate Mathematics Education, 13, 1-25. (2006)
- Star, J.R. & Hoffmann, A.J. Assessing the impact of Standards-based curricula: Investigating students epistemological conceptions of mathematics. The Mathematics Educator, 15(2), 25-34. (2005)
- Star, J.R. Reconceptualizing procedural knowledge. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 36(5), 404-411. (2005)
- Editorial Board, American Educational Research Journal Teaching, Learning, and Human Development section (2007-present)
- Editorial Board, Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, a Journal of Developmental Psychology (2007-present)
- Editorial Board, Contemporary Educational Psychology (2006-present)
- Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences Mathematics and Science Scientific Review Panel (2005-present)
- American Education Research Association Scribner Award Committee for Division C (2007-2008)
- Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences Best Practices for Encouraging Girls and Women in Science, Math, and Engineering Work Group (2006-2007)
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Intervention Task Force (2006-2007)
- BPC-DP: Deploying a Vertically-Integrated Computing Curriculum to At-Risk Students, National Science Center, (2011-2013)
Star's role on this project will be to supervise and mentor his doctoral student advisee Emmanuel Schanzer. Schanzer will be responsible for all aspects of the project, including design and piloting of instruments, data collection and analysis, and results dissemination. Note that the data collected as part of this project are intended to be used for Schanzer's dissertation and other publications and presentations.
- Studying Technology-based Strategies for Enhancing Student Interest in STEM Careers through Algebra Curricula in Grades 5-9, National Science Foundation, (2010-2012)
This research proposal seeks to investigate the relationship between specific technology-based motivational activities and student interest in STEM careers along a developmental span. This study will develop a four-day, classroom-based experience for students in grades 5 9. Through random assignment by class balanced within teacher and grade, student induction in this learning experience may involve (1) watching career-related videos that provide the context of the to-be-solved problem(s); (2) assuming the identity of a STEM professional in a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) that is directly related to the to-be-solved problem(s); or (3) receiving a narrative description of the problem-solving context from the teacher using powerpoint-like presentation media. The learning experience will influence student's motivation and interest in STEM careers not only by the content and format of the induction experience, but also by the process of the scripted two-day algebra lesson. Students in grades 5 9 rarely have the opportunity to engage in the types of authentic algebra problem-solving activities that constitute the work of STEM professionals. Therefore, the focal point of the treatment is a two-day lesson concerning a specific but vital concept in algebra (linearity) that students can use to solve the authentic problem(s) posed in induction. Recognizing that teachers are likely to have widely varying levels of competency in algebra instruction, teachers will experience eight hours of professional development and specific instructional guidelines to aid in the fidelity of implementation for this lesson. By varying the technological context of the induction and closing experience while holding the instructional component constant at each grade level, and by measuring student constructs before and after the experience, this study can test a series of specific hypotheses relating outcomes of interest (such as motivation, self-efficacy, STEM career interest, and mathematics learning) to activity assignment within grade.
- Teacher Effectiveness Measures, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, (2009-2011)
During this project looks to refine our existing measures of the mathematical quality of instruction (MQI) and develop a related instrument for assessing the quality of high school algebra classrooms. We will train outside coders on the use of the instrument, conduct reliability checks, and construct teacher scores. During the second year, we will revise the instruments based on the initial data analyses and begin an effort to criterion reference the scores.
- FICSMath (Factors Influencing College Success in Mathematics, National Science Foundation, (2008-2011)
This empirical study examines the variety of materials and the myriad of teaching strategies employed by U.S. high school mathematics teachers in their effort to prepare students for success in college calculus, a requirement for most STEM majors. A retrospective cohort study, examining calculus students backgrounds for predictors of performance while controlling for demographic differences, can reveal the relationship between the decisions made by high school mathematics teachers and the performance of 12,000 college calculus students nationwide, from randomly selected 2- and 4-year colleges. Success in introductory college calculus is especially influential in career decisions; poor performance can prematurely end the pursuit of potential science, technology, engineering, computer science, and health careers. This study has the capability to both reveal and evaluate the use of the most promising educational practices, including technological innovations, and to assess the degree of match between high school experiences and college calculus course, both traditional and reform based.
