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Research Spotlight: F. Chris Curran

Q & A with F. Chris Curran, Associate Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research is fundamentally driven by an effort to understand the ways in which public policy can be leveraged to increase equitable educational outcomes for groups of students who have historically been discriminated against by public institutions.  In particular, I seek to examine how the laws, policies, and practices of public schooling shape educational outcomes for students of color, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and other marginalized groups.  My current research focuses on three strands: school discipline and safety, early elementary science education, and teacher labor markets.  My recent work has explored the effects of state zero tolerance laws on racial disparities in school discipline, the relationship between preschool attendance and early elementary science performance, and the ability of alternative route teaching programs to address teacher vacancies in disadvantaged rural school districts.  Across all of this work, I link findings to actionable items for policymakers and educators so that the answers to these basic questions can potentially improve the lives of students nationwide.

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Research Spotlight: Lori Dassa

Q & A with Lori Dassa, Director of Clinical Experiences and Partnerships in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

In my current position, I have the opportunity to work with clinical experiences and key partners (community, district) to develop cohesive and sustainable relationships to better the experiences of our teacher candidates.  These experiences in the teacher preparation arena at the College of Education lead to teacher retention.

Although this is more of an administrative role, it still aligns with my previous research.  My research has always asked the question: how do we develop and sustain the pipeline from teacher preparation to teacher retention?  I have followed an alternative perspective of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) that specifically relates to pre-service teachers.  The literature defines the idea of the Zone of Teacher Development (ZPTD) as, “the distance between what teacher candidates can do on their own without assistance and a proximal level they might attain through strategically mediated assistance from capable others i.e., methods instructors or supervisors” (Warford, 2001, p. 253).

To expand on this theory, my research question is, how do we develop a teacher preparation and induction program that scaffolds our pre-service teachers to enter and stay in the field, cultivating into strong veteran teachers?

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Research Spotlight: Dongho Kim

Q & A with Dongho Kim, Assistant Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research has been situated at the intersection of educational technology, learning science, and learning analytics. I have sought to enhance teaching and learning in a variety of technology-enhanced learning environments through data-driven research. Thanks to great advances in educational technology, it is increasingly important to leverage various types of educational data for supporting educators and students in a pedagogically appropriate way. My research has focused on leveraging multimodal data analytics for the design, development, and evaluation of technology-enhanced learning environments that support learners with diverse needs. For example, one of my projects focuses on developing a personalized learning environment based on students’ online learning patterns and their learning progress over time.

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Research Spotlight: Gage Jeter

Q & A with Gage Jeter, Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

In what ways do online doctoral students experience academic writing processes, and how might structured online writing supports influence their writing processes and products within and beyond their experience in a primarily online program?

How do preservice teachers engage in critical and social justice literacy practices in both online and face-to-face spaces?

What critical incidents influence queer faculty experiences, and how might intentionally and collaboratively reflecting on those experiences act against heteronormative and hegemonic systems and spaces?

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Hannah Bayne
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Research Spotlight: Hannah Bayne

Q & A with Hannah Bayne, Assistant Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research is concerned with the overarching question of human connection and understanding. How can we connect with one another in a way that generates genuine relationship, allows for expression and exploration of deepest pain, and facilitates healing? I am interested in exploring this question from a variety of angles — factors that enable connection, as well as factors that complicate or restrict relationship and understanding. For this reason, I am primarily interested in empathy as a skill that fosters deep understanding and connection. I also look at factors that can divide people, such as values conflicts and cultural dynamics, and explore how counselors can work within and beyond these conflicts to build rapport and expand their understanding of clients who may be very different from them.
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Linda Searby
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Research Spotlight: Linda Searby

Linda SearbyQ & A with Linda Searby, Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

I have two different lines of research. One is on the mentoring mindset of the protégé in a mentoring relationship.  In earlier research with new principals and their mentors, I answered the question, “What constitutes a mentoring mindset of a protégé who is poised to gain the most benefit from a mentoring relationship?” My other line of research is on the assistant principalship.  I am seeking to answer the questions, “What are the experiences of assistant principals as instructional leaders and how have they been prepared for this role?”

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Research Spotlight: Christopher Redding

Q & A with Christopher Redding, Assistant Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research uses survey and administrative data to better understand the policies and educator labor market patterns that exacerbate the unequal distribution of high-quality teachers and the reforms intended to reduce this problem. Broadly, this research describes failures in the teacher labor market that impede the learning opportunities for underserved students and the ways in which changes in teacher education, development, and leadership opportunities can lead to better teacher retention and student outcomes, particularly in underserved schools.

