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Grad student wins nations top award for special education research

Yan Ping (Emily) Xin will receive the Special Education Research Special Interest Group Outstanding Student Research Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago later this month.

AERA is the most prominent international professional organization with the primary goal of advancing educational research and its practical application.

Lana Edwards, assistant professor of special education in the College of Education, received the same award from AERA in 2001.

Xin won for her dissertation study "A Comparison of Two Instructional Approaches on Mathematical Word Problem Solving by Students with Learning Problems." The dissertation compares and evaluates the effects of a traditional word problem strategy instruction and a strategy instruction that is grounded in schema theories of cognitive psychology.

Her research extends previous work in the field to address teaching a range of multiplication and division arithmetic word problems. The study was conceived and conducted when Xin was enrolled as a student in the special education doctoral program in the College of Education. She is currently assistant professor at Purdue University in the department of educational studies.

`A critical contribution’

"Emily’s research study is a critical contribution, given the importance of mathematics literacy and problem solving in today’s society," says Asha Jitendra, professor and special education program coordinator. Jitendra served as Xin’s major advisor since 1996 and submitted the letter of endorsement required as part of the submission process for the Outstanding Student Research Award.

"I have known Emily since 1993 when she came here from China to start the master’s program in special education," Jitendra says. "It was clear from the start that Emily is a bright individual who works very hard. She is one of the few students who built a solid record of research and publication during her doctoral program. She understands research very well and worked independently or collaboratively with faculty to conceptualize research studies."

Xin gives Jitendra and Lehigh’s special education program much of the credit for her success.

"Lehigh’s special education program, although it is small, is one of the leading programs in the nation," she says."I appreciated its complete line of field-based programs that provides students with opportunities to learn from their firsthand experiences across a variety of settings (i.e., school, community living, and vocational training settings for individuals with disabilities).

"One of the advantages of being in a small program might be the close relationship with all faculty members. Dr. Jitendra was not only my academic advisor but also a true model for my professional career. I am thankful for her seeing my strength and pointing me to the right direction. Her cutting-edge knowledge and willingness to share her thinking with her students provided me with great opportunities. The fact that she treats her students as her colleagues and works with them resulted in my academic productivity and brought me to the forefront of the field."

Xin also credits professors Linda Bambara, Diane Browder, George DuPaul, and Lee Kern, for providing her with wonderful opportunities and mentorship on various research projects at Lehigh.

Xin received her Ph.D. in 2002 and her master’s degree in special education in 1995 from Lehigh. She previously received a master’s in 1987 and a bachelor’s degree in 1984, both in psychology, from East China Normal University.

She currently serves as an assistant professor in Purdue’s special education program. At Lehigh, she was a research assistant in the special education program and the school psychology program and served as program manager/instructor of Lehigh Support for Community Living. She was also on the faculty of East China Normal University prior to coming to Lehigh.

Improving reading skills

Edwards won the prestigious research award two years ago for her study titled "The Role of Spelling and Handwriting in Beginning Reading Instruction for Kindergarten Students At-Risk of Reading Disabilities."

The study was conducted during the 1999-2000 academic year while Edwards was working on her Ph.D. requirements at the University of Oregon. Edwards had proposed her research project knowing that previous studies suggested that early intervention is critical to helping children at-risk of reading disabilities. Her research goal was to explore an effective and efficient way to improve reading skills.

The Outstanding Student Research Award recognizes excellence in research that represents an original, scholarly contribution to knowledge about education or related services for infants, toddlers, children, or youth with disabilities.

--Joanne C. Anderson
janderson@lehigh.edu

Posted on Thursday, April 10, 2003

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