Research

Research

Faculty members in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development have attracted external funding from sources that include the U.S. Department of Education, Texas Instruments Foundation, Collins Foundation and other sponsors. These innovative research and professional development projects are designed to have real-world impact on regional and national education.

  • Click a research image or link below for more information about the project.

Project CONNECT: Creating the Ongoing Network Needed to Engage Communities and Teachers


OELA
PI - Dr. Paige Ware
Co-PIs - Dr. Karla del Rosal, Dr. Diego Román
September 2017 - September 2022

This $2 million project, funded by the Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), seeks to increase the number of ESL-certified teachers in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). Over the next five years, Project CONNECT will prepare 180 pre-service and in-service teachers by offering on-site graduate courses focused on English Learner instruction and family outreach into an area of Dallas called The School Zone (TSZ), an established coalition formed among the School of Education at SMU, the Dallas Independent School District, and 29 non-profit community providers. We will work with families at the community centers, and teachers will create a publicly available website featuring ideas for how to engage with multilingual resources about teaching and family collaboration.

Project Motion Capture


University of Wisconsin Madison / The Guildhall at SMU / IES
PI - Dr. Mitchel Nathan
Co-PIs - Dr. Candace Walkington, Dr. Peter Steiner
July 2016 - June 2020

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 1: Exploration), seeks to create a theory of embodied mathematical cognition for geometry learning. Specifically, this project examines how a Kinect-based video game can direct players to make arm motions that capture key geometric ideas and relations. The game includes a storyline where players encounter a mysterious tribe, and must form specific arm motions, detected by the Kinect camera, and then solve related geometry problems. The theory is that these directed actions will lead students to make their own co-speech dynamic gestures that show geometric transformations and relations. The team of researchers include Dr. Mitchell Nathan from the University of Wisconsin Madison, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) and his Co-PIs, Dr. Candace Walkington at Southern Methodist University and Dr. Peter Steiner at UW.

Fostering Educational Opportunities


Sam Taylor Fellowship
PI - Dr. Alexandra Pavlakis
March 2016 - March 2017

With funding from the Sam Taylor Fellowship, the Fostering Educational Opportunities Project examines an after school program that serves youth who are experiencing homelessness and high mobility (HHM). In this qualitative project, Dr. Alexandra Pavlakis (PI) is studying how the after school program shapes educational opportunities for HHM youth. Data collection includes: artifact collection; focus groups; observation of programming; and, semi­‐structured interviews with youth, staff, and volunteers.

Out of School Use of 4G Tablets


PI – Dr. Alexandra Pavlakis;
Co-PI - Dr. Paige Ware, Dr. Karla del Rosal
January 2016 - December 2017

In collaboration with AT&T and the Momentous Institute, the Out of School Use of 4G Tablet Project aims to better understand how families use educational technology in the home.  In particular, it examines how use of LTE connected tablets loaded with education software and provided to students, teachers and administrators shapes learning and family-school engagement. Learn more at the collaboration between AT&T and the Momentous Institute at att.com/aspire. The Simmons’ team includes Dr. Alexandra Pavlakis (PI), Dr. Paige Ware (Co-PI), Dr. Karla del Rosal, and doctoral student Jillian Conry. The Simmons team is conducting Spanish and English language focus groups with parents, focus groups with teachers, semi-structured interviews with school leaders, document analysis of school artifacts related to educational technology and school-community relations, and repeated home visits with focal families.

University Commitment to Interdisciplinary Research


NSF
Co-PIs - Dr. Sondra N. Barringer and Dr. Erin Leahey (University of Arizona)
July 2015 - July 2018

This project, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy Program, seeks to understand the scope, precursors and consequences of university level commitment to interdisciplinary research. Specifically, the research team is developing a multi-dimensional measure of universities’ commitment to interdisciplinary research and assessing why universities nationwide vary in their commitment to this. The team will also assess the consequences of universities’ commitment levels for their prestige, productivity, and financial well-being. Understanding the precursors and consequences of universities’ commitments allows us to understand which investments in interdisciplinary work benefit universities the most, and the most effective way to develop those commitments.

