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

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 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

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

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

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 2017

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

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.