NC State
The Literacy Space

Project Information


Funding Agency:

Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, R305A200283

Principal Investigator:

Dennis Davis, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University)

Co-Principal Investigators:

Becky Huang, Ph.D. (The University of Texas at San Antonio)

Jackie Eunjung Relyea, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University)


Ben Kelcey, Ph.D. (University of Cincinnati)


Project Purpose

The researchers will develop a new small-group intervention for English learners (ELs) in grades 3 through 5 who have reading comprehension difficulties. The intervention called the Building Knowledge and Language through Inquiry Framework (KLI), aims to help readers strengthen their language and literacy skills while building new knowledge of interesting topics in the disciplines (science and social studies). The KLI approach aims to build students’ knowledge of both the language and the topic area through direct instruction and through inquiry-based approaches, such as having students engage in conversations about language and the topic area. By addressing both of these areas of knowledge concurrently, KLI will help improve the reading comprehension of upper-elementary ELs.


Project Team Members

Dr. Dennis Davis is the Principal Investigator for this project. He is an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences in the NCSU College of Education, where he serves as program coordinator for the M.Ed. in New Literacies and Global Learning. He is a former upper-elementary teacher. He received his Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Diversity from Vanderbilt University. He began his academic career at The University of Texas at San Antonio where he was awarded the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. Dennis’ research and professional development activities focus on reading comprehension and intervention for students when they have difficulties in reading. He has published his work in numerous journals, including The Reading Teacher, Reading Research Quarterly, Literacy Research and Instruction, and Reading and Writing Quarterly. He served as co-editor of Journal of Literacy Research from 2015-2018.


Dr. Becky H. Huang is the Co-Principal Investigator for this project. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, College of Education and Human Development, at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). She is also the Director of the Language Learning and Assessment Laboratory ( at UTSA. Her research areas span across applied linguistics, psychology, and education. Her research program focuses on two interrelated areas that address the goal of promoting language and education outcomes for bilingual/English learner (EL)/dual language learner (DLL) students: language and literacy development and bilingual/multilingual assessments. Dr. Huang has published in leading journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Teachers College Record, International Journal of Bilingualism, Language Testing, and Language Assessment Quarterly. Her work has been supported by funding from research institutions in the US and abroad. Dr. Huang’s current research, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the US Department of Education/Institute of Education Sciences (IES), focuses on examining the language and literacy development of elementary-aged bilingual/EL/DLL children and creating language-focused reading intervention for this population.


Dr. Jackie Eunjung Relyea is the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. She is an assistant professor of literacy education at North Carolina State University. Prior to joining the faculty, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University and University of Houston. Her primary research interests focus on academic language and reading development of young children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Her recent research focuses on the development and evaluation of adaptive literacy intervention designed to improve elementary grade students’ vocabulary and content knowledge, reading comprehension, and reading engagement. Her research has appeared in peer-reviewed journals including, Child Development, Journal of Educational Psychology, Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Reading Psychology, and Reading & Writing Quarterly.


Dr. Benjamin Kelcey will serve as the methodologist. He is an Associate Professor of Quantitative Research Methodologies at the University of Cincinnati. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in quantitative research methods. His research focuses on causal inference and measurement methods within the context of classrooms and schools. His publications appear in Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Elementary School Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Reading Research Quarterly. His research has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, National Science Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation, among others. 


T. Fulya Eyupoglu is a Graduate Research Assistant and Ph.D. candidate, with a specialization in Digital Learning and Teaching, in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Science Education and Master of Arts in Science and Mathematics Education from Middle East Technical University. Her international teaching career in science for eight years directed her towards game-based learning. Fulya is especially interested in metacognition and motivation in game-based learning environments. She has served as a Teaching Assistant in the Instructional Design Course and Digital Game-Based Learning Course. She has enrolled in various NSF and IES funded projects as a researcher.


Courtney Samuelson is a Graduate Research Assistant and second-year doctoral student in the Literacy and ELA program in the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences department at NC State University.  She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics from UNC-Chapel Hill and obtained a master’s degree in Middle Grades Education from NC State University. Courtney has ten years of experience working in North Carolina public schools in various roles, including as a middle school ELA teacher, elementary teacher, MTSS Specialist, and instructional coach. She is passionate about preparing and developing literacy teachers to meet the diverse needs of all students, especially those students who need extra support in reading.


Sarah Dempsey Dawson is a Graduate Research Assistant and second-year doctoral student in the Literacy and English Language Arts program in the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences department at NC State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Music from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from NC State University. Prior to returning to NCSU to begin her doctoral studies, Sarah worked in public schools in Indiana and North Carolina as an elementary classroom teacher. Sarah is committed to the pursuit of educational equity in her beloved home state by developing and supporting teachers in their efforts to meet the needs of all students, especially in the art of writing. 


Phillip Lui is currently pursuing an M.A. in School Counseling and LPC licensure. Growing up in Mississippi, he came to San Antonio as a part of the City Year program in which he mentored, tutored, and provided after school programming for underserved students at Lanier High School in West Side San Antonio. He became a math and psychology teacher at Lanier for the following two years. During that time, he realized how crucial literacy was for English learners in every discipline. Phillip attended Mississippi State University and Occidental College to complete his B.A. in Cognitive Science. In undergrad, he served underprivileged students as a College Advisor and a Residential Advisor in the Upward Bound Summer College program. Phillip is passionate about diversity, representation, and social justice.

Dung (Davy) Tran is a second-year doctoral student in the PhD program of Culture, Literacy and Language at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has a BA  in TEFL from the University of Languages and International Studies – Vietnam National University (ULIS-VNU) and an MA in TESOL from Missouri State University. She worked as a faculty member at ULIS-VNU for 4 years, and has been working as a teaching assistant and research assistant since 2016. She is interested in researching language assessment by using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Recently, she has conducted a study to investigate the extrapolation inference of the in-house English placement test for ESL students at UTSA via quantitative research methods. She’s also examining the consequences of the same test by using qualitative research methods.