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Research and Grant Spotlights

At the UNF College of Education and Human Services our faculty conduct high impact research on both challenges and opportunities in today's education, ASL and English interpreting, technology and training development, leadership, sport management, school counseling and disability services. Their collaborative research brings information, ideas and solutions to light, making a real difference in our areas of expertise.


Although there is a multitude of ongoing research and grants within our College, we will highlight a few high impact articles, publications and studies here, on this platform. 

Exploration of Middle Eastern refugee youths’ statelessness and their exclusion from the public space, including educational institutions

kurdish children with grandfather

Dr. Dilek Kayaalp's article, “Transnational identities in the Canadian context: Kurdish refugee youth as actors and citizens,” was published by the journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Education. Race, Ethnicity, and Education is the leading journal on racism in education (current h5-index: 35; 2019 Impact Factor: 1.298) and is supported by the American Educational Research Association’s Critical Examination of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Education Special Interest Group.

Her paper explores Middle Eastern refugee youths’ statelessness and their exclusion from the public space, including educational institutions. The study draws on Arendt, Hall, Isin, Eliassi, Benhabib, Cotter, Fraser in a complex theoretical framework that leads to a thought-provoking discussion of the youths’ status on citizenship, educational rights, belonging, and their experiences of racism. To explore the refugee youths’ experiences in Canada, she conducted a critical ethnographic inquiry. Her ethnographic inquiry was organized around the three structural contexts (the global, the local, and the socio-political) and conducted in one urban site, Vancouver, Canada, for one year. Twenty refugee youth (aged 15-30) participated.

The study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the diasporic identities of refugee youth and how education and schooling systems can best support these young people’s advancement without patronizing or victimizing them. Findings can be used to open up international discussions on anti-racist education, refugee studies and youth studies.


Read the full article in the journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Education.

Rendering Depiction: A Case Study of an American Sign Language/English Interpreter

two Black interpreters signing ASL

Dr. Mark Halley studied how interpreters render depiction between English and American Sign Language. The term depiction refers to linguistic phenomenon in spoken and signed languages of making a concept visible in some way other than through lexical items alone. Consider, for example, an individual describing a tea party while also depicting a person holding and pouring a tea kettle. This rudimentary example is an instance of depiction. To study how interpreters render depiction in both directions between English and American Sign Language, he developed a single-case study design and presented an interpreter with both English and American Sign Language stimuli. The participant interpreted these stimulus materials, and he in turn, analyzed his production in both language directions, categorizing each instance of depiction into one of thirteen distinct types of depiction.

First the study gives us direct insight into what highly skilled interpreters do, which can be useful for better understanding the work of interpreters. For example, the results indicate that depiction appears to be a linguistic feature in interpreting that is rendered by interpreters according to pragmatic intent and contextualized decision-making, rather than syntactic input alone. Further, this research may be also beneficial for interpreter educators, as the vast majority of American Sign Language/English interpreters and interpreting students are second language learners of American Sign Language. For this reason, many interpreting students and professional interpreters alike struggle to both produce and comprehend depiction, making research into this area especially important.


Read the full study in the Journal of Interpretation.

The Fight Within: Parent-Educators Advocating for Their Children with Autism Inside Their Own School Districts

parent teacher conference
Dr. David Hoppey recently co-published an article, The Fight Within: Parent-Educators Advocating for Their Children with Autism Inside Their Own School Districts, in Teacher Education and Special Education (TESE). TESE, the journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED-CEC), is the leading journal that is dedicated on teacher education and special education. 


This article showcases how advocating for your child with a disability can be a daunting task for any parent. When the parent is also a school district employee, determining whether advocacy could impact one’s position as an employee becomes inherently more problematic. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate and understand the complexities of the dual roles played by parents who advocated for their own children with disabilities within the schools and districts where they teach. Using a heuristic case study approach, this inquiry intended to discern the experiences, barriers, and perceptions of job security related to advocating from inside the district for two parent-educators with children with autism.

Findings suggest unanticipated experiences and challenges within their dual, parent-educator role as indicated by the theory of responsible advocacy. Specifically, these include experiences that were both positive and challenging in nature as well as barriers that were not anticipated by the parent–educator. Repercussions related to job security were also identified. Implications for practice and future research related to parents of children with disabilities who are also educators are discussed including advocating for using the knowledge and experience of these parent-educators to improve parent–school partnerships and communication in districts and schools.

Read the full article in the journal of Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children here.

Providing Platforms: An Examination of Low-Level Questions in Informational Read Alouds

young girl getting help reading with mentor teacher

 Dr. Liz Hale co-authored the article “Providing Platforms: An Examination of Low-level Questions in Informational Read Alouds”, published in the June 2020 issue of The Elementary School Journal. The article describes a mixed-method study that examines the frequency and type of teachers’ spontaneous comprehension questions in script-supported informational read alouds, which includes a secondary analysis on the relationship between low- and high-level comprehension questions. 


