Site for Research-related news stories–the latest and also an Archive of past Research stories.

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UF Research Foundation recognizes education scholar with elite professorship

LEITE, Walter

Scholar Walter Leite is the College of Education’s newest winner of a UF Research Foundation Professorship.

One way Walter Leite explains the complex statistical methods he uses to measure the effectiveness of educational programs is with the old analogy of comparing apples to apples.

The associate professor in UF’s Research and Evaluation Methods program works with massive amounts of information (so-called “big data”) to analyze the effectiveness of teaching tools and educational programs, using measures such as standardized scores, end-of-courses assessments, surveys and observation protocols.

“I try to get around the selection-bias problem, the fact that there are apples and oranges,” when analyzing datasets with upwards of 1 million or more variables, he said while explaining one of the sophisticated tools he uses – “propensity score analysis” – to analyze massive amounts of data.

“My niche is extremely large data sets with lots of variables and I try to find the evidence for program effectiveness based on that data,” the Brazilian-born scholar said.

Leite sat down for an interview recently after being awarded a prestigious University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship, which provides three-year awards to tenured faculty for outstanding research and to provide incentives for continued excellence.

The award recognizes the growing importance of Leite’s work at a time of increasing government mandates related to school accountability, such as the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

Leite’s research has been in collaboration with the UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, where his work has helped evaluate large projects such as Algebra Nation and the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) program.

Last year, Leite and a research assistant received the Florida Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Paper Award for evaluating the TLSI degree program by using statistical models to follow 78 third- through fifth-grade teachers over a decade. Their study showed that students exposed to these teachers had improved their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) math and reading scores, and reduced their school absences.

More recently, Leite and his team received a $1.6 million grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to evaluate the effectiveness of a statewide pilot project to provide pre-K teachers special training and coaching as a way to improve the learning of children getting ready to enter kindergarten.

David Miller, former coordinator of REM and now director of the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education, said Leite’s UFRF professorship is well deserved — and increasingly important because of government requirements, such as tying school funding to student assessment scores. These mandates are proving controversial public policy, and a lot is riding on whether these accountability standards are really improving schools, teaching and learning.

“We need folks like Walter working on that,” Miller said. “It’s very complex, but the implications are very important to measure the effectiveness of social science and educational programs.”

Leite’s work is supported by a half-dozen grants, enough work to keep him so busy as to not allow time to teach. But Leite is an enthusiastic teacher. His structural equation modeling course this semester has attracted two dozen grad students from across the university, from the fields of criminology, forestry, psychology, immunology and more, who need to learn how to analyze big data.


 

Contacts
    Source: Walter Leite, College of Education, walter.leite@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4302
    Writer: Charles Boisseau, College of Education Office of News and Communications; cboisseau@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449

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UF center partners with states’ school system chiefs to boost teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Stronger licensure standards for teachers and principals, identification of skills educators need from their first day in the classroom, and more rigorous preparation programs for teachers and school leaders are among the steps state education chiefs can take to meet the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities, according to a new report issued jointly by a center for educator preparation reform at the University of Florida and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

The recommendations are the result of a partnership between UF’s Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform, or CEEDAR Center, and the private, nonprofit professional organization that serves leaders of every state’s department of elementary and secondary education.

The two groups recently convened an advisory group of state education agency leaders, higher education faculty, national professional organizations and teachers to develop the guidelines, released in a report “Promises to Keep: Transforming Educator Preparation to Better Serve a Diverse Range of Learners.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers is distributing the report to all state education department leaders and national organizations that serve individuals and organizations invested in teacher and principal preparation.

Other recommendations outlined in the report include:

·        Making personalized learning and student achievement and outcomes, including those for students with disabilities, an integral part of preparation and evaluation programs for teachers and school leaders in training

·       Designing preparation programs that promote collaboration and teamwork among all educators for all of their students

·       Maintaining effective monitoring and evaluation systems that hold teacher preparation programs accountable and providing the programs with adequate feedback for continued improvement in how they prepare teacher and administrator candidates to support diverse learners in the classroom

The report, which outlines a comprehensive set of clear policy actions state agencies can take, is the first of its kind, said CEEDAR Center director Mary Brownell.

“Students with disabilities can make remarkable progress when their teachers have the knowledge and skills needed to serve them effectively,” said Brownell, a special education professor at UF’s College of Education. “Improving preparation of all future teachers and school leaders is one way to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to help a diverse range of students.”

The report builds on a well-publicized policy document the Council of Chief State School Officers published in 2012 that included recommendations for transforming teacher and leader preparation policies.

“State education chiefs want effective teachers in the classroom on Day 1,” said Chris Minnich, the council’s executive director. “It is essential that schools continually seek the most effective ways to reach their most diverse learners.”

UF’s CEEDAR Center, with assistance from a federal grant, is partnering with the council to implement many of the guidelines in 15 states. The hope is that state education departments, colleges of education and school districts will work together to incorporate the recommendations into efforts already underway to improve teacher quality and leader preparation, Brownell said.

CEEDAR Center is in the midst of a five-year, $25 million technical assistance project to help the 15 participating states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and school leaders. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the center began its work in Florida and four other states – California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota – in 2013. Five additional states are expected to join the project in 2016, with the “Promises to Keep” report guiding much of the work in these states.

The report is available at http://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/promises-to-keep/ or www.ccsso.org.


Sources:
Mary Brownell, project director, UF CEEDAR Center; 352-273-4529; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu
   Larry Lansford, UF College of Education News & Communications, 352-273-4449; skindland@coe.ufl.edu
   University of Florida News Center http://www.news.ufl.edu |  News@ufl.edu |  352-846-3903

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The University of Florida is one of the nation’s largest public universities. A member of the Association of American Universities, UF posted research expenditures totaling $696 million in 2013. Through its research and other activities, UF contributes more than $8.76 billion a year to Florida’s economy and has a total employment impact of more than 100,000 jobs statewide. Find us at www.ufl.edu, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/UniversityofFlorida, and learn about UF’s plan to become one of the nation’s top public research universities at ufpreeminence.org.

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5 more states join UF’s $25M effort to improve teaching of students with disabilities

Five states have been added to the list of 10 already taking part in a $25 million UF College of Education project aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities.

Images taken by Kristen Bartlett Grace Copyright the UF News Bureau College of Education October 1, 2007 D-1319

Mary Brownell

Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee are the latest additions to the five-year program being implemented by the college’s CEEDAR Center through a record-setting grant from the U.S. Department of Education. CEEDAR is an acronym for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.

Center director Mary Brownell, a UF special education professor, said the center and its state partners are engaged in work that could have a “dramatic impact” on improving education for students with disabilities and other struggling learners.

“If we can prepare teachers and leaders to implement the best evidence we have about effective instruction and classroom management, then we can help to improve student achievement and proficiency levels,” Brownell said.

The $25 million project represents the largest single grant ever awarded to the UF College of Education, and the figure could increase by another $10 million if the U.S. DOE exercises two optional years.

Five more states are expected to be added before the project completes its fourth-year cycle in 2016, bringing to 20 the total number of states – including Florida – whose school districts will have revised standards and significantly improved methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating teachers and administrators who educate students with disabilities in K through 12 schools.

The center is working with the American Institutes for Research, the University of Kansas, the Council of Chief State School Officers and several other national organizations to reach its objectives, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps.

The five states initially taking part in the CEEDAR center project were Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois, South Dakota. Five others — Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Utah – were added in 2014.

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Conroy named as first Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies

Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., an early childhood expert and professor in the University of Florida College of Education, has been named the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies.

Maureen Conroy1

Maureen Conroy

Conroy, who co-directs the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at UF, is working with other center researchers to transform science, policy and practices in early childhood learning, intervention and healthy development. Their efforts are gaining national and worldwide attention.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens before he or she turns 5,” Conroy said. “Our research mission is to provide science-based approaches for supporting young children’s development and learning during this critical time.”

A primary focus of the center is supporting young children who are most vulnerable, their families, and their early childhood providers to create nurturing and supportive early learning environments to help them succeed.

Through the Anita Zucker Center, Conroy and her collaborators partner with colleagues from a number of colleges at UF as well as other community, state, national and international stakeholders.

Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate and a UF Board of Trustees member, has long been interested in early childhood studies. In 2011, the Charleston, South Carolina native contributed $1 million to the College of Education to establish the endowed professorship that Conroy now occupies. Last year, Zucker gave another $5 million to expand the center’s efforts and UF’s Preeminence initiative in early childhood studies.

“Anita Zucker understands the importance of investing in young children’s growth, development and education,” Conroy said. “Her generous gifts are a game-changer that ensures our work will reach children and families in our community, state and across the nation and world.”

A graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire and a two-time graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Conroy’s 38-year career has revolved around conducting research and training future researchers as well as those working directly with young children and their families.

Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center who also serves as the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, said the appointment of Maureen Conroy as the inaugural Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies will advance the College of Education’s national and international visibility and impact.

“Having the Zucker Professor and Lawrence Chair working side-by-side demonstrates UF’s commitment to achieving preeminence in early childhood studies,” Snyder said.

Zucker, who taught elementary school for 10 years and has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of North Florida, agreed.

“Early childhood education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” she said. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is important in so many ways.”

Contacts
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Linda Homewood, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, homewood@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4284.

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NSF fellowship is just the latest achievement for UFTeach alum Xavier Monroe

Monroe Xavier3Xavier J. Monroe, a 2013 UF graduate, belongs on a UFTeach student recruitment poster.

And that’s even before he was awarded a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship in STEM education and learning research recently from the National Science Foundation.

While Monroe was still a UF undergraduate double-majoring in civil engineering and history, and also minoring in African Studies, the College of Education in 2011 enrolled him in yet another degree program–its new UFTeach mathematics education minor.

For someone with Monroe’s drive, what’s one more degree program, right?

The UFTeach minor degree programs in math or science education together are one of the pillars of the college’s STEM education reform strategy. The goal of UFTeach is to enlist top science, technology, engineering and math majors and prepare them to teach effectively in one of those vital STEM disciplines at the middle or high school grade levels.

Monroe personifies what UFTeach is all about. After simultaneously earning all four UF degrees—the two majors and both minors, the east Gainesville native and former Florida Academic Scholar went on to obtain his master’s in educational leadership and policy a year later from the University of Michigan.

He’s now poised to start his second year of Ph.D. studies in educational policy at Stanford University, coinciding with his selection as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow.

After Monroe completes his doctorate, he said he’d like to become a college professor and conduct education research in areas such as school transformation, policies and practices that will improve student achievement, the role of family and community partnerships with public schools, and issues of equity and access in STEM education, particular for underrepresented minorities.

Monroe said he’s grateful for the impact that UFTeach has had on his education philosophy and career path.

Monroe poses with a group of kids he met in Kano, Nigeria, where he conducted research as a UF undergraduate.

Monroe poses with a group of kids he met in Kano, Nigeria, where he conducted research as a UF undergraduate.

“The level of training and guidance from UFTeach equipped me with tools to succeed in the classroom as a pre-service teacher and in my local community work as an after-school instructor,” Monroe said. “This was also the beginning of my transition to the education field.”

“Education requires a great sense of humility, passion and the ability to partner with families and communities to best meet the needs of students, particularly our most vulnerable students,” he added.

Monroe said he vividly remembers something that UF STEM education instructor Kent Crippen said one night in class: “Students do not need your sympathy, they need you to teach them in ways that help to address the issues they face.”

Monroe’s fellowship was one of only 16 awarded by NSF in STEM education and learning research. The fellowship will support his study of the influence of teachers relating teaching content to the cultural backgrounds of their students.

Associate professor Crippen said Xavier’s fellowship award “is a significant accomplishment for a UFTeach alumnus and demonstrates the scope and broader impact of the program.”


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Xavier Monroe, monroexj@stanford.edu
SOURCE: Kent Crippen, UF College of Education; 352-273-4222; kcrippen@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;

 

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Students, faculty team up on AERA’s ‘best’ research paper

When two UF College of Education professors recently teamed up with three graduate students, the multidisciplinary quintet developed a compelling research paper that can be referred to officially as “the best.”

HUGGINS, Anne (Aug 2012)_2 2

Corinne Huggins-Manley

Assistant professor of research and evaluation methodology Corinne Huggins-Manley and Albert Ritzhaupt, an associate professor of educational technology, along with three students — Krista Ruggles and Mathew Wilson (both in education technology) and Savannah Madley (research and evaluation methodology)— were chosen to receive the American Education Research Association’s 2015 Best Paper Award.

Their article was selected for the category of one of AERA’s special interest groups, “Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning.” The authors will be recognized at the AERA annual meeting April 16-20 in Chicago.

Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

Their winning paper, “Validation of the Survey of Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Teaching and Technology: A multi-institutional sample,” explores the accuracy of a measurement tool assessing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

Research in this field is ongoing due to difficulties defining the boundaries of different TPACK knowledge areas.

“We hope the paper contributes to the advancement and refinement of TPACK theory to better mirror practice and how we measure it,” Huggins-Manley said.

Rizthaupt attributes the paper’s strength to its blending of expertise borrowed from several disciplines at the College of Education. His expertise lies in education technology, Huggins-Manley steered the research methods and the graduate students provided support in the research, analysis and writing of the winning paper.

“The college certainly nurtures research and collaboration,” Ritzhaupt said, “It’s this synergy that keeps people working and achieving.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Corinne Huggins-Manley, amanley@coe.ufl.edu and Albert Ritzhaupt, aritzhaupt@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER: Candice Wynter, communications intern, UF College of Education; cwynter@ufl.edu
   MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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COE scholars make strong showing at massive AERA meeting

AERA ad (2015)

More than 70 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 14,000 scholars from around the world who converged on Chicago April 16-20 for the 2015 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

The AERA annual meeting, featuring 2,600 sessions, is the largest gathering of international scholars in the field of education research. More UF education faculty and graduate students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 41 COE faculty members and 31 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

The massive AERA event is a hotbed of innovative, research-based ideas about teaching and education issues and trends. This year’s conference theme was “Toward Justice,” examining how culture, language and heritage in education praxis, research and policy can change the world—toward more justice.

UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

  • The promise of black studies in teacher education
  • Bullying and disability status
  • Women’s scientist identity formation: an undergraduate research mentoring program
  • Does athletic success increase campus crime?
  • “The Parents are Locked Out”: Barriers to successful teacher-family engagement
  • Developing social-emotional vocabulary through storybook reading
  • Teaching English language learners: from teacher prep to teaching practice
  • Social interaction in computer-supported, collaborative problem solving
  • Minority administrators at community college in Florida

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernard Oliver (educational leadership), and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology)—each participating in five presentations. Doctoral student Olivia Soutullo (school psychology) is involved in four presentations.

For a complete listing of all presentations by UF education faculty and advanced-degree students, visit http://bit.ly/1DXa57D.

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UF researchers call for immediate end to corporal punishment in all Florida schools

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of University of Florida researchers is calling for an immediate end to paddling students in all state public schools, citing its new study of classroom disciplinary trends that depicts corporal punishment as violent and outdated, and a source of complications such as increased dropout rates and lawsuits.

CP Dashboard

In a monograph sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, UF doctoral student Sungur Gurel (left) and College of Education faculty researchers Brianna Kennedy-Lewis and Joseph Gagnon call for abolishment of corporal punishment in Florida schools.

The team’s 33-page research report shows corporal punishment persists in nearly half of Florida school districts, mostly in the state’s rural northern counties, and “it’s the youngest, most impressionable children – elementary school students – who most often are subjected” to paddling.

“Paddling is archaic,” said Joseph Gagnon, a UF College of Education associate professor of special education and one of the report’s three authors. “We need to spread awareness that scientific evidence increasingly justifies abolishing corporal punishment in favor of more effective, positive ways to manage classroom behavior.”

Gagnon said most current research shows paddling has little or no positive long-term effect on students, can lower their self-esteem, and instill hostility and rage without curbing the undesired behavior, “yet there are still pockets of Florida and other states where corporal punishment continues to be used.”

Paddling in schools has been banned in 31 states, and the UF report cites 16 national expert organizations that have categorically opposed and discredited corporal punishment. They include the National Education Association, American Bar Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and national associations for both elementary and secondary school principals. The study report also lists nearly 100 published research citations and references.

The UF study was funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally known civil rights and social justice activist organization based in Montgomery, Ala. The SPLC is pushing for the elimination of corporal punishment in school systems in Florida and across the nation.

Tania Galloni, an attorney with the SPLC’s Miami office, said the emotional and psychological damage done to a child who has been paddled is reason enough to end corporal punishment.

“(Paddling) is a tightly controlled form of school-sponsored violence, and it undermines the notion that a school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe,” Galloni said.

