Jacki Schwartz

Accreditation Specialist, Dean's Office
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Matthews Hall 117-J

UNT associate professor receives Fulbright Scholar Award for research with Jamaican youth

The tiny island nation of Jamaica recently had cause for celebration after its Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the nation’s jobless rate hit a record low of 9.6 percent at the end of January.

But the county of 2.9 million people living in an area smaller than the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex continues to struggle with an ongoing problem — the approximately 140,000 “unattached” youth, who are not in school, are unemployed and are not participating in any training program. Numbers reported at the end of this year’s second quarter show “unattached” youth comprise about 30 percent of the total youth population and have the highest unemployment rate at 22 percent.

“This happens all over the world, but especially in developing nations,” said Darrell M. Hull, associate professor in the UNT College of Education Educational Psychology department.

“They’re hanging around doing nothing all day, and they don’t have the skills to get a job. They’d like to work but they don’t have the ability to get any traction,” Hull said.

Hull, who spent time in Jamaica about 10 years ago conducting a randomized trial study for a government program working with unattached adolescents, was recently named a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award winner. He will be traveling back to Jamaica next year to conduct research and lecture at the University of the West Indies – Mona Campus. Part of his work there will be measuring the long-term outcomes of a program designed to address youth that are not working or in school, and examining the psychometric validity of measures used to assess youth in developing countries. 

Building on the idea of positive phycology, the Jamaican government created rural camps 10 years ago where young people participated in a 30-day training program followed by a six-month internship. Hull’s work then looked at how that program impacted the participants at the time.

“What we found was it was having a moderate effect on these kids work skills and self-efficacy, but it wasn’t helping their social-emotional outcomes,” Hull said.

Hull plans to follow up with about 40 of the young people who participated in the program 10 years ago to see if it had a lasting impact on their lives. He will also be working with faculty at the University of the West Indies to adapt a measure referred to as the Five Cs of Positive Youth Development to the Jamaican culture and seeing if it measures things the same way it does in the U.S. culture where it was developed.

Hull is one of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2018-19 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

Professor Robin Henson, chairman of the UNT College of Education Department of Educational Psychology, said being selected as a Fulbright Scholar is rare.

“It’s quite an honor for Dr. Hull to be selected to pursue his research and teaching in Jamaica, and it speaks to the quality of his research and grant evaluation experience in cross-cultural settings,” Henson said. “He has been doing research in the Caribbean for a long while now, and this recognition is a reflection of that record.”

There have been more than 30 UNT Fulbright Student Grantees since 1967 and more than 35 UNT Fulbright Scholars since 2005 as well as visiting Fulbright Scholars to UNT.

While Hull says he is looking forward to the four-month trip starting in January and working in Jamaica with his wife, a licensed clinical social worker, it’s not a resort vacation. Hull expects they will be living in university housing in Kingston during the trip.

“It’s not the garden spot of Jamaica. We’re not going to be living on the beach,” Hull joked.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 59 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

Associate Professor Wendy Middlemiss talks about healthy study habits

UNT visiting professor shares his take on Texas' A-F grading system for public schools

Caitlyn Bennett

Assistant Professor, Counseling and Higher Education
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Welch Street Complex 2 110

Matthew Lemberger-Truelove

Professor, Counseling and Higher Education
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Welch Street Complex 2 114

The Teachers We Need! - A Conversation

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Matthews Hall 209

Flyer ThumbnailA Conversation Hosted by the Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education and Mike Moses Endowed Chair for Educational Leadership

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Noon – 1:30pm
Matthews Hall 209

This event is intended to foster dialogue between regional school district leaders and UNT faculty and graduate students in teacher education and educational leadership.

Hope you can join us for lunch and conversation.
Lunch at noon and program at 12:30

UNT research may point the way to better treatment for people with autism

A recent study conducted by the University of North TexasKristin Farmer Autism Center found that traditional behavioral interventionists in the field of autism may lack many important clinical and interpersonal skills.

The results of a survey of more than 200 university students majoring in behavior analysis and other human services majors was presented in May at the annual International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This research could have significant implications for the preparation and training of effective service providers in autism, according to the study’s authors.

“If our final analyses support our hypothesis that behavioral artists are more effective at delivering behavioral therapy — applied behavior analysis, or ABA, in particular — this could be very significant for the field of autism intervention,” said Kevin Callahan, executive director of the autism center and a member of the research team. “Our results could help schools, clinics, and families screen more effectively for therapists more likely to be successful with their students, clients, and children, respectively.  Ultimately, by screening and hiring service providers with higher levels of behavioral artistry, and then training them to recognize and effectively demonstrate all of the characteristics of artistry, they will have better outcomes in improving the lives of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Susan Nichols, associate executive director of the Kristin Farmer Autism Center; Mary-Ellen McComb, human resources coordinator at the center; and Gabrielle Segal, an undergraduate research assistant, attended the three-day conference that brought together "scientists who study autism from a broad range of disciplines, alongside policy makers, practitioners, autistic people and their families, to learn about latest research and share new ideas,” according to the event organizers

The three UNT staff members, who are also part of the research team, shared information and research derived from the article “Twenty-five years of Applied Behavior Analysis: Lessons Learned.” Written by Richard Foxx, the article summarized insights from three decades of research and treatment in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, concluding that the effectiveness of ABA therapy may be negatively impacted by limited skillsets among today’s behavioral interventionists. 

In it, Foxx writes that he believes there may be important differences in outcomes between persons delivering ABA services in a traditional way, “Behavioral Technologists,” and those who demonstrate a broader set of humanistic and interpersonal behaviors, “Behavioral Artists.”

