John Wills Lloyd Outstanding Doctoral Research Award Winners

DLD’s John Wills Lloyd Outstanding Doctoral Research Award recognizes excellence in doctoral research that contributes to the field of learning disabilities. Applications are due 1 October of each year. The award consists of:

  1. A $500 cash award.
  2. Up to an additional $500 for travel to receive the award at the CEC Annual Convention
  3. One-year membership in CEC and DLD
  4. An opportunity to present the research at the CEC Annual Convention.
  5. An invitation to submit the research for publication in the DLD journal, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice

Abigail Allen (2017)

DLD’s Research Committee is proud to name Dr. Abigail Allen as the 2017 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award recipient for her dissertation entitled “The Effects of a Morphological Awareness Intervention on Early Writing Outcomes”.  Dr. Allen earned her PhD in Special Education at the University of Missouri under the direction of Dr. Erica Lembke and is currently a faculty member at Clemson University.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of a morphological awareness intervention on the spelling and sentence writing performance and growth of second (n = 17) and third (n = 10) grade students at risk for writing difficulty. The intervention was provided in 25 minute sessions four to five times per week for five weeks. Students were individually randomly assigned to either the intervention (n = 13) or the comparison (n = 14) condition. Students were pre- and post-tested using standardized tests of spelling and writing and a curriculum-based measure of sentence writing (CBM-W). Additionally, students were given a working memory index as a covariate and an oral language subtest as a counterfactual measure. All participants were also given the CBM-W task twice weekly as a progress monitoring measure. Intervention effects were measured using a series of t-tests and a multi-variate analysis of covariane (MANCOVA). Growth on the progress monitoring task was measured using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). Results indicated that students in the intervention significantly improved their spelling as a result of the intervention, but this result was attenuated when controlling for working memory. Student-level characteristics that predicted growth were baseline spelling ability and grade level. Students who were younger and poorer spellers to begin with made the most growth on the CBM-W sentence writing task.

Jessica M. Namkung (2015)

The Division for Learning Disabilities’ Research Committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award: Jessica M. Namkung, who received her PhD in Special Education from Vanderbilt University in 2014 (Lynn Fuchs, Chair) and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University at Albany. Dr. Namkung’s study, Cognitive Predictors of Calculations and Number Line Estimation with Whole Numbers and Fractions (see abstract that follows), was selected from a field of excellent applicants as the most outstanding doctoral-level research in the field of learning disabilities. Dr. Namkung will receive a $500 cash award, $500 toward travel to the CEC conference in San Diego to receive her award, a free one-year membership in CEC and DLD, an opportunity to present the research at the CEC Annual Convention, and invitation to submit the research in the division journal, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. Congratulations Dr. Namkung!

The purpose of this study was to examine the cognitive predictors of calculations and number line estimation with whole numbers and fractions. At-risk fourth-grade students (N = 139) were assessed on seven domain-general abilities and incoming calculation skill at the start of fourth grade. Then, they were assessed on whole-number and fraction calculation and number line estimation measures at the end of fourth grade. Structural equation modeling and path analysis indicated that processing speed, attentive behavior, and incoming calculation skill were significant predictors of whole-number calculations whereas language, in addition to processing speed and attentive behavior, significantly predicted fraction calculations. For number line estimation, nonverbal reasoning significantly predicted both whole-number and fraction outcome, with numerical working memory predicting whole-number number line estimation and language predicting fraction number line estimation. Findings are discussed in terms of distinctions between whole-number and fraction development and between calculations and number line learning.

Jia Huang (2012)

DLD’s Research Committee named Jia Huang as the recipient of the Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for 2012. Dr. Huang, who is Post-Doctoral Associate at the University of Miami, Dr. Huang received her Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Miami studying with Professor Marjorie Montague. Her research examine psychometric properties of alternate forms of curriculum based measures in arithmetic.

Dr Huang submitted a dissertation entitled “Population Invariance of Linking Functions Across Alternate Forms of Curriculum-Based Measures of Math Problem Solving” for her research. The abstract is as follows:

The purpose of this study was to investigate population invariance of the true-score linking functions with respect to the ability subgroups (i.e., average-achieving students, low-achieving students, and students with learning disabilities). The mean/mean linking functions for five alternate forms of a curriculum-based math problem solving measure were based on the Rasch model. Most studies of curriculum-based measurement have reported only the reliability and validity of alternate forms of measures. This is necessary but insufficient for establishing alternate forms of curriculum-based measures. It is also necessary to establish equivalency of the forms. The present study was based on data from a previous study that developed equivalent forms of curriculum-based measures using Item Response Theory. The participants in the present study were 1,861 seventh- and eighth-grade students. Equatability indices were used to evaluate population invariance of the Rasch mean/mean linking functions over the ability subgroups. Results indicated that the Rasch mean/mean linking functions were population invariant for the ability subgroups across the five alternate forms. The differences between the linking functions computed on the ability subgroups and the linking function on the whole group were negligible for the five forms. Several implications and recommendations for future studies on population invariance of the linking functions with alternate forms of curriculum-based measures were discussed.