In Florida during the 2012-2013 school year, 28 of 67 school districts administered corporal punishment, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The UF report shows the Suwannee County district, with a student population of nearly 6,000 at the time of the survey, led the state with 359 paddling instances. Holmes County, with more than 3,300 students enrolled, was next with 306 instances.

Madison and Holmes counties also had the highest percentage of students experiencing corporal punishment during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the UF study. Each showed nearly 10 percent of its students being paddled. Washington County was third on the list with almost 9 percent of 3,485 students being paddled. The remaining 25 school districts using corporal punishment, on average, paddled less than 2 percent of their students, with eight districts reporting rates below 1 percent.

Gagnon and co-author Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, an assistant professor of curriculum, teaching and teacher education, have presented their research findings to Florida legislators and are working with the SPLC to target other education leaders, policymakers and the general public to raise awareness for the need to end paddling.

Gagnon, Kennedy-Lewis and Sungur Gurel, a doctoral student and statistician, spent eight months researching and writing their findings and recommendations. Gagnon evaluated public data on Florida schools’ use of corporal punishment and similar approaches to discipline. He also surveyed Florida principals to identify the use of preventive strategies and other non-violent, research-proven approaches to student behavior management.

Kennedy-Lewis interviewed 36 school administrators representing 27 Florida school districts that allowed corporal punishment.

“We were trying to find out what drives the whole punitive approach,” Kennedy-Lewis said. “As it turns out, many school administrators would just as soon do away with this type of punishment.”

The researchers made six recommendations, including abolishing corporal punishment at the federal, state and local levels, and closely scrutinizing the disproportionate punishment of males, African American students, those with disabilities and other vulnerable student groups.

They also urged schools to implement or broaden proactive, research-proven strategies for handling discipline without punitive paddling, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The PBIS approach involves tailored interventions for individuals and specific student groups that, in addition to social and emotional skills training, can include counseling programs and peer tutoring.


CONTACTS
   UF SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, associate professor, UF College of Education; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4262
   UF SOURCE: Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, assistant professor, UF College of Education; bkennedy@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4041
   SPLC SOURCE: Tania Galloni, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Tania.galloni@splcenter.org; 305-537-0573
   WRITER: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu: 352-273-4449
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Incentive grant boosts ed. tech professor’s research merging education and neuroscience

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko has received the College of Education’s 2014-15 College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grant which will help the education technology faculty member conduct cutting-edge research on the neurological dynamics of individuals during group problem-solving activities.

Pasha EEG1

Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko and doctoral student Jiahui Wang discuss Wang’s EEG data as it shows up on a computer screen.“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our global society is an important 21 century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

“Working with others to solve the complex challenges of our  global society is an important 21st century skill,” Antonenko said. “Now we’ll be able to obtain important brain-based data on how individuals collaborate within a group, and how that can be applied to teaching techniques.”

 The COE gives its annual CRIF grant, worth $40,000, to education faculty members with promising and meaningful research projects that are likely to attract additional funding.

Antonenko, an associate professor, used part of his grant to buy the latest in wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment that will allow him to measure brain-based factors involved in cognitive processing among student “teammates” solving a common problem.

“The fun part will come when they put on the EEG headgear and their brainwaves show up on the computer screen,” Ukraine-born Antonenko said with a laugh.

The EEG data, as well as behavioral measures of learning strategies and performance, will be analyzed to address whether neurodynamics — communication between different parts of the nervous system — align with behavioral measures of team problem-solving performance.

“We’ll also try to see whether it’s possible to devise such neurodynamic models to assess, predict, and improve performance in problem-solving teams,” Antonenko said.

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Alumna makes lead gift for $10M early childhood initiative

Anita Zucker, a passionate advocate of early childhood education, will provide a leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at the University of Florida focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72)

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72)

Zucker’s gift – the largest from an individual to the College of Education – will be combined with another $5 million in Preeminence faculty and program support from the university over the next several years. This $10 million investment will help further position UF as a national and world leader in understanding how young children develop and learn in the context of their families and communities and help create programs that enhance early supports and learning. UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, housed in the College of Education, will be named for Zucker, a UF education alumna, in recognition of her generosity.

The new funding supports an interdisciplinary team of faculty, fellows, doctoral students, and local, state, national and international partners working to establish an innovative model in early learning. Studies show that nurturing and responsive interactions and quality early learning experiences during a child’s first five years can produce a lifetime of benefits.

Zucker, a former schoolteacher, has long been interested in early childhood. In 2011, she established a professorship in UF’s College of Education dedicated to early childhood. She also sponsored the Anita Zucker Alumni Challenge, in which she matched dollar-for-dollar gifts to UF’s College of Education.

“Education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” said Zucker, CEO and chair of the Charleston, S.C.-based global manufacturing conglomerate The InterTech Group. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is so important in so many ways. The early childhood years are the most critical time for learning. That’s when they build a foundation that will play a major role in defining later success in learning and life.”

Improving early childhood studies is one of the university’s highest priorities, UF President Bernie Machen said. As part of UF’s Preeminence Plan, the university has invested in four faculty positions in the colleges of Education, Medicine and Public Health & Health Professions to support this interdisciplinary effort.

“Anita’s vision and leadership makes it possible for UF to transform America’s approach to early childhood studies,” Machen said. “Having Anita as a partner in this endeavor brings us that much closer to our goal of helping to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed.”

The newly named Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is dedicated to advancing knowledge, policy and practices, with a focus on newborns to 5-year-olds and their families. Faculty and students from a number of UF colleges and departments are affiliated with the center, which collaborates with local, state, national and international partners to address family support, health, nutrition, mental health and early learning.

The Anita Zucker Center is one of a number of cutting-edge programs in the College of Education that are improving teaching and learning in Florida and across the nation.

“Early childhood education and research has been the big, missing piece in our education system. For UF’s College of Education to partner with others to address this critical need from an interdisciplinary perspective makes sense,” Dean Glenn Good said. “As Florida’s flagship university and a nationally preeminent institution, we have a responsibility to children everywhere to promote the very best learning opportunities for every stage of their lives.”

Zucker is a lifetime education advocate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at UF in 1972, received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision at the University of North Florida and, for 11 years, taught English and social studies in elementary schools in Florida and South Carolina. In 2008, when her husband, Jerry, passed away, she succeeded him as CEO of the Hudson Bay Company and head of the InterTech Group. Jerry Zucker graduated from UF in 1972 as a triple major in math, chemistry and physics.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

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Statistics scholar fills ‘big data’ faculty posts at COE, new UF institute

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—A  Harvard-trained statistical researcher and expert in online network modeling has filled one of the College of Education’s four faculty positions created in support of the University of Florida’s preeminence initiative to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

THOMAS, AndrewAndrew C. Thomas, a research scientist in statistics at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will become an associate professor in the Research and Evaluation Methodology program at UF’s College of Education. His appointment takes effect in January.

Thomas, who received his doctorate in statistics from Harvard in 2009, also will join a campuswide consortium of faculty scientists in landmark “big data” studies at the new UF Informatics Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives. The institute’s big-data science initiative is one of 28 high-potential areas of science and scholarship targeted by UF for investment of state preeminence funds. 

The Informatics Institute unites a team of educators, engineers, scientists, artists, natural scientists and other UF faculty researchers in an ambitious push to harness the vast amounts of data now generating in the world and apply them to advancing a wide range of vital areas in education and the social sciences.

“Ninety percent of data that exists today was created in the last two years. Collecting and analyzing immense amounts of data has been a challenge up to now,” said UF education dean Glenn Good. “Dr. Thomas’s expertise in online networks and large data management align well with our efforts to harness informatic analysis and apply it to resolve societal issues. At the College of Education, his contributions will help us better understand national education trends and conduct large-scale effectiveness studies of best  teaching practices.”

Thomas, currently an affiliate faculty member of CMU’s Living Analytics Research Center in Pittsburgh, has focused his investigations on the formation and workings of complex online networks and measuring peer influence between members on a social network. At CMU, he worked on collaborative university-industry studies designed to improve the handling and examination of large data sources, including new sources such as education.

“Much of my recent work focuses on network models that give us information about the individuals themselves who belong to the network,” said Thomas, who has worked at CMU since completing his Harvard Ph.D. studies. “The richness of multiple networks in education, through students in classrooms and teachers in schools, makes this an exciting area of development that I will continue to pursue at the University of Florida.”

Thomas said he looks forward to being part of the collaborative effort at the UF Information Institute where “the trick will be developing computational systems that can cope with large volumes of data.”

Thomas has made numerous presentations and published several research reports, including an encyclopedia article on network modeling. He has applied his statistics know-how to a wide range of fields including political science, public policy, demography, environmental engineering and sports. The Canadian native, a huge ice hockey fan, last year co-authored an article in the Annals of Applied Statistics on statistical approaches for measuring individual player contributions in hockey games. 

Thomas brings two large research grants on network modeling with him to UF worth more than $640,000 combined—one from the National Science Foundation and another from the federal Institute of Educational Sciences.

He said he’s also excited about continuing his teaching and mentoring in the evolving field of data science education at UF.

The big data informatics project is one of three College of Education initiatives that UF administrators targeted for investment of preeminence funds, to the tune of $3.8 million. The other two involve optimizing early childhood development and advancing personalized online learning.

The Florida Legislature in 2013 identified UF as the state’s preeminent university and is giving the university $15 million a year for five years to spend on improving areas that would help it become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities. The Legislature gave UF another $5 million this spring for the push.

UF President Bernie Machen has pledged to match the state money with $75 million in private donations and spend $150 million on recruiting 120 world-class and up-and-coming faculty to strengthen UF’s research and academic missions.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Andrew Thomas, PhD, acthomas@stat.cmu.edu, 412-268-3556
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Kumar’s online learning article makes ‘journalistic’ history

Swapna Kumar, a clinical assistant professor of educational technology at the College of Education, has added another published article to her CV — but this one comes with a bit of history.

KUMAR, Swapna3Kumar’s “Quality Considerations in the Design and Implementation of an Online Doctoral Program” appeared as the first of eight articles in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Online Doctoral Education, which went online in June. The biannual e-journal features outstanding scholarly contributions in online doctoral education from researchers around the world.

“It’s a ‘Dos and Don’ts’ kind of an article about how to offer a quality online doctoral program,” said Kumar, who coordinates the online doctoral program in the COE’s educational technology program. “If it’s thoughtfully designed, online learning can make a huge difference in the lives of professional adults.

“They tend to work really hard and apply what they learn,” she added. “It’s satisfying to see them grow professionally and make a difference with their research.”  

Journal editor Gregory T. Bradley said Kumar and other leading online education scholars were invited to submit articles for the launch of the Summer 2014 edition.

“Dr. Kumar’s article is of tremendous value to our readers because quality considerations are at the core of accredited online institutions,” Bradley said. “The content has resonated with faculty and administrators who are involved in designing online graduate programs.”

Kumar mentors graduate students and teaches courses on distance learning, blended learning, technology integration and educational technology research. Her article in the Journal of Online Doctoral Education can be found online at http://jode.ncu.edu.

Contacts

    Source: Swapna Kumar; swapnakumar@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4175. 

    Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137.

    Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-3449.

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Ed. psychology scholar awarded prestigious UF Research Foundation Professorship

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David Therriault, an associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education, never seems to find enough time to sit down.

UF COE education psychology scholar David Therriault is happier about his research being recognized than he is about any personal accolades that result from his studies.

“Learning about learning is very important to me, so I’m just proud that something I love to do is being highlighted,” Therriault said after recently being awarded a prestigious University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorship. “Whatever helps to bolster the usefulness of my study results makes me happy.”

The UFRF professorships are given to tenured UF faculty members who have distinguished records of research as a way to recognize their contributions and provide incentives for continued excellence in research. Thirty-three UF professors were named this year, and each will receive a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a $3,000 grant to support his or her research.

Therriault is an associate professor of educational psychology in the COE’s School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education (SHDOSE). His main academic interest always has been the psychology of education, which is why his work at UF has focused on the empirical study of the mental processes that shape the way we learn. Such nuances include the representation of text in memory; comprehending time and space in language; the link between attention and intelligence; the use of perceptual symbols in language; and problem solving in engineering.

“I’m actually kind of a weird fit in the college because some people still don’t know what I do here,” Therriault said with a laugh. “I started taking psychology courses when I first went to college and never stopped. My interests within my field are all over the place.”

SHDOSE director Harry Daniels might disagree.

“There is clear evidence that Dr. Therriault is an active and productive scholar, and that his scholarship informs others who conduct similar types of research,” Daniels wrote in a letter of recommendation for the professorship.

Daniels’ letter also pointed out that Therriault’s published articles in scholarly journals – which total more than 25, including 14 in the past five years — have had a “high impact rating” on their audiences.

“The interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Therriault’s research deserves special recognition,” Daniels wrote, explaining that Therriault has developed relationships with UF College of Engineering faculty to address some of the critical issues of scientific problem solving within the field of engineering.

The objective in working with the College of Engineering is to measure empirically how two seemingly disparate disciplines can benefit each other, according to Therriault, who received $805,000 in grant money to examine how engineering students solve open-ended problems. 

Therriault also received an $83,000 UF research opportunity grant in 2011 that enabled him to develop a kindergarten-level reading disabilities screening battery called the Kindergarten Cognitive and Reading Assessment Tool for iPad (K-CRATI). The assessment tool is being designed to allow educators to effectively catch at-risk students early in their elementary schooling.

“If past performance is truly the best predictor of future behavior, there is every reason to believe that Dr. Therriault will utilize the [research professorship] to further his agenda,” Daniels concluded.

Therriault received his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire before earning a master’s degree and his Ph.D. – both in cognitive psychology — from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He joined UF’s education psychology faculty in 2004.


Contacts
    Source: David Therriault, UF College of Education; therriault@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4345.
    Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Teen traffic deaths inspire UF professors to write award-winning article, “A Science That Saves Lives’

Griff Jones, a clinical associate professor of science education in the UF College of Education, knows only too well that the laws of physics apply to everyone.

“I was a high school physics teacher, and I lost a lot of students to car crashes,” said Jones, who spent two decades teaching at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. “Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers.”

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

That’s why Jones and his wife, Linda Jones, a COE associate professor of science and environmental education, co-authored a cover story titled “A Science That Saves Lives” for the January 2013 issue of The Science Teacher, an academic journal sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.

Their efforts paid off when the Association of American Publishers named their article a finalist in the Distinguished Achievement Award category of the recently held Revere Awards competition. The Revere Awards is the most prestigious recognition program in the learning resource community, according to the Association of Educational Publishers, which once sponsored the awards under a different name.

Receiving accolades for articles isn’t new to the husband-wife research team, but gaining recognition for their story on motor vehicle crashes involving teens meant something special.

“When I worked on my Ph.D. at UF, part of my dissertation was to help the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety write and produce a science education video for students on the understanding of car crashes,” said Griff Jones, who also is director of the COE’s STEM Teacher Induction and Professional Support (STEM TIPS) program. “The number of teen traffic deaths has gone down, but there are still way too many – more than 2,800 a year.”

Together the Joneses not only have kept up with matters related to physical science, but human behavior as well. Their cover story is based on research suggesting that a lack of emotional and cognitive maturity among teenagers increases risky driving practices such as speeding, tailgating and not wearing seat belts. 

Their article outlines a “truly life-saving teaching lesson” for high school science educators by combining Internet research with classroom “crash tests” using paper cars designed and built by students; a 6-meter “race track” made from plastic rain gutter sections; a step ladder; and a concrete block that serves as an abrupt “finish line.”

Raw eggs serve as vehicle occupants, and damage to them is measured and recorded at different speeds made possible by placing the track’s starting line on a higher rung of the ladder. Students are challenged to create cars with front ends weak enough to absorb the energy of a high-speed crash, yet strong enough to remain intact and protect the egg.       

By project’s end, students have learned to apply two physics concepts used in real-world vehicle safety engineering: momentum and impulse. Momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity, and measures the difficulty of stopping a moving object. Impulse is the net momentum change during a collision and is measured as the product of the average force exerted on an object.

“It really makes students confront themselves with their misconceptions about their chances of surviving a crash,” said Linda Jones, who serves as coordinator of the COE’s science and environmental education program. “They also learn about the vital role seat belts play in surviving a head-on collision.”

The Joneses’ article can be found at www.nsta.org, the National Science Teachers Association website.

CONTACTS:
    Source: Griff Jones, UF College of Education; gjones@coe.ufl.edu;   
    Source: Linda Jones, UF College of Education; ljones@coe.ufl.edu.
    Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu

 

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New COE autism scholar will work with early childhood studies center

REICHOW, Brian (jpeg). JPGThe University of Florida College of Education has appointed an emerging scholar of behavioral interventions for young children with autism and developmental disabilities to its faculty.

Brian Reichow, assistant professor of community medicine and health care and research director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Connecticut Health Center, will join the UF faculty on July 7 as an associate professor in the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. He also will be affiliated with the UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies (CEECS), a universitywide program based administratively in the College of Education.