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Ashley MacSuga-Gage
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Research Spotlight: Ashley MacSuga-Gage

Ashley MacSuga-GageQ & A with Ashley MacSuga-Gage, Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research is focused on two main issues:

  1. What are the essential skills that teachers need to exhibit in order to effectively manage a classroom?
  1. What are the most efficient and effective ways to support teachers’ (both pre-service and in-service) development of evidence-based classroom management skills?

My background is in positive behavior supports (PBS) and focuses on developing classroom management skills using a proactive versus reactive approach. To date, I have conceptualized and focused on professional development for adults (i.e., pre-service and in-service teachers) utilizing a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.

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Research Spotlight: Walter Leite


Q & A with Walter Leite, Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

In education, researchers have available a large amount of secondary data. These include national educational surveys, data collected by state departments of education, and data collected by online learning environments. Although these data do not come from experimental studies, educational researchers frequently use them for evaluating educational programs. Therefore, my first basic research question is, How can we strengthen causal inference from research performed using large non-experimental datasets? In addition, large-scale educational data can be used in an exploratory way to identify students at risk or who have specific growth trajectories. Identifying clusters of students is important to target interventions and to understand contextual effects of educational systems. Based on this, my second question of interest is, How can we detect clusters of individuals in large datasets?
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Research Spotlight: Zhihui Fang

Q & A with Zhihui Fang, Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research addresses three interrelated questions that I believe are of both theoretical and practical significance: (a) how are knowledge and value constructed through language across different academic disciplines? (b) what challenges do these ways of using language present to students in subject-area reading and writing? and (c) how can these challenges be addressed through a language-based pedagogy?

What makes your work interesting?

What makes my work interesting is its focus on the role language plays in teaching and learning. Although language is arguably the most powerful and creative resource for making meaning, it is, ironically, also the most taken-for-granted aspect of schooling. I have had a fascination with language since my middle school years, when I started to learn English as a foreign language. This interest grew during my undergraduate and graduate years when I began my formal studies in linguistics and language in education. As a student, I used to wonder why school curriculum content had to be presented to us in textbooks that we found daunting and alienating. I learned later that each text students read or write has a purpose, and this purpose is realized through language (and other semiotic) choices that configure in particular ways in order to have particular effects. So, I have been motivated early on to find out how content experts use language to present knowledge, infuse points of view, and structure texts, as well as how students can be supported in disciplinary learning through a functional focus on language. My work in this area recognizes language as the hidden curriculum of schooling and responds to the challenges of developing advanced literacy, critical literacy, and disciplinary literacies among students who struggle with reading and writing, who are learning English as an additional language, or who have histories of school failure.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on three projects. In one project, I try to reconceptualize, from a functional linguistics perspective, three key constructs in the Common Core State Standards — text complexity, close reading, and disciplinary literacy — in an effort to make their classroom implementation more effective and empowering for teachers. In another project, my research team is examining adolescents’ use of academic language in informational writing, hoping to gain a better understanding of how access to and control over academic language impacts students’ reading/writing achievement and disciplinary learning. In the third project, my research team is studying disciplinary experts’ social practice (i.e., the daily workplace routines experts engage in), semiotic practice (i.e., how experts use language and other semiotic resources in disciplinary meaning-making), and cognitive practice (i.e., the mental routines and strategies employed by experts in disciplinary reading and writing), hoping to use the findings from the study to inform subsequent design and delivery of disciplinary literacy instruction in the K-12 setting.

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Research Spotlight: John Kranzler

Q & A with John Kranzler, Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My recent empirical research has largely fallen within the evidence-based practice (EBP) movement within the field of school psychology, which aims to “identify, disseminate, and promote the adoption of practices with demonstrated research support” (Kratochwill, 2007, p. 829). The goal of the EBP movement is to improve the quality of professional services (e.g., diagnosis, intervention, and evaluation) delivered to children and youth, families, and schools. Of particular interest to me at the current time is the innovative approach to the identification of specific learning disabilities (SLD) known as the pattern of strengths and weaknesses (PSW) approach. PSW methods define SLD as unexpected underachievement and corresponding weakness in specific cognitive abilities. The PSW approach has already been adopted in 14 states for SLD identification (Maki, Floyd, & Roberson, 2015), despite the fact that substantiating scientific evidence is currently lacking. Thus, I have conducted several investigations of important postulates underlying the PSW approach. Below I describe two recent studies my colleagues and I have conducted to provide some description of my work.

