Incentive grants support promising studies likely to draw additional funding

The College of Education has awarded internal College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grants to faculty members Mary Brownell, Sondra Smith and Kelly Whalon to study vital education concerns such as literacy skills and parental involvement in education. The individual grants go mainly to faculty members with research projects that are likely to attract additional funding in the future.The one-year stipends can be worth up to $15,000 each.

Recipients are selected for their proposals by a college faculty review committee. This year’s winning projects are:

Mary Brownell (Special Education)

Brownell’s funding will lead to studies on how elementary school students learn to read, spell and understand words with multiple syllables. She is pursuing a better understanding of the cognitive and language abilities that predict students’ abilities to respond to instruction in this area. More specifically, she is exploring how students become “morphologically aware” so they can learn to decode and understand the smaller units of meaning in our language, such as prefixes, suffixes and root words. Her research is expected to aid the development of better teaching methods for students with reading disabilities and help target struggling students earlier for intensive intervention that will improve their vocabulary, decoding, spelling and reading comprehension.

Sondra Smith (Counselor Education)
Smith, the principal investigator, plans to address the question, “What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?” The research will provide an in-depth look at how parents can influence their children’s success by being more involved at home as well as at school. The study addresses a lack of meaningful research in the literature about how parent’s goals, aspirations and values for their children are transmitted through their interactions at home. Smith will work with co-PIs Ellen Amatea (counselor education) and Walter Leite (research and evaluation methods).

Kelly Whalon (Early Childhood Studies)
Whalon’s CRIF research will examine the effect that a promising intervention strategy, called Project RECALL, has on building literacy skills for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). RECALL is an adaptation of an approach used to teach young children emergent literacy skills. The adapted RECALL strategy was developed by Whalon and two professors at Florida State University and the University of Louisville. Her findings in the CRIF study are expected to provide evidence that children with ASD can improve certain language and emergent literary skills that contribute to growth in vocabulary and comprehension. With her new data, Whalon hopes to launch pilot studies of the program at all three universities.

Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449; jessica.bradley@ufl.edu
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu