Student achievement relies on the knowledge and preparedness of their teachers, positioning the training of educational professionals as the starting point for student success. Every student, including students with disabilities, deserves the highest quality teachers to help them reach their educational goals. Unfortunately, there are few special education programs at institutions of higher education (IHEs) that focus on preparing teachers and researchers to support positive outcomes for students with disabilities in mathematics. Leaders Investigating Mathematics Evidence (LIME) seeks to fill this gap by developing 12 scholars into researchers who are prepared to aid the learning of students who experience learning disabilities in mathematics. These 12 scholars will study at their respective IHEs—The University of Texas at Austin (UTAustin), Southern Methodist University (SMU), and the University of Missouri (UMissouri). Over the course of four years, LIME Scholars will engage in various formative leadership opportunities, increasing their knowledge related to 1) the academy (i.e., professoriate), 2) special education instruction and assessment, and 3) mathematics content and pedagogy. At the conclusion of four years of study, LIME Scholars will earn their Ph.D.s and pursue positions in the field of special education with a focus on mathematics. They will be prepared to lead pre-service and in-service professional development and work directly with students to improve mathematical understandings by students with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs awarded $3.6 million for this five-year grant. The funds will be shared between the initially awarded IHE, The University of Texas at Austin, and Southern Methodist University and University of Missouri.
Dr. Sarah Powell at The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller at Southern Methodist University
Dr. Erica Lembke at the University of Missouri
Dr. Christian Doabler at The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Annie Wilhelm at Southern Methodist University
Young students’ performance in mathematics often determines their success in mathematics courses in later years. Students with disabilities in mathematics experience more mathematics difficulty than other students, but there are not enough leadership personnel to train teachers to effectively use data-based individualization (DBI) to support these students in mathematics classrooms. At fault is the lack of IHE special education courses focusing on mathematics. To remedy this inequity in education, UTAustin, SMU, and UMissouri are working together to offer a four-year doctoral program to 12 LIME Scholars, in which they will become experts on DBI in the context of students with disabilities in mathematics. Scholars’ engagements in three major activities–LIME Lights, LIME Times, and LIME Projects and Experiences–and their required IHE Coursework and Experiences will be categorized by three objectives (see Figure 1 below). These four years of coursework and practical experience will develop the 12 LIME Scholars into the knowledgeable, prepared faculty that students with learning disabilities in mathematics need and deserve.
The LIME grant will occur over the course of five years. In Year 1, the three IHEs (UTAustin, SMU, and UMissouri) have recruited Cohort 1 with 8 scholars that will participate in the four-year LIME Scholar Ph.D. program. In Year 2, the three IHEs will recruit Cohort 2 with 4 scholars. LIME Scholars will work with their respective mentors to develop an achievable LIME Scope; this LIME Scope will be monitored over the course of the program. In years 2, 3, 4, and 5, Scholars will participate in interviews, surveys, focus groups, and assessments to monitor growth and allow for intervention when necessary. To ensure quality of the project, The Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at SMU will utilize a LIME Activity Log to evaluate effectiveness of LIME faculty and LIME Scholars throughout the four-year program.
We anticipate that LIME will result in the preparation of special education faculty in the area of mathematics. 12 Scholars will obtain their Ph.D.s through effective completion of three objectives and main activities, preparing them to implement DBI with students with disabilities in mathematics. As a result, LIME will be adopted in more IHEs, creating more special education in mathematics coursework opportunities for future leaders.