Project ProPELL: Rebecca Silverman directs a new $1.25M training grant focused on language, literacy and learning disabilities
Hot on the heels of the NRT award, there is more good news in graduate language science training: a team of faculty in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education (CHSE) has been awarded a U.S. Department of Education Leadership Preparation grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). ProPELL, or Preparing Practice-based researchers with Expertise in Language and Literacy, is a 5 year, $1.25 million training grant awarded to Rebecca Silverman, Associate Professor in CHSE and Director of the Maryland Language and Literacy Research Center (LLRC, an interdisciplinary language and literacy center which is part of the broader language science initiative at Maryland), along with her colleagues Kelli Cummings, Susan De La Paz, Ana Taboada Barber and Jade Wexler.
ProPELL addresses an urgent need for new faculty with expertise in learning disabilities, language and literacy. The grant will enable Maryland to recruit and train graduate students who will be leaders in this area, and will both generate new research that addresses students’ needs and prepare the next generation of teachers to serve students with learning disabilities.
In addition to focused training on language and literacy, ProPELL students will participate in professional development activities, a research apprenticeship, and a one year research-to-practice seminar. The program also emphasizes leadership development through outreach, professional presentations to policy-makers and teachers, and internships focused on providing technical assistance to districts and schools implementing evidence-based practices in special education. Like the NRT program, ProPELL will be a distinct “track” within the broader Language Science Fellows (LSF) program, and students will participate in the core training activities of LSF as well as events like Winter Storm and Language Science Day.
The news of the grant caps a year full of milestones for Rebecca. LLRC was established last summer to bring together language and literacy researchers from across the College of Education and the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, and is now developing research partnerships with Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County Public Schools. Rebecca says, “AACPS has identified early literacy as an area of focus. PGCPS has identified professional development for teachers of English Learners (ELs) as an area of focus. We have two teams of faculty working on these partnerships for next year, and we are very excited by this work.” District-level partnerships will enable much broader collaborations between schools and researchers than would be possible for researchers working with schools on an individual basis.
Rebecca’s own expertise is in language and literacy in the early childhood and elementary school years, including work with ELs and students with Learning Disabilities. Currently, she is researching an intervention for ELs, which focuses on using features of language (including semantics, morphology, and syntax) to help them comprehend and discuss text with peers. She also recently published a new book on vocabulary development with PhD student Anna Meyer Hartranft.
And Rebecca has much more planned for next year: “I will be developing a tutoring program as part of the special education reading problem for students to learn about language and literacy development by working closely with students in need of support. I am really excited about this project - I ran a similar program in graduate school, and have been eager to start a program at UMD since I have been here.”
Rebecca is also getting ready to welcome a new baby this summer. She has two young children, and says “I love watching their language and literacy grow. It is very special to be able to see so many connections between my research and personal life.”