May 23, 2022

College of Education faculty receive funding

Three faculty from Lehigh’s College of Education have received almost $3 million collectively in research funding from the Institute of Education Services to take on four-year projects. 

Both Esther Lindström and Kristi Morin, professors in the special education department, received early career grants for their projects involving special education. 

Lindström’s Project RISE: Examining Teachers’ Reading Instruction, Supports, and Expertise for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, focuses on various components of education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“We’re measuring teachers’ knowledge and perceptions of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Including) what do they know themselves? What do they think their students can do? What’s appropriate for them?” Lindström said. 

Lindström said she hopes that her research will lead to a greater understanding of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and provide tools to make those in the classroom more comfortable and knowledgeable. The research award for this project was $699,923.

“A lot of research regarding this group of students is focused on a lot smaller samples,” Lindström said. “So, we have the potential here to really contribute something to the research literature and hopefully to the lives of students with intellectual disabilities, and also their teachers.” 

Morin’s Project STAY: Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3 aims to create a supportive professional development program for teachers who are in the early stages of their teaching careers. Morin received $700,000 in award funding.

The project will start by conducting classroom observations and talking to teachers and administrators to find out in what areas new teachers need the most support.

STAY will develop based on this data and then be implemented in schools, which involves new teachers receiving support from mentor teachers, observing exemplary teaching and participating in a professional network, Morin said. 

STAY will be revised based on teacher feedback and put into practice on a larger scale in the final year of the project. 

“In year four, we’re implementing  (STAY) with 22 teacher mentor dyads in a small-scale randomized control trial so that we can really look at what are the changes in teacher and student behavior in our STAY group, versus those who aren’t receiving STAY,” Morin said. 

From here, Morin hopes to measure several variables with students and teachers. 

“So, with teachers, we’re looking at things like does STAY reduce burnout? Does STAY increase the desire to want to stay in the field? Does it improve (a) teacher’s classroom practice? For students, we’re going to be looking at whether they are achieving their IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals that teachers have in place for them,” Morin said.

Ethan Van Norman, a professor of school psychology, was the other recipient of project funding. 

His project is in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and ServeMinnesota, a non-profit AmeriCorps agency. The project with $1,689,125 in awarded funding focuses on helping students maintain reading skills after participating in interventions. 

“We (the research team) discovered that even after students show improvement from those interventions, a large proportion of students regress in their reading skills after the intervention stops,” Van Norman said “Through this project, we hope to identify those things that help predict whether an intervention is likely to work for a student as well as what things predict whether they will maintain gains they have experienced as a result of receiving intervention.”

Van Norman said Lehigh’s team will be supporting the University of Wisconsin-Madison behind the scenes with data and logistics. The reading interventions will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so this data can be collected.

College of Education faculty receive nearly $3 million in research funding