One postulate of the PSW approach concerns the focus of IQ test interpretation. Proponents of the PSW approach contend that the focus of interpretation should not be on the overall score, but on the pattern of intra-individual strengths and weaknesses at the composite score level. For composite scores to warrant interpretation, they must demonstrate incremental validity. Incremental validity addresses the question of whether scores on a test increase the predictive validity of important external criteria over other scores on the same test or scores on other established measures. To examine this question, my colleagues and I used estimated factor scores from a bifactor analysis of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) to examine the unique effects of its latent variables on academic achievement. Results of this study only partially replicated the findings of previous research on the incremental validity of scores that can be derived from performance on the WAIS-IV. Although we found that psychometric g is the most important underlying construct measured by the WAIS-IV for the prediction of academic achievement in general, results indicated that only the unique effect of Verbal Comprehension was important, and only for certain academic outcomes. Results of this study, which was published in Psychological Assessment (Kranzler, Floyd, & Benson, 2015), question the utility of composite scores underlying the PSW approach.

Valid identification of SLD using the PSW methods requires the application of diagnostic criteria that result in the reliable grouping of children and adolescents with this disability and those who do not. We examined the diagnostic accuracy of the Cross-Battery Assessment (XBA) PSW approach to identifying SLD. To examine this postulate, we conducted a classification agreement analysis using the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities and Achievement. We examined the broad cognitive abilities of the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory held to be meaningfully related to basic reading, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, and mathematics reasoning across age. Results of analyses of 300 participants in three age groups (6-8, 9-13, and 14-19 years) indicated that the XBA method is very reliable and accurate in detecting true negatives. Results of classification agreement analyses were generally quite low, however, indicating that this method is very poor at detecting true positives. Mean sensitivity and positive predictive value were 21% and 34% across all broad cognitive abilities and academic domains. In sum, results of this study do not support the use of the XBA method for identifying SLD. Results of this study, as well as a reply to commentary on our article by PSW proponents, are in press in the International Journal of School Educational Psychology.

What makes your work interesting?

My primary area of scholarly interest concerns the nature, development, and assessment of intelligence (IQ). Standardized IQ tests have been called psychology’s greatest contribution to society. The overall score on these tests is a better predictor of achievement in school or college, military training programs, and employment in business and industry than any other combination of variables independent of IQ. The interpretation and use of IQ tests, has long been surrounded by controversy, however. Indeed, IQ tests have been used to admit, advance, and employ, but also to deny, track, and institutionalize. Much of my work in recent years has concerned investigating the validity of innovative practices involving the interpretation and use of the results of IQ tests.

What are you currently working on?

My future research agenda involves extension of research on the PSW methods, SLD identification, and valid interpretation of IQ tests. I recently received IRB approval for a study on the cognitive ability profiles of children and youth identified as SLD in a response-to-intervention model. In addition to empirical research, I recently co-authored a textbook on intellectual assessment titled, Assessing Intelligence in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide. Our aim in writing this book was to address the need for an updated, evidence-based, user-friendly resource to meet the training needs of students and practitioners. I also guest edited a special issue of the International Journal of School & Educational Psychology on current practices and future trends in the intellectual assessment of children and youth around the world, which will be published this fall.

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Research Spotlight: Danling Fu

Q & A with Danling Fu, Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning
Danling Fu

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

Currently I have two research projects I have been working on (1) Comparative studies of K-12 Literacy Instruction between the US and China, and (2) Translanguaging pedagogical model and Emergent Bilinguals in the US.

The research question for the first study:

How do the practices of literacy instruction in the US and China reflect their respective cultural and literacy traditions?

The research question for the second study:

How does “translanguaging pedagogical model” prepare emergent bilingual students to meet the literary demands of the 21st century globalize world?

What makes your work interesting?

My comparative study suggests a shift of research on literacy instruction at K-12 level in the US towards a more global perspective, which is part of an ethical and democratic imperative that furthers a conversation among researchers and educators across the globe about literary traditions, pedagogy, and practice and indicates “two divergent systems may use each other as a mirror to reflect up their own perspectives and practices” (Ma, 2014, p. 5).