Reichow will join another multi-college effort focused on “optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences”—one of the research focuses of UF’s state-supported “preeminence initiative” to become recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

“I’m excited about joining these interdisciplinary opportunities with colleagues across campus,” said Reichow, who with his current UCHC post also holds an adjunct faculty position at Yale Child Study Center at Yale University. “They will allow me to continue and expand my work with young children who have disabilities to ensure they and their families achieve best outcomes.”

Reichow’s research focuses on advancing evidence-based practices for helping children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities of the nervous system and identifying support services to assist these children and their families achieve best outcomes.

He is also collaborating with the World Health Organization to develop identification and intervention programs for young children with neurodevelopmental disorders in lower- and middle-income countries through the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme. 

“Dr. Reichow is a well-respected scholar with an impressive record of accomplishments in this field,” said Patricia Snyder, co-director of the UF CEECS and holder of the Lawrence endowed chair in early childhood studies. “His research and teaching will complement our collaborative work with colleagues across the college and university, particularly research that directly connects to practice in early childhood studies.”

Reichow earned his doctorate and master’s degrees in early childhood special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. He has a bachelor’s in elementary education and psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He came highly recommended for the UF position from Fred Volkmar, an endowed professor and director of the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University, where Reichow was a postdoctoral associate from 2008 to 2010 and was a faculty member from 2010 to 2013.

“In the time I’ve known (Brian), he has become a leader in the field of evidence-based treatments in autism,” Volkmar wrote in a letter of recommendation for Reichow. “For a relatively young investigator, he has been remarkably productive . . . and his work has stimulated the field.”

Reichow has authored some 40 peer-reviewed publications, 15 book chapters and has edited several books. He is the book review editor for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and serves on the editorial board of four scholarly journals in the field.


SOURCE: Brian Reichow, reichow@uchc.edu; breichow@alumni.unc.edu; 203-824-6973

UF SOURCES: Patricia Snyder (patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu) and Maureen Conroy (mconroy@coe.ufl.edu); UF College of Education and the UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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New education technology professor to head UF Online Learning Institute

BEAL, Carole

Carole Beal

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida College of Education has hired a leading authority on technology-based learning as a professor of education technology who will also head UF’s new Online Learning Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives.

UF Education Dean Glenn Good announced May 21 the appointment of Carole R. Beal as a faculty professor in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. Beal currently is a professor of science, technology and the arts at the University of Arizona’s School of Information. Her UF appointment begins Aug. 16.

Beal’s research focuses on the development and use of advanced online learning techniques—particularly in math and science—that improve access to education for all learners including minorities and students with disabilities. Good said Beal’s expertise “not only strengthens the college’s education technology program, but also aligns with the mission of UF’s Online Learning Institute.”

“We will aggressively pursue cutting-edge research and future-focused technological approaches to e-learning tailored to each individual student,” Good said.

The interdisciplinary, four-college OLI is charged with finding ways to improve student learning by merging the teaching sciences and what is known about the brain with the technology that delivers education at a distance. Collaborating researchers will come from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Journalism and Communications, and Fine Arts. UF’s Digital Worlds Institute and UF Online, one of the nation’s first totally online undergraduate degree programs, also are involved.

Beal, who becomes the OLI’s founding director, has a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University, but she also has held professorships in psychology and computer science at Arizona and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and in engineering at the University of Southern California. She also was a psychology professor at Dartmouth College.

She worked on one of the early online tutoring systems in mathematics in the 1990s and has garnered continual research funding for the past 15 years from major funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the federal Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Defense Department.

One of Beal’s projects, called Animal Watch Vi, involves developing a virtual tutoring system in math with accompanying books of braille to make online learning accessible for students with visual impairments. The three-year project is supported by an IES grant worth $1.4 million.

Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost for teaching and technology, said Beal has forged a place “on the cutting edge of research in the learning sciences and the field of personalized e-learning.”

“It is fortuitous that the College of Education attracted a leading scholar like Dr. Beal who also expressed a desire to work with the Online Learning Institute,” McCollough said. “The institute involves four colleges and they all agreed that Carole Beal was the right match for directing the institute.”

The OLI is a key component of UF’s campaign to establish itself as one of the nation‘s top 10 public research universities. Multidisciplinary research of personalized e-learning techniques has been targeted by UF administrators for investment of “preeminence funds” allocated last year by the Florida Legislature to support UF’s top-10 effort.

“I was drawn to the University of Florida by the opportunity to join a group of scholars who will collaborate on research and funding pursuits on a large scale. My experience in integrating the learning and computer sciences seemed a good complement to the existing expertise of my new colleagues at UF,” Beal said.

Much of Beal’s latest research merges education with neuroscience, which dovetails well with the OLI’s plans to collaborate with the university’s McKnight Brain Institute and other UF health science disciplines. She has been working to improve “intelligent” tutoring technology and exploring how technology can make online learning accessible to students with special needs.

“In my investigations, I have found that students who appear disengaged in the traditional classroom are often among the most active learners in the online learning setting,” Beal said.

“The coming decade will be an incredible opportunity to merge education with neuroscience,” she added. “Academic programs that take advantage of this connection will rise in national and international stature and lead the way in making online learning accessible to all students.”


SOURCE: Carole Beal, crbeal@arizona.edu, 520-576-4553
SOURCE: Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost, amccollough@aa.ufl.edu; 352-392-1202
SOURCE: Glenn Good, dean, UF College of Education, ggood@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4135
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Study: Solving behavior problems early boosts preschoolers’ chances for success in learning

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Studies show that up to a quarter of all children entering prekindergarten classrooms today have behavior problems that can disrupt learning for them and their peers. What’s more, researchers say that many preschool teachers lack the necessary training to effectively quell this growing trend in behavior problems.

“Many preschool teachers are ill-prepared to work with these children, often impacting the child-teacher relationship and the classroom learning environment. This can lead to problems with learning and result in too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to succeed,” said Maureen Conroy, professor of special education and early childhood studies at the University of Florida College of Education and co-director of UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.

Conroy is the principal investigator on a team of researchers from UF and Virginia Commonwealth University that is working to reverse this trend. In a study reported this month in the spring issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, the researchers teamed up to evaluate the promise of a pilot program that they designed to train teachers how to work with preschoolers who display emerging behavior problems. The program is called BEST in CLASS, short for Behavioral, Emotional and Social Training: Competent Learners Achieving School Success.

Conroy’s VCU co-authors on the report are Kevin Sutherland, Abigail Vo, Staci Carr and Paul Ogston. Their work was funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

The published study involved 10 teachers and 19 high-risk children from state-funded prekindergarten classrooms and Head Start programs.

The teachers attended an introductory group workshop on the BEST in CLASS intervention strategies, and then received 14 successive weeks of individually tailored coaching and feedback on implementing effective instructional strategies for strengthening children’s social, emotional and behavioral competence. Early-childhood specialists on the research team led the professional development activities and also developed coaching and teacher-training manuals for the participants.

Conroy said their BEST in CLASS model emphasizes both individual and classwide interventions to improve interactions between the teacher and children and enhances the overall classroom atmosphere for learning.

“Teachers use classroom rules and routines with children and praise specific positive behavior. For example, some young children need to learn classroom expectations such as sitting and waiting their turn during a sharing circle or game,” she said. “The BEST in CLASS intervention helps teachers learn to use specific strategies in a more targeted way with select children. These strategies aren’t necessarily new to teachers, but we show them how to use the strategies in a more precise and intense way for given children and classroom situations.”

BEST in CLASS also has a home-school component where teachers send home a daily “behavior report card” to parents, stating in a positive manner the social, emotional and behavioral skills their child is learning that day and suggestions for parents to use at home.

“As children learn early how to positively engage with adults in their environment, they become more prepared to succeed as they enter kindergarten,” Conroy said.

The promise of their pilot study has led to a follow-up, large-scale investigation of the Best in Class intervention by the UF-VCU research team, supported by $4 million over four years from the Institute of Education Sciences. The follow-up project involves 120 prekindergarten teachers in both Florida and Virginia.


CONTACTS
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, UF College of Education; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4382
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Research and engaged scholarship: innovations in STEM education reform

UF College of Education faculty and their graduate students are aggressively pursuing vital research, crossing multiple disciplines, that is making a dramatic impact on teacher preparation, teacher practice and student learning in the vital STEM disciplines–science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That focus is evident in the volume and quality of our grant-funding research projects and programs devoted to STEM education, with many projects involving collaborations and partnerships with Florida school districts.

Here are our current active STEM education-related grants (announced as of February 2014), with the most recently awarded grants listed first.

Lynda Hayes (PKY)
Technology Transformation for Rural School Districts
Florida Department of Education
10/01/2013 – 06/30/2014
$43,315
 
Kent Crippen (STL)                                               
ChANgE Chem: Transforming Chemistry with Cognitive Apprenticeship for Engineers       
National Science Foundation
09/15/2013—08/31/2015          
$194,617             
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Gates Foundation Algebra Nation
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
07/31/2013—06/30/2015          
$250,000
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—PEW
University of Florida Foundation              
05/15/2013—05/30/2014          
$337,959
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—Quantum
University of Florida Foundation              
05/01/2013—06/30/2016          
$905,894
 
Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)                    
Palm Beach Count STEM Initiative—Community
University of Florida Foundation              
06/01/2013—05/31/2015          
$661,203
 
Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-Pi: Dimple Malik Flesner (UFTeach)
Co-Pi: Thomasenia Lott Adams (Dean’s Area, Mathematics Education)
STEM EduGators: UF Noyce Scholars Program
National Science Foundation
September 2012 – August 2017
$1,199,165

T. Griffith Jones (Science Education)
Co-PI: Dimple Malik Flesner (UFTeach)
Co-PI: Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-PI: Thomasenia Adams (Dean’s Area, Mathematics Education)
The Florida STEM- Teacher Induction and Professional Support Center
Florida Department of Education
July 2012 – June 2014
$1,860,639

Elliot Douglas (College of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering)
Co-PI: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (Research and Evaluation Methodology)
Implementing Guided Inquiry in Diverse Institutions
National Science Foundation
January 2012 – December 2014
$92,919
 
Lynda Hayes (PK Yonge)
Co-PI: Rose Pringle (Science Education)
Co-PI: Mary Jo Koroly (Center for Precollegiate Education and Training)
Co-PI: Douglas Levey (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Biology)
U-FUTuRES – University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science
National Science Foundation
October 2011 – September 2016
$5,000,000
 
Timothy Jacobbe (Mathematics Education)
LOCUS: Levels of Conceptual Understanding in Statistics
National Science Foundation
September 2011 – August 2015
$2,078,088

STEM education: grant-funded projects recently expired

*Earliest project expiration date is July 2012

Linda Behar-Horenstein (Educational Leadership)
Co-Pi: Lian Niu (Doctoral Candidate in Higher Education Administration)
Choosing a STEM Major in College: Family Socioeconomic Status, Individual and Institutional Factors
Association for Institutional Research
June 2012 – May 2013
$20,000

Elizabeth Bondy (Curriculum, Teaching, & Teacher Education)
OUTBREAK: Opportunities to Use Immersive Technologies to Explore Biotechnology Resources, Career Education, and Knowledge
University of Missouri (Subcontract)
Funded through the National Science Foundation
September 2011 – August 2012
$32,687
 
Cynthia Griffin (Special Education)
Co-PI: Stephen Pape (Mathematics Education)
Co-PI: Nancy Dana (Curriculum and Instruction)
Prime Online: Teacher Pedagogical content Knowledge and Research-based Practice in Inclusive Elementary Mathematics Classrooms
US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
August 2010 – August 2013
$1,457,085
 
Elliot Douglas (College of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering)
Co-PI: David Therriault (Educational Psychology)
Co-PI: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (Research and Evaluation Methodology)
Empirical Study on Emerging Research: The Role of Epistemological Beliefs and Cognitive Processing on Engineering Students’ Ability to Solve Ambiguous Problems
National Science Foundation
August 2009 – July 2013
$489,296

Cynthia Griffin (Special Education)
Co-PI: Joseph Gagnon (Special Education)
Co-PI: Stephen Pape (Mathematics Education)
Project COMPUTE
US Department of Education – OSERS/OSEP
August 2008 – August 2012
$788,291

Thomas Dana (Dean’s Area, Science Education)
Co-Pi: Alan Dorsey (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Physics)
Florida Teach: Increasing the Quantity & Quality of Mathematics & Science Teachers in Florida
National Math and Science Initiative
November 2007 – July 2012
$2,400,000

Get there fast
Stepping Up in STEM Education 
COE Office of Educational Research

 

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UF education researchers out in force at massive AERA meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

AERA 2014 banner

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, nearly 70 UF College of Education faculty and advanced-degree students were among the 14,000 international scholars who  converged on Philadelphia April 3-7 for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

More UF education faculty and students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s massive annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 31 faculty members and 37 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

— Ambitious teaching within standards-based settings: Lost in the translation?

— The influence of family-school involvement on children’s social, emotional and academic development

— Preservice teachers’ personality traits and creative behaviors as predictors of their support for children’s creativity

— Social networks’ influence on first-generation Latino students’ college selection and enrollment

— The role of practitioner research in preparing the next generation of teacher educators

— Black doctoral student perspective on their persistence in a research-intensive education college

— Success in teacher learning through an online coaching course

— School improvement for early childhood teachers

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology) with six presentations, and Anne Huggins (REM) and Nancy Dana (teacher education) with four each. Five other faculty members and three graduate students were involved in three presentations each.


CONTACT:
Writer: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education | 352-273-4137 | llansford@coe.ufl.edu 

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7-year study aims to boost teaching of state’s English language learners

After $1 million, six years, and data from more than 24,000 elementary school teachers and 72,000 students, three University of Florida education researchers are close to completing a project that could transform the way teachers-in-training prepare to teach Florida schoolchildren whose primary language is not English. 

DSC_5323

Bilingual education professor Maria Coady (left) and UF video production specialist Emily O’Hearn edit case study videos for the new ESOL-infused curriculum that was developed as a result of Project DELTA’s findings. (Photos courtesy of UF College of Journalism and Communications)

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded almost $1.2 million to UF bilingual education professors Maria Coady, Ester de Jong and Candace Harper for Project DELTA, which stands for Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement. Since then, the researchers have been assessing the effects that graduates from UF’s elementary teacher preparation program, called ProTeach, are having on their second language learners.

Now, they are using their findings to ensure that Florida’s future teachers are adequately prepared to teach the state’s growing population of ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) students. The study will run through June 2014.

The researchers will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their research Jan. 29 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, which funded the project. 

The researchers are comparing the academic performance of elementary school second-language students taught by College of Education graduates with that of ESOL students taught by non-UF teachers. By analyzing these numbers, as well as data from surveys and participating teacher-graduates, the team discovered that teachers prepared through ProTeach have a positive effect on the reading and mathematics achievement of the English language learners in their mainstream classrooms. 

The College of Education’s elementary teacher prep program lasts five years, and its graduates earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree plus an ESOL endorsement by the state of Florida. The ProTeach curriculum infuses second language learning and teaching theory into their general education classes such as reading and science instruction. 

“Florida has had the requirement for ESOL endorsement for initial teacher preparation in place since 2001, yet there is little research on what ESOL infusion is or what impact it has on learning,” said de Jong, the project’s principal investigator “Our study aims to fill this gap.” 

Project Delta 1

The Project DELTA team is composed of (from left to right) Candace Harper, Ester de Jong and Maria Coady, bilingual education professors at UF’s College of Education.

Despite the positive implications of the data, the surveys and case studies revealed that, although UF graduates feel confident about using visuals for their second-language students and ensuring that all students feel comfortable in the classroom, they are still wary of teaching language-specific instruction, which involves explicit lessons on grammar and other fundamental language principles. 

“Most of our students are monolingual and many haven’t had the experience of learning a second language beyond their high school foreign language classes, so showing them how language plays a role in the classroom can be challenging,” de Jong said. 

With this new information, the research team seeks to transform the College of Education’s ESOL curriculum so elementary teacher-candidates will have more in-class opportunities to practice second language teaching strategies. 

The revised curriculum also shows education students how teaching materials in mainstream subject areas can be modified for English learners. According to de Jong, the traditional curriculum focused more on ESOL-specific materials, but this new change will help teachers-in-training “think about taking the mainstream content they will be teaching and making adaptations accordingly.” 

“Because they are mainstream teachers, they have to contend with mainstream materials, but through this ESOL infusion model, we give them real tools to be critical of those materials and make sound decisions for second language learners,” de Jong said. 

DSC_5314

As part of Project Delta, the researchers produced a video featuring Kim Cook pictured on computer monitor), who was selected as a model teacher for the ESOL case study videos.