The abstract for Dr. Huang’s dissertation is as follows:

Huang, Jia, “Population Invariance of Linking Functions of Curriculum-Based Measures of Math Problem Solving” (2010). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 427.

Jennifer Krawec (2011)

The Dissertation Awards Committee announced that Jennifer Krawec, Ph.D., received DLD’s Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for 2011. Dr. Krawec completed her Ph.D. studies at the University of Miami, where she studied with Majorie Montague, before beginning her professional career at Missouri State University.

Dissertation Title: Problem Representation and Mathematical Problem Solving of Students of Varying Math Ability

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine differences in math problem solving among students with learning disabilities (LD), low-achieving (LA) students, and average-achieving (AA) students. The primary interest was to analyze the problem representation processes students use to translate and integrate problem information as they solve math word problems. Problem representation processes were operationalized as (a) paraphrasing the problem and (b) visually representing the problem. Paraphrasing accuracy (i.e., paraphrasing relevant information, paraphrasing irrelevant linguistic information, and paraphrasing irrelevant numerical information), visual representation accuracy (i.e., visual representation of relevant information, visual representation of irrelevant linguistic information, and visual representation of irrelevant numerical information), and problem-solving accuracy were measured in eighth-grade students with LD (n = 25), LA students (n = 30), and AA students (n = 29) using a researcher-modified version of the Mathematical Processing Instrument (MPI). Results indicated that problem-solving accuracy was significantly and positively correlated to relevant information in both the paraphrasing and the visual representation phases and significantly negatively correlated to linguistic and numerical irrelevant information for the two constructs. When separated by ability, students with LD showed a different profile as compared to the LA and AA students with respect to the relationships among the problem-solving variables. Mean differences showed that students with LD differed significantly from LA students in that they paraphrased less relevant information and also visually represented less irrelevant numerical information. Paraphrasing accuracy and visual representation accuracy were each shown to account for a statistically significant amount of variance in problem-solving accuracy when entered in a hierarchical model. Finally, the relationship between visual representation of relevant information and problem-solving accuracy was shown to be dependent on ability after controlling for the problem-solving variables and ability. Implications for classroom instruction for students with and without LD are discussed.

Krawec, Jennifer Lee, (2010). Problem Representation and Mathematical Problem Solving of Students of Varying Math Ability. Open Access Dissertations. Paper 455.

Sarah R. Powell (2010)

DLD’s Research Committee selected Sarah R. Powell as the recipient of the 2010 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. Dr. Powell, who completed her degree at Vanderbilt University studying with Professor Lynn Fuchs, examined factors contributing to students’ understanding of the appropriate use of the equals sign in arithmetic word problems.

Dr. Powell submitted her dissertation as her doctoral research for the DLD award. The abstract for her dissertation is as follows:

Elementary school students often misinterpret the equal sign (=) as an operational rather than a relational symbol. Research indicates equal-sign instruction can alter how typically-developing students use the equal sign, but no study has examined effects for students with mathematics difficulty (MD) or how equal-sign instruction contributes to word-problem skill for students with or without MD. The present study assessed the efficacy of equal-sign instruction within word-problem tutoring. Third-grade students with MD (n = 80) were assigned to word-problem (WP) tutoring, WP tutoring plus equal-sign (WP+ES) tutoring, or no-tutoring control. WP+ES tutoring produced better improvement on equal sign tasks and open equations compared to the other 2 conditions. On certain forms of word problems, WP+ES tutoring but not WP tutoring alone produced better improvement than control. When compared at posttest to 3rd-grade students without MD on equal sign tasks and open equations, only WP+ES tutoring students with MD performed comparably.

Dr. Powell later published a paper based on her dissertation. The citation is as follows:

Powell, S. R., & Fuchs, L. S. (2010). Contribution of equal-sign instruction beyond word-problem tutoring for third-grade students with mathematics difficulty. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 381-394. doi:10.1037/a0018447

Pamela Seethaler (2009)

DLD’s Research Committee announced that Pamela Seethaler, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2008 DLD Outstanding Dissertation Award. Dr. Seethaler completed her dissertation at Vanderbilt University where she studied with Professor Lynn Fuchs (right in photo).

Dissertation Title: The Predictive Utility of Kindergarten Screening for Math Difficulty: How, When, and With Respect to What Outcome Should It Occur?

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the reliability, validity, and predictive utility of 3 measures for screening kindergarten students for risk for math difficulty (MD). The screening measures, administered in fall and spring of kindergarten to 196 students, assessed number sense and computational fluency. Conceptual and operational outcomes were measured at the end of 1st grade, with MD operationalized as below the 16th percentile. The study compared single-skill vs. multiple-skill screeners; fall vs. spring kindergarten screening; and conceptual vs. operational outcomes. Alternate form and internal consistency reliability and concurrent and predictive validity were adequate. Logistic regression and ROC analyses indicated that the multiple-skill and single-skill screeners produced good and similar classification accuracy at the fall and spring screening occasions in forecasting conceptual outcome. To forecast operational outcome, the screeners produced similar classification accuracy compared to each other but were less accurate than in predicting conceptual outcome.