Behavioral Technologists often simply deliver a scripted set of procedures without a focus on the overall quality of the interaction. In contrast, Behavioral Artists demonstrate eight characteristics which mark these therapists as “natural behavior analysts,” including having a sense of humor, using effective communication skills, and being caring, flexible and optimistic, among others.

Callahan said ABA has been criticized for being overly aversive. For example, its practitioners have been called “abrasive, harsh, and unpleasant” and its drills and routines “cruel,” “misguided” and jargonistic, as well as too highly structured, which makes the therapy appear robotic and mechanical to many observers. 

“We believe it is important for ABA therapists and service providers to demonstrate the more humanistic aspects of behavioral therapy, including showing a sense of humor, care and concern, a sense of optimism, etc. By encouraging a work force with the wider range of skills and behaviors associated with behavioral artistry in addition to the many evidence-based practices associated with ABA, the fields of behavior analysis and autism intervention may become more broadly respected and accepted,” Callahan said.

The UNT research investigated Foxx’s conclusion that behavioral interventionists today lack important interpersonal behaviors associated with Behavioral Artists when compared to service providers in other human services professions, and whether parents of children with autism, and other service providers, prefer characteristics associated with behavioral artistry.

The researchers found that students majoring in behavior analysis had a lower overall percentage of self-reported Behavioral Artistry traits than those in all other human services majors. In addition, parents of children with autism significantly preferred the factors associated with Behavioral Artistrys over non-Behavioral Artist’s traits.

The research team used the personality assessment known as the “16PF” to measure characteristics associated with behavioral artistry. The results of this assessment place an individual on a continuum of behaviors based on 16 personality factors. 

“We spent about one year correlating the factors best matching our concept of behavioral artistry; however, we needed to conduct social validation to determine if parents of children with autism supported our conclusions about which traits are most preferable,” Callahan said. “In every case, the vast majority of parents in our small but national sample (about 90 parents) favored the traits of behavioral artists as those they would prefer from the persons working with their children. This is important because if parents don’t support the behaviors they see by their therapy team members, they are less likely to engage with and conduct appropriate support activities.”

The research team is now collecting data to determine if individuals who have higher and lower levels of Behavioral Artistry deliver behavioral therapy differently, and if the outcomes of children with autism are impacted. Future research will investigate whether characteristics of behavioral artists can be effectively trained, and whether persons in schools, clinics, and homes can screen and hire Behavioral Artists, who may be more likely to have success delivering behavioral therapy for children with autism.

Community College Current Issues Symposium

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 9:30am to 11:30am
Omni Fort Worth Hotel

UNT Center for Play Therapy offers unique training

In a dark hallway divided by heavy black-out curtains, counselors and therapists from across the country peer through two-way mirrors as their fellow professionals work with young children in toy-filled rooms on the other side of the glass.

Through one window, two sisters play in a sandbox, filling buckets as a counselor utilizes therapeutic responses to convey empathy, understanding and support. The sisters are part of an intensive training session that caps off a two-week conference hosted by the University of North Texas Center for Play Therapy.

The focus of these unique practice experiences isn’t the children but training the most qualified play therapists worldwide, according to Dee Ray, professor in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education and director of the Center for Play Therapy. The 12 participants from around the world took part in the Intensive Supervision program that followed the Center for Play Therapy 2018 Summer Institute, in which they received training and direct supervision from prominent play therapy supervisors.

“Intensive supervision is a unique and invaluable experience,” Ray said. “The Center for Play Therapy is the only play therapy facility in the world that offers play therapists an opportunity to learn, develop, and implement play therapy skills within a five-day span.”

The Center for Play Therapy was established in 1987, with their first international play therapy conference in 1973. Today The Center for Play Therapy provides the largest play therapy training program in the world, attracting graduate students and professionals from all around the world. Participants from Canada, India, and Hong Kong attended this summer’s conference.

Olive Kwan is a family and marriage therapist from Hong Kong who traveled to UNT to learn more about Play Therapy in order to bring those techniques back home.

“I really wanted to learn what this is about from the original; not from second-hand,” Kwan said. “If children change, the family will change."

According to Psychology Today, play therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach primarily used to help children ages 3 to 12 explore their lives and freely express thoughts and emotions through play. Play therapy occurs in a purposefully designed playroom, where children are able to freely express themselves through the developmentally appropriate modality of play within the therapeutic relationship. Play therapy may help children learn to express themselves in healthy ways, increase their empathy and understanding of others, limit their problematic behaviors, and increase their self-confidence.

Participants in the intensive supervision program were broken into small groups, and worked with experienced counselors in a group supervision format for three intensive days. During that time, they were able to practice play in therapy directly with children of all ages.

Amber Ensign is a therapist from Waxahachie, Texas. She works with law enforcement and child protective services with victims of physical and sexual abuse.

“This provides me with another method of working with children,” Ensign said. “A 3-year-old might not be able to verbalize their experiences, but they can express it through play.”

Shannon Lerach, a child psychologist from San Diego, said she appreciated the quality and caliber of the UNT facilities.

“This just isn’t available anywhere else,” Lerach said. “The facilities are just amazing."

Eliza Schindler is a clinical social worker and therapist from Austin who works with children in schools.

“Play therapy allows children to show their experiences rather than have you put the emphasis on them.”

The Center for Play Therapy at UNT will host CCPT 101: Basics in Child-Centered Play Therapy, a two-day foundational training, on Sept. 28-29, 2018. CCPT is an evidence-based intervention for young children and this workshop serves as the introduction to CCPT certification.

Participants of CCPT 101 will earn continuing education credits and complete the first educational component toward CCPT certification. Completion of this workshop allows the participant to have a greater understanding of CCPT and begin to practice basic CCPT skills.

Registration for the workshop is now open at https://cpt.unt.edu/shopping/ccpt-101.