Research

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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

Exploring Heterogeneity Among the U.S. Latino Dual Language Learner Head Start Population: A Secondary Data Analysis Modular Approach for Autism Programs in Schools (MAAPS)

Contact:
Matthew E. Foster, PhD

Principal Investigator:
Lisa M. López, PhD

Co-Principle Investigator:
Matthew E. Foster, PhD

Funding Source:
University of South Florida

Project Description:
The research team is exploring the heterogeneity of the Latino dual language learner (DLL) population within Head Start. Using secondary data collected with a sample of Latino DLLs attending Florida Head Start programs to 1) identify subgroups based on their levels of cognitive, linguistic, literacy, and math achievement in both English and Spanish prior to kindergarten entry; 2) identify subgroups based on growth trajectories for language, literacy, and math in English and Spanish as they transition into kindergarten; and 3) identify subgroups based on initial levels and growth trajectories for their positive play interactions, problem behaviors, and approaches to learning. We are also examining home and malleable classroom factors associated with the subgroups.

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, PhD

Principal Investigator:
Maria S. Carlo, PhD

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

Effect of Bilingual vs Monolingual Methods of Explicit English Vocabulary Instruction on 4th Grade Spanish-speaking English Learners (EL).

Contact: 
Maria S. Carlo, PhD

Principal Investigators:
Maria S. Carlo, PhD
Dr. Sara A. Smith, University of South Florida

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

There is reason to believe that instruction that incorporates Spanish definitions in teaching academic English words may benefit Spanish-speaking children who are learning English as a second language. This study compares the effectiveness of mixed-language (English and Spanish) vs single language (English) vocabulary instruction in promoting learning of English words by 4th grade Spanish speaking children who are learning English. The students receive 6 weeks of vocabulary instruction twice a week via remote instruction (using Microsoft Teams) with USF instructors. Students learn 60 academic words that are taught via 6 units about the Florida Everglades.  We expect that results of this research will help us design more effective curricular materials for English learners.  

Effects of Home and Classroom Practices on Language, Cognitive, and Social Development of Young Spanish-Speaking Dual Language Learners

Contact: 
Maria S. Carlo, PhD

Principal Investigators:
Dr. Tricia Zucker, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, PI
Maria S. Carlo, PhD - Co-PI

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

English learners living in poverty are at risk for later reading difficulties and are less likely than their peers to encounter the level of responsive, extended conversations in their homes and preschools needed for school readiness. Furthermore, many types of dual language programs in U.S. schools operate in ways that delay regular exposure to English until later grades, rather than systematically teaching in ways that build on students’ knowledge of their home language to accelerate English proficiency. The proposed project will evaluate a dual-language approach that: a) maintains and improves the home language of English learners who speak mostly Spanish in their homes via parent coaching, and b) simultaneously coaches teachers to use an explicit cross-language transfer approach in which sophisticated concepts are introduced in Spanish before English. The expected outcome of this project is increased understanding of effective classroom instruction and family engagement approaches for English learners at risk of later reading difficulties. This project is led by The University of Texas Health Science Center’s Children’s Learning Institute in collaboration with USF.

The Effect of Definitions, Contextual Support, and Cognate Status on 4th Grade Spanish-Speaking English Learners’ (ELs) Understanding of Unfamiliar Words in Text. 

Contact: 
Maria S. Carlo, PhD

Principal Investigators:
Maria S. Carlo, PhD - PI
Dr. Mary Avalos, Co-PI University of Miami Subcontract

Funding Source:
Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Project Description:

This project involves series of studies to inform the development of instructional strategies intended to help Spanish-speaking 4th grade English learners learn the meanings of new words in English. The studies test the benefits of providing students with definitions in English versus Spanish, supportive text context, and cognates--words such as profound-profundo which are spelled similarly and mean the same in Spanish and English--on students’ ability to independently learn new English words.  The project will provide evidence of potentially promising practices for helping English learners learn new academic vocabulary in English. 

Completed Research

Evaluating the Impact of Supplemental Computer-Assisted Math Instruction in Elementary School Development of a Dual Language Narrative Curriculum

Contact:
Matthew E. Foster, PhD

Principal Investigator:
Matthew E. Foster, PhD

Funding Source:
University of South Florida

Project Description:
This project focused on improving the math achievement of kindergarten and first grade students and understanding factors associated with improved math achievement. To improve their math achievement, students interacted with one of two computer-based math interventions. To understand factors associated with mathematical learning, a comprehensive assessment battery was administered to students and surveys were completed by each student’s parent(s) and teacher. Results of this project provides school personnel with data that may help them plan math instruction that best meets the need of their students.

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