Sheri Berkeley (2008)

DLD’s Research Committee announced that Sheri Berkeley received the DLD Dissertation Award for 2008. Dr. Berkeley (now at the University of Georgia) completed her graduate studies at George Mason University in 2007; she was advised by Professor Margo Mastropieri (right in accompanying photo).

Dissertation Title: Reading Comprehension Strategy Instruction and Attribution Retraining for Secondary Students with Disabilities by Sheri Berkeley, Asst Prof U GA

Abstract:This study investigated the effects of six weeks of reading comprehension strategy (RCS) instruction with and without attribution retraining (AR) on the reading performance of 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students with disabilities. Students were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: RCS+AR versus RCS versus a Read Naturally comparison condition. Results indicated that, compared to the comparison group, both strategy instruction groups performed better on main idea and strategy awareness measures. Students who received AR attributed success more to internal factors (e.g., effort) and less to external factors (e.g., luck). Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

Michael Faggella-Luby (2007)

DLD’s Research Committee announced that Michael Faggella-Luby is the recipient of the 2007 DLD Outstanding Dissertation Award. Dr. Faggella-Luby received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2006.

Dissertation Title: Embedded Learning Strategy Instruction:  Story-Structure Pedagogy in Secondary Classes for Diverse Learners

Abstract:The effects of using the Embedded Story Structure (ESS) Routine in a literature course were investigated. Seventy-nine ninth graders, including 14 individuals with LD, were randomly assigned to one of two conditions, with instruction occurring in groups of 12 to 14 students in general education literature classes over a nine-day period. ESS instruction focused on three reading strategies including: (a) student self-questioning, (b) story-structure analysis, and (c) summarizing. Control instruction was comprised of a package of research-based reading comprehension interventions. Statistically significant differences were found between groups in favor of the ESS Routine on measures of strategy use, story-structure knowledge, and unit reading comprehension. Moreover, results indicated equivalent gains for ESS students regardless of disability versus nondisability category.

Kevin Miller (2006)

Dr. Miller received his Ph.D. from University of Virginia in 2005, where he studied with Professor Rick Brigham (left in photo; now at George Mason University).

Dr. Kevin Miller
Director of the Upper School
Woodlynde School
445 Upper Gulph Road
Strafford, PA 19087-5498

Dissertation Title: Use of an integrated visual mnemonic for recall of related information

Abstract: Twenty-seven tenth-grade males with language-based learning disabilities were taught information relating to 3 figures from the early Italian Renaissance in their history classroom, followed by a review of the material later the same day. Control participants reviewed the material for 35 minutes by means of a direct-instruction recitation format. Experimental participants reviewed the material for 35 minutes by means of an instructor-made multiple-item mnemonic image for each figure; this image used photo images and clip art as acoustic, symbolic, or mimetic representations for each item of the material. A free-recall test on the following day revealed significantly higher recall for the mnemonic condition. Correlation indicated that participants who reported using the mnemonic strategy performed better than did participants who reported using oral or silent repetition. Chi- square analysis indicated no significant difference in recall by type of representation. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Paul Morgan (2005)

Dr. Morgan received his degree at Vanderbilt University under the supervision of Doug Fuchs. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational & School Psychology & Special Education at Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Paul Morgan
Pennsylvania State University
211 CEDAR Building
University Park, PA 16802

Title: Does Early Reading Failure Decrease Children’s Motivation? An Evaluation of the Negative Matthew Effects Hypothesis.

Brief abstract: Stanovich’s (1986) Matthew effects theory is a frequently cited etiological explanation of learning disabilities (LD). A key hypothesis predicts that early academic struggles negatively affect children’s motivation. To evaluate this proposed causal relation, we used a pre-test post-test control group design with random assignment to test whether (a) 60 first grade children reported substantially different levels of motivation as a function of making either substantial or limited progress in acquiring reading skills, and (b) manipulating the amount of progress 15 children at risk for LD made in acquiring these skills would lead to gains in their motivation. Multivariate analyses of variance suggested marked differences in motivation and reading practice between skilled and at risk readers. However, neither hierarchical regression analyses nor direct manipulation of a hypothesized causal agent (i.e., progress in skills acquisition) yielded evidence of a causal reading skills-reading motivation relation. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Dr. Morgan will present his dissertation at CEC in Baltimore from 8:30 to 10 am on Friday, April 8. The specific location will be in the CEC program.

Yvonne Bui (2004)

Dr. Yvonne Bui
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94121

Title: The Effects of a Comprehensive Writing Program for Students With and Without Disabilities in Inclusive Fifth Grade Classrooms.

Brief abstract: This study was intended to test the effects of a comprehensive writing program for students with and without disabilities in inclusive fifth grade classrooms. The program included research based components including writing strategies, prewriting planning, narrative text structures, and the process approach to writing. Students with and without disabilities earned higher scores with the writing training program on several measures, but not on the state wide writing tests compared to students who did not received the training.