University of Vermont

Jeffords Fellows and Scholars showcase research

The 2009-2010 Jeffords Fellows and Scholars presented their research progress at the UVM Student Research Conference in April 2010.  Over 200 Graduate and Undergraduate Students came together at the Davis Center to showcase research results in either a poster session, or an oral presentation.  Jeffords Fellows and Scholars featured research on the following subjects:

Megan Roy Effective Practices for Teaching Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Validation of a Program Assessment Tool

Meagan Roy, Jeffords Fellow Ed.D. Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, College of Education and Social Services

Creating effective education programs for students with autism spectrum disorder is challenging for schools for a variety of reasons, most notably because of the increase in population, a widespread lack of expertise, and the variability in the presentation of the disorder itself.

This study takes a systems approach to understanding how to meet the needs of students with autism. It examines the reliability and validity of an observational tool that was designed to analyze the quality of an educational program for students with autism spectrum disorders. The Best Practice Measures for Educating Students with Autism: Lesson Observation and Document Audit Matrix (Autism LODAM) was created by synthesizing the relevant research on those program elements that are essential to an appropriate education for all students with autism. It is a tool created specifically for school systems and is designed to assist program administrators in analyzing their specific needs and creating steps for change.

The study examined content validity, interrater reliability and predictive validity. Overall, the Autism LODAM was determined to be a reliable and valid measure of program quality for students with autism spectrum disorders. It can be used by schools to help them more systematically understand the present state of their educational program for this population, and more importantly can be used to outline specific areas for improvement. It is hoped that this study and the Autism LODAM can help generate real change in the quality of education for students with autism on a broad scale by providing a comprehensive tool that will measure all elements of program quality for this unique population.

Erin Shoulberg The Contextual Nature of Perceived Popularity Goals: Associations with Math Engagement and Achievement during the Transition to Adolescence.

Erin Shoulberg, Jeffords Fellow - Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences

Discussions about popularity are pervasive during the transition to adolescence (Adler and Adler, 1998). Although students’ preoccupation with being “cool” and “popular” during late childhood and adolescence is evident within the school context (Adler & Adler, 1998; Coleman, 1961), there is notable variability among students’ apparent desire to be popular (Adler & Adler, 1998). A growing body of research demonstrates the important influence of students’ social goals on their academic outcomes (see Wentzel, 1999; 2005); however, there has been a dearth of research examining how students’ popularity goals influence their academic adjustment. As early adolescence is also a developmental period marked by a decrease in academic engagement and achievement (Anderman & Maeher, 1994), it follows that a better understanding of the interplay between social and academic contexts during the transition to adolescence could highlight novel influences on academic adjustment. Thus, the central purpose of the present investigation was to examine the associations between students’ popularity goals and academic engagement and achievement during the transition to adolescence. The current study further examined how variation in perceptions of popular students’ behaviors and peer-reported popularity influences the relations between popularity goals and academic achievement outcomes. Data for this study are currently being collected in 4th – 7th grade classrooms. Approximately 400 elementary and middle school are being recruited for participation. As part of a larger project examining how peer relationships influence social and academic adjustment, participants complete peer nominations and self-reports in two, hour-long sessions. Additionally, math grades and achievement scores will be obtained from participants’ school records. Theoretical foundations, methodology, and preliminary findings will be presented. As popularity is a particularly salient construct during the transition to adolescence, it is expected that a more comprehensive understanding of the contextual nature of perceived popularity goals could inform adjustment across numerous academic and social domains.

Deliberate Dialogue: Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness of a Patient Safety Communication Technique

Susan Reeves, Jeffords Fellow - Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, College of Education and Social Services

In the spring of 2009, in response to mounting pressure from external regulatory and accrediting agencies, new curricular elements aimed at building competence in communication techniques that enhance patient safety were introduced to twenty-two (22) senior baccalaureate nursing students at a small, rural college in New Hampshire. These techniques were didactically taught in the classroom and subsequently performed by the students in the clinical practice environment while under faculty supervision. The purpose of this study was to explore new-graduate nurse experiences with the use of the I-SBAR-R communication technique in their practice in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the learning experience they had in their undergraduate education.

A specific, best-practice communication technique recommended for use to enhance patient safety is called “I-SBAR-R”. I-SBAR-R is an acronym, which stands for Identification-Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation-Readback, and was originally designed to address the improvement of communication and teamwork in aviation and military settings. It was later adapted for use in health care settings.

At the time of graduation, all of the twenty-two (22) senior nursing students studied demonstrated competency in using the specific I-SBAR-R communication technique with physicians in the clinical setting, and subsequently went on to pass their National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Eight (8) of these graduates recently entered practice at a nearby academic medical center and were participants in the evaluation.

Using Realist review, a method of systematic review designed for complex interventions, the question of teaching effectiveness was addressed. Realist review methodology focuses specific attention on the effect of the implementation context as a determinant of outcome. A discussion of how the various clinical contexts in which the nursing graduates were working affected the use of the I-SBAR-R technique is presented. In addition, participant reflections and recommendations for improving teaching in the undergraduate program are offered.

