,

Research Spotlight: Joni Williams Splett

Q & A with Joni Williams Splett, Assistant Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

joni_splett

Joni Splett (right) presents research regarding interventions for cyber aggression with UF School Psychology doctoral students at the 21st Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health in San Diego, CA

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

How do we improve the mental health and wellness of children and youth? Through my research, I seek to identify strategies that help all children, youth, and their families achieve and maintain positive mental health outcomes. On a systems level, my research is focused on meaningfully interconnecting child-serving systems, such as schools and community mental health agencies, so that resources are multiplicatively enhanced and the delivery of a continuum of evidence-based mental practices is improved. At the student level, my research focuses on preventing and reducing aggressive behaviors through the development and testing of intervention programs for children, families, and schools.

What makes your work interesting?

Children’s mental health is gaining more national and international attention. It is an area most people can agree is important. My research includes systems- and student-level questions with emphasis on the inclusion and integration of families, communities, and schools. In this way, I seek to use resources more effectively to improve access to mental health promotion, prevention and intervention, and associated outcomes. My research questions, thus, include intervention effectiveness, as well as resource allocation, access, and economic impact.

What are you currently working on?

My current systems-level work includes three grant-funded, national projects, while my student-level intervention research program is focused on revising and testing GIRLSS (Growing Interpersonal Relationships through Learning and Systemic Support), a group counseling intervention to reduce relational aggression.

Currently, my largest project is a four-year, multisite randomized control trial of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). I am co-principal investigator of the study and PI of the Florida site. The ISF is a structure and process for blending education and mental health systems through a multitiered structure of mental health promotion, prevention, and intervention. It interconnects the multitiered system features of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) with the evidence-based mental health practices of community mental health agencies in the school setting. Specifically, key components of the ISF include interdisciplinary collaboration and teaming, data-based decision making, and evidence-based mental health promotion, prevention, and intervention practices. We are in the first of two implementation years for the NIJ-funded randomized control trial and have one year for follow up and sustainability tracking.

My second systems-level project is the development and validation of an action planning fidelity measurement tool for the ISF, called the ISF Implementation Inventory (ISF-II; Splett, Perales, Quell, Eber, Barrett, Putnam, & Weist, 2016). During phase one of this project, we piloted the ISF-II with three school districts in three states to examine the tool’s content and social validity. We revised the measure accordingly and are now testing its reliability, construct validity, and social validity in phase two. I am leading the phase two study in collaboration with the National PBIS Technical Assistance Center’s ISF workgroup, and it currently includes more than 10 school districts in seven states. We aim to include more than 100 schools in our phase two psychometric study of the ISF-II.

The third systems-level project that I am advancing examines the adoption considerations and implementation outcomes of universal mental health screening in schools. Mental health screening is a key data-based decision making component of the ISF, as it is hypothesized to improve identification and access to mental health services for children and youth. Currently, I have several papers under review or in preparation in this area. My major project includes examining the intervention receipt outcomes in schools using a mental health screener. Schools have limited intervention resources, and it is unlikely that every student identified as in need by a universal mental health screener will receive services. My research team is using real-life screening data from schools implementing the ISF, combined with service receipt, teacher survey, and extant student records data, to examine the characteristics of students who receive intervention versus those who do not but are identified by the screener as in need. Our findings will inform recommendations to schools and policy makers for improving the implementation strategies of these screening tools.

At the student level, I am excited to be revising and testing the referral and intervention protocol of GIRLSS. I developed GIRLSS during a practicum placement in graduate school and tested it for my dissertation, but was unable to advance the work during my internship or postdoctoral positions. At UF, I have developed a partnership with Stephen Smith, Ph.D., in the Special Education program, who has successfully developed and tested other interventions to prevent and reduce aggressive behaviors in the school setting. We lead a team of doctoral students who have revised the group counseling curriculum of GIRLSS and conducted a field trial of it with middle school girls attending a local summer camp. Currently, we are writing grant applications to fund further development and testing of our revised referral and intervention protocol.

