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CEHS and CPASS announce first recipients of Collaborative Research Internal Grants

The WVU College of Education and Human Services and the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences have announced the first recipients of the CEHS-CPASS Collaborative Research Internal Grants.

The new program, designed to encourage research partnerships between the two colleges, has awarded two teams with seed funds for projects that may lead to larger grants and contracts in the future.

“We are pleased to see our intention to fund CEHS-CPASS collaborative faculty research being realized,” said Melissa Luna, associate dean for research in CEHS. “In both of the projects that we are supporting, we see strong CEHS-CPASS research collaborations being formed that draw on the faculty expertise unique to each of our colleges. We look forward to seeing the results of these efforts.”

Sam Zizzi, associate dean for research in CPASS, echoes Luna’s optimism about the funded projects.

"We are excited to fund these two seed grant projects to strengthen existing partnerships between our two Colleges,” Zizzi said. “These projects have potential to make a positive impact on WV communities, and both teams intend to submit external funding applications based on their findings." 

The first team to receive funds is comprised of Samantha Ross, principal investigator and assistant professor in CPASS, and Ann Richards, co-principal investigator and associate professor in CEHS. The pair plans to investigate the use of disability simulation programs in teacher education courses through their project, titled, “Critical Pedagogy: An Appraisal of Disability Simulation in Teacher Preparation Programs.”

Disability simulation refers to exercises implemented in teacher education courses that are designed to help students understand the experience of having a disability. One example of disability simulation involves blindfolding a student to experience what it is like to be blind. According to Ross, critics of disability simulation state that these activities do not provide accurate experiences for students who are learning about disabilities and best practices for these exercises have not been established.

"Over the past 30 years, federal laws have drastically changed how educators accommodate children with disabilities in the classroom,” Ross said. “We are excited to engage with WVU faculty to learn how disability training has been integrated into their curriculum. This project will lead to the development of best-practice recommendations for disability awareness training in teacher preparation programs."

The aims of the project are to evaluate and compare pedagogical practices around disability simulations and to synthesize faculty perceptions of disability simulations as educational tools in physical education and special education teacher education programs.

“Both Dr. Ross and I believe that by researching what is being done currently we can assist teacher educators to develop activities and simulations that encompass a more comprehensive view of disability and thus, impact the way teacher candidates view, plan and support students with disabilities within their educational settings,” Richards said.

The second funded project, titled “Coaches, Athletic Directors and the Opioid Crisis:  An Investigation of Impact” involves Jessica Troilo, principal investigator and associate professor in CEHS; Kristen Dieffenbach, co-principal investigator and associate professor in CPASS;  Frankie Tack, co-principal investigator and clinical assistant professor in CEHS; Lauren Prinzo, co-principal investigator and assistant professor in WVU Extension Services; Megan Mikesell, doctoral candidate, CEHS; and Sloane Strauss, doctoral student in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. 

The goals of the project are to identify how the opioid crisis has impacted West Virginia public school coaches’ experiences and explore athletic directors’ perceived role in supporting coaches working with student-athletes impacted by the opioid crisis. Researchers will recruit coaches and athletic directors from all 55 counties in West Virginia to participate in an online survey.    

“Better understanding the challenges coaches and athletic directors are facing in West Virginia communities will help us provide resources that will be useful in their efforts to create safe and effective development environments within scholastic sport,” Dieffenbach said.

"This collaboration is exciting because it allows our research team the opportunity to grow through this work with Kristen Dieffenbach,” Troilo added. “We hope to better understand how coaches and athletic directors in public schools across WV are impacted by the opioid crisis. This project will expand our knowledge of how public schools are experiencing the opioid crisis and can help identify resources, professional development, and ways of supporting coaches and athletic directors."

Both projects are underway and are slated for completion during the summer.