Grants Lead To Collaboration On Six Research Projects
More than a dozen faculty members across the College of Education and Human Development are collaborating on six research projects thanks to a series of Catapult grants from the College.
During a fall faculty retreat, Dean Joyce Alexander announced $270,000 available for seed grants with two deadline periods, one in the fall and one in the spring. The six winners of the fall competition were announced last week.
“The problems related to education and human development are too complex for single individuals to tackle. The fall retreat was an opportunity for us, as a faculty, to identify the topics where we had expertise across multiple programs,” said Dean Alexander. “It’s so exciting to be able to provide funds so these teams can begin the process of answering important societal questions.”
Dr. Daniel Bowen and his colleagues were awarded $22,000 to explore ways to provide non-partisan information on education and health issues in a policy-friendly format. The proposed center would provide literature reviews and produce summary statements for legislators and other policy-makers in the state.
“I look forward to the learning experiences that will inevitably come from participating in a team effort to engage with state policymakers,” said Dr. Bowen. “I think this is a really ambitious but important goal, particularly in education research – to break outside of the ivory tower and find better, more effective ways to engage with practitioners.”
Dr. Steven Woltering and his colleagues were awarded $34,000 for high-quality sleep research at the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity (CTRAL). The proposal includes the purchase of a Grael polysomnography system to simultaneously collect a wide array of high-resolution peripheral and central nervous system measures during various sleep cycles.
This would be one of few, if not the only, polysomnography unit hosted within a college of education in the U.S. that would be dedicated to questions of learning. The hope is that the College becomes a leader in the field relating sleep quality to issues of learning and health throughout the lifespan.
“We spend about a third of our lives in this state we call sleep and yet researchers still have much to learn about the relation between sleep quality, learning, and health,” explained Dr. Woltering. “For example, systematic research on physiological correlates of sleep quality and how these relate to the ability to learn in schools is still in its infancy. Few education departments have a specialization in this area because sleep research is hard to conduct and requires collaboration of multiple researchers. This bold initiative, backed by the College of Education and Human Development, will be our first step forward in becoming leaders in this field of sleep quality.”
Dr. Kimberly Vannest and her colleagues were awarded $55,300 to conduct research related to military-connected families in the U.S. Previously, these researchers found a greater risk for mental health problems, substance abuse, obesity and school failure in those children affected by deployment and military transfers likely exacerbated by of a lack of access to needed services and support. Dr. Vannest and her colleagues proposed establishing a research consortium around the military family to impact outcomes through research, innovative development and influential dissemination.
“My hope for this grant is to develop strategic partners who will approach solving critical issues of inequality from different perspectives and ultimately to gain recognition for the college as a national leader in how to prevent and address disparate outcomes for social, emotional, behavioral and academic indicators in military connected children and youth,” Dr. Vannest explained.
Dr. Kay Wijekumar and her colleagues were awarded $18,200 to find solutions to the problems of getting researched practices to the classroom. The goal is to address the needs of all students in Texas and focus specifically on the 60% who are economically disadvantaged, the 17% who are learning English as a second language and the 9% who struggle with disabilities.
The long-term goal is to submit a full proposal to the US Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences based on the outcomes of this research.
“Ultimately, we want to make life better for every child in our K-12 schools by matching well-researched practices to the school needs and supporting the teachers and administrators to deliver them,” said Dr. Wijekumar.
Dr. Hector Rivera and his colleagues were awarded $25,000 to develop an understanding of best research-based practices for engaging Hispanics in STEM. The goal is to develop a Hispanic Community STEM Network that will serve as a pathway to science and research for at-risk Hispanic high school students through the engagement of Hispanic community leaders as well as for-profit organizations seeking to serve Hispanics in their respective fields.
“The funding and support of such collaborative approaches, not only in academia but also inclusion of non-profits and for-profits, also bring us closer to a better understanding on potential solutions to the educational challenges faced by Hispanic students in STEM,” said Dr. Rivera.
Dr. Lynn Burblaw and his colleagues were awarded $11,911 to work with a school district that is struggling according to the Texas Education Association. The researchers would provide outreach to that district, its students, teachers and administrators to help foster community partnerships to enhance K-12 learning with a focus on STEM education.
The hope is that the work in this district can be generalized for broader application to other similar high-need schools and ultimately provide a new model for preparing highly integrated and collaboratively prepared teachers.
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