Communication Sciences and Disorders major in rare company

Jeanna Woodell, ’23, M.S. ’24, received national research recognition for an independent study. 

When looking for another course to fill her semester roster, Jeanna Woodell, ’23, M.S. ’24, decided an independent research project might be the best decision.

Enrolled in La Salle’s accelerated five-year communication sciences and disorders program, Woodell reviewed the literature of electronic books and how they impact language development for children. She did so under the guidance of assistant professor Dana Bitetti, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.

Jeanna Woodell, ’23, M.S. ’24Woodell submitted her work to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) as a possible poster session at its November annual convention. The submission paid off; her work was accepted and designated as a “meritorious poster”
submission. This year, hers was one of only 59 projects selected for meritorious recognition out of 1,000-plus research submissions.

“I was incredibly honored to have my poster receive recognition from the ASHA convention and to have the opportunity to share my research with so many working professionals at the event,” she said.

Woodell said the research topic was inspired by her time working at a learning center during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She witnessed children in kindergarten to third grade having to make the transition from in-person reading to virtual reading with e-books and other digital materials. She wondered if the students were absorbing the content as effectively. After reviewing 29 different articles, Woodell’s work concluded that e-books generally did not negatively impact the language and literacy development of typically developing children and children with language/learning impairments. In fact, e-books were found to offer equal or more language and literacy benefits than print books, in most cases.

The research focuses on eight domains of language: expressive and receptive vocabulary; implicit and explicit story comprehension; story retell; phonological awareness; concepts about print; and literacy skills. Specific results on how e-books impacted these language domains were organized into a table and made available for clinical use by other speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who viewed the poster at ASHA. “A lot of research had been completed regarding e-books, but we found that no one had really synthesized the research in a way that was usable for clinicians,” Bitetti said. “We need reviews like the one that Jeanna completed to help bridge the research to practice gap.”

“Every year, ASHA chooses a select number of poster presentations from the annual ASHA Convention, deeming them ‘meritorious posters.’ These posters represent some of the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the annual ASHA Convention,” according to ASHA.

“I’m really grateful for La Salle and
the opportunities I’ve had here.”
—Jeanna Woodell, ’23, M.S. ’24

Woodell shared her findings through virtual and in-person poster sessions at the ASHA convention. Poster sessions allow convention attendees to receive information on preliminary findings and summaries of research in a quick and concise manner. Guests rotate virtually or in-person through each presentation while the researcher gives a short talk on their work. It provided a great experience for Woodell, who said this was her first time getting to network with many SLPs in one place.

Bitetti said Woodell’s work is “quite an accomplishment” for an undergraduate student.

“I’ve had Jeanna as a student since her freshman year, so seeing that progress your students make through their time at La Salle is a great feeling,” Bitetti said.

Woodell credits La Salle’s communication sciences and disorders program, with building a wonderful foundation for her budding career through expert faculty, research, and networking.

“I’m really grateful for La Salle and the opportunities I’ve had here,” she said.

— Meg Ryan   

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