CECH Education Professor Organizes Tutoring Program with Hughes STEM High School
Education Professor, Dr. Casey Hord, organized a tutoring program in 2014 that pairs his students with students with mild disabilities at Hughes STEM High School in grades 7-12. Hord’s students tutor the high school students in math during or after school on a weekly basis. His students are comprised of undergraduate and graduate students majoring in special education. The program has been supported by a grant from the Ohio Department of Education (in collaboration with other faculty, Emilie Camp and Steve Kroeger) and University of Cincinnati Undergraduate Research Mentoring Grants. Hord is looking to eventually expand the program through outside sources of funding such as the National Science Foundation. This year, most of the tutoring is affiliated with two special education courses taken by third-year students. While much of the tutoring occurs at Hughes STEM School, other schools within Cincinnati Public Schools, Sycamore Schools, Hamilton City Schools, Forest Hills Schools, Warren County Special Education Cooperative, and a few others also participate.
Hord stated, “I try to approach this as research, teaching, and service being done simultaneously with all of these supporting each other. For instance, undergrads go into the community and work with local students with disabilities. The undergrads bring back their experiences to class and we all learn from those experiences and connect these very specific findings to broad theories and concepts from research in special education, math education, science education, cognitive psychology, educational psychology.” His undergraduate and graduate research assistants work with him to connect ideas in the research they do and the existing research-base. They link those concepts to the data collected in the field so that the tutoring provided improves over time.
One recent graduate, Kiyana Gordon, has worked with Dr. Hord since the start of the tutoring program over two years ago. During her tutoring experience, which took place throughout her junior and senior years as an undergrad before graduating from the School of Education in May 2015, Gordon worked with eighth graders at Hughes, tutoring them one day a week for an hour each day. A student with a learning disability, who worked with Kiyana for a whole semester, is now performing successfully in Algebra 2. Now, Gordon is teaching grades K-1 with a focus on students with autism. “The Hughes tutoring program contributed to my current skills in teaching by providing me with insight on how to better implement teaching techniques. The special education program at CECH definitely prepared me for a job after graduation, and with a job that I love.” She is seeking to enter Graduate School for a Master’s in Special Education.
Julie Hendricks, another of Hord’s students, has made a significant impact during her time as an undergraduate student. She is currently in her last year as an undergrad in the Special Education program in the School of Education. Hendricks is currently working on an independent study on teaching challenging mathematics to students with learning disabilities for which she received an undergraduate research grant with Dr. Hord. Her study focuses the use of visual and tactile supports while communicating with students with learning disabilities about potentially difficult mathematics concepts. Hendricks was inspired to go into the field of special education after growing up babysitting a neighbor who was a student with autism spectrum disorder. When she started working with him, he had no verbal communication abilities. Now, after years of progress, he can write and communicate via an electronic keyboard. She noted, “I absolutely loved watching his progress because it was such a huge improvement from when I first started with him at age 8.” Hendricks wants to go into teaching for a few years upon graduating, and then plans on coming back to the School of Education to get her doctorate.
Many of Hord’s other students who are involved in the Hughes tutoring program have been greatly impressed with what they have learned from this experience. Not only does this tutoring experience benefit them in their undergraduate studies, but their interactions and support impacts the lives of Hughes students in many ways. One student stated, “This is more than an academic experience – it is a personal one. The students we work with have become so much more confident in what they do after seeing themselves succeed in a subject that they used to struggle with.” Another student added, “The students now ask us about college and the possibilities after high school that didn’t seem possible to them before. They can learn math; they just need a little extra help. Now they are more positive about learning because they see that they can succeed with our help.”
Through this program, local students with disabilities receive the extra instruction they need and often do quite well after working with the CECH students. “However,” Hord explained, “we can’t take too much credit for these students’ success because we are just one piece of a larger puzzle. The local teachers and the students with disabilities we tutor are deserving of most of the credit. But, we do take pride in doing our part to provide extra support for these students. And, this helps us improve how we teach and learn in our courses, and how well we conduct research.”