Parent Math Training Pilot in Jamaica


Inter-American Development Bank / Jamaican Ministry or Education
PI - Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller
June 2015 - August 2017

The Parent Math Training Pilot in Jamaica is a pilot program targeting parents in low-income communities in Jamaica to support their foundational mathematics knowledge by providing them with evidence-based learning materials. The intent of the project is to increase the number and quality of parents' mathematical interactions with their children at home.

TI STEM Academy


Texas Instruments Foundation
PI - Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller
May 2015 - May 2020

In 2016, a four-year project partnering with TI, DISD, and Simmons launched, aimed at increasing student achievement, engagement, and perseverance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through a STEM Teacher & Leader Academy that develops teacher ability and leadership, as well as fosters teacher skill and professional growth in these critical disciplines. This project will include a three-week intensive academy held on SMU campus each summer as well as coaching support throughout the academic year. In the summer of 2017, Grade 8 middle school teachers from six DISD schools will be the inaugural cohort and this will scale up by 2020 to collectively impact 24 schools, 24 administrators, 216 teachers, and an estimated 43,000 students.

Passport to Literacy: Examining the Effectiveness of the Voyager Passport Intervention for Fourth-grade Students With or at High Risk for Reading Disabilities


Vanderbilt University / IES
PI - Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba
July 2013 - June 2017

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 3: Efficacy), aims to examine a widely-used, reading intervention, Voyager Passport (Passport), for fourth grade students with reading difficulties and disabilities. The intervention is being tested in schools in West Dallas and in Northern Florida. The team of researchers include Dr. Jeannie Wanzek from the Vanderbilt University, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) and her Co-PIs, Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba at Southern Methodist University and Dr. Yaacov Petscher at FSU. The SMU-based team includes: Dr. Brenna Rivas, Dr. Francesca Jones, Priscilla Lara, Margaret Pyffer, Dominique Lyons, and Damaris Florez.

Project ELM (Early Literacy Measurement): Investigating the Technical Adequacy of Progress Monitoring Measures for Kindergarten Students at-risk for Reading


University of Texas @ Austin / IES
PI - Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba
July 2013 - June 2017

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 5: measurement), aims to examine the reliability and validity of existing early reading assessments in order to make definitive recommendations to teachers and schools regarding the measure(s) that may be the most reliable, valid, and preferable for monitoring kindergarten reading growth. The team of researchers include Dr. Nathan Clemons from University of Texas @ Austin, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) and his Co-PIs, Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba at Southern Methodist University, Dr. Shanna Hagen-Burke, Dr. Oi-man Kwok, and Project Advisor Dr. Deborah Simmons at TAMU. The SMU-based team includes: Dr. Brenna Rivas and Priscilla Lara.

Project Intensity: The Development of a Supplemental Literacy Program Designed to Provide Extensive Practice with Multiple-Criteria Text for Students with Intellectual Disabilities


IES
PI - Dr. Jill Allor
Co-PIs - Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba & Dr. Paul Yovanoff
July 2013 - June 2017

The purpose of this grant is to develop (or select) carefully designed texts and application lessons to provide students who are struggling to learn to read, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, with (a) focused opportunities to develop listening and reading comprehension, (b) additional cumulative review of key skills, and (c) explicit instruction in the transfer and application of skills to text. The project is led by Dr. Jill Allor (PI), Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba & Dr. Paul Yovanoff (Co-PIs).

An Experimental Examination of Hoot Education for Providing Technology-Based Data Focused Coaching in Special Education Resource Rooms


Office of Special Education, Department of Education
PI - Dr. Beverly Weiser
December 2012 - November 2017

The current research is investigating the effectiveness of technology-based coaching support through the Hoot Education System, a platform that is built on a cutting edge, fully unified system that allows a coach and a team of teachers to collaborate and support one another as a professional community from a distance via video-observation / conferencing, social networking, and performance data. Special Education teachers receiving this coaching support are teaching students in grades K-8th who are being served under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) for Reading Learning Disabilities (RLD). The research goal is to examine how on-going, data-focused instructional coaching through technology may improve SPED teachers’ knowledge and delivery of reading instruction and thus, hopefully increase student engagement, learning, and academic performances.

