Research News

View articles from:

Coding, Learning, and Constructing Digital STEM Literacies: Dr. Shaunda Wood Receives Funding to Bring Coding to Elementary School-Aged Children and their Families

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, June 11, 2018
Dr. Shaunda Wood wants to bring coding to elementary school-aged children — especially students who do not often have this opportunity.

The School of Education professor was recently awarded a National Science and Research Council’s  [NSERC] PromoScience Grant, valued at $54,630 over three years for her coding program research,  “Wasisək kisihtohtit (Children Made It). Coding, learning, and constructing digital STEM literacies: Families and communities becoming creators." 

This is the first national grant of its kind at STU.

Additionally the coding program received a STU research grant as well as Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of NB funding, and a New Brunswick Innovation Foundation-Research Assistantships Initiative grant for the first two years during the pilot-testing phase.

“Over the last two years, our program arose in an organic fashion, meeting the needs of underrepresented elementary-aged students, as well as providing extracurricular professional development for new teachers,” Wood says. “Through consultation and community partnerships with First Nations communities, public and higher education, and the Fredericton Public library, a network of STEM literacy supporters have pooled their resources to provide an on-going extracurricular, multifaceted program, at no cost to the elementary-aged participants.”

Through engaging, hands-on activities and workshops that closely reflect provincial math outcomes and international standards, the project aims to provide opportunities to inspire children – to develop an interest in coding and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in their public schooling and beyond.

“An integral part of this program is the hiring of a part-time research assistant and intermediary who is a local community member, Wəlastəkwiyik/Maliseet/French language specialist, and adult immersion teacher—Joleen Paul,” Wood adds. “This role is essential to community support and involvement. Additionally, the program involves BEd students and STU BEd graduates who are highly qualified, multi-lingual workshop leaders.”

Although many start-ups and non-profit organizations are offering coding and STEM programs, no province has integrated coding into its elementary-level curricula, forcing students to find these skills elsewhere. Wood adds that many students lack effective access to these programs — especially many non-traditional populations and students living in rural areas.

Wood’s program teaches coding and STEM literacies to students from New Brunswick schools. These workshops are made available to students in grades 3-5 and their families who have limited access to early technology resources and support around technology.

“The program attempts to create an inclusive science approach, one that invites and values the cultural and educational experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and families who choose to participate in the workshops. Designing and improving these workshops for students who do not have this opportunity is the main goal,” she says.

“A student who learns to code in elementary school will have a whole new language and design/ICT pathway opened to them,” she says. “Waiting until secondary school to teach computer coding is like teaching the alphabet and reading to a fourteen-year-old hoping for a novel but getting a sentence. Providing the language of coding early allows students to be creative and innovate during their secondary and post-secondary years.”

She adds that coding is one important aspect of 21st Century learning. As such, it should be complementary to, and integrated with, other important STEM learning outcomes to promote understanding and application. In this way, students will ultimately be fluent in the language of design allowing for new types of digital literacies to emerge.

 “The goal of developing a scientifically literate citizenry is increasingly important for successful participation in the technology-based global economy that is emerging,” Wood says.

“With the need to address such challenges as global water management, infectious disease control, agricultural engineering, and non-fossil fuel-based energy production, it will be critical that the next generation of workers in industry and the professions be prepared to tackle these problems with logical thinking and problem-solving skills in innovative and creative ways.”

New Issue of Narrative Works

PUBLISHED DATE: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
The latest issue of Narrative Works: Issues, Investigations, & Interventions, an e-journal publication of St. Thomas University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative, is now available. 
The articles in the issue were contributed by scholars in the broad interdisciplinary and international field of narrative studies.

They include the text of the 2016 John McKendy Memorial Lecture, “Narratives of Human Trafficking: Ways of Seeing and Not Seeing the Real Survivors and Stories,” by Maria De Angelis, Senior Lecturer in the Social Justice Program at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. 
The issue also contains two book reviews by eminent narrative sociologist Arthur Frank (Emeritus, University of Calgary):
  • “Distributed Narrations of Illness.” Review of Patrick Anderson, Autobiography of a Disease. New York: Routledge, 2017; and Carsten Stage, Networked Cancer: Affect, Narrative and Measurement. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.
  • Review of Ewan Fernie, Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

“We sincerely appreciate Dr. Frank’s continuing contributions to Narrative Works,” says co-editor of the journal, Elizabeth McKim. 

