Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers Name: Megan Dunn Davison, PhD, CCC-SLP Title: Assistant professor, Department of Linguistics and Communication Disorders, Queens College ASHFoundation award: 2012 New Investigators Research Grant ($5,000), “Effect of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on Writing and Reading Comprehension Outcomes in English Language Learners” Broadly, my research focus includes language and literacy development ... Foundational Questions
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Foundational Questions  |   August 01, 2016
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
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ASHA News & Member Stories / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   August 01, 2016
Foundational Questions: A Researcher’s ASHF-Launched Quest for Answers
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.21082016.np
The ASHA Leader, August 2016, Vol. 21, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.21082016.np
Name: Megan Dunn Davison, PhD, CCC-SLP
Title: Assistant professor, Department of Linguistics and Communication Disorders, Queens College
ASHFoundation award: 2012 New Investigators Research Grant ($5,000), “Effect of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on Writing and Reading Comprehension Outcomes in English Language Learners”
What is the focus of your research?
Broadly, my research focus includes language and literacy development and disorders in preschool and school-age children. At the preschool age level, I am interested in examining the contributions of parent-child interactions and teacher-child interactions to children’s language and literacy development. This interest includes examining how the vocabulary, grammar and sentence complexity that children are exposed to at home and in the classroom influence vocabulary and syntactic development as well as early reading ability. At the school-age level, I am interested in developing language-based reading and writing interventions for at-risk children, including students identified as low-achieving or struggling learners or students with language impairment.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
The results of my New Investigator’s Award made me rethink the importance of complex syntax in at-risk children. The results of the writing intervention study I conducted with middle school students with language impairment indicated improvement in number of written sentences, including more diverse vocabulary, but I saw no change in grammaticality and the use of complex or compound sentence structures. This result led me to go back to the literature, and I have now focused my research more specifically on syntax, including complex syntax input in preschool children with specific language impairment, as well as interventions that target complex syntax in school-age children.
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
One of the foundational requirements for achieving academic success is the successful acquisition of language skills. Without the ability to comprehend complex linguistic units, educational achievement and eventual employment opportunities are extremely limited. The main focus of my research is to address this issue by evaluating ways to support the early and ongoing language development of children who are at risk for reading difficulties. I believe this can be accomplished in two ways. First, it can be accomplished by developing and evaluating instructional programs to teach educators and parents how to promote early language development, specifically more complex language use (complex syntax) for children. Second, it can be accomplished by developing and evaluating instructional programs to support a comprehensive approach to teaching language, reading and writing for at-risk students.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
I started my career as a speech-language pathologist in early intervention, doing home-based language intervention, where for the first time I was able to view intervention as a partnership with moms, dads, grandparents and even foster parents. I quickly understood that sometimes intervention strategies that I was able to create in the clinical environment simply would not work in the home environment. The same was true when I was an SLP in the elementary and middle-school setting. By being involved in the classroom and understanding the expectations placed on students by the curriculum and the teachers, I knew I had to refocus my intervention to be more comprehensive and team-based in order for the student to practice good language and literacy strategies at home, school and even in individual speech-language therapy sessions. Because of this realization, my research includes collaboration between my research team and parents or my research team and teachers or other educators in a way that has the potential to positively impact children’s or students’ personal, academic or community growth.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
One of the most important professional aspects of receiving an ASHFoundation grant is demonstrating that I, as a researcher, can produce a competitive, awarded grant idea and can meet the grant aims and goals successfully and on time. This demonstration is particularly important to my career, as the administrators at my university are evaluating my productivity for promotion and tenure and reviewers are evaluating my productivity for other funding mechanisms. These individuals view past funding of competitive grant mechanisms very highly. The New Investigator’s grant allowed me to undertake a small, but completely independent research project that also helped me to further refine my five-year research plan, while establishing me as an independent researcher. Specific to my grant’s aims, I was able to conduct research in a school setting, which also made me think more broadly about the potential challenges and ways to mediate those challenges as I expand into future reading and writing interventions. My experience directing a research project has significantly affected how I now conceptualize proposals—now I’m the most successful when establishing collaborative relationships with teachers and personnel at preschools and schools.
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August 2016
Volume 21, Issue 8