Dynamic blood pressure control and orthostatic tolerance in individuals with multiple sclerosis


National Institutes of Health Heart Lung and Blood Institute and National Multiple Sclerosis Society PI - Dr. Scott Davis
April 2013 – March 2017

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system and relatively little is known regarding the consequences of MS on the control of cardiovascular function. The overall goal of this project, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is to investigate the consequences of MS on dynamic blood pressure control (i.e., baroreflex control of arterial blood pressure and the associated end organ responses mediated by the baroreflex control mechanisms, including neural, cardiac, and peripheral vascular responsiveness) and orthostatic tolerance. These research studies have profound implications for understanding the physiology of MS and developing potential treatments/interventions that will benefit the overall health and well-being of individuals with MS.

Examining the validity of curriculum-based standardized learning and assessment system


Istation
PI - Dr. Akihito Kamata
September 2014 – August 2017

This is a 3-year project funded by Istation. This project investigates the validity and other psychometric properties of curriculum-based standardized learning and assessment systems in order to assist their effort on psychometric designs and analyses, such as test design, test equating, item calibration and growth model analysis.

Measuring Oral Reading Fluency Project: Computerized Oral Reading Evaluation (CORE)


Institute of Education Sciences through U.S. Department of Education
PI - Dr. Akihito Kamata
September 2014 – August 2018

This is a 4-year project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences through the U.S. Department of Education, collaborating with the University of Oregon. The purpose of this project is to develop a new computer-based assessment system for measuring oral reading fluency for students in grades 2-4. The new assessment system incorporates a speech recognition engine for automated scoring, as well as a new psychometric model for improved estimation of reading speed. It is anticipated that the new assessment system will substantially improve currently available oral fluency measures, both from efficiency and accuracy perspectives.

Project FOCUS: Exploring Response to Intervention with a Focus on Students Receiving Tier 3 and Special Education for Reading Disabilities


SMU / IES
PI - Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba
Co-PIs - Dr. Jill Allor, Dr. Paul Yovanoff, Dr. Aki Kamata
July 2016 - June 2019

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 1), aims to identify and examine a key set of malleable variables (those that can be changed by the school) that are associated with outcomes for students in Tier 3 or in special education with reading disabilities. The study is being conducted in more than 7 states in collaboration with faculty and doctoral scholars from the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention. The team of SMU-based researchers includes PI Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba, Co-PIs Dr. Jill Allor, Dr. Paul Yovanoff, and Dr. Aki Kamata, as well as Dr. Brenna Rivas, Dr. Francesca Jones, Dr. Pooja Shivraj, Margaret Pyffer, Dominique Lyons, Damaris Florez, and Miriam Ortiz. Click here for a video describing the project.

The School Zone - Supporting After-School and Summer Programming


United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
PI: Regina Nippert
July 2016 – June 2019

The School Zone - Supporting After-School and Summer Programming addresses the need for targeted and coordinated services when addressing low-income students’ complex challenges by equipping West Dallas' social sector to work together in a targeted and coordinated manner. In so doing, The School Zone addresses the need for effective collaboration between schools and after school/summer program providers as they prepare at-risk students for success.

Locomotion with loads: practical approaches to predicting performance outcomes


US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command
PI: Peter Weyand
April 2016 – April 2018

Our locomotion with loads project investigates the mechanical and physiological consequences of the heavy loads foot soldiers often carry. Algorithms predicting decreases in mobility and increases in metabolic stress will provide an evidentiary basis to inform decisions about the loads soldiers carry, mission readiness and performance in the field. The work has longer-term applications in wearable sensing of metabolism, aerobic fitness and fatigue and overall physiological status

Tweeting to Learn: Exploring How Mathematics Teachers Collaborate on Twitter


Southern Methodist University
PI: Dr. Anne Garrison Wilhelm
June 2015 – Ongoing

With internal funding from the University Research Council, this project aims to describe how mathematics teachers are using Twitter to learn about mathematics teaching. The goal is to understand the scope of the network of mathematics teachers on Twitter and to understand the learning opportunities for teachers who participate in this network. Dr. Wilhelm is collaborating with Dr. Michael Hahsler and Oscar Vallner from the Lyle School of Engineering to collect and mine the data from Twitter in a systematic way.