Results revealed notable variation in the type, timing and function of low-level questions with some offering support for high-level questions, understanding of content and even student self-efficacy. While the predominance of low-level questioning patterns continues to be a challenge in many classrooms, this study’s findings suggest some low-level questions play important, complementary functions in text discussions, particularly with informational text. With a growing emphasis on teachers supporting students’ critical thinking schools in the elementary years there has been an abundance of research that highlights the use of and benefit of high-level questioning. This emphasis, while understandable, has led to a binary view that often places low-level questions on the undesirable side of question asking, even though they are considered part of almost any continuum or taxonomy of comprehension. 


This article offers a missing counternarrative and illustrates how certain types of low-level questions, if used strategically, play an important role in supporting students’ thinking and interactions with informational texts. After publication, this article was highlighted by Reading Rockets, a national public media initiative that connects teachers, parents, and administrators to recent research that is relevant to the field.

Read the full article in the Elementary School Journal here. 


two students working together in an ESOL class

Dr. Otilia Salmon received a $2.18 million grant to form the ESOL Career Ladder for Student Success project, which has addressed the chronic and growing demand for motivated and well-trained teachers who are equipped to support the ever-growing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Duval County Public Schools. DCPS has experienced a huge influx of ELL students while its ESOL-certified teaching force has remained very low. This grant provided a career ladder for bilingual paraprofessionals who wish to complete their degrees and to meet the requirements for becoming certified ESOL teachers within the district. This grant was extended to include elementary education pre-service teachers with the same opportunity that would allow them to take the courses required to take and pass the ESOL Certification exam; thereby increasing the number of graduates from the COEHS who are better prepared to meet the needs of ELLs.


JTR Mr. Martin with student at desk using robotics at a large white table

Supported by an award of $914,000 from NSF’s Robert Noyce Teaching Fellows program, UNF’s Jacksonville Teacher Residency has prepared and currently supports 14 secondary STEM Duval County Public School teachers. With a focus on care and excellence, these teachers are engaging their students in rich and relevant learning experiences that connect science and mathematics to students’ lives while increasing their interest in STEM and positively impacting achievement.

PNC Grow Up Great Grant

PNC Grant Maria
The UNF Preschool has been approved as a PNC Grow Up Great® partner. With the newly awarded $10,000 grant, the money will be used towards providing UNF Preschool staff and Early Childhood Education Faculty Reggio Emilia professional development and training opportunities. Furthering the UNF Preschool’s path to becoming a Reggio Emilia Center of Excellence.




Project InTERSECT Grant

young boy using laptop and stem manipulatives

 Project InTERSECT allows us to offer local educators and teacher candidates STEM and computational thinking training. Project InTERSECT focuses on  Inquiry to Transform Educator Readiness for STEM+C Early Childhood Teaching . This Supporting Effective Educator Development grant (SEED) will expand existing partnerships with Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) and Northeast Florida Regional STEM2Hub to provide teachers with evidence-based professional development activities that address the need of DCPS students as well as evidence-based professional enhancement which includes activities leading to advanced credentials. The program began Summer 2021 and includes cohorts for STEM+C teacher leaders, professional development, and teacher candidates. 

Learn more about the program via the  UNF News Article: UNF College of Education and Human Services awarded $4M grant to prepare PK-2 teachers in STEM Curriculum

TECt Grant

computer science stock photo
 The Teaching Educators Computational Thinking (TECt) project, a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership (RPP) funded through the National Science Foundation’s Computer Science for All grant program is a partnership between UNF and Duval County Public Schools (DCPS). 

The TECt Grant Program helps secondary teachers foster computational thinking in computer science. The program builds on existing partnerships to provide professional development and coursework designed to equip high school teachers to teach computer science. This RPP engages multiple partners from UNF, DCPS, Northeast Florida STEM2 Hub—a regional advocacy group with community and industry leaders. 


VOYA Foundation Grant

 group at table in step lab

The VOYA Foundation Grant is a partnership with Duval County Public Schools and UNF's College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Human Services. The project focuses on delivering high-quality Quantum Physics Secondary professional development. the ultimate goal to expand science pathways for DCPS students, thereby diversifying the STEM workforce in Northeast Florida and beyond. This project will serve up to 30 pre- and in-service teachers with a focus on Title 1 schools.

The project features timely, adaptive and flexible professional development experiences for teachers to learn quantum concepts, understand and appreciate quantum-related industry demands, and integrate these concepts into their classroom. This will better prepare students for higher education and the 21st-century STEM workplace.

Currently, a small percentage of students in Northeast Florida enroll in chemistry and physics. Teaching industry-relevant quantum concepts can help promote greater student interest in science. While it is challenging to integrate quantum concepts in high school curricula, this project will incorporate recent developments in quantum education applied to the high school context.