The Research Colloquium

Nationally prominent researchers in early childhood learning and development are invited to speak about their research and its implications for practitioners. Typically there are two formal colloquia per academic year, one in the fall semester and one in the spring. These colloquia are announced and open to the ETSU community of faculty, students and staff as well as interested professionals and parents in the northeast Tennessee community. The colloquia are usually held on or near the ETSU campus and there is no charge for attendance. Other speakers and presentations are also arranged during the year and will be announced as they are scheduled.

Research Support Group

A group of faculty and students who are interested in research meets on a semi-regular basis approximately once per month during the academic year. Usually one or two volunteers from the group are asked to present their research projects, research ideas or proposals or drafts of manuscripts about their research at each meeting. The purpose of this group is to provide support for applied research in general and to allow members of the group to get helpful advice and feedback about their projects. The group usually meets in the Center classroom in Warf Pickel 209, Clemmer College of Education.

Center Research and Scholarly Productivity

In the last 10 years (2000 to 2010) Center faculty and staff have produced 116 professional publications including 63 articles in professional journals and 49 books or book chapters. The publications have had a positive impact on the professional fields of:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Special Education
  • Child and Family Studies
  • Communicative Disorders
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical/Motor Development
  • Child Psychology
  • Pediatrics

Additionally, Center Faculty and Staff have conducted 558 presentations at various professional conferences including 62 at international conferences, 115 at national conferences, 41 at regional conferences, 135 at state conferences, and 151 at local conferences.

Positive Behavior Support Initiative (PBSI ) Research Activities

The PBSI project currently has a number of ongoing, applied research projects. These projects are undertaken to help us evaluate our services to local schools, preschools and alternative educational settings and to provide systematic, science-based information that will help advance the knowledge base and practice of special education. The projects include:

“The School-Wide Positive Behavior Support Program” is directed by Dr. Leia Blevins. This project is examining the effectiveness of a positive discipline program implemented for all students in a school by all faculty and staff and is designed to, teach more responsible, appropriate behaviors and to decrease problem behaviors and reduce the need for office referrals, suspensions and expulsions. A project is currently going on at Ridgeview School in Washington County. Additional SWPBS projects are in the planning stages for other schools and counties.

“An Observational Descriptive Analysis of Teacher Implementation of Behavior Intervention Plans and Associated Student Behavior Change” is directed by Dr. James Fox. This study seeks to evaluate the degree to which behavior intervention plans developed through a functional behavior assessment process are implemented by the classroom teacher and if a student’s behavior problems are reduced and more positive behavior increases. This study is going on in several different school systems in the Northeast Tennessee area.

We are beginning a third study in which we are evaluating the proficiency of school-based teams to implement state of the art functional behavior assessments. We have trained a number of teams in Northeast Tennessee schools to conduct these assessments over the past 7 years. We are analyzing case records of these assessments to determine the extent to which the teams have implemented the essential components of this behavior assessment approach. This will give us and the field of special education an idea of how well this assessment technology can be translated into practice by school personnel themselves and what we might need to do to make this technology more transportable to schools.

Student Research Directed by Dr. Fox

Several students have completed or are conducting research under the advisement of Dr. Fox.

Ms. Megan Peters, a Master’s student in Early Childhood Special Education, is conducting a study, “A Descriptive Analysis of Preschool and Elementary Grade Teachers’ Perceptions of Behavior Rating Scales for Screening Young Children’s Behavioral Risk”. Ms Peters is conducting a qualitative interview study in which she is analyzing teachers’ perceptions of several commonly used, standardized behavior rating scales. Teachers are asked to evaluate the scales in terms of their appropriateness for young children and their practicality in screening young children for possible behavior problems that may worsen if not treated early. She hopes to identify or develop a relatively accurate, appropriate and brief instrument for behavior screening and progress monitoring for preschool and early grade children.

Ms Sarah Sasscer, an interdisciplinary studies undergraduate, recently completed a study, “Elementary School Teachers’ Uses and Perceptions of Cooperative Learning”. In this study Ms Sasscer first surveyed a sample of elementary teachers about their professional training and experience, their experience in and use of cooperative learning in their own classrooms as well as their perceptions of their personal efficacy in teaching children. She then conducted direct observations of teachers’ implementation of cooperative learning in their classes. Prior experience and perceived personal teaching efficacy were not correlated with implementation of the various components of cooperative learning and there was considerable between teacher variation in the manner and amount of observed cooperative learning in classrooms.

Ms Jessica Plaster, an undergraduate major in early childhood, recently completed a study, “Language Development and Behavior Problems in Young Preschool Children and the Relationship of Teacher and Parent Ratings of Behavior Problems”. In this study, Ms Plaster existing expressive and receptive language assessment data and obtained teacher and parent ratings of preschoolers’ behavior problems using a well validated scale, the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist. She found a low but negative correlation between a child’s receptive language development and total behavior problems and total externalizing behavior problems such as acting out, disruptive, defiant or aggressive behaviors. This indicated that the greater the delay in a child’s receptive language (understanding what is said to him/her), the greater the degree of behavior problems. 