Co-researcher Maria Coady is producing two case study videos for the new curriculum. The videos feature UF alumnae Kim Cook and Sasha Abreu as model teachers, chosen for their “exemplary teaching of English language learning students,” Coady said. The videos showcase examples of grouping strategies, literacy instruction, ESOL strategies, communication with parents of English learners, and the use of multicultural literature in mainstream elementary classrooms. 

De Jong said they plan on showing the videos to UF elementary education students and also offering them online as instructional resources. 

“We hope these videos and the accompanying guide will be useful for teacher-educators across the state and nation,” Coady said. “We also believe they are useful products to guide state and national policies on teacher education and English language teaching and learning.” 

In the project’s final year, the researchers are poised to test and evaluate their ESOL infusion model within UF’s elementary education program by observing and tracking the influence of the experimental curriculum on teacher effectiveness and student achievement and acquiring feedback from the course instructors. 

“Improving teacher preparation for English language learners is important, as the number of bilingual students who are placed in mainstream classrooms continues to increase,” de Jong said. “Developments such as Common Core Standards make it even more imperative that teachers understand their ESOL students and develop the knowledge and skills to ensure equal access to a high-quality curriculum for these students.”


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor of bilingual education, edejong@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4227
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications office, UF College of Education
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications office, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Study reveals ‘digital divide’ among state’s middle schoolers

 GAINESVILLE, Fla.—A new achievement gap is developing among Florida middle-school students based on their access to technology and whether they understand how to use it, according to University of Florida education researchers. 

They say this “digital divide” is rooted in how students’ socioeconomic status, gender and ethnic background affect their computer savvy. 

Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

UF education technology researchers Albert Ritzhaupt and Kara Dawson, and colleagues from the American Institutes for Research and the University of South Florida, investigated the growing digital divide among almost 6,000 middle school students from 13 school districts in the state. Their findings were reported recently in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 

The researchers evaluated the students’ computer skills and also found that their interaction with technology “wasn’t all that equitable.” 

“Students and professionals have to increasingly operate in a digital world,” said Ritzhaupt, co-principal investigator and lead author of the research report. “This body of knowledge and skill has touched virtually every sector of the economy, and we have a responsibility in public education to prepare students to enter this workforce.” 

Kara Dawson

Kara Dawson

To identify potential discrepancies among the students, the researchers determined three characteristics that could form a digital divide: access to technology and the Internet in their schools, how and how often they used the technology in the classroom, and their computer skill levels.

The researchers then administered a performance-based exam in a simulated software environment. Some questions asked students to search the Internet for relevant information, requiring knowledge of what search terms to use, how to discriminate between credible and relevant findings, and how to apply this information to their assignments. The skills tested are based on the 2008 National Educational Technology Standards for Students. 

The study revealed that students with lower socioeconomic backgrounds performed poorer than the more affluent students. Non-white students also scored lower. However, females outperformed males, which Ritzhaupt said is inconsistent with previous findings. 

“The problem is that one of the things the state is pushing is digital learning and computer-based state testing, and our schools aren’t ready for this,” Ritzhaupt said. “Students need more technical support, more training and more resources.” 

Ritzhaupt said it will take more than money to narrow this technology divide. He said schools can build relationships with community partners to get resources, provide professional development to teachers, and support students in raising their technology acumen. 

Schools can transform into community centers to share knowledge and access to others in the community, he said, and district administrators can provide incentives to teachers who integrate meaningful digital lessons into their classrooms and schools. 

“There are many things that can be done, but we have to first acknowledge that a serious problem exists,” Ritzhaupt said.


CONTACT
SOURCE: Albert Ritzhaupt, associate professor, education technology, UF College of Education, 352-273-4180
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137

 

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Study promotes early learning in everyday activities for infants, toddlers with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a multi-center study, Florida and Illinois researchers are testing a promising approach to help parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers with disabilities advance their child’s learning through everyday activities and routines.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

The researchers, from Florida State University, the University of Florida College of Education and the University of Illinois at Chicago, have received a highly competitive grant worth $1.5 million from the federal Institute of Education Sciences to develop and test an early intervention strategy for the people most important in these young children’s lives—the parents, grandparents or others entrusted with their daily care and well-being.

The project’s co-principal investigators are Patricia Snyder, professor and holder of the David J. Lawrence Jr. endowed chair in early childhood studies at UF; Juliann Woods, a professor of communication sciences and disorders at FSU; and Christine Salisbury, a special education professor at UIC.

“Learning begins at birth,” Snyder said. “Infants and toddlers—especially those with disabilities—benefit from responsive interactions and early-learning experiences in everyday activities.” 

The new approach, known as EPIC (short for embedded practices and intervention with caregivers), teaches therapists, teachers and other early-learning practitioners how to help parents and caregivers recognize and capitalize on the countless learning opportunities that occur in a child’s daily routine—in common activities like playing peek-a-boo, drinking from a cup, rolling a ball or getting into a car seat.

“Early intervention for young children with disabilities traditionally has involved practitioners working directly with the child. Very little time is spent supporting regular interactions and learning opportunities between the parents and child,” said Woods of FSU.

The EPIC team is developing a “curriculum” for early-intervention providers with guidelines for coaching parents to incorporate responsive learning experiences into their children’s everyday activities. Feedback from the practitioners will aid the researchers in field-testing and finalizing the coaching and intervention processes.

“With this intervention approach, caregivers of young children with significant disabilities will learn how to enhance their interactions in meaningful and useful activities to support learning,” said Salisbury of UIC.

The two-state EPIC project is one of only 13 projects funded this year by the Institute of Education Sciences out of more than 900 applications, due to federal budget cuts.

Researchers say the new approach could benefit tens of thousands of America’s youngest children. According to U.S. Department of Education figures, nearly 350,000 infants and toddlers under age 3 who have disabilities are enrolled annually in federal programs providing early intervention services. About one in every five, or 70,000 children, has a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to impede normal development. Among the conditions are Down’s syndrome, impaired vision or hearing, neurological impairments, social and emotional delays, and other genetic conditions.

Recent studies identify the use of “embedded instruction” in everyday activities as a recommended practice for young preschoolers with disabilities, but researchers say additional studies are needed to identify the best methods for showing parents how to engage their children in these natural learning opportunities.

A core element of the EPIC intervention is a set of five questions—the “5Q process”—with accompanying visual cues that help parents recognize an opportune time, place, or activity to teach their child, how and what to teach, what their goals and expectations are, and how to know if it’s working.

“Visual cues might be a video clip or a cell phone app, or simply an eraser board message on the refrigerator reminding parents about mealtime teaching opportunities,” Snyder said. “The five questions quickly become second nature in daily interactions with their child.”

The three-year study started in June at each university site in Florida and Chicago with focus groups and a review panel of practitioners and parents evaluating the EPIC intervention and resource materials. A small tryout trial involving eight children and their families, and their intervention providers, will follow to confirm the method’s feasibility and acceptance by participating providers and families and to adjust the intervention as needed.

In the second year, researchers will further test the intervention with three individual children with disabilities and their families; the final phase in Year 3 culminates with a pilot comparative study of two groups—an EPIC test group and another receiving traditional intervention—involving 20 families in Florida and 20 in Illinois.

“We anticipate our study results will support the need for larger-scale studies to demonstrate that EPIC is an effective, recommended approach in early intervention,” Snyder said.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, the Lawrence Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER/NEWS DESK: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137;llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Counselor ed study links life stressors to students’ reading scores

Counselor-Ed-researchers-H-Daniels-et-al-3-22-crppd

From left: Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, Dia Harden, a 2010 doctoral graduate (who participated in UF’s original “geo-demographic” study), and Eric Thompson, who received his doctorate this summer. (File photo)

As researchers across the country continue the search for early indicators of academic failure and dropouts, University of Florida education researchers are paying particularly close attention to warning signs predicting reading test scores.

Eric Thompson, a summer doctoral graduate in counselor education at UF’s College of Education, recently completed his dissertation research in which he dissected the causes of a reading achievement gap found among Alachua County students in third through 10th grades.

According to Thompson, the cause of low reading achievement may be rooted in how vulnerable a student has been to stressful circumstances in life, including a low socioeconomic level, minority status, and even low birth weight, which affect academic performance.

One of Thompson’s most significant findings is a striking difference in students’ achievement based on their socioeconomic status.

“Students living in low socioeconomic environments are more likely to encounter more risk factors and experience fewer supports,” Thompson said.

Although this research finding may not surprise some, Thompson said, he and his co-primary investigator Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, were able to uncover and describe exactly why such performance gaps occur. 

Their studies showed that the least affluent students scored about 300 points less than their more affluent peers on the FCAT reading exam. Thompson also discovered that most affluent groups started with very high scores in the third grade, while the least affluent students started very low and stayed low throughout their schooling. 

Low socioeconomic level was primarily determined by looking at each student’s family and community lifestyles based on spending patterns, credit card data and other related information. 

However, Thompson’s research showed that students with a low socioeconomic level have also experienced other stressful life circumstances. Compared to students with a middle- to a high-socioeconomic level, the least affluent students were born at a lower birth weight; had parents who were younger and “potentially less mature” when the students were born; had parents with a lower level of education and a higher rate of unemployment; and are currently enrolled in schools with a higher percentage of students with free-and-reduced lunch and a larger population of minority students.

“It would appear from the onset that these students are at more risk for poor academic performance than those in the more affluent group,” Thompson said.

For his doctoral research, Thompson studied students’ reading scores between 2004 and 2011 and tracked trends based on four variables: each student’s biological qualities like gestational age and ethnicity, characteristics about each student’s family including parents’ education, the student’s school demographics, and the lifestyles of those in the student’s community. Thompson calls this the “individual-family-school-community model.”

“You have growth and maturation in the biological domain, including genetics and personality, and the social domain, which includes family, school, community,” Thompson said. “Within this intersection, you have risk and protective factors that relate to stress. The cumulative effect of stressors like poverty, family life and peer stress accumulates through time and can inhibit learning.”

The study also showed that not only did these individual, family, school and community characteristics differ among socioeconomic groups, but their influence on academic risk also differed. For example, minority status and the presence of minority students in their school did not affect affluent students’ performance. Thompson said that students living in a low-socioeconomic environment may receive fewer social and academic supports.

Thompson’s recent research is a follow-up of a 2010 “geo-demographics” study by a UF team that documented a profound correlation between home location, family lifestyles and students’ achievement on state standardized tests.

“While school improvement and teaching quality are vital, we are demonstrating that the most important factor in student learning may be the children’s lifestyle and the early learning opportunities they receive at home,” Daniels said.

Thompson and Daniels hope their findings shed light on the increasing need to tailor classroom and counseling activities so each student’s individual needs are being met.

“It would be irresponsible to treat every child the exact same way because every student comes from a different background and experience,” Thompson said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we help students develop a lifestyle conducive to academic success? How can we adjust the delivery of education to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds?’”


 CONTACTS
SOURCE: Eric Thompson, doctoral graduate in counselor education from the UF College of Education, 352-328-9571, erict56@ufl.edu
SOURCE: Harry Daniels, professor of counselor education at the UF College of Education, 352-273-4321, harryd@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu

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STL doctoral fellow named national scholar for research, social justice promotion

JulieBrownJulie Brown, a UF doctoral fellow in curriculum and instruction, has been named as one of six Jhumki Basu Scholars by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching’s Equity and Ethics Committee.

Brown is a former high school science teacher and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s elementary science coordinator.

At UF’s College of Education, Brown researches and designs professional development for secondary science teachers as a means of enhancing their ability to provide culturally responsive and inquiry-based instruction. Her STARTS – Science Teachers Are Responsive To Students – professional development model, for example, is designed to empower science teachers in high-need, urban school districts.

Brown’s professional development model is incorporated within a major partnership being forged between UF and the School District of Palm Beach County. It’s part of an ambitious effort to position the school system as a national leader in the recruitment and retention of master teachers in the STEM subjects who can lead their students to the highest levels of academic success.

“Science education must be accessible to all students,” Brown said. “Increasing culturally-responsive science education’s presence on a wide scale begins with teacher preparation.”

The Basu Scholars Program supports and nurtures promising young scholars who promote social justice. The program also provides scholars with a $700 research scholarship.

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PKY-COE host gathering to map out transformation of middle school science education

Bolstered by a $5 million grant last year from the National Science Foundation, a collaborating faculty research team from P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and UF’s College of Education has been studying how to transform middle school science curricula and improve student learning. Team leaders recently hosted 40 teachers and administrators from 10 partnering, rural school districts at P.K. Yonge to discuss strategies for meeting those goals.

The gathering was the first of a quarterly series of meetings scheduled for the five-year project, named U-FUTuRES, or University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science. To facilitate the transformation effort, the researchers have created a Science Teacher Leadership Institute to train teacher-leaders to lead district-wide implementation of a new, research-proven, middle school science curriculum.

UF science education professor Rose Pringle works with students in a P.K. Yonge middle school science class.

The researchers’ aim is to narrow the gap in science learning between American students and their peers in higher performing nations.

At the core of this initiative is the new curriculum called IQWST, or Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology. P.K. Yonge and several other institute-partnering schools are already pioneering the new middle school science curriculum design, which has students conducting daily investigations of science phenomena, learning how to use scientific reasoning to support their claims, drawing on past science learning and experiences, and developing critical thinking skills.

During last month’s institute meeting, the developers and researchers behind IQWST—P.K.  Yonge director Lynda Hayes, UF science educator Rose Pringle, and Joe Krajcik from Michigan State University—explained how to implement the new curriculum, as well as how to support existing science teachers in Palm Beach County.

Hayes is the principal investigator of the NSF grant; Pringle and Krajcik are co-PIs. Krajcik told the visiting educators that the IQWST curriculum will align with the more rigid K-12 science standards now being developed by a collaborative of more than half of the states.

“Visiting faculty left impressed by P.K. Yonge students’ use of scientific terms, their critical thinking skills, and the level of activity in the P.K. Yonge science classes,” Hayes said.

Now in the third year of using the IQWST curriculum, P.K. Yonge science instructors in the middle grades report significant improvements in student learning in their classes. According to Hayes, school faculty consider last year’s 10 percent increase in the number of students scoring at level 3 or above (on a scale of 5) on the 8th grade FCAT science test a positive trend resulting from their efforts to change the way their science curriculum works.

“Partnerships supported by this project show promise in a broad scale transformation of middle school science education to meet the needs of today’s students and to plant seeds for tomorrow’s scientists,” Hayes said.

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UF gets $1.2 million to prepare science, math teachers for state’s high-needs schools

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some experts are challenging the widespread notion of an overall worker shortage in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, but the paucity of schoolteachers in those vital subject areas is well documented.

That’s why the University of Florida has heightened emphasis on attracting more qualified STEM majors into the teaching ranks. The latest milestone is a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation announced Monday by UF officials. The five-year funding allows UF’s College of Education to start offering major scholarship support and hands-on training opportunities this semester to recruit and prepare top science and math majors for teaching careers, mainly in Florida’s neediest middle and high schools.

UF science education instructor Griffin Jones helps UFTeach student Ibn Ali in an experiment. (UFCOE file staff photos by Larry Lansford)

The NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program funds higher-education institutions to support scholarships, stipends and academic programs for STEM majors who pursue a teaching credential and commit to teaching at least two years in high-needs public school districts.

Over the next five years, UF will award Noyce scholarships worth $10,000 each to 50 undergraduate students enrolled in a program called UFTeach, which uses imaginative recruiting strategies to attract some of the university’s best students and exposes them to teaching through intensive, supervised classroom experiences in high-poverty schools. UFTeach is a joint effort of the colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Enrolled students continue their science or math major while also pursuing a minor in education and most of the professional educator requirements. The scholarships will usually kick in for selected students during their senior year, when most UFTeach students serve their semester-long, full-time internship in a middle or high school science or math class.

“The senior year can be difficult for UFTeach students. The classroom-based apprentice-teaching course demands significant student time and attention. The Noyce scholarships will allow the students to focus on their apprenticeships in the classroom and ease their financial concerns,” said UF science education professor Tom Dana, the co-director of UFTeach and the principal investigator of the NSF-backed effort, which UF has dubbed the STEM EduGators program. “EduGators” is a traditional nickname for students, alumni and other stakeholders of the College of Education.

UF COE master mathematics teacher Gloria Weber assists UFTeach student Heather MacNeill in an exercise.

Another 90 UFTeach students, or 18 per year, will each receive stipends of nearly $5,000 while serving summer internships in informal science education settings such as the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF, zoos, botanical parks and nature centers. Interns must first attend an orientation and “boot camp” promoting learning in informal education settings.

“The informal teaching experience will help interns build their toolkit of ideas and teaching strengths and help them develop strategies for engaging a wide variety of learners in their classrooms,” said UFTeach associate director Dimple Flesner, the co-principal investigator of STEM EduGators. “This type of awareness and insight cannot be easily gained in the traditional settings in which teachers learn.”

