Research

Rightpath

The USF Rightpath Research and Innovation Center employs cutting edge research methods to develop, evaluate, and disseminate tools, strategies, and programs that elevate achievement of vulnerable children. Current projects are listed below. For previous research conducted by faculty, visit their individual faculty pages.

Current ResearcH

Modular Approach for Autism Programs in Schools (MAAPS)

Contact:
Jeffrey Williams, PhD

Principal Investigator:
Jeffrey Williams, PhD
Rose Iovannone, PhD

Funding Source:
IES- (PTE) The May Institute, Inc.

Project Description:

Modular Approach for Autism Programs in Schools (MAAPS ) provides a collaborative framework for school personnel to identify needs, select and set modular intervention goals, and develop intervention steps for children with autism. The MAAPS process includes active coaching to give ongoing support to K-5 teachers and other school personnel, with opportunities for active participation by families. MAAPS was fully developed in an IES-funded Goal 2 study (R32A150032) and showed promise for increasing teacher use of empirically supported practices and improving student outcomes.

The initial efficacy project will conduct a 4-year evaluation of the MAAPS intervention for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in elementary schools.

Site Location: Hillsborough County Public Schools

Partners: The May Institute, Inc.

Academic Language of Primary Students

Contact:
Trina D. Spencer, PhD

Principal Investigator:
Trina D. Spencer, PhD

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

This exploratory project leveraged the expertise of education researchers (Trina Spencer, University of South Florida) and corpus linguists (Randy Reppen and Doug Biber, Northern Arizona University) to create a large database of K-3 students’ academic language. Researchers partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools HOST program to complete this research.

View flyer to learn more.

School Readiness Curriculum based Measurement System (SRCBM)

Contact:
Jason Anthony, PhD

Principal Investigators:
Jason Anthony, PhD
Jeffrey Williams, PhD
Matthew Foster, PhD

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

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 Spanish-speaking 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. Because SRCBM was aligned with common state learning standards.

The items pools developed in this project also comprise most of the language and literacy screeners included in the Texas Kindergarten Entry Assessment.  https://www.texaskea.org/ 

For addition information, view video.

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

Contact:
Maria S. Carlo

Principal Investigator:
Maria S. Carlo

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

This is a Goal 1 Exploration project funded by the Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) of the US Department of Education that is focused on how word definitions, contextual support, and cognate status affect 4thgrade Spanish-speaking English learners’ 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.  Thus, the project examines 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.

Two experiments are being conducted to answer the following research questions:

  1. Do English definitions increase 4th grade Spanish-speaking ELs’ receptive knowledge of English words and understanding of their meaning in text relative to a no support condition?  Is the effect moderated by English language proficiency?
  2. Do Spanish definitions increase 4th grade Spanish-speaking ELs’ receptive knowledge of English words and understanding of their meaning in text relative to a no support condition and/or English definitions?  Is the effect moderated by Spanish language proficiency?
  3. Does ability to use definition information vary as a function of contextual support? Is the effect of context moderated by English proficiency?
    Does ability to use definition information vary as a function of cognate status? Is the effect of cognate status moderated by Spanish proficiency?

Participants:
We are recruiting 1032 4th grade Spanish-speaking ELs enrolled in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) to participate in two measurement studies and two experiments.  The experiments employ a mixed factorial design to compare the effects of definition and its interaction with context and cognate status.  Two measures of target vocabulary learning are being developed and piloted prior to use in the experiments.

Partners:
University of Miami School of Education and Human Development
Miami Dade County Public Schools

Completed Research

Development of a Dual Language Narrative Curriculum

Principal Investigator: Trina Spencer, PhD

The Puente de Cuentos dual language narrative curriculum was developed through a four-year research grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences totaling $1,481,976.  The long-term goal of the project is to promote academic success among young Spanish-speaking English learners.  The short-term goal is to iteratively develop a Spanish-English multi-tiered curriculum for use in Head Start preschools that promotes academic language through storytelling.

This research project is based on the knowledge that early oral language skills lay the foundation for later reading comprehension and academic success. Young Spanish-speaking English learners, with limited English language, are at risk for academic difficulty. Early and intensive language promotion that builds upon their Spanish language foundation can help prepare English learners for school success and foster bilingualism, which can lead to increased social, vocational and economic opportunities.

Description of Project:
Puente de Cuentos extends an English-only program called Story Champs to enhance its potential with preschool age Spanish-speaking English language learners. In preliminary studies, the dual language intervention promoted English language acquisition while supporting the development of children’s first language, which is expected to prepare children for formal reading instruction.

Participants:
The program consists of 36 English large group lessons to be delivered across the school year with 36 Spanish small group lessons and 36 corresponding English small group lessons. Extension activities and family engagement activities supplement the classroom lessons.

Results:
View Graphical Abstract of Report

Academic Language Enhancement Community Partnership (MORT)

Principal Investigator: Trina Spencer, PhD

Project Summary:

In this partnership, Dr. Spencer provided research-based academic language interventions to Community Partnership School at Mort Elementary and guided the integration of academic language promotion in an after-school enrichment program. While Dr. Spencer contributed her expertise in the form of leadership, training and consultation, as well as be responsible for the execution of the entire project, Ms. Sabrinia Burns coordinated the day to day activities. This involved management of schedules, training, liaisoning with Mort Elementary staff and Community Partnership School staff, and supervision of USF Federal Work Study (FWS) students. Together, Dr. Spencer and Ms. Burns helped Mort K-2 teachers organize their after school academic language interventions and they delivered them 2-3 times a week. Once schools transitioned to eLearning, most were able to continue their interventions via Zoom.

Project Handout