Faculty & Staff


Trina D. Spencer, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Trina D. Spencer, PhD, BCBA-D

Associate Professor

Phone: 813-974-5128
Office: MHC 1719

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Research Interests:

Multi-tiered Systems of Support models for schools, with special attention to early literacy and language and reading comprehension

Dr. Spencer is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida in the Department of Child and Family Studies. She joined USF in 2017 as part of the  Rightpath Research and Innovation Center.

Dr. Spencer earned a specialist degree in School Psychology and a PhD in Disability Disciplines from Utah State University with emphases in language and literacy and early childhood special education. She has been a board certified behavior analyst since 2001 and has worked with culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse children as well as children with disabilities, their teachers, and their families for 23 years. She has published 58 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 5 book chapters, and 22 non-peer reviewed articles, briefs, or encyclopedia entries. Through her research, Dr. Spencer has developed eight different assessments and interventions that are commercialized or open source. Her publications and editorial service span a number of disciplines including speech-language pathology, early childhood education, special education, applied linguistics, and school psychology.

Trina Spencer

The video above features Dr. Spencer's partnership with the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships and local schools, daycares, and after school programs. If you are interested in your students receiving academic language interventions (face to face or remotely), please contact Dr. Spencer.

Benefitting from strong collaborations with practitioners and other researchers, Dr. Spencer conducts research employing an implementation science framework and a variety of single case and group study designs to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of interventions. One of her major areas of focus has been on Multi-tiered Systems of Support models for schools, with special attention to early literacy and language and reading comprehension. She works with young culturally and linguistically diverse children with or at risk of disabilities or school failure. Drawing from an analysis of verbal behavior, Dr. Spencer also develops innovative language interventions, curricula, and assessment tools that support the achievement of vulnerable students living in poverty. Doctoral students working with Dr. Spencer learn to apply behavior analysis to interdisciplinary and general education issues such as professional development, instructional design, and the promotion of academic language.

Infographics of Recent Publications

Does Cultural and Linguistic Bias Threaten the Validity of Your Language Evaluations?

Petersen, D. B., Tonn, P., Spencer, T. D., & Foster, M. E., (2020). The Classification Accuracy of a Dynamic Assessment of Inferential Word Learning for Bilingual English/Spanish-Speaking School-Age Children. Language, Speech, and Hearing
Services in Schools, 51 (1), 144-164.

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Measure Reading Comprehension before Students can Read!

Petersen, D. B., Spencer, T. D., Konish, A., Sellars, T. P., Foster, M. E., & Robertson, D. (2020). Using Parallel, Narrative-Based Measures to Examine the Relationship Between Listening and Reading Comprehension: A Pilot Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol. 51, No. 4, October 2020: 1097-1111.

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Multi-tiered Oral Narrative Instruction Improves Reading Comprehension and Writing

Petersen, D. B., Mesquita, M. W., Spencer, T. D., & Waldron, J. (2020). Examining the effects of multitiered oral language instruction on reading comprehension and writing. Topics in Language Disorders, 40 (4), pp. E25-E39.

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Multi-Tiered Dual Language Instruction: A Randomized Group Study

Spencer, T. D., Moran, M. K., Thompson, M. S., Petersen, D. B., & Restrepo, M. A. (2019). Early efficacy of multi-tiered dual language instruction: Promoting preschoolers’ Spanish and English language skills. AERA Open, 6(1) 1-16.

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Ten Principles for Effective Practice

Spencer, T. D., & Petersen, D. B. (2020). Narrative intervention: Principles to practice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00015

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Recent News

Is the reading crisis associated with an academic language crisis?

Educators across the globe are trying to solve the reading crisis. Efforts to improve 4th-grade reading scores seem to intensify every year, but improvements are rarely observed. Could it be that efforts need to target academic language? (This article first appeared in Open Access Government January 2023.)

Oral storytelling is important for reading, writing and social wellbeing

If there was one skill that could positively impact many other areas such as reading, writing, and social development, wouldn’t you want to teach it? Could oral storytelling be the key? (This article first appeared in Open Access Government January 2023)

When children’s storytelling says so much more

Research has shown that narrative skill at school entry predicts writing and reading comprehension up to ten years later. (Research Outreach)

Rightpath Associate Professor Trina Spencer Recognized in CBCS Faculty Spotlight: October 2022

She was recognized for her work mentoring undergraduate research students. Read more.

Rightpath Associate Professor Trina Spencer’s Research Lab Undergraduate Students Present at USF Undergraduate Research Showcase and Conference

Dr. Spencer works with undergraduate research students to provide mentoring while encouraging them to learn the science of behavior so that it can be applied to interdisciplinary and general education issues such as professional development, instructional design, and the promotion of academic language. Read more.

CFS Associate Professor Trina Spencer, PhD Shares Fulbright Experience in South Africa

After several starts and stops and a year and a half delay, CFS Associate Professor Dr. Trina Spencer finally made it to South Africa. She won a Fulbright award in 2020, but due to COVID-19, she was unable to begin her experience until 2022. Read more.

Dr. Trina Spencer Receives Fulbright Award

The goals of Dr. Spencer’s Fulbright project, Storytelling in South Africa: Communication, Multilingualism, and Literacy, are to examine the structure of stories produced in multiple languages by South African children with and without disabilities, develop a culturally relevant storytelling intervention, and investigate its effect on children’s alternative communication. Read more.

Dr. Trina Spencer is Appointed Chair of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association Committee

She will serve as chair of ASHA's Clinical Research, Implementation Science, and Evidence-Based Practice committee from January 2020 to December 2022. Read more.

Dr. Trina Spencer Trains Specialists to Work with Children with Autism in Minsk, Belarus

Dr. Spencer traveled as part of a humanitarian group to help build capacity of Belarusians’ to work with young children with autism. Read more.