,

Research Spotlight: Albert Ritzhaupt

Q & A with Albert Ritzhaupt, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

While my research interests are varied, my core research agenda attempts to answer two general research questions: (1) How do you design, develop, and albert-ritzhauptevaluate technology-enhanced learning environments? and (2) What factors influence technology integration into formal educational settings?

These two research questions have led me down a path to study a wide variety of technology-enhanced learning environments, ranging from multimedia learning environments to game-based learning environments. Further, I have studied factors that both facilitate and hinder technology integration in educational environments, such as the digital divide, leadership, and community engagement.

I use a wide variety of research methods to answer my research questions. I employ traditional experimental design research methods for testing many of my instructional designs and innovations in technology-enhanced learning environments. Additionally, I use classical and modern test theory to establish measurement systems to inform my research and the research of others, using procedures such as exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and more. I have employed literature synthesis and meta-analysis procedures to synthesize across primary studies. I have also used more complex procedures for analyzing larger data sets, including multi-level modeling and structural equation modeling techniques. Although I was never trained to use qualitative measures, over the years, I have added some qualitative techniques to my toolbox, such as the constant comparative method or phenomenology to answer different types of research questions.

What makes your work interesting?

I cannot answer this question for everyone else (you would have to ask others), but I can tell you what makes me passionate about my work. I have seen information and communication technology (ICT) open doors for students, teachers, instructional designers, trainers, and many others. ICT has given us the potential to do things we would not be able to accomplish otherwise, such as visualization, economy of scale, sharing of resources, and more. In all of my research, I try to provide the readers with a theoretical or conceptual framework to understand the empirical aspects of my work.

What are you currently working on?

Like most of us, I have TOO MANY projects going on right now to write about them all. However, I will note two projects that I am presently excited about. The first project is a meta-analysis of the flipped classroom empirical literature. Many educators are moving to a flipped classroom model where homework is done in class via collaborative problem-solving activities (active learning), and lecture is moved to the online space typically as video capture. We have already presented this research to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). We are presently working on the manuscript, which we hope to submit to the Review of Educational Research journal.

The second project is a NIH grant funded project where I am a co-Principal Investigator with some excellent researchers in medicine at UF and at UC Denver. The purpose of the grant is first to design and develop a short course focused on estimating power and sample size for longitudinal multi-level model designs. Sample size is an important issue in that if you overestimate, you potentially expose more people to risk than necessary. Conversely, if you underestimate, you may not reach your scientific goals and objectives. We will create a workshop to teach researchers about these ideas, and then create a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for dissemination on a wider scale.

,

Research Spotlight: Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko

Q & A with Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My work focuses on two essential questions: “How do people learn with technology?” and “How can we improve learning environments using technology?” I believe strongly that in order to deduce guidelines for effective teaching, we must have a solid understanding of the motivations, contexts, and mechanisms underlying learning. I am very interested in informal learning because informal, and often incidental, learning experiences precede formal education, and I think there is much to be learned about improving formal education in K-12 schools and colleges by examining how people learn individually and in groups outside the formal classroom environment.

UF President Kent Fuchs is trying on one of the EEG headsets used in Dr. Antonenko’s NeurAL Lab, http://www.antonenko.org/lab

UF President Kent Fuchs is trying on one of the EEG headsets used in Dr. Antonenko’s NeurAL Lab, http://www.antonenko.org/lab.

What makes your work interesting?

When I study learning, I focus on both the outcomes (or products) of learning and the processes underlying learning within diverse groups of learners. Traditionally, educational researchers have focused primarily on learning outcomes. However, the problem with that is if we only focus on outcomes we have little understanding of why certain learners succeed in certain contexts and using certain tools, while others do not. What makes my work interesting and useful, I think, is I cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and try to use the research methods and tools used by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and computer and information scientists to study the mechanisms underlying learning. One example is my contribution regarding the use of Electroencephalography, or EEG, in educational research. I use EEG to study the dynamics of cognitive processing during learning. Tools like EEG allow us to record and study the rhythms of our brain waves and based on the analysis of brain wave synchronization we can infer the levels of working memory load, or the intensity of cognitive processing, at any point of time during the learning process.