Comprehensive Analysis and Target Selection in Speech (CATSS )

This project is designed to address the gap that exists between current evidence-based practices and clinical implementation of complete assessment practices that are essential for intervention planning with children who have speech sound disorders (SSD); a high-incidence disorder that impacts all aspects of educational and social adjustment. An innovative software program will be developed to support speech-language pathologists’ (SLPs) efficient implementation of comprehensive assessment and analysis procedures that are linked to evidence-based intervention planning with the goal to support and improve clinical decision-making, which will result in increased speech intelligibility for children. Specifically, in Phase I, a DVD, Comprehensive Analysis and Target Selection in Speech (CATSS) and a user manual will be developed to be used by SLPs in assessing speech disorders and planning intervention with children. Feasibility testing of the software program with SLPs will follow alpha and beta testing of the software. Three regional test sites will be incorporated to assess the feasibility of CATSS and the user manual. A counterbalanced design will be used in two experimental tasks with a mandatory quota of eight SLPs in each of the three regional sites (N=24). Feasibility data will be collected in terms of efficiency and accuracy in two experimental tasks that compare CATSS with traditional methods of assessment and intervention planning. Specifically, quantitative data will be collected in the form of the amount of time it takes to analyze data sets under two conditions (CATSS vs. traditional) and the number of errors to complete each task (a measure of accuracy expressed as a percentage). Analysis of variance employing all the design features of counterbalancing, study participants, and study site, will be applied to each measurement. Qualitative data will also be collected in the form of a questionnaire. Given the high incidence and long-term impact of SSD, it is anticipated that CATSS will have a significant and direct impact on the 65,000 SLPs who work in the school setting. With more than 90% of their caseload involving children with SSD, these are the practitioners who provide services within their time-constrained daily practices, including almost one-third of their work week to complete diagnostic evaluations. Dr. Lynn Williams is the Co-Investigator on this project.

Consortium for Promoting Cross-Linguistic Understanding of Communication Disabilities in Children

The ability to communicate is essential for human functioning: to express needs and wants, socialize with others, and participate in society. A communication disorder can significantly impact a child’s overall future and success. While most children experience typical communication development, communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in the United States. The purpose of this proposed US-Brazil university consortium is to foster student exchange and curriculum development, as well as language and cultural skills, among US-Brazil speech-language pathology and audiology students. This consortium program will target cross-linguistic communication disabilities in children resulting from diverse etiologies, including cleft lip and/or palate, children with speech disorders, hearing impairment, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The consortium will include a strong alliance among the following partner institutions: East Tennessee State University (ETSU), University of Northern Iowa (UNI), Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM), and Universidade de São Paulo- Baurú (USP). Through this partnership, US and Brazilian students will be provided comprehensive and in-depth academic and clinical preparation in the cross-linguistic assessment and treatment of children with communication disabilities through internet-based coursework, webinars, educational visits to host institutions, and student exchange for a semester of study abroad. In addition to coursework, students will have the opportunity to participate in the delivery of clinical services in both urban hospital and university clinical settings in Brazil and the US. Students will also have the opportunity to learn the social and cultural differences that exist in the US and Brazil in working with families from an ecological model of child development (Bronfenbrenner, 1994), and to assess the impact of communication disabilities within the unique socio-cultural contexts of families and communities that exist in the two countries. Dr. Brenda Louw is the principal investigator for this project and Dr. Lynn Williams is Co-Director.

Back to Top


The Child Study Center , a model early childhood program, is an inclusive child care center serving children 3 months to 6 years of age. The Program is a quality training site for university students in many academic programs including: Early Childhood, Child and Family Studies, Special Education, Communicative Disorders, Nursing, Physical Therapy, and Pediatrics at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine. It is a training facility for TECTA. The program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Little Buccaneers Student Child Care Center provides part-time care in a high quality setting that is designed to support university students, with children, who are working toward academic degrees.

Expanding Horizons Early Intervention Program was initially funded through a grant for one early interventionist (EI) from the Division of Mental Retardation Services (DMRS) to provide home-based special instruction and family based support to caregivers with children birth to thirty-six months, who meet the criteria for services from the DMRS and reside within the most outlying counties of the First District of Tennessee (Hawkins and Hancock). 

Technical Assistance Project has four main projects. The Targeted Case Management data report for Tennessee’s Early Intervention System is collected on a monthly basis and sent to Tennessee Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood (TNDOE). The office is also responsible for receiving mileage reimbursement information from families who transport their children to services. The services are then verified and request for payment is sent to the Grant Accounting Office at ETSU on a weekly basis. The final two projects involve disseminating and collecting data from the Early Intervention Family Survey as required by the federal Office of Special Education and the School Age Parent Survey. The response results are tabulated and sent to the Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE). The data is used by TNDOE to complete the Annual Performance Reports to Washington, DC.

Back to Top


Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance ( TECTA) provides early childhood personnel with access to affordable training. The impact of TECTA for one participant pays off in multiple ways. When asked, What did you learn new in this module that has special meaning for you as an early childhood professional?, Lorraine Blythe’s response was emphatic. “That I can continue my education after not being in school for over 35 years and be excited and not afraid.”

Back to Top