Katie Coale Raw Milk: The Nutritional, Economic, and Public Health Impacts

Katherine Coale, Jeffords Scholar - Department of Nutrition and Food Science

Raw milk is defined as fluid milk that has not undergone a mild heat process (pasteurization) to destroy human pathogens. Raw milk advocates believe that this food is complete with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that have not been degraded by pasteurization. The sale of raw milk is also described as a source of much needed economic activity for independent dairy farms. On the other hand national public health agencies site that raw or unpasteurized milk containing pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Brucella, have caused outbreaks of illness leading to serious and sometimes life‚Äźthreatening complications. My research compiled information from across the country on pending raw milk legislation and existing state laws. Further, unbiased sciencebased information on potential dangers associated with raw milk consumption was evaluated.

The debate over whether raw milk produces positive or negative health outcomes has been a topic of many recent legislative sessions. New laws surrounding the control of raw milk carry profound public health, economic, governmental consequences. There is little unbiased scientific information available for this political sphere.

A review of the scientific literature indicates that pasteurization does not substantially degrade the nutritional quality of milk. Pregnant women, children, and the immuno‚Äźcompromised, etc. are at an increased risk to contract a food borne illness with the potential for long term consequences and should avoid the consumption of raw milk. Future work will evaluate the merits of testing protocols specified in raw milk legislation and whether required testing adequately addresses the presence/absence of pathogens of public health concern.

Lila FullerEmergency Contraception: High School Nurses and Health Educators’ Perceptions of Adolescent Knowledge and Access of EC

Lila Fuller, Jeffords Scholar - College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Professional Nursing

In 2006, 8 out of every 100 adolescent females in Vermont became pregnant. Adolescent pregnancy is associated with lower high school matriculation rates, increased difficulty in obtaining full-time employment, and higher rates of child abuse and infant mortality. Negative psychological effects may occur over the choice of abortion and adoption. Emergency contraception, hormone therapy to prevent fertilization and implantation of ova was ruled in 2006 by the FDA to be a safe method of pregnancy prevention. Vermont legislatures passed a law in 2006 allowing adolescents to obtain emergency contraception without a physician’s prescription from specially trained pharmacists. The pharmacist must have a state Department of Health and state Board of Pharmacy recognized collaborative practice agreement with a physician for this to occur. Little research exists on the role of this legislation, and on the role of EC in preventing adolescent pregnancies. A qualitative descriptive study was conducted to obtain high school health educators and nurses’ perceptions of adolescent knowledge and access of emergency contraception. An open question interview format was used and the interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Four common themes emerged: Sharing Information, Perceived Adolescent Knowledge, Perceived Barriers for Adolescents and Increasing Consumer Awareness. The researcher and participants suggest a need for further research on adolescent perceptions of access and knowledge of emergency contraception, as well as how pharmacists perceive their role in aiding adolescents in accessing emergency contraception.

The Influence of Lunar Phase and Predation on the Vocalization Behavior of Eastern Whip-poor-wills

Michael Lester, Jeffords Scholar - Wildlife and Fisheries Biology Program, Honors College, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

The negative population trend of Whip-poor-wills (Caprimulgus vociferous) across the North American breeding bird survey area, combined with the difficulty of studying nocturnal birds, leaves critical gaps in our scientific knowledge base for this species. Many species in the Caprimulgidae family (Goatsuckers) are known to increase their singing during brighter moon phases. In Common Poorwills (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) this is attributed to defensive actions to decrease the risk of predation, but the reason for this behavior in Whip-poor-wills is undocumented.

The overall goal of this study was to examine Whip-poor-will singing behavior in relation to moon phase and predator presence/absence by quantifying vocalization across various lunar phases with and without the implied presence of a predator. 10 Areas of known Whip-poor-will occurrence were monitored for one lunar cycle. A control treatment and one of two randomly assigned playback treatments were applied at each location and the response of Whip-poor-wills was recorded.

A control treatment showed singing to increase on nights with brighter moon phases. The average response of Whip-poor-wills following a predator playback was greater during a full moon than a new moon. During the full moon, there was little difference in singing rate before and after a predator playback, while singing decreased the most following predator playback during a new moon. However, most tests were statistically insignificant. Results will be analyzed to determine if predation is a valid explanation for increased singing with brighter moon phases. Opportunities to improve Whip-poor-will sampling methods and to better population size estimates will also be explored.

Jem Hughes Truancy

Jem Hughes, Jeffords Scholar - Secondary Education and English, College of Education and Social Services

The dropout rate across the country for high school students remains at an alarmingly high level. Although there are many reasons for the high dropout rate, one major reason is truancy. Students who are repeatedly absent from school are more likely to read and write below grade level, engage in anti-social activities, and experience some form of mental health issue. In the state of Vermont, efforts are being made to address the truancy problem. Unfortunately, the efforts are insufficient and under-resourced. I studied the truancy project in Vermont and identify ways in which the project might reflect efforts in those states with fairly successful truancy programs.