Dr. Antonenko’s PhD student Claudia Grant and PK Yonge teachers Taylor Whitley, Mayra Cordero, Tredina Sheppard, and Rudy Simpson assemble a 3D printer for the iDigFossils project.

Dr. Antonenko’s PhD student Claudia Grant and PK Yonge teachers Taylor Whitley, Mayra Cordero, Tredina Sheppard, and Rudy Simpson assemble a 3D printer for the iDigFossils project.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a variety of research projects, funded by the National Science Foundation and University of Florida, to study optimal conditions for learning with technology. For example, Project LENS focuses on establishing an interdisciplinary collaborative network of scholars that use Electroencephalography, eye tracking, and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy to understand multimedia learning within a diverse population of students that exhibit attentional and cognitive differences. iDigFossils is a project focused on improving K-12 education. Specifically, its goal is to expand and extend our understanding of integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning by designing and testing a model for student engagement using 3D scanning and printing technologies, as well as computational modeling with statistical language R within a highly relevant but unexplored educational pathway to K-12 STEM – paleontology. My other projects are described here: http://www.antonenko.org/lab

,

Research Spotlight: Maria Coady

Q & A with Maria Coady, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

Maria Coady (center) with teachers and teacher-educators in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.

Maria Coady (center) with teachers and teacher-educators in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

I enjoy finding innovative solutions to complex educational problems related to second (English) language and literacy development.  My work broadly investigates how teachers and students navigate the linguistic spaces in which they participate.  So I investigate how to prepare teachers to work with English learners (ELs) in those spaces in ways that affirm and build upon their linguistic and cultural knowledge.

My research in the US looks primarily at Spanish speakers, who comprise about 80% of our English-learning student population, and I look at the biliteracy development of those students as demonstrated in their writing.  I also want to ensure that that parents and caregivers are part of the overall educational experience of their children. We understand the importance of parental participation in student success, so I look to identify culturally- and linguistically-responsive ways to facilitate parental participation.

Maria_Coady_Dominican Republic2

Maria Coady with a young student in Santiago, Dominican Republic during merienda (snack time), in our emergent literacy in Spanish classroom.

What makes your work interesting?

The people!  I am fortunate to work with incredible teachers, families, and community organizations who really make a difference in the lives of people.  Over the past few years, I have focused on a significant amount of teacher professional development in the international arena.  I have met teachers and educators from around the world who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of their bi- and multilingual students.

This international work has reminded me of the diverse landscape of World Englishes, and the rich linguistic resources of children and families around the world. Over the past three years, I have worked with teachers and educators in Ukraine, China, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic (in Spanish for emergent Spanish literacy), and South Africa.  Some of this work is funded by the Fulbright Commission under the US State Department. This coming summer, I hope to take a group of UF students on a study abroad to the Republic of Ireland to observe bilingual schools there called Gaelscoileanna.

Maria Coady with Amber Peretz (UF COE ProTeach student) and Ava Long (UF) with a student in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Maria Coady with Amber Peretz (UF COE ProTeach student) and Ava Long (UF) with a student in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

What are you currently working on?

Locally, I have been working with rural school districts in Florida and am particularly interested in the challenges that teachers, students, and families face in rural contexts where resources are limited.  I will be looking closely at teacher education in rural contexts and building family-school partnerships for English learning families and students. Rural settings are often overlooked in the national conversation on “high-quality teacher education.”  I am in the process of writing a book on this topic and hope to have it published within the next two years.