- Helping teachers to use and students to learn from contrasting examples: a scale-up study in algebra I, National Science Foundation, (2008-2013)
Recent reform efforts in education are motivated by endemic problems with students gaining rigid, inflexible knowledge that is not accessed or transferred to novel situations. As both international and national assessments indicate, too few mathematics students have the ability to flexibly solve novel problems. Current best practices in mathematics education seek to promote the development of flexible knowledge through the use of classroom discussions, where students share procedures and evaluate the procedures of others. Despite the increasingly wide adoption of reform pedagogy and its intuitive appeal, most research supporting this approach has been descriptive, with few controlled empirical evaluations.In part to address this deficit, Star and Rittle-Johnson have been engaged in a large IES-funded project exploring the role of contrasting examples in mathematics learning. Several controlled, experimental studies have demonstrated that students who learned by comparing and contrasting alternative solution methods made greater gains in procedural knowledge and flexibility than those who studied the same solution methods one at a time. However, the success of this instructional approach has been demonstrated under limited conditions, with all studies involving very short-term researcher-led interventions.In part to address this deficit, Star and Rittle-Johnson have been engaged in a large IES-funded project exploring the role of contrasting examples in mathematics learning. Several controlled, experimental studies have demonstrated that students who learned by comparing and contrasting alternative solution methods made greater gains in procedural knowledge and flexibility than those who studied the same solution methods one at a time. However, the success of this instructional approach has been demonstrated under limited conditions, with all studies involving very short-term researcher-led interventions.The 5-year project begins with the adaptation of existing materials for use in a yearlong algebra course and a one-week professional development program. A pilot study is planned for Year 2, where a small cohort of teachers will complete the professional development program and then implement the contrasting examples instructional approach. In Years 3, 4, and 5, a randomized controlled trial of the intervention will be conducted. Using a time-series design, a volunteer sample of Algebra I teachers will be randomly assigned to receive the professional development in Year 3 or in Year 4. Teacher implementation will be assessed by validated teacher logs and by direct observation of teachers practice. Student outcome variables will include standardized test scores and a researcher-designed assessment.The proposed project will provide critical experimental evidence of the efficacy of a promising instructional approach closer to scale. In addition, designing contrasting examples for a full-year course will also reveal a variety of comparisons that could be useful to student learning, which will provide avenues for future experimental research to better understand how different types of comparison facilitate learning.The broader impact of the proposed project emerges from its combined emphases on discovery (the intellectual merit of a closer-to-scale evaluation of a promising instructional approach), teacher training, and student learning. With respect to teacher training, the project design can lead to broad dissemination of the contrasting examples instructional approach and of best practices in mathematics teaching to a diverse group of students and teachers. In terms of student learning, the target course, Algebra I, is a particularly critical juncture, as success in algebra has become a de facto requirement for many educational and workplace opportunities.
- Enhancing the Mathematical Problem Solving Performance of Sixth Grade Students using Schema-based Instruction, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, (2008-2010)
Data from international comparison studies indicate that by eighth-grade U.S. students mathematics performance is below the international average, especially in geometry, measurement, and proportionality (NRC, 2001, Lemke et al., 2004). The problem of underachievement is particularly severe for students with disabilities, limited-English proficient (LEP) students, students from impoverished backgrounds, and minorities (NCES, 2003; NRC, 2001). Although there is emerging evidence to support reform based mathematics methods and curricula to enhance student performance (e.g., Cohen & Hill, 2001; Schoenfeld, 2002), data regarding the effects of mathematics reforms for students at-risk for math failure are limited (Baxter & Woodward, 2003). The proposed study will fulfill Goal Two (Development) Requirements of the Proposed Research. The purpose of the proposed three-year study is to develop and evaluate the efficacy of schema-based instruction (SBI) to enhance the mathematical problem solving performance of sixth grade students. The research will be conducted in sixth grade classrooms in one middle school from an urban school district in Pennsylvania. The school serves students from a wide range of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Minority enrollment is 31% and low-SES enrollment is 29%. The expected outcomes from the proposed series of studies include: (1) An empirically validated mathematics instructional approach for teaching mathematical problem solving to Grade 6 students, (2) Program materials jointly developed with expert Grade 6 teachers, (3) Instructional methods that accommodate the needs of students at risk for math difficulties, and (4) Validated measures of word problem solving
A webinar on "Evidence-Based Practices for Supporting Understanding and Skill in Mathematics" featuring Jon Star as one of the presenters. (Registration required)
Dean Kathleen McCartney announced that Professor Jon Star has been named Nancy Pforzheimer Aronson Assistant Professor in Human Development and Education.
An IES Practice Guide (1.97MB pdf) on assisting struggling students with mathematics, co-written by Jon Star.
An Ed Week webinar on "Why Students Struggle with Algebra and How Schools Are Helping" featuring Jon Star as one of the presenters. (Registration required)
An article in Ed Week magazine where Jon Star discusses how students understand math. (Registration required)