Thursday, July 23, 2015

Study: Reading Interventions Make Big Impacts, Even Outside of English Class

By Wills Citty

A new College of Education study shows teaching struggling students reading strategies through U.S. history class can improve both reading skills and understanding of the subject itself.

The study, published in the journal Exceptional Children, was conducted in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Riverside. It looked at the effects of targeted reading intervention for eighth grade history students who read well below grade level. Half of the students in the study were English language learners, and half received special education services.

Over the course of the 15-week study, participants in some cases made significant gains through comparatively low-impact support.

A new study shows that reading intervention works.
Struggling readers who received just 5-15 minutes of daily direct, interactive vocabulary instruction were able to define more academic vocabulary words than their average performing peers who received incidental instruction from the classroom teacher,” said study co-author Dr. Kristen Beach, who spoke on behalf of the UNC Charlotte contingent.

Beach, an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and Child Development, and departmental colleague Dr. Lindsay Flynn helped develop the program. The pair trained classroom teachers on reading techniques and documented the results of their deployment in the classroom.
Students were taught the meanings of academic terms, how to break down complicated words, and critically for history class, to understand cause-and-effect relationships.

“The cause-effect text structure is among the most important for readers to understand in history, since history is often defined by sequenced and causally-connected events. Unfortunately, the cause-effect text structure is also among the most difficult for struggling readers to grasp,” said Beach.

After learning strategies to identify and organize cause-effect relationships, struggling readers performed as well as average performing peers on a task that required picking out cause and effect in a new passage, the study found.

Integrating reading instruction into classes other than English may thus be a real answer for students without the foundational skills to succeed; on the other hand, doing so may also be a source of consternation for teachers dealing with limited resources.

Beach noted that while most instructors came to recognize the value of integrating reading instruction into their history class, at first some were skeptical about dedicating time to non-core material.

However, “the decision to teach reading skills or subject-area content isn’t necessarily a catch-22,” Beach said, “In fact, infusing instruction on word reading, vocabulary, and text structure into content area classrooms can be feasible and is often at harmony with content area teachers’ goals: to teach content knowledge and critical thinking skills.”

The numbers back up that argument.

Study participants improved by an average 20 points in teacher-created history finals. That’s a striking statistic, Beach said.

“These improvements are particularly impressive given [our study’s] instruction supplanted the teacher’s typical instruction and did focus more on strategies for reading rather than on instruction to improve content area knowledge.”

 The study was a cooperative effort between university scholars and the middle school teachers who agreed to participate. Researchers and teachers met throughout to talk about which strategies worked and which didn’t. And tactics were modified and improved base on these review sessions.

“Our goal was to design instruction that was effective, manageable, and complimentary with teachers’ existing classroom goals and practices. By doing so, we maximized the likelihood that the resulting intervention would be sustained in the school building after our particular study ended,” Beach said.

The broad based reading strategies employed in the study are part of preservice special education teacher training at UNC Charlotte.  In response to educator feedback, Beach and study co-author Flynn are working with a College of Education colleague to develop a program that teaches class-specific reading skills.

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Willis Citty is Director of Communication for the College of Education.

Mt. Zion excavation could someday lead to archaeological park

John Bland, Phillip Brown and James Hathaway contributed to this story.

[Photos by Rachel Ward]

It's July 2015, and archaeologist Shimon Gibson, an associate professor at UNC Charlotte, has an exciting vision for the Mount Zion excavation site near Jerusalem. The dig is a multi-year effort in the ancient city, and UNC Charlotte is the only American university licensed to carry out such excavations in Jerusalem.

Shimon Gibson instructs excavation teammates and observers.
Work at the Mount Zion site will continue for several years, toward a goal of developing an interactive attraction for the three million yearly visitors to Jerusalem. “We would like to bring about a situation whereby tourists and pilgrims in the future will be able to walk through this time tunnel and see these remains dating from different periods,” Gibson said.

The site is located near the Zion Gate and under the Old City Wall. The dig has an annual staff of about 80, working in two two-week shifts during the summers. Most years, 15 to 20 UNC Charlotte students participate as volunteers, though the project has become so popular in recent years that it is now drawing staff from around the country and around the world. He s

Within a stone’s throw of the dig is the Tomb of David, hero of the bible and the city’s great king, and above it the room where Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Last Supper, before the passion and crucifixion. Also close are the ruins of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s great Nea church

James Tabor, best-selling author and noted religious historian
has worked for years on projects in Jerusalem.
“Archaeology is the material remains of the human past. And this particular period, of all the periods in Western history, is that intersection of ancient Judaism and the birth of Christianity. We’re at ground zero,” said James Tabor, professor of religious studies and co-director of the dig with Gibson, who will teach a course on the history of Jerusalem this fall at the University.

The excavation work takes place during the summer, and the artifacts unearthed are studied and cataloged during the rest of the year at the University of the Holy Land. UNC Charlotte students and volunteers from Charlotte, Europe and the Middle East help with the dig.

View Mt. Zion video on YouTube and The Live Wire.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Confirmed: high heels weaken ankles

By Wills Citty

A new study showing the negative effects of prolonged high heel use confirms expert consensus on the footwear, according to a UNC Charlotte expert.

The study, published this month in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP), found that wearing high heels can strengthen the ankle initially, but leads to weakening and instability over time.

This is not surprising, said Dr. Tricia Turner, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Athletic Training Coordinator at UNC Charlotte.

Tricia Turner
“Initially when wearing heels the muscles that surround the ankles have to continuously contract to keep you upright and walking.  Over time you need less muscle contraction as the lower leg muscles adapt to the changes in footwear. Once that occurs less muscle contraction occurs,” she said.

“With prolonged use you get muscle shortening in the back of the leg and muscle lengthening in the front of the leg.  These changes in muscle length then can change muscle strength. “

The IJCP report looked at ankle strength and balance in women training to be flight attendants, collecting data for each class year, freshman through senior, to consider the effects of high heels over time.

Dr. Turner said high heels can cause problems because they force the foot into a naturally unstable position. “In sneakers or flat shoes the foot is positioned in neutral where the bones of the ankle are under the bones of the lower leg, creating a more stable joint and a decreased likelihood of injury.”

“High heeled shoes also change the normal walking or gait cycle, with the ultimate result being a less fluent gait cycle,” Turner added.

She said ligament and nerve damage in the ankle could lead to issues in the legs and back.

“Changes at the ankle cause the muscles higher in the leg and back to lose efficiency and strength.  It also changes the load the bones in and around the knee have to absorb which can ultimately lead to injury.”

But Turner said there are ways to minimize the risk of injury.  She recommends a combination of stretching and strength and balance training.

·       To stretch lower leg muscles, use a towel to pull your foot towards you for 30 seconds.  

·       Use a theraband to strengthen the big muscles of the lower leg and ankle. Use the theraband to resist the ankle as it pushes up, out, and in.
·       Standing toe raises
·       To work the smaller muscles of the leg, put small objects on the floor and use your toes to pick them up


·       Stand on one limb at a time, holding position for 30 seconds. This may be made more difficult by closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface.

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Wills Citty is Director of Communication for the College of Health and Human Services.