,

Research Spotlight: Justin Ortagus

Ortagus_Justin

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My work is typically at the intersection of innovation and higher education. The primary research question driving my scholarship relates to the growing influence of online education and technology in higher education. Colleges and universities are often referenced as slow to adopt change in any form, but the use of computer-mediated instruction and information technology (IT) has become the new normal. My basic objective is to provide generalizable evidence pertaining to the impact of these relatively new technologies. In addition to questions related to online education and technology, I’m also interested in examining organizational responses to various broad-based policies and external pressures affecting the provision of higher education.

What makes your work interesting?

To answer this question, I’ll narrow the scope to focus on my work related to examining the effectiveness of online education in higher education. I’m not a futurist or someone who believes that online education can serve as a panacea for all of higher education’s problems, but computer-mediated instruction has the potential to offer relief to some fundamental issues facing colleges and universities, such as continually rising costs. Despite the potential for cost savings, faculty and administrators at many colleges and universities have questions regarding how effective online education has been in maintaining (or improving) the academic outcomes of various student populations across institution types. Surprisingly, nobody really knows the answer to these questions. My work seeks to fill that void by providing nationally generalizable evidence of the effectiveness of online education in higher education.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on several projects. First, I have two studies in which I provide generalizable evidence of (1) the profile of postsecondary online students and (2) the effect of online enrollment on several academic outcomes. Second, I’m examining the extent to which IT spending influences the makeup of higher education personnel. Finally, I’m also working on a collaborative project with Dr. Dennis Kramer in which we explore the role of no-loan programs on the post-baccalaureate enrollment choices of first-generation students. This work is funded by the Association for Institutional Research and the Access Group Center for Research and Policy Analysis.

,

Research Spotlight: Jacqueline Swank

Jacqueline Swank

The highest peak in Haiti

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My research focuses primarily on two populations. The first population is children and adolescents and their families. In regards to this population, my research seeks to answer the question, “How can we address the emotional and behavioral needs of children and adolescents to help them reach academic success?”

The second population focuses on counselors, counseling students, and counselor educators. Instrument development has been included within this strand of research. I focus on answering the question, “How can we assess and promote counseling competency in order to provide quality care to clients?”

What makes your work interesting?

My work with children and adolescents has a strong emphasis on outcome and intervention-based research. This has involved collaborating with school counselors to measure the effectiveness of their interventions with students. Additionally, my work in this area has involved my research team facilitating interventions within the school setting. One aspect of this work that is particularly interesting is the piece focused on nature and play based interventions. I have developed an approach called Nature-Based Child-Centered Play Therapy (NBCCPT), and I have also developed a curriculum for using therapeutic gardening with at-risk children. I grew up on a farm and also worked in a wilderness program with adolescents who were at-risk. The power of nature inherent in these experiences inspires my work in this area.

Jacqueline Swank

Engaging in a role play with a training participant in Haiti

My work in promoting counseling competencies has included assisting with the development of an instrument to measure the competencies of counselors and counselors in training (Counselor Competencies Scale; CCS), which began during my dissertation work and has recently been revised (CCS-R). This instrument is used by more than 50 counselor preparation programs in the United States and by programs and researchers in 7 other countries. My work in this area also focuses on gatekeeping, and assessing the effectiveness of training approaches.

What are you currently working on?

Jacqueline Swank

Helping Ugandan children write their stories (who they are) in English

Currently, my work with children and adolescents continues to involve collaborations with school counselors related to measuring the effectiveness of school counseling interventions. I am also working with a colleague on initiatives focused on bullying prevention and intervention. This involves interventions with middle school students and a national survey of school counselors regarding their work in this area.

In regards to counseling competencies, I am currently working on developing two instruments. One instrument is focused on measuring counseling competencies from the client’s perspective, which aligns with the CCS. The second instrument is focused on measuring a specialized area of counseling competency. I am also examining the use of peer feedback in the development of counseling competencies for counselors in training.