My second study challenges the conventional monolingual perspective in second language acquisition and transitional bilingual education, and advocates translanguaging, a pedagogical model that values all language varieties in a learner’s repertoire, leveraged as resources that can be used to facilitate communication and learning and has the capacity to meet needs of emergent bilinguals for the 21st century globalized world.

What are you currently working on?

For the first study, with my co-author in China, we have published 15 articles on the comparative studies of writing instruction (2015-2016) and we have just completed and submitted our book manuscript contracted with Shanghai Education Press (in press 2017).  Now we are moving into our second phase: comparative studies of reading instruction between the US and China.  Three secondary English teachers at PK Yonge Developmental Research School have joined my research team as the second phase of this study will include practitioners’ perspective and voice.

For the second study, in collaboration with two colleagues at Pennsylvania State University and University of Georgia, we have been working on a book proposal titled Literacy and Education for Emergent Bilinguals in the 21st Century: Reality, Challenges and Directions for the Future, commissioned with Teachers College Press, and we are at the revised and resubmission stage.

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Research Spotlight: Tina Smith-Bonahue

Q & A with Tina Smith-Bonahue, Associate Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studiestinasmith-bonahue

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

How can professionals working in early childhood settings use authentic, culturally relevant strategies to improve outcomes for vulnerable children? My research seeks to address this question through two lines of inquiry.  One line examines how teachers and other care providers can structure authentic and play-based interactions that promote social and emotional competence and critical thinking in young children. The second line of research explores how teachers and other early childhood professionals can ensure that their work is culturally relevant through meaningful partnerships with families.

What makes your work interesting?

In the past 20 years or so, researchers, policy makers, and even the general public have become aware of the tremendous potential for early education to have a long lasting impact on high-risk children’s developmental outcomes. With this increased attention, high stakes testing and methods to ensure accountability are being applied to preschools, changing and challenging the way we think about early childhood. Similarly, state-funded preschool programs have a mandate to focus on pre-academic and school readiness skills. As a result, studies suggest that time for play is on the decline in preschool classrooms. Since years of scholarship also tell us that play is essential for children’s well-being, finding ways to ensure that play has a place in preschool classrooms has become part of my research agenda.

As more and more children, particularly children from under-resourced communities, have the opportunity to participate in structured preschool experiences, ensuring that these environments are culturally relevant and family-friendly becomes a challenge. When teachers engage families effectively as partners in their children’s learning and development, everyone benefits. But for teachers who are overwhelmed by accountability demands and the day-to-day demands that come with caring for young children, engaging families can seem like a daunting task.

What are you currently working on?

Working with colleagues and graduate students here and at another university, I’ve spent the past several years examining how helping in-service teachers make sense of the diversity among the families of the children they serve. We were also interested in identifying professional development strategies that improve teachers’ ability to engage families in meaningful ways in their classrooms. Our next projects extend this work by examining preservice teachers’ beliefs about diverse families and what kinds of pedagogical strategies best prepare them to form true partnerships with the families of the children they will serve. Of course, understanding the perspectives of professionals is only half the equation in school-family partnerships, so I’ve recently begun a project with our local Head Start to gather data from parents to determine which parent engagement strategies work well, and what barriers prevent them from partnering with their children’s teachers.

Another research team and I have been analyzing the literature on play in early childhood for the past 10 years. Based on this analysis, we will explore teachers’ understanding of the role of play in children’s learning and early education. We’ve also just completed a project examining the effectiveness of children’s literature for teaching very young children emotion vocabulary and social problem solving. We hope to learn specific strategies for using authentic literature to promote social and emotional growth in very young children with developmental disabilities.

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Research Spotlight: Kent Crippen

Q & A with Kent Crippen, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

kentcrippen

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research program embraces the grand challenge of providing an inclusive and robust science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce through the design, development, and evaluation of cyberlearning environments—those providing authentic experiences in STEM through the use of networked learning technologies. Currently, the following overarching questions guide this inquiry:

  • What forms of cyberlearning are effective and transformative for addressing the chronic problem of under-representation of specific populations of people in STEM?
  • How can the use of design in this pursuit inform our understanding of learners, the processes of knowing, learning and teaching, as well as amateur and professional development in both formal and informal STEM education contexts?

