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COE awards internal research support

Four projects were awarded College of Education Seed Grants by the College’s Research Committee during the 2018 academic year.

Faculty members Kelly Brooksher, Ph.D., Karin Fisher, Ph.D., Sally Brown, Ph.D., Antonio Gutierrez de Blume, Ph.D. and David Owens, Ph.D. were recipients of seed grants.

Brooksher and Fisher, both of the Department of Elementary and Special Education, received funding to begin their investigation into the the attendance and participation of students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) extracurricular activities. Also on the grant team is Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading assistant professor Peggy Shannon-Baker, Ph.D., and Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education coordinator Kania Greer, Ed.D.

Focusing initially on Bulloch and Bryan Counties, the team will gather data on existing STEM opportunities and activities in these counties as well as their recruitment of students with disabilities and credentials of those working with the students.

“This project will afford us the opportunity to start some of the foundation work to eventually answer the question, ‘Does participation in an extracurricular STEM club support, enhance or improve students with disabilities performance in the classroom?,’” Fisher said.

Brooksher added that general participation in clubs, sports and school-sponsored activities helps mold all students to be successful in the community.

“This project goes beyond academic performance and test scores,” said Brooksher. “We hope to gain insight into the power of unleashing a child’s potential to better understand the classroom that he/she is in every day. It is about a child feeling success, understanding who he/she is and how he/she learns, and developing confidence. When a child has this, she/he can do great things in the world.”

Brown, professor in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading, will be conducting research that extends her current work in investigating the multimodal literacy practices of students learning English as a new language in elementary classrooms.

“As students engage with technology in classrooms and write in ways where more than the written word is valued, they produce texts that are rich with communication elements like visual and aural modes,” Brown said. “As a result, teachers need a means to evaluate these forms of composing in order to document literacy growth over time.”

Currently, school systems rely on writing assessments developed exclusively for monolingual English speakers, and there are no assessments that take into account 21st century texts produced using technology. This project is designed to evaluate the multimodal compositions of young multilingual students by highlighting the assets that students bring to the composing process and applies a translingual orientation towards composing that values all forms of communication. The goal is to establish a holistic, developmental scale with scoring indicators to assist educators in evaluating the writing strengths of multilingual learners.

Ed.S. School Psychology candidate Alexandra Allmond will be assisting with the project.

Gutierrez de Blume’s project focuses on metacognition, the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process. While current research has monitored this process for children 8-10 years of age, Gutierrez de Blume will focus on children 4-5 years old. Working with kindergarten and first grade teachers, the team will use tests and measures of performance that teachers are already utilizing in the classroom as metrics of achievement.

“We will then ask children how confident they are about whether their answers are correct,” Gutierrez de Blume explained. “We plan to use something akin to a visual analog scale to convey to children what we mean by more or less confidence in correct or incorrect performance. Our intent is to provide classroom teachers with additional information of how they can teach self-regulation of learning skills at ever-younger ages. The earlier we can ‘catch them’ in the developmental trajectory, the better.”

Investigations will determine whether children that young are able to accurately convey what they know or do not know about a given topic or whether this requires additional regulatory skills in metacognitive monitoring that appear at about 8-10 years of age.

Owens, assistant professor in the Department of Middle Grades and Secondary Education, is focusing research on socioscientific issues, or issues that are based in scientific understanding but also require the recognition of non-science considerations such as ethics, economics and politics. For the purpose of this funding, Owens is specifically looking at ocean acidificiation, as it is regionally relevant to the Savannah area.

“The increasing production of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through fossil fuel burning is resulting in more CO2 being absorbed by the ocean, especially in areas where the water is colder,” Owens explained. “This is changing the chemistry of the ocean and making it more acidic. Ocean acidification is especially problematic, as the acidity interferes with the ability of aquatic organisms, such as clams, mussels or oysters, to make shells, which provide a significant amount of food internationally and serve as an important economic stimulus here on the east coast.”

This research will provide students with an inquiry-based means for understanding how increases in atmospheric CO2 can increase acidity and hinder the ability for calciferous shell-forming organisms to survive, and provide teachers with a means for integrating STEM instruction in their classrooms within the context of socioscientific issues, such as ocean acidification.

Seed grants are funded by the College of Education for the purpose of providing initial, or “seed,” funding for research proposals that align with the general mission of the college. The faculty-led College of Education Research Committee reviews proposals and makes decisions about awards.


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