Jacqueline Swank

Teaching children a game outside in Uganda

Recently, I have also begun some international work in countries where the presence of counselors is limited. This work has involved training teachers and church leaders in using basic helping skills and evaluating the effectiveness of the trainings. I went to Haiti this summer and conducted training with teachers and church leaders. I also traveled to Uganda in the summer of 2015 to teach children at two orphanages/schools.

Dennis Kramer
,

Research Spotlight: Dennis Kramer

Dennis Kramer

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

On a macro level, I am interested in the economics and polices of higher education and their impacts on student success and institutional decision-making. Specifically, I currently have three broad themes to my research: (1) the spillover effects between K-12 and higher education policies; (2) the impact of financial aid and budget policies on both students and institutions; and (3) the antecedents and outcomes of higher education policy at the state level and the study of governmental regulation within higher education.

What makes your work interesting?

Historically, I have approached my work quantitatively, leveraging large administrative or secondary datasets to answer complex policy-related questions. This work has included using a number of the quasi-experimental and econometric strategies to produce rigorous research. Recently, my research has begun to leverage field experiments and the collection of primary data. This approach allows me to investigate how information or “behavioral nudges” can impact student decision-making.

What are you currently working on?

I currently have three (3) large projects. The first is a collaboration with colleagues both at UF and other leading institutions to examine the role of no-loan programs on students’ decision-making and academic success. This project focuses specifically on the role of student loans/debt on first-generation college students—an area that is under researched. A portion of this work is in collaboration with Dr. Justin Ortagus and funded by the Association for Institutional Research.

The second project examines the role of the community college baccalaureate policy adoption on both associate degree production and interinstitutional competition. This project examines a developing policy within the two-year sector and the potential mission expansion of community colleges. Additionally, we will examine the potential competition (or lack thereof) between the two- and four-year institutions after community college are provided the authority to grant baccalaureate degrees.

The final project examines institutional and legislative pricing strategies in response to the adoption of merit-aid programs (i.e., Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program). Specifically, we are examining the role of institutional autonomy and program subsidies on the incentives created and changes in tuition and fee levels after a state implements merit-aid programs.

,

Research Spotlight: Corinne Huggins-Manley

Corinne Manley

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

All of my methodological research seeks to overcome challenges to the practice and interpretation of quantitative measurements of latent constructs. Outside of academia, it is taken for granted that we can assign numbers to concepts such as “academic achievement” or “self-esteem,” and it is often assumed that those numbers are either accurate representations of such concepts or inaccurate only within some quantifiable margin of error.

There is little appreciation for the statistical challenges to measurement and the process of validating inferences made from such measurements. Inside the world of academia, there is more awareness about the challenges to quantifying latent constructs but still some difficulties in recognizing and meeting those challenges. Research in educational measurement is aimed at improving our abilities to overcome such challenges so that valid information can be gleaned from the measurement of education-related constructs. I aim to advance the field of educational measurement with research on topics such as item response theory, fairness in reporting subgroup test scores within and across schools and teachers, scale development and score use validity, and statistical model building that can help practitioners to overcome issues such as non-response bias.

What makes your work interesting?

My work is interesting because it directly tackles many of the problems that occur with respect to measurement in educational research, policy, and practice. In educational research, the ability to use statistics to analyze data and answer research questions hinges in large part on the measurement quality of the variables being studied. However, measurement courses are often not required for doctoral students in the social sciences and many researchers have noted that a lack of attention to measurement has become the Achilles’ heel to social science research. In educational policy and practice, many measurement demands have been mandated onto educators over the past few decades, often by persons who are not trained in measurement or the validity of test score interpretations. The ramifications of such policies have been widely felt in the educational community, and I believe many of them stem from the lack of understanding about what measurement is and what it can (and cannot) tell us about students, teachers, and learning. I focus my research on topics that can improve these conditions in educational research, policy, and practice.

What are you currently working on?

