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College of Education Sees 35 Percent Increase in Research Funding

Lehigh competes—and succeeds—outside its weight class. Perhaps no recent achievement is as impressive as that of Lehigh’s College of Education, which is celebrating a 35 percent increase in research awards since 2011, a major achievement for a program with 32 fulltime faculty.

Lehigh’s College of Education was ranked 46th out of 238 education colleges by U.S. News & World Report and in a recent survey by the Journal of School Psychology, ranked second in school psychology research productivity and scholarly impact over a five-year period.

Below are three new projects 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 the projects submitted for evaluation.

“The awarding of three major research grants within the same year is testimony to the strengths of the faculty here at Lehigh,” said Gary Sasso, dean of the College of Education.  “It is 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.”

“The success of these projects was certainly supported and enhanced by the presence of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice, which offers personnel, space, technology, and budget support for research that improves the education of all school-age children,” said Ed Shapiro, director of the Center.   “It also offers a vehicle for the aggregation of effort around the process of bringing research to practice in the classroom, something well represented in all three of these new projects.”


RAMP-UP (Reading Achievement Multi-component Program)

Even among the three R’s of learning, Reading is first. Yet for two decades, studies have shown that millions of American adolescents (6th-12th grades) are reading 4-6 years below their grade level. National and state assessments show this population suffers severe deficits in word recognition, reading fluency, and comprehension. A large percentage will remain behind their peers and end up dropping out, forever limiting both socially and economically their choices as adults. 

“Unlike instruction designed for beginning readers, currently little is known about how to maximize the benefits of reading instruction for these older students who have struggled for years to learn,” said Mary Beth Calhoon, who along with Shapiro will coordinate a 4-year, $3.5 million study examining two versions of a highly successful reading program, Reading Achievement Multi-Component Program (RAMP-UP).

The project will examine to what extent the reading problems of 6th grade students with reading disabilities can be improved and maintained. The primary goal is to contrast the effectiveness of the two versions of RAMP-UP on gains in reading skills. Both versions address deficits in phonological decoding, spelling, fluency, and comprehension skills. However, they differ in the amount of instructional time devoted to each.

“Past studies with RAMP-UP have provided some preliminary insight into how best to teach reading to these older students,” said Calhoon. “This project allows us to continue and expand this important line of inquiry not only for the benefit of students, but school personnel and curriculum designers of reading programs.”

The second goal is for researchers to return one and two years later in 7th and 8th grades to see if differences persist, particularly compared to students who received traditional classroom reading instruction. Calhoon and Shapiro have partnered with schools in the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton Area School Districts and will enroll students with reading disabilities who read at least 2 ½ years below their grade level.

“Without the ability to read, adolescents will be unable to tap into the full benefits of a global society,” said Calhoon..


TRAC (Trajectories Related to ADHD in College)
A 5-Year National Institute for Mental Health Study

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD. Kids have it, sure. New research is even looking into the effects among adults. But George DuPaul believes one age group has been left out. He’s joining several other universities in a first-ever study on how ADHD and its associated impairments unfold across the college years.

The need is clear. An increasing number of students diagnosed with ADHD are coming to college with disadvantages their counterparts don’t have. For them, self-regulation is a problem, especially without the support of parents and high school couneslors. For the first time, many are managing their disorder as they tackle the challenges of college papers, a new social life, and personal living space. Let’s face it. College campuses are tempting places.

Called the TRAC Project, or Trajectories Related to ADHD in College, DuPaul’s study recognizes that despite an increase in the college-bound, there are few guidelines for clinically managing their condition on college campuses. With the aim of helping to develop practices for assessment and treatment that can be used on campuses, the five-year study will explore how ADHD impacts the educational, cognitive, psychological, social and vocational functioning of college students.

DuPaul and researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Rhode Island will try to identify the assessment methods and procedures that will be critical for addressing the mental health and educational needs of college students with ADHD. Results will also serve to guide the development of intervention efforts aimed at improving the long-term success of these students.

Locally, students will be recruited from Lehigh, Cedar Crest College, Lafayette College, Moravian College, and Muhlenberg College.

“My colleagues and I 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.  Our results will help clinicians and researchers potentially identify those college students with ADHD who are in greatest need of support services and treatment.”


Early Intervention for Young Children with ADHD: Developing Strategies to Enhance Parent Engagement
A 3-Year U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences study

DuPaul is also working with Lehigh professor Lee Kern on the impact of ADHD in young children. From ages 3 to 5, ADHD is associated with significant impairment in behavioral, social, and pre-academic functioning. It’s a great disadvantage at an age when critical learning skills are being introduced into a population vulnerable to multiple, chronic educational and behavioral deficits.

The primary purpose of the study is to take advantage of the greatest resource in a young child’s life—a parent or guardian. Kern and DuPaul will seek to develop and refine a parent education program that will heighten parent involvement. In a nod to the increased value of online education, the team will also develop a web-based format that will make the program more accessible to parents.  The end goal is for more consistent implementation of effective behavioral strategies for preschoolers, as well as a program that can be implemented in the community with minimal resources.

The team is joined by Ed Feil of the Oregon Research Institute, a consultant aiding in the web-based delivery platform for parent education. A community development team will be recruited among preschool teachers, parents of young children with disabilities, physicians from the Lehigh Valley Healthcare Network, mental health care providers and parent educators in order to obtain feedback on how versions of the education program can be enhanced to increase parent engagement.

“There are obstacles to overcome, particularly for families whose child has recently been identified as at-risk for ADHD,” said Kern. “Parents may not understand the challenging behaviors that accompany ADHD, or how it may affect early learning and literacy. If we can create face-to-face and web-based parent education programs that lead to high levels of engagement and adherence to treatment protocols, this study has the potential to significantly improve early intervention efforts for young children with ADHD.

Kern is also the director of the Center for Adolescent Research in Schools (CARS).

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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