March 30, 2013

PhD students in 2013

I am very fortunate to be working with a group of outstanding PhD scholars this year:

Sarah Verdon (co-supervised with Sandie Wong) 
Topic: Providing equitable and quality services for multilingual children with speech sound disorders

Suzanne Hopf (co-supervised with Sarah McDonagh) 
Topic: An analysis of speech sound acquisition patterns in simultaneous and sequential learners of Fijian English

Sarah Masso (co-supervised with Elise Baker and Jane McCormack) 
Topic: A Sound Start: innovative technology to promote speech and pre-literacy skills in academically at-risk preschoolers

Jacqui Barr (co-supervised with Graham Daniel)
Topic: “I’m not like most other kids”: Sibling experiences of disability and implications for education

Kate Crowe: Submitted 2013 (co-supervised with David McKinnon, Loraine Fordham, Teresa Ching) 
Topic: Multilingual children with hearing loss: Communication and choice

Most of us were able to meet in Bathurst this week either in person or by Skype (my students are scattered across NSW and the Pacific). It was good to enable the team to get to know one another personally and professionally. For Sarah Masso, this was her first visit to Bathurst and her visit included a tour of the town and campus. CSU offers PhD studies by distance education, a model that works successfully and is used by most of my students. Kate Crowe is living proof that such a model works as she submitted her PhD in February, a month ago, one month ahead of schedule.

Kate Crowe, Sarah Masso, Sharynne McLeod, Hannah Wilkin (Honours), Sarah Verdon
Sarah Masso's first visit to Bathurst as a PhD student included a tour of the town
Dr Sarah McDonagh, Kate Crowe, Suzanne Hopf (on Skype), Sarah Masso, Sarah Verdon

Congratulations Hannah!

Hannah Wilkin has just found out that she achieved first class honours for her thesis titled "Oh I forgot the voice: A comparative analysis of children's drawings". Congratulations Hannah! May your honours be a key that unlocks many doors in your future. Hannah is currently working as a primary school teacher in Bathurst.

March 26, 2013

Jamaican data collection continues

During March, Dr Karla Washington, Dr Nancy Creaghead, and a team of students from the University of Cincinnati went to Jamaica to continue data collection for our study of Jamaican children's speech and language acquisition. In total, we have worked with 60 children to assess their speech and language skills in Jamaican and English. We are now analyzing the data, and look forward to presenting our findings later in the year.
Here is some more information about Dr Washington's work on this project

March 24, 2013

National Ethics Application Form

The last two weeks have been filled with preparing a National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) to undertake research for the Sound Start project. On Friday, we submitted our 107 page application to the Charles Sturt Human Research Ethics Committee for their consideration.
Thank you to Kate Crowe and Sarah Masso for their huge efforts in pulling this together working closely with the rest of the Sound Start team: Sharynne McLeod, Elise Baker, Jane McCormack, Yvonne Wren, and Sue Roulstone.

March 19, 2013

Australian Early Development Index workshop

Today Associate Professor Sharon Goldfeld visited Charles Sturt University in Bathurst as a guest of the Collaborative Research Network. Sharon is a paediatrician and public health physician at The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) and a Research Fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Sharon has established a child health equity and policy research group including the Australian Early Development Index Research Program at CCCH with a focus on children with additional health and developmental needs, mental health and children with diverse language backgrounds.

Associate Professor Sharon Goldfeld (left centre) with members of the CRN
The AEDI is a community-based population measure of young children's development in their first year of school, based on questionnaires completed by kindergarten/prep teachers for each child in their class. Five key areas of early childhood development are assessed:

  • physical health and wellbeing
  • social competence
  • emotional maturity
  • language and cognitive skills (school-based)
  • communication skills and general knowledge 
The AEDI website provides reports and community profiles for these five areas, based on data collected in 2009. Data from the 2012 collection will be made available in 2013. The AEDI information can be found here
(This blog was based on published information about the workshop)

March 14, 2013

Tips on publishing from ECRQ editor

Today the School of Teacher Education research committee invited Professor Adam Winsler, editor of Early Childhood Research Quarterly to present a workshop titled:  "Publishing and reviewing in top-flight peer-reviewed journals: A mentoring workshop for early-career (and seasoned researchers)". The workshop was attended by students and academics who learned a lot of information and strategies for publishing in high quality journals. Here are  Adam's top 10 tips for why quantitative and qualitative papers don't get published in ECRQ (and other journals):
"1. Not enough methodological detail or clarity provided 
2. No clear focused, specific, research questions/goals articulated
3. Literature review doesn’t set up the questions/hypotheses
4. Problems with spelling, grammar, writing, English, and APA style
5. No policy/educational/practice implications given
6. Conclusions don’t follow from the data (could have made the points in the discussion without doing the study)
7. Contribution to the literature unclear
8. Bad fit between research goals and method/design/analysis
9. Poor fit between content of paper and scope of journal
10. Poor data analyses or design" (Winsler, 2013)

March 12, 2013

Suzanne's doctoral studies commence: Learning from children who speak Fijian English

This week Suzanne Hopf began studying her PhD with me. She is based in Fiji and will be undertaking her PhD as a distance education student (Charles Sturt University has many PhD students who successfully complete their PhDs by distance education). Suzanne's proposed topic and abstract is below. I am looking forward to our journey together as we learn from multilingual children in Fiji.