I have four projects in progress that I am very excited about. One is related to assumptions of item response theory models and how we can best test for violations of them. Increasing the availability of accurate methods for testing measurement model assumptions is critical for ensuring the appropriate use and interpretations of parameter estimates produced from such models. A second is related to the development of two statistical models that allow for the incorporation of simultaneous nominal and ordinal within-item response data. The availability of models such as these would allow practitioners and researchers to more easily and appropriately model non-responses on tests and surveys such as “not applicable” responses on Likert scales. The third is an applied measurement project in which I am co-developing an adaptive, diagnostic assessment of reading skills for students in grades 3 to 5. The fourth is a continuation of my research on subpopulation item parameter drift and its relationship to differential item functioning and equating invariance. These three phenomena are statistical manifestations of measurement bias, which pose problems for achieving standards of fairness in large-scale educational testing.

,

Research Spotlight: Angela Kohnen

Angela Kohnen

Q & A with Angela Kohnen, Assistant Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

I am very interested in understanding the teaching of writing and the role of writing in classrooms across the curriculum, K-12. Some of the questions I hope to answer include: how do teachers across the curriculum learn to incorporate writing into their classrooms? What are the most effective ways to prepare teachers to teach writing? How does the teaching of writing impact student and teacher identity?

We are in an interesting place when it comes to writing instruction. The Common Core State Standards have brought more attention to writing instruction than we’ve had for years, but the standardized writing tests have also created a lot of pressure. In some places, we see more formulaic instruction rather than authentic writing, which I find troubling.

What makes your work interesting?

Everything! I love my work. I feel very privileged that I get to ask interesting questions, explore the answers, and write about all of this for a living. Writing and writing instruction can be very powerful. I have worked with teachers in a wide range of classrooms, including elementary, secondary English, science, welding, construction, and culinary arts, and in each context we have been able to find ways that writing enhances the curriculum and helps students develop into the kind of people the teachers were hoping they would become. It isn’t always easy, but that’s also what makes the work interesting. For example, coming to understand how writing can help students become welders—learn to think like welders and enact the processes of welding—that’s fascinating! I’m most engaged when I am working in fields and places where I can learn too.

What are you currently working on?

My colleagues in English Education and I are beginning a long-term study on how teachers think about and enact their role as writing teachers. We hope to work with our secondary English Education students from the time they begin our program into their first years in the field to understand how they make sense of the competing demands they face as teachers of writing. Each day, in each lesson, teachers are influenced by so many different factors: the way they were taught themselves; the curriculum they’ve been given or are creating; their students’ expectations and preparation; standardized testing; and, we hope, what they learn in a teacher preparation program. How that all plays out in their actual instruction is something we want to understand more.

I am also continuing work with colleagues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on the teaching of nonfiction writing at the elementary level, something emphasized in the Common Core State Standards. We see this attention to nonfiction writing as an opportunity to engage students in authentic questions and information seeking—to really foster student curiosity, something that notoriously diminishes as students move through school.

,

Research Spotlight: Kristina DePue

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

How do we change? That question is essentially what drives me to continue perusing research to find the answers to help people trying to make difficult life depuedecisions. My research goals are motivated by my clinical observations within the addictions counseling field, which has resulted in two research areas focused on change: (a) chemical and process addictions, specifically concentrating on the trajectory of recovery; and (b) counselor development and supervision, focusing on how both counseling trainees and clients change.

What makes your work interesting?

Change is part of life, and we all experience change in various degrees constantly. Change can be small, like switching to a different coffee brand, but change can also be big, like quitting smoking or starting a new job. All change includes some type of decision making, and what drives people to make major life changes is not only fascinating, but lies at the core of the helping profession. As an addictions counselor, my goal is to help people change behaviors. My scholarly work related to addictions began as my master’s thesis at Vanderbilt University, which was a qualitative study on the bottoming out experience (BOE) in addiction.