Other articles and reviews include:
  •   “Becoming a Nurse: Stories of Vulnerability,” by Frode F. Jacobsen, Margrethe B. Søvik, and Oddgeir Synnes (VID Specialized University, Norway).
  •  “The Listening Guide: A Socio-Cultural Analysis of Arab Women Leaders' Stories,” by Tamar Shapira (Gordon Academic College, Haifa, Israel) and Khalid Arar (College for Academic Studies, Tel Aviv, Israel)
  •  Review of Brian Schiff. A New Narrative for Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, by Michael Murray (Keele University, Staffordshire, England).
Disciplines often represented in Narrative Works include, but are not limited to, psychology, sociology, anthropology, gerontology, literary studies, gender studies, cultural studies, religious studies, social work, education, healthcare, ethics, theology, and the arts.
The new issue is available at

Dr. Clive Baldwin, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative Earn Funding from NBIF for Project on Narrative Care

PUBLISHED DATE: Monday, April 16, 2018
Dr. Clive Baldwin and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative have earned $50,000 of funding from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) to develop a program on narrative care.
The research team, consisting of Dr. Baldwin, Canada Research Chair in Narrative Studies, Dr. Bill Randall (Gerontology), Dr. Gul Caliskan (Sociology), Dolores Furlong (UNB Nursing), Dr. Marcea Ingersoll (School of Education), and Dr. Matte Robinson (English), is working to develop a program that will bring proven benefits of narrative care—or life-story work—to health care providers.

Without the funding from the NBIF, Dr. Baldwin said this project wouldn’t be possible.

“Without this funding the project would not take place. We’re pleased that NBIF recognizes the innovative nature of narrative care, and are willing to support this endeavor,” he said.

Narrative care is an evolving concept and practice that focuses on storytelling to bring about improvements in health and well-being. Evidence shows that narrative-based interventions can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness, and lack of meaning.

 “We are planning to develop a ‘train-the-trainer’ program, in which we will train individuals to facilitate narrative activities with older adults either individually or in groups,” Baldwin said.

“Through this approach we hope to develop capacity in narrative care, and to provide wider access to narrative care in the province.  We will also be adding to the evidence base for the effectiveness and usefulness of narrative in promoting well-being.”

The money from the grant will be used to provide a doctoral or post-doctoral opportunity for an emerging health or social care researcher who will work closely with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Narrative to develop the program.

“If all goes well, we will then approach Springboard to develop copyright-able materials for use free for charge by NB community groups, residential facilities, church groups, and so on, and for commercial sale more broadly,” Baldwin said.

Dr. Baldwin is a professor in the School of Social Work.

Presidential Advisers and the Human Brain: Diverse Research Topics Funded by McCain Award

PUBLISHED DATE: Thursday, February 1, 2018
Dr. Jamie Gillies of the Department of Communications and Public Policy (seen in photo) and Dr. Tyler Bancroft of the Department of Psychology are this year’s recipients of the Wallace and Margaret McCain Course Release Award.
Dr. Jamie Gillies of the Department of Communications and Public Policy and Dr. Tyler Bancroft of the Department of Psychology are this year’s recipients of the Wallace and Margaret McCain Course Release Award.

The faculty members have each received a 3 credit-hour course release to dedicate more time to their research.

A Look at Presidential Advisers

Dr. Gillies will use the course release to work on his manuscript Bankrupting America: Advisory Entrepreneurship, Fiscal Competence and the Presidency from Carter to Trump.

This research project is an extension of his dissertation research that he conducted in Washington while he was a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution and at Georgetown University. 

The project considers the roles played by fiscal policy advisers within White House administrations from Jimmy Carter through Donald Trump. It is the first sustained study of fiscal policy decision making across seven presidential administrations. 

It extends American political science research on theories of advisory systems in executive leadership and offers suggestions for how presidents might structure their White House. The study concludes with a discussion for future presidents and adviser practitioners on the need to consider strongly the benefits of ensuring advisory systems are balanced with different types of advisers.

“The fiscal policies of the past forty years offer an excellent historical and political lesson for those aspiring to enter the White House,” Dr. Gillies explained. “The case of fiscal policy has demonstrated some remarkably divergent ways in which presidents construct their advisory systems.  Viewing advisers as ‘advisory entrepreneurs’ shifts the focus from studying individual advisers to studying how presidents utilize their advisory systems."

He will use the McCain Course Release Award to complete the sections of the manuscript on Barack Obama and Donald Trump to bring the narrative to date. He hopes to complete his book manuscript in 2019.

How Brains Store Information in Memory

Bancroft will use his course release to dedicate more time to his research on the neural circuitry underlying short-term memory in humans. 

“My research focuses on developing and testing new mathematical models of how our brains store information in memory,” Dr. Bancroft explained.  “This is a major research theme in modern neuroscience, as deficits in memory occur in many medical conditions. The better we understand our brain's memory systems, the better chances we have of developing treatments.”

One of the most influential current movements in psychology and neuroscience is the movement toward formal, quantitative models of the mind and brain. The enormous complexity of the mind and brain renders this an imposing, time-consuming task but also a necessary one.

“Verbal models of how our minds/brains work are woefully inefficient and incomplete, hence the move toward formalization,” Bancroft added. “Human languages are not capable of adequately representing the function of brains that have literally, quadrillions of components that must be dealt with. The only sufficient language is that of mathematics.”

In recent years, Bancroft has been working on developing a model that is biologically detailed and based on the principles of how brains actually develop. 

He says the course release will allow him to dedicate more time to the development of the model.

The Wallace and Margaret McCain Course Release Award was created in 1997 after the McCain family made a generous donation to St. Thomas University to pay for a six credit-hour course release in support of faculty research.