Title: An analysis of speech sound acquisition patterns and phonological awareness skills in simultaneous and sequential learners of Fiji English
Fiji, in the South Pacific Ocean, has a rich cultural mix and a remarkable degree of linguistic diversity for a country of less than a million people (Mangubhai & Mugler, 2006). This study is primarily concerned with the Fijian dialect of English known as “Fiji English”. Fiji English is spoken by the majority of Fijian residents but with diverse levels of proficiency and dialectical variance (Tent & Mugler, 2008). It is also the dominant language of the Fijian school system with children receiving the majority of their instruction and materials in English even though they may have had minimal contact with English prior to commencing school (Shameem, 2002 & 2007).
Fijians, like other Pacific Island nationals, have a strong presence around the world. Significant immigrant numbers are recorded in many English speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand  and the US. It is apparent that speakers of Fiji-English are in the school systems of these and other English speaking countries, even if their specific numbers are currently unknown. An understanding of the unique nature of English dialects, such as Fiji English, will help elucidate the impact of any potential speech sound disorder or delay and its subsequent influence in all areas of the academic curriculum, particularly literacy and English language studies (Hambly et al., 2013; Hus, 2009; McCormack et al., 2011).
Little is currently known about Fijian children’s speech acquisition or early literacy skills despite research concerning the linguistic profiles of adults speaking indigenous (Fijian), adapted (Fiji-Hindi) and adopted (Fiji English) languages.  As such, the proposed study aims are threefold. Firstly, to describe the characteristic phonetic inventories and developmental pattern of speech sound acquisition in 4- to 7-year-old children who speak Fiji English. Secondly, to evaluate emergent literacy skills, such as phonological awareness, in the same population. Finally to compare the patterns of both speech sound and literacy development to age matched monolingual Australian English speakers. Data obtained will help to elucidate the unique linguistic characteristics of Fiji English, so that if necessary, appropriate accommodations and modifications can be made to future learning environments and materials to which these children are exposed.

A Sound Start begins

Today (Monday 11th March) our ARC Discovery Sound Start Project officially began. Sarah Masso and Kate Crowe have begun the task of preparing to undertake this large 3 year project. After eating cake (pictured), their next task is to write our ethics applications. Today also marks the beginning of Sarah's PhD studies. She will be supervised by Dr Elise Baker, Dr Jane McCormack, and myself. Her PhD will be based on an aspect of the Sound Start Project. We all are looking forward to an exciting three years ahead.

March 8, 2013

Collaborations between Future Fellows

Professor Susan Danby from Queensland University of Technology is also an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. Her project is titled "Young children's use of smart technologies in early childhood" and she started in December 2012. It has been wonderful to share experiences with her and to learn from one another about our projects that are centered around young children. We are both in the Early Years Education Collaborative Research Network, so we have many opportunities to share ideas.

Early Years Education Collaborative Research Network meeting in Sydney

Over the past 2 days researchers from Charles Sturt University, Queensland University of Technology, and Monash University met in Sydney to develop proposals for continuing transformational research in early years education. Prof. Adam Winsler, the CRN international visiting scholar, contributed to the discussions and provided information about the Miami School Readiness Project, a longitudinal study of 58,341 children.

Prof. Adam Winsler with members of the Early Years Education
Collaborative Research Network

March 5, 2013

Professor Adam Winsler visits CSU

Dr. Adam Winsler is visiting Charles Sturt University during March and April as an international scholar affiliated with the Early Years Education Collaborative Research Network. He is professor of applied developmental psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. His research, represented in over 80 publications, examines early childhood programs, school readiness, kindergarten retention, and bilingual language development among low-income, ethnically diverse, immigrant children. He also studies private speech (self-talk) and its role in behavioral self-regulation and executive function among typically developing children as well as children with ADHD or autism. His books include: Scaffolding Children’s Learning: Vygotsky and Early Childhood Education (Berk & Winsler, 1995), and Private speech, executive functioning, and the development of verbal self-regulation (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He is also editor-in-chief of the journal, Early Childhood Research Quarterly (ECRQ). For more details see

Professor Adam Winsler in Bathurst