The change process is fundamental in understanding how people move from being a substance user to a non-substance user and includes both internal and external factors. The BOE is a construct commonly found within the addiction literature related to change; yet, the clinical reality and importance of this experience is relatively unknown. For my dissertation, I continued my research by expanding on the notion of BOEs as the culmination of negative experiences, rather than a one-time event, within the trajectory of addiction, and how these negative experiences relate to change at the intake level. Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) with a large, existing database, results demonstrated clear patterns between mental health, social, environmental, and substance use factors.

What are you currently working on?

I have spent the last two years bolstering the Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) on the BOE, which I am in the final stages of publication preparation. In addition, I used these CFA results to write a collaborative NIH grant, which will be revised and resubmitted this year. The next steps in this line of work will focus on whether negative experiences within the BOE are predictive of recovery, as well as the mediating role of change factors (e.g., motivation, awareness, support, and coping) on change, as well as the moderating effects of gender, age, and drug of choice. This contribution will be significant because it will lay a research-based foundation to develop therapeutic approaches based on gender, age, and drug of choice utilizing the complex causal associations between negative experiences and change within the trajectory of addiction, with the ultimate goal of predicting long-term recovery factors.

In addition to the trajectory of addiction, due to the timely nature of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in sports, I became intrigued on how mTBI, substance use, and cognition (i.e., decision making) might work together to impact the lives of current and former athletes, specifically aiming to understand how counseling may be able to impact change in this population. Currently, we are collecting the final set of pilot data and will apply for NSF funding this August to extend the project to veterans and emergency room victims. I have also formed collaborative relationships with the McKnight Brain Institute and was asked to join the university-wide Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program (TBIRP) group with a future goal of a NIH P01, from which the College of Education will have a R01 under the mechanism.

Lastly, college students are particularly vulnerable to addiction, and UF is fortunate to be the only college in the state of Florida that is a member of the Association for Recovery in Higher Education, which aims to help college students who want to make the change from addictive substances and behaviors or find support in a program of recovery. As a Board Member for UF’s Collegiate Recovery Community, I am working on nationwide collaborations to write a NIH grant for program evaluation of Collegiate Recovery Programs across the United States.

,

Research Spotlight: Nicholas Gage

Nicholas Gage

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My specific research interests focus on the application and advancement of diverse research methods and statistical procedures in special education research broadly, but an emphasis on research addressing the needs of students with or at-risk for emotional and/or behavioral disorders. Specifically, I am interested in identifying policies and practices at the national, state, local, and classroom level to support the academic, social, and behavioral needs of students with or at-risk for emotional and/or behavioral disorders.

To that end, my questions focus on malleable factors predictive of positive student outcomes. For example, can teachers increase their use of evidence-based classroom management strategies and do those strategies improve student classroom behavior? Relatedly, I focus on the measurement of both teacher strategy use and student behavior using direct observation procedures to ensure accurate and reliable estimates of both teacher and student behaviors. Further, I believe that collaboration among researchers in the field of special education is critical to moving our science forward, and I actively seek partnership opportunities that allow me to lend my research and methodological expertise to existing content experts.

What makes your work interesting?

My work aims to improve student behavior (both academic and social), which is among the leading reasons teachers leave the profession. By identifying what works and helping teachers efficiently and effectively implement effective practices, we can significantly improve the experiences of both teachers and students. Personally, what drives my research and what I find most interesting is figuring out why I turned out so different from the students I support. Growing up, I experienced many of the predictors of emotional and/or behavioral disorders, including high poverty, limited adult supervision, and a desire to escape. What drives my research is the need to know why I did not end up like so many others, why I did not get suspended, expelled, or dropout of school.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on improving teachers’ classroom management using a multi-tiered professional development model. In addition, I am working with two senior research teams at other institutions identify the most salient classroom and behavior management strategies based on large data sets of direct observations of teachers. In addition, I continue to provide statistical support for a number of early literacy initiatives and am currently evaluating Project ADePT in the School of Teaching and Learning. Lastly, I continue to develop and teach the only meta-analysis course at the University of Florida, attracting students from across multiple colleges at UF.