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Kelly Ryoo team wins ‘Idea’ grant

Funding to support proposal that would help English language learners through automated feedback and a dashboard
Kelly Ryoo feature image

A team led by faculty member Kihyun “Kelly” Ryoo is one of six from across the Carolina campus to win a UNC Idea Grant, which will be used to support development of a proposal to create new tools intended to help linguistically diverse 8th-grade students, including English language learners, improve their understanding of chemistry.

Ryoo and co-principal investigators Nianbo Dong of the School of Education and Sayamindu Dasgupta of Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science hope to develop and evaluate “adaptive intelligent models” designed to give students automated feedback based on their content knowledge and language use to help guide them as they go through chemistry lessons. The team will also design a student dashboard to visualize real-time data about their progress and revision processes to help students monitor their learning.

Their team won a UNC-Chapel Hill Idea grant, which provides initial support for faculty members engaged in novel research, and is designed to help their projects become more competitive for additional external funding. Ryoo’s team will use the $20,000 in Idea funding to support development of preliminary prototypes to be included in an application for funding from the National Science Foundation.

“I’m delighted that we have received this Idea grant support,” Ryoo said. “We face an urgent need to provide individualized support to help all students, especially English language learners, succeed in science. We hope our project will lead to new tools and new findings that help us meet this challenge.”

The proposed project builds on Ryoo’s work developing “dynamic visualizations,” which include animations, simulations, and models that visualize abstract scientific concepts. Some of the tools provide automated feedback based on student performance. Her research has demonstrated that the visualizations, particularly when supported by automated feedback, help middle school students better understand complex scientific phenomena and better engage with other students using the language of the science classroom. She has focused her work on using the tools to help English language learners, students who speak a language other than English at home.

The Idea grant will support the team, including graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Education, the School of Information and Library Science and the Department of Computer Science, as they work with four 8th grade teachers and their students to develop preliminary prototypes for inclusion in an NSF grant proposal.

Under the preliminary proposal, while Ryoo will provide overall project leadership, Dong will lead quantitative analysis activities while Dasgupta will lead the design and development of a student data dashboard. The three researchers combined have in the past secured more than $7 million in external funding for their work.