In the practice of our research, these questions are focused on compelling practical problems that exist in real-world settings that are complex, enduring, and difficult to solve, like the disproportionately low numbers of females pursuing engineering degrees. This work involves the dual purpose of trying to solve the learning problem(s) while at the same time generating new insights related to the processes of learning and the relationships among the people, tools, and context of the problem. Through our work, we seek to describe how learning occurs in a particular setting (for whom?) and to detail the required environmental characteristics for affecting the desired outcomes (under what conditions?).

What makes your work interesting?

The most interesting parts of my work are the people I collaborate with and the problems we try to address together. Collaboration and mentoring are two core values of my research group and they are reflected in all aspects of our work. Collaboration requires an intimate working relationship and melding of priorities among a diverse team of people, including students, policy makers, and researchers with diverse forms of expertise. Successful research involves communication and negotiation in order to leverage the team’s capacity for addressing the problem in a sustainable way while also affording the opportunity to develop our theoretical understanding of the problem itself.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently engaged with three major projects that are funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, respectively: FOSSIL (DRL-1322725), ChANgE Chem (DUE-124568, 1625378), and CATALySES (SEPA-1R25OD021901-01).

In collaboration with faculty from the Florida Museum of Natural History, FOSSIL is addressing the limited participation by the public in natural history research through a networked community of practice in which amateur and professional paleontologists collaborate in learning, the practice of science, and outreach. We have developed an evidence-based social messaging campaign that is enacted across an ecology of different technologies, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and our own myFOSSIL community site (www.myfossil.org). We are currently investigating activities for amateurs that are situated within the established best practices for paleontology—from planning a field trip to having a specimen included in a museum (both physical and virtual)—including the social spaces where they exist (e.g., face-to-face, virtual, or combination).

Working with colleagues from engineering and chemistry, ChANgE Chem is transforming the general chemistry curriculum for engineering students to a more contextually relevant and engaging experience. This endeavor employs the use of cognitive apprenticeship strategies to develop activities that emulate and make explicit the way engineers think, comprehend, and work. We have re-envisioned the discussion component of the courses (i.e., recitation) with a series of mini-design projects and are currently using our model to transform the laboratory curriculum based upon the Grand Challenges for Engineering.

CATALySES is the continuation of a long-standing collaboration with the UF Center for Pre-Collegiate Education and Training (CPET) on a scientist-teacher partnership model of professional development for secondary teachers. With this current project, we are investigating how the scaffolded process of constructing interactive online materials is mediated by teachers’ classroom experiences and local context to influence the translation of scientist-teacher experiences to their practice.

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Research Spotlight: Brian Reichow

Q & A with Brian Reichow, Associate Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies
brian_reichow

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

Broadly speaking, my research is focused on discovering how young children with disabilities learn and the best ways to support them, their families, and individuals who support them and their families. To accomplish this, I have developed multiple lines of research. A primary line of research is examining ways to educate parents and caregivers of young children with disabilities to increase their ability to provide meaningful learning opportunities throughout their child’s day. I have conducted my research on parent education both in the United States, but also through a collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other non-governmental organizations throughout the world. A secondary line of research is developing methods to identify evidence-based practices for young children with disabilities and thinking of ways to help practitioners learn how to use these methods to improve the lives of young children and their families.

What makes your work interesting?

I have always found working with young children with disabilities to be very interesting, especially since each child has unique strengths and needs. While I find the differences in children to be one of the most interesting aspects of my work, these differences also create difficulties in that I often need to think outside of the box to solve the same problem in different ways. As my work has expanded internationally, I have had opportunities to meet and engage with people from different cultures and backgrounds, which has been fascinating. Finally, as a member of an interdisciplinary center, I find working with colleagues in different fields and disciplines to be interesting, especially learning varying approaches to similar research questions.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently an Investigator on two federally funded research grants from the US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 2 – Embedded Practices and Interventions for Caregivers, R324A120121, and Goal 3 – Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers’ Use of Embedded Instruction Practices: An Efficacy Trial of Tools for Teachers, R324A150076). I was recently awarded an internal grant from the University of Florida, College of Education as PI to adapt and refine the WHO Parent Skills Training Programme in Zambia, where I will be visiting this month with a colleague to begin planning the adaptation and initial pilot testing of the program. I am currently Co-PI on a Doctoral Leadership Training Grant from the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Preparing Leaders in Early Childhood Special Education and Implementation Science, H325D150079).