Black, Watt Lesley, Jr. , “When Teachers Go Viral: Balancing Institutional Efficacy Against the First Amendment Rights of Public Educators in the Age of Facebook,” 82 Mo. L. Rev. 1 (Winter, 2017).


Southern Methodist University
PI: Dr. Watt Lesley Black, Jr.
September 2015 – March 2017

The Google search term “teacher in trouble over social media post” yields almost one billion hits. Now that the use of social media is ubiquitous, public educators are increasingly finding themselves in hot water with their employers as a result of their online speech. When teachers have engaged in social media expression that is controversial, educational leaders are often unclear on how to respond. This project is an exhaustive examination of the developing First Amendment law around public employees and their use of social media. It involves both a critical analysis of existing law well as a proposed framework through which education and legal practitioners can evaluate controversial online speech of teachers and other school employees and reach personnel decisions that are both legally and ethically defensible. The article and framework were the subject of a presentation at the Education Law Association annual conference in Orlando in November of 2016, as well as multiple webinars and presentations to audiences of both legal and educational practitioners.

Project WalkSTEM


Southern Methodist University
PI: Dr. Candace Walkington, Dr. Annie Wilhelm
January 2017 – Ongoing

Project WalkSTEM: Dr. Candace Walkington and Dr. Annie Wilhelm received a University Research Council grant to study the walk STEM initiative. WalkSTEM is a program where familes can go on math walks together in the Dallas Arts Districts or at Northpark Mall, and there are trained docents who point out mathematical connections in the art, architecture, and natural landscaping. Drs. Walkington and Wilhelm are studying how being a walkSTEM docent facilitates docent collaboration and social networks, as well as how it changes docents’ views of how to connect mathematics to the world when teaching. In addition, their research examines how children and families react to taking part in the walks, and how they learn to see math in the world differently.

See a video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO5g6S9s3DY&feature=youtu.be

Project Personalized Learning


Southern Methodist University
PI: Dr. Candace Walkington
Co-PIs: Dr. Dara Rossi, Dr. Aki Kamata
September 2016 – Ongoing

Dr. Candace Walkington, Dr. Dara Rossi, and Dr. Aki Kamata are engaging in a large-scale research study that examines the impact of the Personalized Learning (PL) initiative in Dallas ISD. As part of this research, they are examining student and teacher-level outcomes at 5 Dallas ISD schools that have recently transformed into “personalized learning” schools. They are comparing the teachers and students at these schools to others in the same feeder pattern. In addition, complementary research is engaging teachers at the PL schools in surveys and interviews where they define and discuss their implementation of PL in their classroom and at their school.

Project ELVA: English Learner Vocabulary Acquisition


Southern Methodist University / Institute of Education Sciences
PI: Dr. Doris Luft Baker
Co-PIs: Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba
September 2016 – Ongoing

Project ELVA is designed to create a feasible and promising intervention to increase the vocabulary knowledge and language proficiency of second grade Spanish-speaking English learners (ELs). We used an intelligent tutoring system where the virtual tutor, EVA, provides prompts and feedback to students on vocabulary activities connected to abstract words in science and social studies. Themes selected take into account the second grade Common Core State Standards and the Texas standards. Watch video demonstration: https://vimeo.com/193398988, and a link with a more detailed description on the IES website: https://ies.ed.gov/ncer/projects/grant.asp?ProgID=59&grantid=1467&NameID=207

Project VES: Vocabulario Explícito y Sistemático


Universidad Católica del Maule, Chile / SMU
PI: Dr. Maribel Granada Azcárraga, Dr. Maria Pilar Pomes, Dr. Doris Luft Baker
Co-PIs: none
January 2014 – Ongoing

This small-scale experimental study explores the effects of a Spanish vocabulary intervention on the literacy outcomes of second grade students at risk for vocabulary difficulties in Chile. Results of a randomized control trial indicated that children who received the VES intervention significantly outperformed children in the comparison group on their word knowledge.