Flesner said the interns also will participate in a mentored STEMS EduGator online community of students, faculty and staff to share insights, concerns and “aha moments” they experience during their summer internships.

She said the grant also pays for hiring staff, research and program evaluation, travel for interns, recruitment promotion and overhead expenses.

The NSF-Noyce scholarship program is just the latest initiative the College of Education has launched to bolster teaching and learning in the STEM subjects. The UFTeach program received a state workforce policy board’s Best Practices Award in 2011 for its role in addressing the critical shortage of math and science teachers. The newest NSF project follows on the heels of a $2 million state grant awarded to the college last October to create prototype “teacher induction” programs to support Florida science and math teachers in their first two years on the job.

An earlier NSF grant in 2011 pairs the College of Education with its K-12 laboratory school, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, in a $5 million campaign to boost student achievement in middle schools by improving science content knowledge among practicing teachers.

“Teachers have the greatest impact on student learning. Our country’s future success in this global economy requires college graduates who are literate in science, math and technology and can drive innovation, lead scientific discoveries and become engaged, informed citizens,” Dana said. “This means providing students with a much stronger foundation in the STEM subjects beginning in middle and high school.”


CONTACTS
Source: Tom Dana, UF College of Education, tdana@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4134
Source: Dimple Flesner, associate director, UFTeach, dimple@ufl.edu, 352-273-4189
Writer: Larry Lansford, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4147

 

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COE, UF partner with Colombian schools to improve human rights law

For more than 45 years, Colombia has been barraged by a civil war that has resulted in significant violations of human rights.

Now, amid the recent decline of overt war in the South American country, the University of Florida’s College of Education, Levin College of Law and the Center for Latin American Studies have partnered to establish a human rights center at two Colombian law schools closest to the center of conflict.

Mendoza

“Things have settled down compared to the 1990s, but there’s still things going on,” said Pilar Mendoza, a College of Education assistant professor in higher education administration who was born in Colombia. Mendoza is the co-partnership director and co-principal investigator for the project grant.

The three-year effort will be partially funded by the national Higher Education for Development (HED) office with a grant of more than $757,000. The national office works closely with the United States Agency for International Development to mobilize the expertise and resources of the American higher education community to address global development challenges. The participating institutions also provide financial support for the effort.

The human rights center will have an office at the Colombian law schools of the Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta and the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla. The center will offer professional training for law professors, research opportunities, human rights clinics and outreach programs including one in which law students will teach the local Colombian community about human rights.

“The University of Florida faculty at the colleges of Law and Education, and at the Center for Latin American Studies, possess great depth in international law, human rights and experiential learning, and are well suited to achieve the goals of this ambitious program,” said College of Law Dean Robert Jerry.

Although the project has just begun, Mendoza said some important infrastructure is already in place. For example, Mendoza and faculty from the College of Education’s Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) unit will lead the assessment and monitoring of the new center’s effects.

“The U.S. government is really interested in ensuring what they’re devoting resources to is actually accomplishing the end goals that it sets out to achieve,” said Pedro Villarreal, a CAPES consultant and clinical assistant professor of higher education administration.

The collaboration with Colombian partners began last summer when Mendoza taught a seminar in educational leadership at la Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, her alma mater, opening the doors to other projects related to the development of higher education in the region.

Then, last May, HED announced a grant opportunity for three U.S. law schools that would partner with Colombian law schools to enhance their programs related to human rights in the Colombian Caribbean.

“I had been involved with Colombia in other projects, and this partnership came at the right time,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the partnership is particularly important because it serves as a learning opportunity for the Colombian community, as well as for the United States.

“There are a lot things we can learn from other nations about the way we do things here,” Mendoza said. “We have enough domestic problems here, and I do think it’s beneficial to have an open mind to learn from other models and other systems. Maybe there are better ways to do things.”


SOURCE: Pilar Mendoza, assistant professor in higher education administration, pilar.mendoza@ufl.edu; 352-273-4309
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, new media coordinator, news and communications, UF College of Education; aklopez@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4449
MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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‘Tools for getting along’ helps schoolchildren solve social conflicts

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida special education researchers have found a method to help at-risk students with significant behavioral problems learn to calm aggressive tendencies and actively solve their social conflicts.

Researchers Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic

For the past 15 years, UF College of Education researchers Stephen Smith, the Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professor, and associate scholar Ann Daunic have been developing a curriculum that would target these students’ problem-solving skills. The curriculum, Tools for Getting Along, known as TFGA, gives upper elementary students processes for approaching social problems rationally.

“A lot of times when kids are having a social conflict with another person, it can be emotion-laden,” Smith said. “Because of that, they can end up with an irrational approach to solving their problems, often through physical or verbal aggression, or some other inappropriate behavior that doesn’t really achieve what they want to achieve.”

Daunic and Smith’s latest evaluation of their problem-solving curriculum appeared in a spring issue of the Journal of School Psychology. Smith said the paper is the first to reveal the curriculum’s effectiveness.

In the study, the curriculum was randomly assigned to about half of the 87 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms observed in 14 schools in North Central Florida with the other half receiving no intervention. Almost 1,300 students participated in the study.

Between 70 and 87 percent of the students in both groups studied received free and reduced price lunch, an attribute of socioeconomic status that can contribute to risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties. The researchers also considered gender and race, which can also be associated with this risk.

“While the target of Tools for Getting Along is children who have difficulties, it’s also a preventive curriculum because it is implemented classwide with the idea that peers will help at-risk children see that there are other ways to solve problems that are more productive,” Daunic said.

The curriculum contains instructional lessons, role-play scenarios, small-group activities and practice opportunities. Then, the effects of tool kit’s 27 lessons were evaluated through teacher and student self-reports, observations and other measures.

Smith said the most significant findings of the recent study measuring TFGA’s effects were the improvements in teacher ratings of students’ “executive functions” — a psychological term describing a set of mental processes, including attention flexibility, working memory for temporarily storing and organizing information, and inhibitory control—that help us regulate our emotions and behaviors in new situations.

With better attention flexibility, students are able to shift their attention from being on the aggressive offense in a social conflict to thinking through alternative strategies. Improvement in working memory and inhibitory control enhances students’ ability to stop and think before acting upon emotions.

“I think this shows a good example of what teachers can do for kids to allow them to equip themselves with a way to handle their own behavior,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity for students to learn how to control behavior when teachers aren’t there to manage it for them, like at recess, in the cafeteria, on the school bus and at home.”

Daunic said that the study’s results are particularly important in light of current research in neuropsychology and neuroscience that ties children’s emotional well-being with their behavior in school and academic success.

“As more research comes out about the brain and how we learn, there’s more support for interventions that help young people regulate their emotions and regulate their thought processes socially and academically,” Daunic said. “What makes me feel good about this kind of work is that there’s more and more evidence about its importance.”

According to Daunic, positive effects of Tools for Getting Along have endured even a year after the study took place. The researchers are now writing a paper about the curriculum’s longer-term effects and analyzing more data. Their findings will then be reviewed by national educational review panels, or clearinghouses, and considered for designation as a preferred, “evidence-based practice” in education.

The curriculum is available for purchase by teachers and schools at https://education.ufl.edu/conflict-resolution. 


CONTACTS
    Source: Stephen W. Smith, UF professor of special education, 352-273-4263; swsmith@coe.ufl.edu
Writer:
Alexa Lopez, UF College of Education, news and communications, 352-273-4449
    Media contact: Larry Lansford, director, UF College of Education news & communication, 352-273-4137

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Studying abroad found to boost creative thinking

Co-researchers: David Therriault, associate professor in educational psychology, and graduate student Christine Lee

When American college students travel overseas to study, they often seek deep cultural immersion, adventures among historic sites, culinary and artistic exploration and a life-changing learning experience.

Now, according to a new study out of the University of Florida’s College of Education, study-abroad students can also expect one more benefit: enhanced creativity.

UF researchers have found evidence for a link between studying abroad and creativity, showing that exposure to other cultures benefits creative-thinking skills. The research team was made up of graduate student Christine Lee, David Therriault, an associate professor of Educational Psychology, and Tracy Linderholm, a dean at Georgia Southern University and a former UF education professor.

In this study, Lee, Therriault, and Linderholm showed that the “cultural experiences from living abroad may have wide-reaching benefits on students’ creativity,” according to their research article, published recently in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

A 2009 study at Northwestern University first identified a potential relationship between multicultural experiences and enhanced creativity. The UF study confirmed the earlier finding by comparing a group of students who were immersed in a foreign country for an extended period of time to existing groups of students who have not studied abroad.

The researchers analyzed the creative mental processes of 135 students from UF, who were recruited by an online participant pool from the College of Education and on-campus International Center.

The volunteers were divided into three groups of 45 students each: those who had studied abroad, those who were planning to study abroad and students who had no plans of studying abroad. Each student completed two measures of creativity to test their general and culture-specific creative thinking.

For example, one of the activities on the general test asked participants to draw pictures using nine identical isosceles triangles and two unfinished figures.

The second task, designed by the UF researchers, tested culture-specific creative ability. Students were asked to answer questions like “What steps can you suggest that would get many more foreign people to come to [America] as tourists?” and “Suppose you had access to any ingredient from all over the world. Describe the dishes you would create using a combination of the most unique and/or exotic ingredients you can think of.”

Results showed that students who had studied abroad outperformed both groups in those tests. Lee said a surprising finding was that the study-abroad students not only performed better on the culture-specific task, but on the general test as well.

“One implication of this finding is that experiences abroad facilitate students’ ability to think in more innovative ways,” Lee said. “The ability to not only master course content but to also creatively apply that knowledge is important for students as they enter the real world.”

The researchers said future studies on the creativity-study abroad link is needed to investigate the influence of other factors such as students’ ethnic backgrounds and the location and length of their study abroad.

“It’s important to understand the complex blend of influences that may explain the link found in this study,” Therriault said.


CONTACTS
SOURCE: David Therriault, 352-273-4345, therriault@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, 352-273-4449, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Special Education team awarded $25 million to advance teaching of students with disabilities

The University of Florida’s College of Education will receive $25 million over the next five years to address a concern that has plagued American schools for more than two decades—inadequate teaching of children with disabilities.

Mary Brownell

Paul Sindelar

Erica McCray

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in December granted the first of five annual, $5 million awards to the education college to establish a center to support the development of effective teachers—in general and special education classrooms–and education leaders to serve students with disabilities.

“This grant represents the (Education Department’s) largest investment ever in improving education for students with disabilities,” said co-principal investigator and UF special education professor Mary Brownell.

She said the new Collaboration for Effective Educator Development and Accountability and Reform, also known as CEEDAR Center, will open in January in Norman Hall, home of the College of Education. Other UF co-principal investigators are Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, also in special education.

Brownell said the CEEDAR Center will work with states in strengthening professional standards and reforming preparation and certification programs for general and special education teachers, and school and school district leaders who work with students with disabilities. The center also will help states revise their teacher evaluation systems to align with the higher professional standards.

“Studies establish that our current systems for licensing, preparing, developing, supporting and evaluating teachers to effectively instruct students with unique needs are wholly inadequate,” Brownell said. “The CEEDAR Center approach is to reform and align these areas with research-proven practices and professional standards.”

“This grant will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of all students,” she said. “Students with disabilities perform in school more poorly than any other subgroup of students. With truly effective instruction, though, many of these students have abilities that will allow them to advance and succeed in college, career and other postsecondary options.”

Through the CEEDAR Center, the UF group is partnering with nine other organizations in plans to eventually roll out a special-education reform program to 20 states. The center’s primary partner is the American Institutes for Research. Other collaborators include the University of Kansas, the New Teacher Center (a national non-profit), the University of Washington at Bothell, the Council for Exceptional Children and several other national professional organizations.


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF professor of special education, mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu; (c) 352-273-4261; (h) 352-331-2404
SOURCE: Paul Sindelar, UF professor of special education, pts@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4266
SOURCE: Erica McCray, UF assistant professor of special education, edm@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4264
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Ford Foundation aids UF Latino immigrant education effort

UF bilingual/ESOL education professor Maria Coady will play a leading role in a $400,000 initiative of UF’s Center for Latin American Studies to develop an interdisciplinary outreach program on immigration, religion and social change.

 The center recently received a two-year grant for that amount from the Ford Foundation to develop effective modules of intervention, exchange and outreach addressing the urgent needs of immigrant Latino communities in North Florida and other southeastern states. Program for Immigration, Religion, and Social Change (PIRSC)–the three-part grant project–focuses on intersecting immigrant Latinos and churches but also ties into legal rights, education, and health care.

 The center is partnering with nongovernmental organizations in the region and faculty in the colleges of Education, Nursing and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Outreach support comes during a highly polarized climate of growing hostility toward immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the five states with the fastest growth rates in Latino populations were along the south, where controversial anti-illegal immigration bills have appeared.

 “The intense pressures experienced by many new immigrants and the lack of social services available to strengthen their neighborhoods and communities have created serious social and cultural tensions in many parts of the South,” Coady said. “There is a clear danger of generating a new, permanent underclass living at the margins of society. We want to see people integrated into communities and able to move forward in life.”

 As principal investigator of the grant’s education portion, which draws $85,000 in support from the Ford award, Coady will lead efforts with local schools to train educators and community leaders, and build family-school-community partnerships based on a “family-strengths-based approach” in Levy and Marion Counties, Fla., and other communities being identified in southeastern Alabama.

Coady has hired Abigail Nelson, a spring 2012 master of education graduate, to work with her.  She is also collaborating with the Rural Women’s Health Project, UF’s College of Nursing and the Center for Latin American Studies to provide training and services to new Latino immigrants.

“A family-strength based approach is grounded in the notion that families, in particular linguistic and culturally diverse families, bring resources to the communities and schools where they live,” Coady said. “These resources can–and should–be used by educators for teaching and to build a partnership with families that benefit kids.”

Her educational project is one of three main initiatives. The Ford Foundation grant supports developing a network of local organizations working in the area on immigrant integration and local civic engagement. Health care access is another focus, with researchers developing and evaluating a community-health worker intervention program to improve health literacy and health-care access among immigrants in the South.

Many of the educational and outreach services—including informational events, retreats, conferences and workshops co-sponsored with faith-based organizations—will be provided in church settings, where immigrants often turn for help and solidarity, Coady said.

A Newcomer Center in Levy County will open this fall, offering bilingual materials that explain how schools work, school enrollment packets and information about clinics and healthcare.

Coady is recognized as an international authority in bilingual and ESOL education. The Institute of International Education’s Fulbright Specialist program, which connects top educators and other professionals in the United States to institutions in more than 100 countries, selected her earlier this year as a candidate in teaching English as a second language and applied linguistics. She has the opportunity to create and engage in short-term projects at an institution or country in need.

She joined UF’s College of Education faculty in 2003 and became a tenured professor in the School of Teaching and Learning in 2010. Coady earned her doctorate degree in social, bilingual and multicultural foundations of education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 



CONTACTS

    SOURCE:
Maria Coady, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4228; mcoady@coe.ufl.edu
    WRITER:
Nicole La Hoz, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449; nicdyelah@coe.ufl.edu
    MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Award reflects McCray’s rise as top scholar in special education

A diverse and potent research agenda—focusing on (of course) diversity and equity along the teacher-education pipeline—has helped University of Florida special education instructor Erica McCray win a 2012 UF Excellence Award for Assistant Professors.

The awards, presented by the university’s Provost’s Office, recognize junior faculty for excellence in research. Each award is a onetime allocation of $5,000 in support of research that can be used to fund travel, equipment, books, graduate students and other research-related expenses.

Now in her fifth year as assistant professor at UF’s College of Education, McCray has quickly drawn national and international attention for her work. She recently received an Outstanding Author Contribution Award from the Emerald Literati Network for a book chapter resulting from her study of black women scholars teaching at predominately white colleges of education. Her research activities, also involving teacher quality and professional development and K-12 student experiences, have generated more than $4 million in collaborative, highly competitive grant support.

She also is a consultant on two training grants worth more than $2 million.

“My goal is to prepare pre-service teachers who are skilled and have a strong sense of self-efficacy to teach students with special needs, as well as students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” said McCray, who earned her doctorate in special education from the University of South Florida in 2006 and was a visiting instructor there for a year before joining the UF faculty in 2007.

At UF, McCray made an instant impact as a special education instructor and mentor, receiving the College of Education’s Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2009. She also served as a research associate with the UF-based National Center to Inform Policy and Practice in Special Education Professional Development (NCIPP). Her research is widely published in highly regarded journals including Teacher Education Quarterly and the Journal of Special Education Leadership.

Her intriguing assortment of research topics also includes studies on the experiences of students enrolled in magnet schools and on the perspectives of K-12 students on their literacy and technology experiences.

