Dec. 13, 2017
Barbara Schneider is the John A. Hannah University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and the Department of Sociology in the College of Social Science. Her research focuses on how the social contexts of schools and families influence the academic and social well-being of adolescents as they move into adulthood. She recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö.
The area that I'm the most interested in is really issues related to engagement — how can we best reform education, particularly in schools, so that we give more children educational opportunities to succeed in their lives.
Our world is changing so rapidly. This is a time in which technology and science should be at the forefront of our lives. We can't afford for them not to be. You are not going to be able to live in the future unless you're scientifically literate.
When I had the opportunity to meet my colleagues from Finland, I was really excited that they, like me, were very interested in trying to understand adolescent development and particularly adolescent engagement.
They're facing a problem very similar to what we face and that is one of interest. We really have to get young people interested in science. We really want to stretch their imagination.
PIRE is a program that the National Science Foundation has. It's an international program. PIRE typically funds people that are interested in agricultural projects or space projects with other universities throughout the world.
We're the first PIRE project that's actually an education project, and it's housed in EHR so it's just strictly an education project. That means that we are really devoted to understanding student engagement and, in order to be able to learn about student engagement, you have to involve the teachers and the students.
What we're interested in doing is actually working with teachers to be able to create units that match the NGSS standards and, at the same time, are going to have activities that young people are going to be actively engaged in. Everything that we're doing is a very hands-on, collaborative experience.
We've been doing this now for about a year and a half, and our results have been phenomenal. We are so excited with what we're seeing because we're seeing that, in fact, project-based learning does stretch children's imagination. It does help with problem-solving, and this is true not only for students in the U.S., but also, it's true for our Finnish colleagues.
We've been really very excited about what we've seen; it is thrilling to be a part of a university community that is so engaged and so involved in STEM, and I want to thank, of
course, the University of Helsinki, for giving me this fabulous honor.
I really greatly appreciate it, but I certainly would not have been able to have this honor were it not for my fabulous colleagues at the University of Helsinki who've been working with me and have stretched my imagination and my work. They have been just wonderful colleagues so that we are developing an international professional community, which we hope will be exemplary for other universities that interface with other countries around the world.