Faculty & Staff


Jeffrey Williams, PhD

Jeffrey M. Williams, PhD

Associate Research Professor

Phone: 813-974-7630
Office: MHC 1717
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View 2023 Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests:

Modeling factors in preschool that predict children’s later performance in kindergarten

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

Dr. Williams has extensive experience in research design, data collection methods, and data analysis in educational settings. His work has primarily focused on modeling the factors in preschool that predict children’s later performance in kindergarten. His interests also include data analytic strategies for bilingual development of emergent literacy; identifying and implementing data collection strategies that improve accuracy and efficiency; and incorporating the use of geospatial data into intervention and research in educational settings. As a quantitative methodologist, he aims to provide a wide variety of data analytic tools, including factor analysis and structural equations modeling, item response theory, multi-level and growth-curve modeling, and latent class analysis.

Current Research

The Effect of Definitions, Contextual Support, and Cognate Status on 4th Grade Spanish-Speaking English Learner's Understanding of Unfamiliar Words

This funding examines how word definitions, contextual support, and cognate status affect 4th grade Spanish speaking English learners’ (EL) understanding of unfamiliar words in text. The inclusion of monolingual and bilingual dictionary definitions as a support for independent word learning is a ubiquitous
practice in EL instruction, yet, the field lacks experimental work that isolates and tests the effect of dictionary definitions on EL vocabulary learning. Research on effective vocabulary instruction for ELs has typically relied on interventions that include multiple teaching strategies, each considered exemplary of best practice, but that lack evidence of their unique contribution to EL vocabulary learning. The value of definitions as supports for independent learning has been brought into
question in research with monolingual English speakers. The bulk of this work suggests that definitions are mostly ineffective in promoting independent learning of word meanings. However, a metaanalysis on the value of testing accommodations for ELs indicates that provision of an English dictionary is a form of accommodation that is effective in boosting ELs’ reading comprehension performance in testing situations. The same metaanalysis found that the estimates of the effect of providing a Spanish dictionary varied considerably across studies, suggesting that some students benefited more from this practice than others. The widespread use of dictionary definitions in EL instruction coupled with the inconsistent evidence regarding their utility to ELs and English monolinguals, compel us to study how ELs’ use definitions to aid their understanding of unfamiliar words in text. Thus, we study the extent to which Spanish-speaking ELs benefit from English and Spanish definitions during
independent learning situations and how ability to use definitions to understand English text interacts with other potential sources of information about word meaning, namely sentence context and cognate status.

PI: Mario Carlo, PhD
Funder: U.S. Department of Education

School Readiness Curriculum Based Measurement System (SRCBM)

The School Readiness Curriculum Based Measurement System (SR-CBM) is intended to help address the pressing need for assessment tools that teachers can use to efficiently identify children’s strengths and weaknesses in English and Spanish, monitor students’ learning, and inform instruction. This project is creating research-based progress monitoring tools for both English-speaking children and Spanishspeaking children aged 3 to 6 years. SRCBM assess vocabulary, names of letters, sounds associated with letters and letter combinations, phonological awareness, mathematics, and science. Many children, especially those from ethnic and language minority groups, lag behind in development of these critical school readiness skills, which places them at risk for academic failure. SRCBM includes brief parallel English tests and brief parallel Spanish tests of each school readiness domain. These short forms are designed for educators to use for universal screening, benchmark testing, and
progress monitoring. Expanded English and Spanish versions are designed for those with advanced assessment training, e.g., evaluators, diagnosticians, psychologists, and researchers, who engage in program evaluation, diagnosis,
and educational research.

PI: Jason Anthony, PhD
Funder: U.S. Department of Education

NOURISH-T+: A Randomized Control Trial Targeting Parents in Promoting Healthy Eating and Exercise Behaviors in Pediatric Cancer Survivors with Overweight/Obesity

Approximately 40-50% of off-treatment pediatric cancer survivors (PCS) are overweight or obese; thereby increasing their risk for negative long-term physical health complications. Using our successful pilot trial testing the preliminary feasibility and efficacy of NOURISH-for Healthy Transitions (NOURISH-T, 5R21CA167259-02) as a base, we address obesity in PCS by targeting parents as agents for change in modeling healthy eating and physical activity behaviors to promote positive PCS health behavior change and long-term healthy weight. This multi-site application addresses the public health epidemic of obesity by conducting a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of our intervention, NOURISH-T+, across a diverse sample of PCS and their parents at four pediatric oncology clinics, with the goal of establishing a framework for future translation and dissemination of NOURISH-T+.

PI: Marilyn Stern
Funder: National Institutes of Health