“Professor McCray established herself quickly as a talented instructor and she is moving rapidly toward becoming a national leader in her field,” said Jean Crockett, professor and director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies.


 CONTACTS   

   SOURCE: Erica McCray, UF assistant professor in special education, edm@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4264
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Researcher-author on teacher ‘inquiry’ tapped for elite UF professorship

University of Florida education professor and best-selling author Nancy Fichtman Dana, recognized nationally for her research and books on novel strategies in school reform and professional development for educators, has been named a UF Research Foundation Professor for 2012-2015.

Dana, a professor in the College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, is one of 33 UF faculty scholars selected for the prestigious posts. The University of Florida Research Foundation awards the professorships annually to tenured faculty who have a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that is likely to lead to continuing distinction in their fields. The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support their research.

Dana is one of the nation’s top scholars in the field of “practitioner inquiry” or action research, a novel approach to professional development for teachers, principals and other school administrators.  The process involves educators assessing their own practices, and then sharing what they learn with their peers to foster “whole school” improvement and enhanced student learning.

“Teachers are in the best position to identify problems in the classroom and find workable solutions. Rather than having outsiders come to schools and tell them how to fix their problems, we’re encouraging schools to take charge of their own professional development,” Dana said. “We coach them on becoming more reflective, analytical and critical of their own teaching, and then taking action to improve their classroom practices.”

“This self-reflecting and sharing process,” she adds, “allows schools to improve from within.”

Dana has coached the action research of thousands of educators from school districts across the state and nation, and has published eight books and more than 50 journal articles and book chapters on teacher and principal professional development and practitioner inquiry.

Two of her books—guides to classroom research and coaching inquiry-based learning communities in schools, respectively—were best sellers. The latter was chosen 2008 Book of the Year by the National Staff Development Council.  She recently published an electronic version of her 2010 book, “Powerful Professional Development: Building Expertise Within the Four Walls of Your School.”

Her publisher, Corwin Press, has an author’s website for Dana at: http://www.corwin.com/authors/522546.

Dana’s research on practitioner inquiry forms the core of the college’s innovative, on-the-job Teacher Leadership for School Improvement graduate degree program, which the Association of Teacher Educators cited as the 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education.

“Dr. Dana is an exceptionally productive scholar and she continues to probe the possibilities and impact of practitioner inquiry, extending her work to special education teachers and the use of the latest Web technologies,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Dana is working with UF education colleagues Cynthia Griffin (in special education) and Stephen Pape (mathematics education) to develop and evaluate an extensive online professional development program for third through fifth grade teachers focused on the teaching and learning of math. Their work is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences.

Dana has a doctorate in elementary education from Florida State and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from State University of New York at Oswego. In 2009, the New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the New York Association of Teacher Educators dually presented Dana with the New York Teacher Impact Award.

Dana joined UF’s education faculty from Penn State in 2003 and directed UF’s Center for School Improvement through 2010.  She received the national ATE organization’s Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award in 2005.

More recently, she has helped the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning redesign professional development programs for several Florida school districts, with practitioner inquiry at the core.

She said her future research activities will focus on gauging the effectiveness of practitioner inquiry on K-12 virtual school educators, and on helping general and special education teachers use action research to meet the mathematical learning needs of all students, including those with disabilities.

 


CONTACTS

   SOURCE: Nancy Dana, professor, UF College of Education, ndana@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4204

   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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‘Opportunity’ research will boost interventions for children with autism

Fresh off winning a highly competitive seed grant from the University of Florida’s Office of Research, UF College of Education professor Maureen Conroy aims to fill a critical gap in intervention options addressing core social and communication learning deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, a complex, neurological developmental disorder that affects more than 240,000 American children and young adults.

Although no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms, people with the disorder typically have difficulty communicating with others and are socially awkward or prefer to stay to themselves.

“Social skill deficits are the most distinguishable feature of children with autism, but little research has been conducted to explain the intentions behind occasional displays of positive social behavior,” Conroy said. “Determining the primary reasons these children engage in positive or ‘prosocial’ behavior—perhaps to get attention, get their way or escape an uncomfortable situation—is a new strategy that showed promise in an earlier study. Now we can use this information to design and test tailored interventions for improving a child’s communication and social skills.”

Principal investigator Conroy, a professor of special education and early childhood studies, and co-PI Krestin Radonovich, a UF pediatric neuropsychologist, have received a Research Opportunity Fund (ROF) grant from UF worth more than $93,000 for their two-year study. Sixty children with ASD between 3 and 10 years old are being recruited from Alachua County to participate.

“Autism is a vital national health concern,” said Conroy, who also is associate director of UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. “It’s estimated that ASD occurs in one of every 88 children. What’s most alarming is that the prevalence rate today is 10 times higher than it was in the 1980s. The cost impact on our society is estimated as high as $90 billion annually.

“In our research, we will implement function-based interventions to promote higher rates of positive social interactions in children with ASD, which should improve their long-term outcomes.”

Conroy’s project is one of 18 ROF grants awarded this year by UF’s research office. The annual seed grants provide funding for new and particularly promising research proposals that are multi-disciplinary and are expected to attract additional external funding from major funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. Conroy also was awarded a seed grant in 2005.

Other past grant recipients from the College of Education include Linda Lombardino (2011), Ann Daunic (2009), Holly Lane and Luis Ponjuan (both 2008), and Jennifer Asmus (2002).

“Research Opportunity Fund grants historically go to UF faculty researchers in the technical fields such as medicine and engineering,” said Thomasenia Adams, associate dean for research, faculty development and graduation education, “so it is notable to have several multidisciplinary research teams from the College of Education receive this highly competitive award over the past several years.”

Conroy has extensive experience in conducting early intervention research with children who are at risk for or have social and behavioral disabilities, including children with autism spectrum disorders. She is principal investigator on an Institute of Educational Sciences grant worth $4 million, investigating the efficacy of a classroom-based intervention model aimed at reducing significant behavior problems in pre-kindergarten children at risk for learning and behavioral difficulties.


CONTACTS

   SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor in special education and early childhood studies, UF College of Education, mconroy@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4382

   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Smith Professorship study will benefit English language learners

Elementary school students learning English as a second language will benefit from groundbreaking research by University of Florida education professor Ester de Jong, in new studies supported by her recent appointment to the College of Education’s prestigious B. O. Smith Research Professorship.

While occupying the three-year post, de Jong will investigate ways that elementary teachers can best help young English language learners (ELLs) bridge the language gap in order to succeed in school. Her research focuses not on conversational English but on the “academic language”—the language of school, textbooks and testing—that is vital to school success. 

The B.O. Smith endowed professorship supports new, cutting-edge research of promising education faculty who are preparing to go up for full professor. It carries the potential for $3,000 annually in research funding and a $5,000 yearly salary stipend, renewed year to year based on research progress, for a total award package of $24,000. Appointments last three years and are staggered so a new professorship is awarded annually.

Cynthia Griffin in special education is the other current B.O. Smith Professor. The professorship’s namesake is a former UF education faculty member in curriculum and instruction.

de Jong, an associate professor in bilingual and ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) education, said mastering academic language proficiency is essential for all students, but especially for bilingual learners still acquiring English. She said their learning is best supported when teachers purposefully develop academic language.

 “Current research primarily focuses on academic language development at the secondary-level content areas. This study will take place in two partnering second-grade, dual language classes in a Duval County elementary school. Spanish is the language of instruction in one class and English in the other classroom,” said de Jong, a UF faculty member since 2001.

Recent studies show that more than a third of fourth-grade ELLs are behind their white peers in math and nearly half are behind in reading. More and more, researchers view ELL students’ lack of access to the development of academic language as a leading influence on academic achievement.

de Jong’s study will involve multiple teacher interviews and videotaped observations of teacher-student exchanges during classroom lessons in both Spanish and English.

“The findings,” de Jong said, “will contribute to our understanding of academic language in the classroom and will support effective professional development for teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong, who speaks fluent Dutch, English and Spanish, is a nationally recognized authority in dual language education. She has published several research articles on the topic and is the sole author of the 2011 book, “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: Principles to Practice.” She has an Ed.D. degree in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University.

 “Dr. de Jong’s research funded by the B.O. Smith Professorship addresses a major gap in the international literature on bilingual education,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning. “Her findings will position her to be competitive for significant additional external funding and will enhance the professional development of teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong in 2009 was awarded a College of Education Faculty Enhancement Opportunity grant worth more than $35,000 to fund activities to enhance her expertise in the research, policy and practice of teaching in multilingual contexts. She used her added expertise to build on her current $1.2 million study (with co-researchers Maria Coady and Candace Harper) examining teacher effectiveness with students in Florida schools who speak English as a second language.

The B.O. Smith study continues research conducted in 2009-2010 in a dual language school in Massachusetts, sponsored by a $40,000 Spencer Foundation research grant.


CONTACTS
  
SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4227; email edejong@coe.ufl.edu 
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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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.


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

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Early teaching experiences inspire study on black males’ perception of high school success

Like most new teachers, Melissa Singleton entered her first classroom 17 years ago with high expectations for her students’ success. What she didn’t expect were cultural barriers that would shape the topic of her doctoral dissertation study at UF’s College of Education.

Singleton, who graduated recently with her Ph.D. in educational leadership, said she had trouble communicating with most of her students as a novice teacher because she wasn’t in tune with their ethnic backgrounds.

Melissa Singleton

Her students, mostly African American, used words like “flawjin’” and other slang that Singleton had never heard before. She reached out to one of her students to teach her current slang and help her understand their music, hairstyles and fashion. Turns out “flawjin’” means to put on a front. Singleton learned more teen pop-culture lingo, listened to her students’ music and allowed them to pick her nail polish if they did well on their tests. She even learned the crochet method of hair braiding that was popular among black girls.

“You talk about teaching moments, but you have learning moments as teachers, too,” Singleton said.

She always took the time to connect with her students—whom she affectionately refers to as “my kids”– because she knew that was the only way she could gain the credibility and trust needed to motivate them.  The relationship-forming didn’t take too much time, either. She’d eat lunch with her students or talk with them in the classroom, hallway or during planning periods.

Singleton taught subjects from math to reading in regular and special education classrooms at several schools before her promotion in 2010 to assistant principal at Kanapaha Middle School in Gainesville, where she continued to work while pursuing her doctorate at UF.

It was her early, challenging teaching experiences that inspired her dissertation research on black males’ perception of their high school success. She wanted to know why some African-American male students were responsive and successful in her class and not in other subjects.

She interviewed and held focus groups with seven randomly selected, black male students from a North Central Florida high school, all with different backgrounds: some came from stable families and others came from living situations that would make graduating high school seem like an insurmountable feat.

The seven black males in her study agreed that academic success, to them, meant having a 2.5 grade point average, which amounts to As and Bs with a few Cs, and being able to play sports, which requires at least a 2.0 GPA. Even though none of the students averaged at least 2.5, they all said it is something they’d like to achieve.

From her research, Singleton concluded that family, educational and peer relationships all play a part in a student’s success. All seven students agreed that the relationship with their teachers profoundly influences their academic success.

“Students work for teachers who make them feel good about themselves,” said Linda Behar-Horenstein, a  UF distinguished teaching scholar and professor in higher education administration and Singleton’s doctoral chair. She said Singleton’s research reinforces the importance of relationships between teachers and students and cultural awareness.

One student in Singleton’s study, referring to a teacher he didn’t get along with, said, “I was failing her class because I couldn’t stand her. I don’t like English, and she wasn’t patient and always had an attitude; it was like somebody stomped on her foot or something every time I saw her.”

That same student–the son of a single mother in jail, being raised by his 21-year-old sister with two young children of her own, said school was the only place he could get away from the drama and chaos in his home life. Yet he was failing some of his favorite courses because he was taken out of school so often to take care of his sister’s kids.

Behar-Horenstein said teachers should realize that when students are rude, it’s cause for a conversation to understand why the student is behaving that way. She said it doesn’t take time or money to do that, it just takes an “I want to” from the teacher.

After her study, Singleton concludes that teaching is about relationships and trust; she incorporates her findings into her job as assistant principal. She suggests school administrators should provide group training to prepare teachers to be better relationship builders with all students.

“There has to be a way to teach relationship building and cultural awareness,” Singleton said. “Everyone can grow – from the top down.”

She said that while her study focused on black males, the findings transcend race, culture and ethnic background.

“Educators must be able to understand students as individuals,” she said. “We have to be able to meet them where they are– academically, personally and emotionally. Only then can we help them reach their greatest potential.”


CONTACTS
WRITER:
Jessica Bradley, student intern, news & communications, UF College of Education, 273-4449
MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

AERA 2012 annual meeting: Listing of presentations by UF education faculty, graduate students

INTRODUCTION

More than 70 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 13,000 scholars from 60 nations who gathered in Vancouver for five days in April for the 93rd annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

More UF education faculty and students, from multiple education disciplines, attend AERA’s annual conference than any other professional meeting. The UF contingent included about 35 faculty and 38 graduate students in education. The massive AERA gathering is always a hotbed of new and exciting, research-based ideas about teaching and education issues and trends. UF presentations include pertinent topics such as:

— Ways for school leaders to assess emotional intelligence and burnout in teachers
— Literacy development for young children with disabilities
— Early childhood classroom intervention for reducing problem behaviors
— Using action research in professional development for virtual school educators
— Zero tolerance legislation: Do we really want to Leave No Child Behind?
— Analysis of schoolwide violence prevention programs

— The effect of debt and working on graduate students’ achievement

Albert Ritzhaupt

Busiest COE faculty presenters and participants at the conference were Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology) with six presentations and Walter Leite (research and evaluation methods) with five.

The following pages comprise an alphabetical listing of participating UF education faculty and graduate students, along with their respective presentation topics . . .

HOW LISTING WAS COMPILED: Listing data was copied directly from AERA’s online annual conference schedule and organized alphabetically by participants’ names. This is a partial listing intended merely to display level of participation and topics covered by UF education faculty and graduate students. Listing does not distinguish between presenters and non-presenting participants and co-investigators. A complete listing and schedule of conference presentations and participants’ roles is available online at: www.aera.net. Click on “Events & Meetings” and navigate to the 2012 annual meeting portal.
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PRESENTATION LISTINGS

*Graduate student

Adams, Alyson J.

  • Florida Master Teacher Initiative: Job‐Embedded Graduate Education and Professional Development
  • Across the Pond: A Comparative Look at Independently Designed School Reform Programs in England and the United States
 Algina, James

  • Estimating Context Effects: A Simulation Study
 Barnes, Tia Navelene*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing
    SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
Behar-Horenstein, Linda S.

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
 Boynton, Sylvia

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
Brownell, Mary T.

  • Literacy Development for Young Children With Disabilities: The Interactions of Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary, Decoding, and Reading Comprehension
 Carpenter, Julia Kathryn*

  • An Exploratory Study of the Role of Teaching Experience in Motivation and Academic Achievement in a Virtual Ninth‐Grade English I Course
 Castaneda, Magdi

  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Cavanaugh, Cathy

  • An Exploratory Study of the Role of Teaching Experience in Motivation and Academic Achievement in a Virtual Ninth‐Grade English I Course
Chiu, Chu-Chuan*

  • Behind the Screens: English Language Learners’ Out‐of‐School Literacy Engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW)
 Clark, Mary Ann

  • Pursuing a Degree: Perceptions of Educational Leaders About Latino Males’ Resources, Barriers, and Support Systems for Higher Education
 Clawson, Jessica*

  • Drag and the Pedagogy of Silence: Performance and Gender in the Queer Student Movement
 Conroy, Maureen

  • The Efficacy of an Early Childhood Classroom Intervention in Reducing Problem Behaviors
 Corbett, Nancy

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
Coughlin, Meredith*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Dana, Nancy Fichtman

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Daunic, Ann P.

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Dawson, Kara M.

  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Devane, Ben*

  • Citizen Science
 Diaz, Raquel Rosa*

  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Fernandez, Heidi*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Frey, Chris Atkinson*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
 Fu, Danling

  • The Role of ELL (English Language Learner) Students’ First Language (L1) in Their English Writing Development
 Gao, Miao*

  • Estimating Context Effects: A Simulation Study
 Garvan, Cyndi W.

  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
 Good, Glenn E.

  • Men in Elementary Education: Life Satisfaction and Perceptions of Gender‐Related Work Barriers
 Grosland, Tanetha Jamay*

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
  • Through Laughter and Through Tears: Emotional Responses to Antiracist Pedagogy
 Gunderson, Alee Lynch*

  • The Effect of Debt and Working While Enrolled on Graduate Attainment
 Gurel, Sungur*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
  • Comparison of Inverse Probability of Treatment Weighting and Optimal Full Matching Methods to Estimate the Average Treatment Effect: A Monte Carlo Simulation Study
 Huang, He*

  • Using Discourse Analysis to Explore IRF (Initiation‐Response‐Feedback) Exchanges Between Mainstream Elementary Teachers and English Language Learners
 Johnson, Allison*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Johnson, Margeaux C.*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Kaya, Yasemin*

  • Evaluation of the Use of Propensity Scores in Mediation Analysis
 Kennedy-Lewis, Brianna L.

