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Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute
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TJEEI Teaching & Research Projects 2015

The Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute funded NINE Teaching & Research Projects proposed by tenured or tenure-seeing College of Education faculty for the 2015 academic year. These projects support research on teaching, leadership and service.

Digital Literacy to Promote Sustainable Healthy Eating Behaviors and Messaging in Diverse and Underserved Populations
Laurie O. Campbell

Abstract:  Typically, students in high poverty and low socio-economic areas face food insecurity and in turn do not always consume healthy and nutritious foods. The result of not eating and living a healthy diet can increase the risk of long-term chronic illnesses including but not limited to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In Central Florida, one in five families face food insecurity affecting approximately 47% of the students in schools in Central Florida (Second Harvest Food Bank). Because of the vast amount of food insecurity in Central Florida and the health risks for children consuming an unhealthy diet, there is a need for a program to inform and teach children in underserved populations the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The Digital Literacy to Promote Sustainable Healthy Eating Behaviors and Messaging in Diverse and Underserved Populations partnered with school programs in underserved areas to promote sustainable healthy eating for students in grades 3-5. Students learned the principles and messaging of the Slow, Go, Whoa program (Werner et. al., 2012 and completed a variety of activities with a culminating digital literacy activity of creating a one minute video about making healthy food choices.

The program was inclusive of all learners. The program was completed 3 times throughout Orange and Seminole counties with great success. The grant afforded answers regarding effective and ineffective activities related to health knowledge and behaviors. Further, many students were able to use mobile multimedia devices for the first time.

Improving Rigor and Impact of Reading Interventions with Students
Little, M., Wenzel, T., Hahs-Vaughn, D., Patrusky, L., Slanda, D.

Abstract:  The purpose of this research, instruction, and intervention project was to develop and research a coordinated, efficient system of services provided within the University of Central Florida and specifically the College of Education and Human Performance to meet the individual academic needs of students in reading by teacher candidates within early field experiences. The focus was the development of a coordinated intake, service provision, data collection, and research agenda among the multiple faculty stakeholders while researching intensive instruction and intervention services to elementary-aged students in reading. Using Florida’s instruction and intervention framework of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), current educational policies, and evidence-based instructional resources, the goals of this research and instructional project were to research the learning impact of student academic improvement through interdisciplinary research and practice, professional development, and partner collaboration with families and educators within central Florida to intensify reading interventions.  In addition, content knowledge in reading by teacher candidates providing the intensive interventions was also investigated.

MacKay’s Study of Early Language Learners
PI: Michele Regalla, Ph.D. and Co-PI: Hilal Peker

Abstract:  Although the development of foreign language proficiency has been well researched among typically developing adults and children, little research exists in the area of foreign language education for students with special needs.  The few studies that have been conducted focus on the limitations of students’ abilities and the challenges these limitations present to foreign language teachers (Leons, Herbert & Gobbo, 2009).  Decades of research in bilingual and foreign language education have provided evidence that second language learning benefits a student’s overall academic performance and first language literacy skills (Bialystok, 2001; Curtain, 1993; Lambert & Tucker, 1972). However, many students with special needs do not have the opportunity to enjoy any of the benefits that learning a foreign language can provide.  Therefore, it remains unknown what students with special needs can accomplish given the same opportunities as typically developing students.

The goal of this project is to address the barrier between students with special needs and access to foreign language education.  A French program was started at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) in the spring of 2014 with seed money and a pilot study has already been conducted.  The French program at UCP has continued and expanded into the 2014-2015 academic year with the help of volunteer French teachers.  The goal of securing grant money is to continue the French program and expand the research.  A large portion of the funds will be used to pay French teachers (UCF students) in order to ensure the continuity of French instruction and consistency of data.  There are currently no teachers at UCP who are able to teach the French program and funding is needed in order to bring French teachers and provide learning materials to UCP.

This project will provide students with special needs an opportunity to learn a foreign language, to examine their learning of the foreign language and any effects foreign language learning may have on their first language development.  Specifically, the current study will focus on the amount of exposure to new vocabulary and the assessment of students’ vocabulary learning. Future plans include securing larger grants to fund longitudinal research tracking the progress of students’ foreign language learning and first language development.

Maturity-Associated Variation in Anthroprometric and Performance Characteristics of Youth Combat Sports Athletes
PI: David H. Fukuda, Ph.D. and Project Collaborators: Jeffrey R. Stout, Ph.D. and Jay R. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Abstract:  The goal of the proposed project is to characterize the changing anthropometric and performance values of youth combat sports athletes throughout the process of maturation. The results of the project will be provide information to coaches, parents, and policy makers regarding the physiological adaptations that occur during adolescence which can assist in the development of strategies to improve participation and retention in combat sports. Participation and retention in these sports will allow the youth athletes to benefit from the previously reported physical, emotional, social, and intellectual advantages conferred by a long-term commitment to physical activity. These benefits may aid in the identification of efficacious intervention and the development of appropriate support systems for children and adults with exceptional needs, which falls within the mission of the Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute. Furthermore, the specific knowledge gained from this investigation will add to the existing literature highlighting similar advantages through participation in combat sports.

The maturity status of youth combat sports athletes will be determined through anthropometric estimation of the years from peak height velocity (PHV). This estimation will be used to separate the athletes into pre-, circa-, and post-PHV groups. Novel data will include the quantification of phase angle from bioelectrical impedance analysis, various measures from the force-time relationship during grip strength measurements, and the stretch-shortening cycle/neuromuscular function assessed via countermovement jump and repeated hopping tasks. The general hypothesis is that the selected anthropometric and performance variables will differ amongst groups. The results of this study will provide normative data for combat sports athletes, the foundation for future exercise or nutritional intervention studies, and, potentially, baseline data for longitudinal comparisons.

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