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College of Education expands its national footprint
Gary Sasso, dean of the College of Education, says the awarding of major research grants to faculty members shows that Lehigh is “a place where research…ultimately changes society for the better.”

Lehigh’s College of Education is celebrating a 35-percent increase in research awards since 2011.

Three new projects are funded by the Institute of Education Science (IES) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), federal agencies that award only 5 to 10 percent of proposals.

“The awarding of three major research grants in the same year is testimony to the strengths of our faculty,” says Gary Sasso, dean of the college. “It’s extremely gratifying to see what amounts to a national endorsement of Lehigh as a place where research dollars become great research and ultimately change society for the better.”

Ramping up

For two decades, studies have shown that millions of American adolescents are reading four to six years below their grade level, with severe deficits in word recognition, reading fluency and comprehension.

“Unlike instruction designed for beginning readers, little is known about how to maximize the benefits of reading instruction for older students who have struggled for years,” said Prof. Mary Beth Calhoon. She and Prof. Ed Shapiro will lead a four-year, $3.5 million IES study comparing two versions of a successful reading program called Reading Achievement Multi-Component Program (RAMP-UP).

The researchers will examine how the reading abilities of sixth graders can be improved and maintained. They will contrast the effectiveness of the two versions of RAMP-UP on gains in reading skills. Both address deficits in phonological decoding, spelling, fluency and comprehension skills. But they differ in the amount of instructional time devoted to each area.

The researchers will return one and two years later and measure the performance of seventh and eighth graders to see if differences persist, particularly compared to students receiving traditional classroom reading instruction.

TRACking ADHD in college students…

Prof. George DuPaul believes one age group has been left out of recent research into attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He’s joining several other universities in a first-ever study on how ADHD unfolds across the college years.

Called the TRAC Project, or Trajectories Related to ADHD in College, DuPaul’s five-year NIMH study aims to develop practices for assessment and treatment that can be used on campuses. He will explore how ADHD affects the educational, cognitive, psychological, social and vocational functioning of students.

DuPaul will join researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Rhode Island.

“We are very excited about this study because we know so little about the functioning of college students with ADHD, including what attributes or variables predict their success, or lack thereof, in post-secondary education,” said DuPaul.

…and in preschoolers

DuPaul is also working with Prof. Lee Kern, director of the Center for Adolescent Research in Schools, on the impact of ADHD on young children. At ages 3 to 5, ADHD is a great disadvantage when critical learning skills are being introduced into a population vulnerable to multiple educational and behavioral deficits.

The three-year IES study will leverage the greatest resource in a child’s life—a parent or guardian. Kern and DuPaul will develop an education program that heightens parent involvement. Collaborator Ed Feil of the Oregon Research Institute will develop a web-based tool for parents. The goal is for more consistent implementation of effective behavioral strategies for preschoolers.

The researchers will recruit a community development team of preschool teachers, parents of children with disabilities, physicians from the Lehigh Valley Healthcare Network, mental health care providers and parent educators in order to obtain feedback.

“Parents may not understand the challenging behaviors that accompany ADHD, or how it may affect early learning and literacy,” said Kern. “If we can create face-to-face and web-based parent education programs that lead to high levels of engagement, this study has the potential to significantly improve early intervention efforts for young children with ADHD.”