  • Using a Critical Policy Analysis to Reveal Competing Ideologies in Zero Tolerance Legislation: Do We Really Want to Leave No Child Behind?
 Kenney, Johanna K.*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Koro-Ljungberg, Mirka E.

  • Virtual methodology and connectibility in qualitative research
  • What do data want?
 Krell, Desirae Eva*

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Kumar, Swapna

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
Leite, Walter L.

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
  • Comparison of Inverse Probability of Treatment Weighting and Optimal Full Matching Methods to Estimate the Average Treatment Effect: A Monte Carlo Simulation Study
  • Evaluation of the Use of Propensity Scores in Mediation Analysis
  • Teachers’ Graduate Education and Experience Affecting Elementary Student Achievement: A Crossed Random Effects Growth Model
 Li, Zhuo*

  • Behind the Screens: English Language Learners’ Out‐of‐School Literacy Engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW)
 Liu, Feng*

  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Technology to Enhance Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning
  • Validation of the Inventory of Teacher Technology Skills
 McLaughlin, Tara

  • Functional Ability Profiles and Young Children’s Social Competence: Exploring Relationships in the Pre‐Elementary Education Longitudinal Study Data Set
 Mendoza, Pilar

  • The Effect of Debt and Working While Enrolled on Graduate Attainment
 Miller, M. David

  • A New Procedure in Large‐Scale Assessment Academic Growth Detection as Mixture Group Academic Growths Vary
  • Item‐Attribute Misspecifications and the Reparameterized Unified Model for Cognitive Diagnosis
 Nelson, Frederick*

  • Two Dimensions of Reflection: A Heuristic for Describing and Interpreting Reflection in Teacher Education Programs
 Niu, Lian*

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
 Oh, Ji Hyun*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
 Oliver, Bernard

  • Strategic Means for Developing Meaningful University‐Public School Partnerships
Pape, Stephen J.

  • Principles of Effective Pedagogy Within the Context of Connected Classroom Technology: Implications for Teacher Knowledge
  • Uptake of Students’ Comments, Questions, and Representations during Algebra 1 Classes
 Park, Yujeong*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
 Pitts, Donna L.*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Poekert, Philip Emery

  • Across the Pond: A Comparative Look at Independently Designed School Reform Programs in England and the United States
  • Florida Master Teacher Initiative: Job‐Embedded Graduate Education and Professional Development
 Poling, Nathaniel*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
 Ponjuan, Luis

  • Pursuing a Degree: Perceptions of Educational Leaders About Latino Males’ Resources, Barriers, and Support Systems for Higher Education
 Pringle, Rose M.

  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
 Qi, Yang*

  • Using Discourse Analysis to Explore IRF (Initiation‐Response‐Feedback) Exchanges Between Mainstream Elementary Teachers and English Language Learners
 Ritzhaupt, Albert Dieter

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Technology to Enhance Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning
  • Validation of the Inventory of Teacher Technology Skills
  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Rodriguez, Prisca*

  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Public Displays of Qualitative Enterprise: The Networked Researcher
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
 Sandbach, Robert John*

  • Item‐Attribute Misspecifications and the Reparameterized Unified Model for Cognitive Diagnosis
  • Teachers’ Graduate Education and Experience Affecting Elementary Student Achievement: A Crossed Random Effects Growth Model

 Santiago-Proventud, Lourdes*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Sessums, Christopher Davis

  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Schomburg, Janice (EDS ’10)

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
 Sharp, Florence Wolfe*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Smith, Stephen W.

  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Tricarico, Katie M.*

  • Reflection on Their First Five Years of Teaching: Understanding Staying and Impact Power
 Vescio, Vicki A.

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
  • Identifying With School: The Case Studies of Two African American Boys
  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Villarreal III, Pedro

  • Structuring Economic Opportunity for College Success: Estimating the Causal Effects of Work‐ Study on College Outcomes
 Walsh, Cara A.I*

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
 Wells, Tasha*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 West-Olatunji, Cirecie

  • The Intersection of Ethno‐Cultural Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Traumatic Stress in Adult African American Gay Men
 Wolkenhauer, Rachel*

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Zhang, Ou*

  • A New Procedure in Large‐Scale Assessment Academic Growth Detection as Mixture Group Academic Growths Vary

SOURCE: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Early-childhood service award has special meaning for Patricia Snyder

When Patricia Snyder, who heads the University of Florida’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, recently received the Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award from the international Division for Early Childhood, she cherished both the recognition and the associations with McEvoy and previous award recipients.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

The McEvoy award annually recognizes a community member, parent or professional who has made significant contributions, on a national or international level, to early intervention and early childhood special education that improve the lives of young children with special needs, their families, or those who work on their behalf. The DEC is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, the largest international organization of professionals in the field.

McEvoy, the former director of the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota, was a nationally respected researcher and advocate in early childhood studies. She was one of seven passengers who died with Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in a 2002 plane crash on their way to a political debate and funeral service. She was 49.

“Mary McEvoy set the bar high for those of us in early-childhood-studies science, policy and practice. Those who have previously received the award named in her honor have raised the bar even higher,” Snyder said. “Much of what we envision for our center at the University of Florida is influenced by the work of Mary, her colleagues, and previous award recipients, which makes this honor even more meaningful.”

Snyder is the inaugural occupant of the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies at UF’s College of Education. Prior to her UF appointment in 2007, she was the founding director of the Early Intervention Institute at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and subsequently was the director of research at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Child Development for two years.

UF Education Dean Glenn Good said Snyder’s selection for the McEvoy Award reflects UF’s national leadership role in early childhood studies. “Dr. Snyder spearheaded the creation of the university’s center for excellence in 2010 by mobilizing the university’s top specialists in early childhood studies for collaborative research and training activities.

“She has worked to create exceptional interdisciplinary programs and projects for her entire career.”

Snyder interacts with a toddler at Baby Gator.

The new center she heads has quickly gathered some early momentum. While UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center serves as the hub for model demonstration and training activities, Snyder set up the center’s administrative and research offices in newly renovated quarters in the College of Education’s Norman Hall.

Joining Snyder on the center’s interdisciplinary leadership team are Baby Gator director Pam Pallas, education professor James Algina, associate scholar in education Kelly Whalon, and UF pediatrics professors Marylou Behnke and Fonda Davis Eyler. World-class scholar Maureen Conroy also was recruited back to UF for a leadership team post. Conroy promptly landed a $4 million federal grant to examine the efficacy of a social and behavioral intervention in early learning settings. The center also has hired its first research scientist, Tara McLaughlin, a December doctoral graduate of UF’s early childhood-special education program with several national research and editorial honors.

Prominent businesswoman Anita Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate, kept the momentum building last year when she pledged $1 million to create an endowed professorship in early childhood studies.

In the research arena, Snyder is working on a $6 million federal grant to expand a job-embedded, advanced degree track in early childhood studies and teacher leadership for teachers in Miami-Dade schools. She recently completed a highly competitive, $1.3 million federal grant to study the impact of professional development on preschool teachers’ instructional practices. In early February, she and her colleagues received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship training grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.

“We are developing new early learning interventions in collaboration with local, state and national partners and supporting the next generation of early-childhood studies leaders and researchers,” Snyder said.

She served as editor of the Journal of Early Intervention from 2002-2007.  Barbara Wolfe, a professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, says the high standards Snyder set as editor “played an important role in how early childhood intervention research is viewed and used by others.”

Snyder also advises state and federal early-learning commissions and is a local volunteer for United Way and the Children’s Movement of Florida.

“Pat has had a major impact on the field (of early childhood studies), has contributed significantly to the development of future leaders in our field, and has made a difference in the lives of children and families,” Wolfe wrote in nominating Snyder for the McEvoy Award.

Several of her doctoral students lauded Snyder in their nomination letters for her effective mentorship and the collaborative research opportunities she offers. Concerning her leadership style, Snyder says that among her leadership mantras are to “lead quietly, competently, and by example.”

“I consider it the supreme compliment when peers and practitioners say the quality of their work is enhanced through their collaborations with me, my colleagues, and our students,” Snyder said. “At the end of the day, my litmus test for the work we do is how much it improves services and supports for young children and their families.”


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, the Lawrence Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

 

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UF launches $1.5 million effort to restructure teacher-preparation programs

Aided by a $1.5-million federal grant, the University of Florida has announced plans to restructure the College of Education’s special education teacher-preparation program to meet increasingly higher national standards for new teachers.

Co-researchers McLeskey and Cox

Like many American education colleges, UF is revamping its teacher-education programs to include more practical teaching experience. UF special education professors James McLeskey and Penny Cox are leading the effort.

Politicians, federal education officials and policymakers are holding U.S. colleges of education accountable for teacher education—and ultimately for student learning—as never before. Many cite the need for more hands-on classroom and field experience in teacher preparation programs.

Students in UF’s unified elementary ProTeach program complete a five-year blend of coursework and hands-on teaching experiences, resulting in a master’s degree in elementary education and the option of dual certification in K-12 special education.

McLeskey said UF’s special education program, ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools, already integrates its theoretical and real-world teaching experiences. Under the grant, though, the researchers are working to relate the two more closely by applying research on effective instructional practices with work being done in real-world classrooms.

The UF effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, is called Project RITE—short for Restructuring and Improving Teacher Education. McLeskey and Cox will collaborate with special education professionals across the nation to ensure UF’s ProTeach graduates will be well prepared to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

The researchers will develop a statewide mentoring program that pairs each new special education graduate at UF with an experienced classroom teacher who will provide support and feedback in their first year of teaching. Mentor teachers will be selected in collaboration with local school district administrators for their knowledge of effective teaching methods, experience, and effectiveness in improving outcomes for students who struggle learning basic skills. The program emphasizes high-need schools to better prepare students for Florida’s diverse classrooms.

“Florida is a ‘majority minority’ now,” McLeskey said. “Wherever you go, you’re going to get students from different cultural backgrounds.” McLeskey is UF’s former chair of special education and also directs the college’s Center on Disability and Policy Practice.

“Increasingly, our student-teachers need to learn things in natural contexts, which means they need to spend more time in schools,” he said. “We’re moving teacher preparation much further in the direction of building everything into what they’re doing in the classroom.”

Cox said UF ProTeach students will begin to see the instructional changes next fall.


CONTACTS

SOURCES:  James McLeskey, professor of special education, UF College Education; mcleskey@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4278

MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

WRITER: Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education.

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COE-P.K. Yonge researchers head $5 million effort to transform middle-school science education

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida education researchers will lead a $5 million effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, to transform how science is taught in Florida’s middle schools, with high-need schools in 20 mostly rural school districts serving as the testing grounds.

The researchers are chasing an ambitious goal — to close the gap in science learning between U.S. students and their peers in higher performing nations. Scores from a 2010 Program for International Student Assessment report showed the U.S. ranked 17th out of 34 industrialized countries in science scores among 15-year-old students.

Lynda Hayes

“We want to shift middle school science teaching to a goals-driven approach with learning experiences that excite and engage all students. This will increase their chances of success as students transition from middle school to more advanced high school science courses,” said Lynda Hayes, an affiliate faculty member at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the college’s K-12 laboratory school.

“To catch up with our peers in other nations, we need to increase the size and diversity of our pipelines in science and math after high school graduation,” added Hayes. “We must ensure that disadvantaged students in small, rural and high-poverty schools are afforded equal opportunity to succeed in a cutting-edge science curriculum before they reach high school.”

Hayes is principal investigator of the five-year NSF project. Her UF co-investigators are science education professor Rose Pringle and Mary Jo Koroly, professor and director of biochemistry and molecular biology. Suzette Pelton, STEM coordinator of the Levy County School District, a project core partner, is also a co-principal investigator. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Recruiting and retaining more highly qualified middle and high school science teachers is a critical workforce need. The NSF project’s reform strategy calls for boosting student achievement by improving science content knowledge and professional development among practicing middle-school teachers.

The researchers are banking on an award-winning, on-the-job graduate degree program developed at UF called Teacher Leadership and School Improvement, with a focus on science education, to train “Science Teacher Leaders” in new, research-proven practices in science instruction. The TLSI program won the Association of Teacher Education’s coveted 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award.

TLSI blends 36 credit-hours of online and face-to-face instruction by UF professors. The program is free for participating teachers with the NSF grant covering their tuition, valued at $21,000 each. Another novel aspect of the coursework is its “inquiry-based” approach, in which the teacher-students collaboratively assess their own teaching practices and share new knowledge with each other.

UF’s College of Education will enroll one teacher from each partnering school district in the degree program, which upon graduation will qualify them as district Science Teacher Leaders.

“In exchange for free tuition, the Science Teacher Leaders must remain at their high-needs schools for five years, including their two-year coursework,” Hayes said. “This will help our most challenging middle schools support and retain some of their best science teachers.”

Rose Pringle...co-PI

Armed with new science knowledge and a research-proven curriculum, the highly-trained Science Teacher Leaders will form and lead “professional learning communities” of their peers—each leader training 10 teachers at their own schools and neighboring middle schools to continuously study science teaching practices and student learning. Their students, in sixth through eighth grade, will be taught the same inquiry-based science practices and critical-thinking methods that the teacher leaders learned in their own coursework.

“Our Science Teacher Leadership Institute will allow 40 middle school science teachers in 20 school districts to earn their master’s degree in science education in two years and coach 400 middle school science teachers in their home districts,” said co-investigator Pringle, the UF science education professor. “The Science Teacher Leaders will work as change agents to lead district-wide transformation in middle school science teaching and learning. Nearly 60,000 middle school students will be impacted, primarily in high-poverty rural and urban areas.”

Participating school districts will come from the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium — a support organization for 15 districts spanning from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic coast in north and central Florida. Five other counties also have committed: Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Union and Suwannee.

P.K. Yonge science teacher Mayra Cordero, pictured, will host a demonstration class for Science Teacher Leader trainees.

Under Hayes’ guidance, UF’s P.K. Yonge laboratory school began testing the experimental curriculum last year and is working with Joseph Krajcik, a leading authority on science curriculum development from Michigan State University, to align the curriculum with Florida’s rigorous new science standards. P.K. Yonge’s middle school science program will host demonstration classrooms to help train the Science Teacher Leaders.

Researchers will compare the impact of the new teaching approaches with conventional practices and disseminate their findings nationwide to drive science education reform in middle schools around the state and nation.

Other UF units contributing to course design, training, implementation and project evaluation include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, the Division of Continuing Education and the CAPES (Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services) program, headed by professor David Miller in the College of Education.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, university school professor at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School (UF’s K-12 laboratory school), lhayes@pky.ufl.edu; 352-392-1554, ext. 223

SOURCE: Rose Pringle, associate professor, science education, UF’s College of Education; rpringle@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4190

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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International group cites Ed.D. graduate’s online-learning research

Julia Carpenter, a recent UF doctoral (Ed.D.) graduate in educational technology, has been awarded the Online Learning Innovator Award for Outstanding Research from iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, for her dissertation study on increasing student motivation and completion rates in online courses.

Motivation is key in virtual schooling, where students take an active role in their self-directed learning. Carpenter used a special “course-interest” survey instrument to poll 78 ninth-grade students in an online English course at Florida Virtual School. She found that the most motivating factors for online students were frequent instructor communication and constructive instructor feedback. She also discovered that experienced instructors more effectively built student confidence and satisfaction. Their expertise, she concluded, would be valuable in building professional training for novice online instructors.

The iNACOL Online Learning Innovator Award is highly competitive, drawing some 30 entries from higher education institutions across the nation. Carpenter will accept her award at iNACOL’s Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis on Nov. 9.

Carpenter graduated in August with her Ed.D. in educational technology as part of the first graduating class for the new online degree program in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology. She is a senior instructional systems designer at defense contractor General Dynamics’ information-technology unit in Orlando. UF’s education technology program also has appointed her as an adjunct instructor starting the spring semester.

Her research was supervised by Cathy Cavanaugh, UF associate professor in education technology, who has also received research awards from iNACOL. The international nonprofit group, based in Washington, D.C., has more than 3,800 members and works through advocacy, research and professional development to drive future directions in K-12 online education.

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Ed tech’s Kumar shares outstanding e-learning paper award

Swapna Kumar

Co-authors Swapna Kumar, clinical assistant professor in educational technology, and Marilyn Ochoa, assistant head of the Education Library in UF’s Norman Hall, recently won the Outstanding E-Learn Paper Award from the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Kumar coordinates the online Ed.D program in educational technology and realized the need for library instruction for first-semester doctoral students. The paper outlined a needs assessment and their findings on how to better prepare online students to access and evaluate available research.