All Stars Project


All Stars ProjectAll Stars Project
Co-PIs: Yetunde Zannou and Annie Wright
May 2016 – June 2017

The All Stars Project provides innovative, performance-based programming to youth and focuses on promoting development. CORE is partnering with the All Stars Project to write an original evaluation plan and accompanying tools to measure All Stars Project’s processes and potential developmental outcomes.

CLASS™ Observations


Class ObservationsDallas Independent School District
Co-PIs: Annie Wright, Dylan Farmer, and Dawn Levy
August 2016 – June 2017

CORE is contracted with DallasISD to observe all PreK classrooms (2015-16), all PreK classrooms and a sample of Kinder, First and Second grade classrooms (2016-17). CORE trains observers on the CLASS™ observation system, maintains secure data, and develops formative reports and presentations for the district, feeder patterns, individual schools and individual teachers.

Dallas Afterschool


Dallas AfterschoolDallas Afterschool
PI: Annie Wright
June 2016 – November 2017

CORE is evaluating the impacts of quality afterschool programming on students’ academic, social & emotional well-being. Data collection includes: support for & delivery of quality programs, student surveys, staff assessments of student social-emotional skills, academic achievement, and interviews of staff at partner organizations. Initial results show positive impacts for some grade levels on math, and positive impacts of DAS’s coaching and training on overall afterschool program quality. Data analysis techniques such as factor analysis and propensity score matching (PSM) are used to provide different types information back to the client.

Galapagos Conservancy


Galapagos ConservancyGalapagos Conservancy
PI: Hiba Rahim
April 2017 – January 2018

The Galapagos Conservancy is partnering with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education to provide a comprehensive professional development intervention consisting of bi-annual training institutes, instructional coaching, and facilitation of teacher professional learning circles (PLCs). CORE collaborated with multiple international partners to design an evaluation plan and accompanying tools to measure the quality of delivery of these initiatives and their emerging impact on instructional practices across the Galapagos Islands. This 4 year project aims to provide evidence based best practices in professional development and uses multiple sources of data to triangulate evidence to inform formative, process, developmental, and outcome indicators.

Life Schools


Life SchoolsLife Schools
PI: Annie Wright
August 2015 – December 2017

Life Schools network of charter schools is partnering with CORE to investigate the impacts of Life School’s teacher incentive pay system. Using a 360-degree approach, CORE is collecting a range of data to help describe the Life Schools climate and culture, instructional practices, professional development strategies and student achievement.

National Alliance for Partnership in Equity (NAPE)


National Alliance for Partnership in EquityNational Alliance for Partnership in Equity
PI: Annie Wright, Travis Moore
May 2016 – August 2019

CORE is an evaluation partner to NAPE across several initiatives. NAPE’s Micromessging to Reach and Teach Every Students professional development for teachers across the country. Pre and post survey data is regularly collected, paired with classroom observations and case study-style interviews. Mixed methods data is analyzed and provided to NAPE for ongoing quality improvement and accountability purposes. Specifically in Mesquite ISD, over the course of three years, CORE will monitor how a culture of belonging that ultimately enhances learning may be created through these trainings. Other data collection includes student enrollment, focus groups, and peer observations.

NAPE is also partnering with community college sites to provide Micromessaging training. CORE and The Allison Group are sharing evaluation responsibilities. CORE is focusing on the process evaluation, determining what supports for implementation at each college site may enhance or prohibit NAPE Micromessaging strategies from being fully realized.

Safe Haven PALS


Safe Haven PALSSafe Haven PALS
Co-PIs: Annie Wright, Hiba Rahim, Karen Bembry
October 2016 – September 2018

Safe Haven of Tarrant County provides a range of violence prevention activities including an in-school bullying prevention campaign, Peer Abuse Learning SafeHaven (PALS). CORE is currently working with PALS to review curriculum materials, assess best practices, revise a logic model and develop a data collection plan for treatment and comparison schools in third grade at Birdville ISD. Fidelity of implementation, student surveys and focus group will be used to understand both process and outcomes of this intervention.