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School of Education

Research Projects

A boy learns from his math teacherThe faculty in the School of Education are actively engaged in research projects that study important problems in our schools and challenges encountered by students and educators. Below is a sample of the many projects that illustrate the faculty’s dedication to improving the education of children.


Supporting Strategic Writers: Effects of an Innovative Developmental Writing Program on Writing and Reading Outcomes

The purpose of this research project is to conduct a large and rigorous experimental evaluation of an innovative writing program in developmental writing classes at community colleges. The program, Supporting Strategic Writers, is based on self-regulated strategy instruction. Students learn strategies for planning, drafting, and revising compositions with an emphasis on using knowledge of genre to guide planning and evaluation, including self-evaluation. In addition, students learn strategies for self-regulation, including goal setting, task management, progress monitoring, and reflection. The $3 million project, awarded by the US Department of Education to Charles MacArthur, SOE alumna Zoi Philippakos, and Henry May, will conduct research across 6-8 community colleges over five years (2016-2021).

Investigating the Impact of Classroom Instruction and Literacy Skills on Writing Achievement in First Grade

This study provides a detailed picture of what effective writing instruction looks like in first grade and which approaches are more effective for students with a specific set of strengths or weaknesses. The 4-year, $1.4 million grant, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, was awarded to David CokerCharles MacArthur and Elizabeth Farley-Ripple.

 Increasing Vocabulary in Preschoolers: Using Cognitive Science to Guide Pedagogy

The purpose of this project is to create and test a novel approach to building preschool teachers’ abilities to foster vocabulary and therefore, broader language skills among preschool children from low-income homes. The $50K 3-year grant (subcontract from Vanderbilt) awarded to Roberta Golinkoff serves to understand how children acquire vocabulary through storybook reading. The project evaluates different teaching strategies and how they affect children’s vocabulary.

Using Developmental Science to Create a Computerized Preschool Language Assessment

The purpose of this $2.8 million 4-year project awarded to Roberta Golinkoff is to develop a reliable, valid, norm-ready, research-driven, and culturally sensitive computer-based language assessment for children 3- to 5-years-old that can be administered in 20 minutes. The preschool language assessment tool is intended to be an easily administered, automatically scored tool, appropriate for teachers, paraprofessionals, and professionals. The tool will have the capacity to quickly and automatically derive individual and group language profiles in two areas of competency: vocabulary & word learning strategies, and grammar and the use of syntax in comprehension.

Developing Teacher Professional Development to Benefit English Learners

The purpose of this project awarded to Steve Amendum and colleagues from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is to develop a comprehensive teacher professional development (PD) program aimed at increasing classroom teachers’ skills in working with Latino English Learner (EL) students and their families.  The three phase project will solicit feedback on the initial PD design; conduct a feasibility assessment with a small group of teachers; and finally, conduct a formal pilot study to assess the efficacy of the program related to both teacher and student outcomes.   This $1.4 million, 3-year project is funded through a research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.


Steadily Improving the Mathematics Preparation of K-8 Teachers

With 13 years of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) totaling about $6 million, the mathematics education group in the School of Education has been studying and improving the mathematics content and teaching methods courses offered for pre-service teachers. The group has designed a data-based improvement system that supports instructors in continuing to make incremental but accumulating improvements in the courses over time.

Studying the Effects of Mathematics Preparation on Graduates’ Knowledge and Skills

A five-year project from National Science Foundation (NSF) for $2 million to Dawn Berk, Alfinio Flores ,  and Jim Hiebert is following the graduates of the elementary teacher education program into their teaching careers to investigate how their mathematics preparation makes a difference in the quality of their mathematics teaching knowledge and skills.  The results are documenting that well-designed pre-service education can make a difference and are serving as feedback to improve the preparation courses even more.

Studying the Effects of Mathematics Preparation on Graduates’ Teaching Practices

A new $1 million project from National Science Foundation (NSF) to Dawn Berk and Jim Hiebert will extend the previous project by following a new cohort of graduates into their first years of teaching.  A wide-range of mathematics topics, aligned with the Common Core State Standards, will be assessed to measure with greater precision the level of knowledge needed for graduates to teach a mathematics topic by designing and implementing high-quality lessons that result in better student learning.

Teaching Fractions

The Institute of Education Sciences awarded a $10 million grant to UD professor Nancy C. Jordan, Lynn Fuchs at Vanderbilt University and Robert Siegler at Carnegie Mellon University, to fund a research and development center aimed at understanding difficulties students have with fractions. The Center for Improving Learning of Fractions, administered at UD, focuses on improving math instruction for elementary and middle school children who have problems with math concepts, specifically fractions.

Number Sense Intervention Project

Nancy C. Jordan is the director of the Number Sense Intervention Project which is funded by NICHD.  The aim of the project is to develop and test a number sense intervention for children at risk for math learning difficulties.  The project focuses on teaching key number skills to low-income kindergartners in Delaware.

Spatial Training in Preschool: Identifying Malleable Factors

“…little is known about effective teaching of mathematics in preschool” (NIEER Preschool Policy Brief, 2009).  This Institute of Education Sciences project contributes to our understanding of how to build young children’s mathematics skill.  We explore the malleable factors associated with increasing children’s spatial skill.  Our goal is to find out which factors best contribute to change in children’s spatial knowledge and whether this contributes to growth in mathematics.  Children of diverse backgrounds and both genders will be participants, given our prior findings that low socio-economic status children are disadvantaged on non-verbal spatial assembly tasks relative to their middle class peers.

Science of Learning

Bridging Cognitive Science and Education: Products and Processes in Mathematics, Language, and Cognition

This Institute of Education Sciences postdoctoral training grant (jointly held by Roberta Golinkoff, Nancy Jordan and Henry May) explicitly addresses the need for high-quality researchers who can bridge the gap between cognitive and education and cognitive science; advanced research methods; practical research skills, including those needed to build sustainable partnerships with schools; and outreach and dissemination of research findings.

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