Meet Our Team: Go Behind the Cube at McGraw-Hill Education

Each of our team members brings valuable skills, interests, and experience to their work. Many of us are former educators, and all are life-long learners. We want to take you “Behind the Cube”to meet some of our most passionate team members, and to discover what drives their work. In many cases, the field of learning science is interwoven into the initiatives of many departments, and for some, reviewing learning science research and making decisions based on learning science principles is a daily practice.

Today’s Highlight: Cathy Vanderhoof, Director, Digital Product Development, K-5 Reading

What do you do at McGraw-Hill Education?

I am a senior product manager for elementary reading in the School group. Part of my responsibility in that role is to understand our customers and remain abreast of the education market in order to inform our product development plans.

How does learning science influence your daily work?

I subscribe to several education news aggregation sites to keep me aware of latest research. The entire reading team (product development, academic design, and marketing) consults regularly with the Learning Sciences team to help us better understand the research (or lack of it) behind current educational trends and to insure that our products incorporate best practices for student learning.

Can you give a specific example of learning science research that you would recommend for educators who are interested in improving their practice?

We have been following recently the growing body of evidence, as well as attention from the education market, on the importance of social and emotional competencies and the interrelated work around equity and culturally responsive teaching practices. There is great research support for the idea that a caring classroom that helps every child feel valued and helps every child to learn and practice skills like collaboration and respect for others will also result in the best academic outcomes. We have explicitly incorporated that research into our most recent iteration of the Wonders reading programs.

What innovations or areas of interest do you envision are upcoming in the learning science field?

With the new ESSA regulations requiring states to include at least one nonacademic indicator in their school evaluation systems, I think there will be increased focus on how to effectively and accurately measure things like student engagement in learning, critical thinking and creativity, as well as the social-emotional competencies mentioned earlier. There is broad agreement that these are all valuable, but there aren’t currently any standardized or scalable tools to tell whether they are happening in classrooms, so many states are falling back on indicators like absenteeism because that is easy to measure (and does have direct correlations with drop-out rates and other indicators). If research does emerge around those more intangible types of indicators, then just measuring won’t be very effective without also understanding what specific classroom practices and possibly changes to school infrastructure lead to positive effects. So it will be interesting to see where this might lead in terms of learning science over the next few years.

Find more Behind the Cube by following our Series or past posts here.