Ochoa accepted the award and presented their paper in October at the World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare and Higher Education in Hawaii. She has been a librarian at the Education Library since 2007.

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UF receives $2 million to assess students’ grasp of statistics under new national math standards

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Supported by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, University of Florida math education researcher Tim Jacobbe is leading a multi-center effort to create high-quality testing instruments in statistics, which will help teachers keep middle and high school students on track for meeting rigorous, new national math standards.

With 45 states, including Florida, already adopting new Common Core national math standards developed in 2010, many school districts are expected to add or expand the teaching of statistics in the middle and high school grades. Researchers, though, say more reliable assessment tools are needed to measure their progress accurately.

UF's Tim Jacobbe, lead investigator for the NSF multi-center study, explains a statistics principle to a UF math education student.

“We’ll base our testing instrument on American Statistical Association guidelines that identify three developmental levels for learning statistics. Students must progress through each level to develop sound statistical reasoning skills,” said Jacobbe, UF assistant professor of mathematics education and principal investigator of the NSF-funded study. “The new assessment tool will help teachers assess where students are at the beginning of the school year so they can plan instruction for the appropriate level of statistical understanding.”

Besides UF’s College of Education, the four-year study also involves scholars in statistics and assessment from the University of Minnesota, Kenyon College and the Educational Testing Service, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Princeton, N.J.

The Common Core State Standards are a blueprint for what all American students should learn in English and math, in each grade, from kindergarten through high school. They were coordinated in 2010 by the National Governors Association and a national council of chief state school officers for K-12 education. Florida schools are scheduled to start using the new standards by the 2013-2014 school year.

“Statistical thinking is very different from mathematical thinking and needs to be taught and assessed in a different manner,” Jacobbe said.

Current statistical instruction and assessment are grade level-specific, but Jacobbe said his research team is following a model identifying the three levels of understanding of key statistical concepts, regardless of a student’s grade level.

About 2,850 students in grades 6-12 will participate in the UF-led study. Two school districts, in Florida and Georgia, will administer initial pilot-testing of the experimental assessment methods. (The Florida school district is P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, UF’s K-12 laboratory school, which serves as its own school district). They will be joined by school districts in Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania for large-scale testing in the study’s fourth year.

The researchers will work closely with two national consortia of state leaders in government, business and education which last year received a combined $330 million in federal Race to the Top funds to create the next generation of tests to measure annual student growth in English and math. The two groups are the 25-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, known as PARCC, which includes Florida, and the 31-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium.

To broaden the impact of their work, Jacobbe said his team will report its study results in peer-review journals and at peer-review academic meetings and will create a website featuring sample assessment tools and other resources for teaching statistics.

“Consistent standards in statistics and mathematics will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students regardless of where they live, and that’s critical in today’s global economy,” Jacobbe said.


CONTACTS
Source:
Tim Jacobbe, assistant professor, mathematics education, Jacobbe@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4232
Writer:
Larry Lansford, director, COE News & Communications, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Special ed researchers winning competition for federal grants

UF principal investigators on active federal IES grants, pictured from left, are Stephen Smith, Mary Brownell, Ann Daunic, Maureen Conroy and Joseph Gagnon. (PIs Cynthia Griffin and Patricia Snyder were unavailable for group photo; they are pictured below.)

Faculty researchers in the University of Florida’s special education program, ranked fourth nationally, have built an impressive track record for winning large, highly competitive grants from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.

College of Education researchers in early childhood and special education recently received two IES grants worth a combined $5.5 million, supporting two studies aimed at reducing problem behaviors and improving the classroom learning environment. UF professor Maureen Conroy, working under a $4 million award, is examining the efficacy of an experimental intervention in early learning settings—called BEST in CLASS—that showed high promise in a preliminary study. The second grant, worth $1.5 million, supports professors Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic who are developing a lesson series teaching middle school students with significant behavior problems techniques to control their emotions and behavior in social situations.

“Grants awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences are selected because they are the most innovative, important and well-designed projects in a huge pool of applications,” says Jonathon Shuster, a faculty research professor with UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy. “These studies are large in scope with potentially huge payoffs. If new generalized ways can be found for interventions, the investment will be returned thousands of times over by translating these methods to the nation.”

These two latest awards raise the total number of IES grants held by UF special education faculty in 2011 to eight—worth a combined total of more than $15 million. Smith and Daunic recently completed another $1.6 million intervention study that helps students deal with aggressive behavioral issues in the classroom. Supported by a $2 million award, Mary Brownell and colleagues in Colorado and California have developed research-proven professional development packages to help practicing teachers advance their literacy instruction skills for students with learning challenges. Brownell, Smith and Daunic have documented the positive impacts of their respective studies on student reading achievement and behavior.

Four other IES grants active in 2011, each worth about $1.5 million, support other vital projects in special education:

— Daunic, Smith and Nancy Corbett are developing a reading curriculum that combines storybook reading techniques with social stories to encourage students’ critical thinking about managing their emotions and behavior;

Cynthia Griffin

— Joseph Gagnon and Holly Lane are evaluating new literacy instruction and professional development methods for helping teens in juvenile corrections facilities improve their reading skills while they are incarcerated;

— Cynthia Griffin and co-investigators Stephen Pape (mathematics education) and Nancy Dana (teacher leadership for school improvement) are developing an online professional development program for elementary school math teachers serving students with learning disabilities.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

— And, in studies involving seven institutions, UF’s Patricia Snyder and co-researchers are documenting the effectiveness of new professional development packages focused on preschool teachers’ use of embedded-instruction practices and the impact of social and emotional influences on early learning.


CONTACT:
Writer
: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; (352) 273-4137

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Researchers awarded $5.5M in grants to help teachers reduce disruptive classroom behavior

University of Florida education researchers have received two federal grants totaling $5.5 million to conduct studies aimed at reducing significant behavior problems in children that can disrupt the classroom learning environment.

Their intervention research targets at-risk children during two of the most critical times of their development—before they enter kindergarten and the transitional middle school years (grades 6 through 8). The highly competitive grants were awarded by Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

Maureen Conroy

The prekindergarten study, funded by a $4 million grant, is a joint effort between special education and early-childhood specialists at UF and Virginia Commonwealth University. Co-researchers Maureen Conroy of UF and Kevin Sutherland of VCU will examine the efficacy of their experimental intervention—called BEST in CLASS—that showed high promise in a preliminary study.

The four-year investigation will involve 120 voluntary prekindergarten classrooms, most of them in Head Start programs, split between UF’s home region in North Central Florida and VCU’s hometown of Richmond, Va. Each year, 90 children identified as high-risk for emotional and behavioral disorders will undergo the intervention; a second group of 90 at-risk children will serve as a comparison group.

“As many as one-fourth of children in Head Start classes exhibit significant problem behaviors that place them at elevated risk for future development, and most have never been in structured classroom situations before,” Conroy said. “Through 14 weeks of classroom-based coaching, we will train teachers to implement effective instructional strategies for improving children’s emotional behavior competence.”

Conroy said the BEST in CLASS model emphasizes both individual and class-wide interventions to improve interactions between the teacher and students and enhance the overall classroom atmosphere for learning.

“Teachers discuss classroom rules and routines with students and praise specific positive behavior—for example, sitting and waiting their turn in a circle during a game or sharing time,” she said. “Such strategies aren’t necessarily new, but we show teachers how to use them more precisely and intensely for given situations.

“The teacher works to prevent any problem behaviors during typical classroom activities.”

The treatment also has a home-school component where teachers send home a daily “behavior report card” stating, in a positive manner, how their child behaved or which corrective behaviors they learned that day.

Stephen Smith

The second federal grant, worth $1.5 million, supports the work of University of Florida special education professors Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic, who are developing a lesson series teaching middle school students with significant behavior problems techniques to control their emotions and behavior in social situations.

“The middle school years are difficult enough for students in their pre-teen and early adolescent years. Those with serious emotional and behavioral disorders face tremendous obstacles to learning,” Smith said. “They require focused attention to help them develop the essential skills for modifying their behavior, and we need to catch them before they drop out of school or end up in the juvenile or adult justice systems.”

Smith and Daunic are developing a curriculum for teachers of children with emotional and behavioral disorders, and they’ve given it a name—In Control—that’s as much a mantra for the students as it is the title of their program. It’s actually a two-unit, 26-lesson curriculum that shows students how their minds work and how they can use that knowledge to take control over their own behavior and their learning process.

“We are developing lessons that tap self-control skills such as monitoring your thoughts, inhibiting impulses, planning better, and adapting to changing situations,” Smith said. “These high-level skills—known collectively as ‘executive functions’—are fundamental to helping students set personal goals, control their emotions and improve their social problem-solving abilities.”

Ann Daunic

Starting in August, the researchers will spend two years developing and testing the In Control lessons in collaboration with special education teachers, school counselors and school psychologists at two Gainesville schools—Lincoln and Fort Clarke middle schools. Participating students will be from small classrooms especially for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

Smith and Daunic will continually refine and polish the curriculum and expand testing in the third year. If their curriculum effectively improves students’ behavior and learning, the researchers will publish their preliminary findings and develop a professional development package for additional large-scale testing.

“Up to 10 percent of middle school students have significant behavioral issues that merit some attention outside of what is normally provided in our education system,” Smith said. “There aren’t many intervention resources available for these students that are effective and teacher-friendly. Our comprehensive program will provide long-term instructional impact.”


CONTACTS
Source
: Maureen Conroy, professor in special education and early childhood studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

Source
: Stephen Smith, professor in special education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4263; swsmith@coe.ufl.edu

Source
: Ann Daunic, associate scholar in special education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4270; adaunic@coe.ufl.edu

Writer:
Larry Lansford, Office of News & Communications, UF College of Education,; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF to host statewide symposium June 13 addressing plight of ‘vanishing Latino males’ in Florida’s schools and colleges

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Education and community leaders and Latino male students from Alachua County and around the state will gather at a University of Florida-hosted, interactive symposium June 13 to discuss strategies for helping Latino males overcome the overwhelming barriers they continue to face in Florida’s schools and colleges.

Ponjuan

The “Latino Boys in Peril” workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. at UF’s Emerson Alumni Hall. Attendance is by invitation only.

UF’s College of Education is hosting the event, led by faculty researchers Luis Ponjuan, director of the college’s Institute of Higher Education, and counselor education scholar Mary Ann Clark.

The researchers will lead an interactive discussion of their findings from a recent, year-long investigation of Florida’s educational system. “We will actively discuss the challenges and the potential partnerships we could forge to develop new interventions that may assist Latino students in their educational journey from high school completion to college enrollment and degree completion,” Ponjuan said.

Clark

Ponjuan, Clark and co-researcher Victor Saenz from the University of Texas at Austin, who will also participate in the UF symposium, have been active in educational and political circles nationwide over the past couple years raising awareness of the plight of Latino male students in education, especially in higher education.

“An emerging trend shows that young men of color—particularly Latino Americans—are far less likely to attend or stay in college than other young men and women,” said Ponjuan, who last year participated in a national briefing on the topic on Capitol Hill.  “Considerable attention has been given to the plight of African-American males, but declining enrollment among young Latino men is even more pronounced. It’s a silent educational crisis because young Latino males are vanishing in higher education and no one is noticing.”

Latinos are now 15 percent of the U.S. population. Yet Latinos, or Hispanics, earn only 6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, according to the American Council on Education. This is significantly less than whites, blacks and Asians. Latino males also have one of the lowest high school graduation and college enrollment rates in the country.

The research and UF symposium is supported by a grant from TG Foundation, a public, non-profit scholarship and educational support organization based in Round Rock, Tex.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Luis Ponjuan, director, University of Florida Institute of Higher Education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4313; lponjuan@coe.ufl.edu

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352

 

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Lastinger study aids $8M effort to help at-risk children in south Fla.

NAPLES, FL — A recent study by the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning was key in helping a south Florida community divide nearly $8 million in charitable grants among local social service agencies to meet the needs of more than 50,000 underprivileged and at-risk children.

The Naples (Fla.) Children and Education Foundation had commissioned the UF study to evaluate the current conditions and needs of children in Collier County and to document the impact of the group’s previous investments on the children’s lives. The UF researchers evaluated local aid programs such as medical and dental services, early childhood education and after-school programs, and program evaluation.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton, the study director and head of the UF Lastinger Center, said the UF research team interviewed NCEF, community and school leaders, reviewed social service agency reports and Internet sites, and analyzed date from multiple county, state and federal agencies.

NCEF officials said the UF study showed progress had occurred in serving children’s medical and dental needs, but also revealed huge spikes in children’s hunger and homelessness due to the economy, and indicated mental health and out-of-school needs remain critical.

“The study shows that NCEF has gotten off to a very good start, but there is a lot more to be done,” said NCEF trustee and grant chairwoman Anne Welsh McNulty.

During a ceremony in April, 22 charities received checks from the foundation totaling $5.8 million to help fund programs and services and expand offerings to children. Grants ranged from $25,000 to St. Matt’s Camps for Kids program to $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County. NCEF also awarded more than $2 million for multi-year initiatives aimed at fighting hunger, addressing behavioral health issues and increasing early-learning opportunities for the community’s youngest children.

“We’re honored that the Naples Children & Education Foundation commissioned us to conduct a study of child well-being in Collier County and issue recommendations for improvements,” Pemberton said. “The foundation has a stellar track record in creating innovative solutions to transform child well-being.”


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center, UF College of Education, dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4103
WRITER
: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Special ed researcher is first to receive provost’s junior faculty award

Gagnon

University of Florida special education researcher Joseph Gagnon recently became the first College of Education faculty member to receive the UF Provost’s Excellence Award for Assistant Professors.

The annual honor recognizes up and coming junior faculty members from several colleges across campus for excellence in research. The award comes with a $5,000 stipend that recipients can use to fund travel, equipment, graduate students and other research-related expenses.

Gagnon is garnering national attention for his innovative research linking youths with emotional-behavioral disorders and learning disabilities and the services provided in juvenile correctional facilities and psychiatric schools. His research has been published in top journals in the field including Exceptional Children, Journal of Special Education, and Journal of Child and Family Studies and he frequently presents and national at international conferences.

A UF education faculty member since 2007, he has garnered nearly $3 million in external research grants and has served as the principal Investigator or co-PI on five highly competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences and other prestigious organizations.

He has developed an impressive record of collaboration with UF faculty experts in law and medicine and holds an affiliated faculty appointment with the law school’s Center on Children and Families. He also serves as an expert consultant for several states’ juvenile justice systems under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice.

He received a College of Education Faculty Scholarship of Engagement Award in 2010 for his research on educational policies and programs for students in confinement. He also has published extensively on mathematics instruction for secondary students with emotional disorders and learning disabilities.

Gagnon has a doctorate in special education-behavior disorders from the University of Maryland at College Park.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, assistant professor in special education, 352-273-4262; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

 

 

 

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UF taps Griffin for prestigious research foundation professorship

Cynthia Griffin

University of Florida special education professor Cynthia Griffin, recognized nationally for her research on teaching mathematics to students with disabilities, has been named a UF Research Foundation (UFRF) Professor for 2011-2014.

Griffin, a top-funded research professor in the College of Education, is one of 33 UF faculty scholars selected for the prestigious professorships. The UF Research Foundation awards the professorships annually to tenured faculty who have made recent contributions in research and have a strong research agenda likely to lead to continuing distinction in their fields. The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support their research.

“Dr. Griffin has risen to national prominence for her scholarly leadership in linking mathematics education and special education, and she brings prestige to our school and college,” said Jean Crockett, director of special education, school psychology and early childhood studies (SESPECS) at the College of Education.

Griffin is building an impressive track record for winning highly-competitive federal grant funding for her studies. She currently holds $2.3 million in research and doctoral training grants from the prestigious Institute for Education Sciences.

She received an $800,000 doctoral leadership training grant in 2008 from the U.S. Education Department’s office of special education programs to prepare four doctoral students in special education and math instruction. That same year, the College of Education awarded Griffin with a three-year, B.O. Smith Research Professorship to study how teachers’ content knowledge and classroom practices in mathematics influenced their students’ learning.

She and co-researchers last year received a $1.5 million grant from IES to develop and refine an online professional development program targeting practicing general and special-education elementary teachers who teach math to students with learning disabilities.

Griffin became a full-time UF education faculty member in 1990 and is the college’s associate director for research and graduate studies in SESPECS.

She is co-author of a text on inclusive instruction due to be published in 2012 by Guilford Press. Since 2006, Griffin has published 18 research articles in leading scholarly journals including the Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Teacher Education and Special Education.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Cynthia Griffin, professor in special education, ccgriffin@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4265

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137