Friday, September 27, 2019

Lisa Didion, a new assistant professor in special education at the University of Iowa College of Education, wants to bring data to every day teaching practices.

Didion received her Master of Arts in special education in 2009 from Vanderbilt University. She then spent six years as a special education teacher in Delaware. In 2019, Didion received her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Texas.

Didion found her passion for special education after volunteering with the Special Olympics during her undergraduate degree. After completing her Master of Arts degree, she wanted to teach special education to figure out the questions and issues facing special education teachers to help inform her research.

“I like thinking of my classroom as a never-ending science experiment,” says Didion.

Her research focuses on self-determination in special education. While she was a special education teacher, Didion created a program called Data Mountain, a self-monitoring and goal-setting program, which teaches students positive attributions and helps connect their successes with their use of strategies or failures with their lack of strategies. Data Mountain also helps teach students how to analyze their own data through a line graph.

This program helped increase the number of words students could correctly read per minute. Now, Didion is examining in what other areas of reading Data Mountain can help students understand their data and enhance their performance.

“I look forward to sharing my love of data with pre-service teachers,” says Didion. “If teachers learn to collect data on their own teaching and their students’ progress, it can help them be informed about their own instruction. Data can be their voice and help them get the support they need from their administrators.”