Lehigh University faculty members receive funding for special education, reading skills research
Three faculties of Lehigh University’s College of Education recently received research grants from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the branch of the U.S. Department of Education that supports research, statistics, and evaluation to anchor educational practice and policy. Two of the three received prestigious awards for young researchers.
Esther Lindström, Assistant Professor of Special Education, received an Early Career Research Award from the National Center for Special Education Research of the IES for the “Project RISE: Examining Teachers’ Reading Instruction, Supports, and Expertise for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities”. She will explore reading teaching for elementary school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and how it relates to their reading growth, taking into account student and teacher characteristics.
Kristi Morin, Assistant Professor of Special Education, received a research award from the National Center for Special Education Research Early Career Research for “Project STAY: Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3”. The project focuses on developing an induction model, including mentoring and professional development, to foster elementary teacher retention from students with autism working in underserved schools.
Ethan Van Norman, Associate Professor of School Psychology, received a Research Fellowship from the IES National Center for Education Research for “Catch and Release: Predicting Maintenance of Tier 2 Reading Intervention Effects”. He will identify component skills and teaching practices that predict the maintenance of student learning experiences during complementary reading interventions after these supports are removed. The project includes employees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and ServeMinnesota, an AmeriCorps nonprofit agency.
The College of Education is excited about funding from Professors Lindström, Morin, and Van Norman in the highly competitive arena of the Institute of Education Sciences’ annual research grants. Funded research into reading interventions, students with disabilities, and autism support is urgently needed in communities nationally, including our own. We are very proud of their commitment and of everyone who supported the applications. “
William Gaudelli, Dean, Lehighs College of Education
The research will help expand the college’s work in the Lehigh Valley and beyond and support the college’s growing research profile, Gaudelli said.
With few IES awards for junior research awarded each year, the Lindström and Morin awards are even more notable, said George DuPaul, assistant dean of research at the College of Education. The two Lehigh researchers are among only seven nationwide to receive an early career award from the IES this year, and they are the first from Lehigh to receive those awards. The seven grants totaling nearly $ 5 million support an integrated research and career development plan for researchers in the early stages of their academic careers.
Reading promotion for students with disabilities
Lindström will work with local school districts and intermediate units to examine current reading teaching practices for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who are receiving reading classes in special education classes.
“Until recently, academic expectations of students with IDD have been very low and teaching practices have reflected those expectations,” said Lindström. “However, major research and policy developments over the past 15 years have raised expectations significantly and given way to some encouraging advances in this area. However, some practices still need to be improved. Over the next four years we will examine what current teaching practices are, how they relate to various teacher and student factors, and what this means for student reading growth. “
Lindström’s team will examine how elementary school students are taught reading with IDD, examine teachers ‘knowledge and beliefs about teaching reading for this group of learners, and examine possible links between this data and students’ long-term reading growth. The team, which includes several new Lehigh PhD students, will collect data from each elementary school student and teacher over a period of two years in three overlapping cohorts over a four-year period.
“We will interview teachers, observe and collect data in schools, and then compare our results with what we know about effective reading teaching for this population,” said Lindström. “Our goal is to better understand how reading lessons are implemented, why and what impact this has on students and teachers. From what we learn in this project, we can develop better ways to support students with IDD and their teachers. “
The project is the first of its kind to bring together this data for this population of this size, said Lindström, and it has the potential to make a significant contribution to an under-explored area of special education. The award amount is $ 699,923.
Support from teachers of students with autism
Morin’s project aims to conduct a research program to improve outcomes for teachers of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while participating in mentoring and training activities to provide expertise in school-based research, mixed methodology and group design research, as well as scholarships and publications develop writing.
“Teaching students with ASD requires knowledge of evidence-based practices and other unique skills that are often not taught in pre-service programs,” she said in the project summary. “Without it, teachers may lack the ability and confidence to meet their students’ needs and are at increased risk of stress and burnout. Given that stress and burnout are strongly linked to brain drain, support for teachers of students with ASD is crucial, especially for trainee teachers in underfunded schools. Therefore, the aim of the current study is to develop an induction program to support prospective teachers of students with ASD who work in underfunded schools.
Morin’s previous experience as a beginner teacher for students with autism gave her some insight into the need for support for these teachers.
“I remember feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared to meet my students’ needs,” she said. “A support system with mentoring, further training and a professional network would have helped me to cope with the first years of teaching successfully and to better meet the needs of my students. That is what I want to achieve with this project – the support of young teachers so that they do not burn out and leave the teaching profession. “
Lee Kern, Professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice at the College of Education who sponsored the project, will be Morin’s primary mentor for the scholarship. The prize pool is $ 700,000. The Center for the Advancement of Research in Practice has also sponsored Lindström’s grant, and Kern is her designated mentor on site.
“IES Early Career Research Awards are very competitive grants and demonstrate not only the promising research potential of these two faculty members, but also their innovative approach to developing interventions that improve the lives of children with disabilities and the teachers who support them.” “Said Kern. “I am sure that these two exciting projects and the work that followed will have a significant impact on our field.”
Since Lindström and Morin are early career scholarships, funding is also provided for their development as scholars through workshops and formal mentoring by established researchers in special needs education.
Reading literacy interventions
Van Norman’s project, which is funded with $ 1,689,125 in prize money, will be held in 12-14 elementary schools in Minneapolis, St. Paulus agglomeration. The research team, including Lehigh through the Center for Promoting Research to Practice, and staff from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and ServeMinnesota, will work with approximately 600 second and third grade students receiving Level 2 reading flow interventions provided by Minnesota Reading Corps. Level 2 intervention is generally intended for students whose literacy needs are not covered by Level 1 or core (normal) instruction alone.
Both before and after the intervention, the research team will collect diagnostic information on participants’ reading skills (such as comprehension and word-reading fluency) that promote text-reading fluency. In addition, they observe the school involvement of the participants during level 1 literacy lessons – lessons usually take place in the grade corresponding to the “whole class” – and collect data on the time spent on the various reading skills. In addition, even after the interventions have ended, they will continue to collect data on academic skills to assess the sustained effects.
“The purpose of our project is to identify factors that predict whether students who improve through reading interventions will maintain that progress after the interventions are over, “said Van Norman. The Lehigh team is primarily used for analyzing the under Be responsible for the data collected on the study and train tutors to carry out the interventions.
In their project summary, the researchers write in their project summary that little attention has been paid to maintaining the reading intervention effects by students, especially among students who were initially successful but were later found to need additional support. By identifying facilitators of intervention maintenance, educators could better target the intervention to the critical components of reading skills, predicting student maintenance after the intervention or ensuring that the environment is structured to provide sufficient opportunities to practice text reading during level- 1 lessons are given, they said.
The results will provide the necessary information about the relationship between students’ skills prior to the intervention, their engagement during level 1 teaching, and their text reading fluency growth during and after a level 2 reading fluency intervention.
“As a group, we looked at how we could improve the long-term effects of reading interventions,” said Van Norman. “This project will help us see the most important things as we identify which interventions we should offer students.”