Areas of expertise: In my classes, I enjoy creating a variety of learning activities to help students develop new knowledge and skills by making connections to their own personal experiences. In one class, we read a book about a teacher’s experiences in working with young children and talk about her observations of how some children were excluded by other children during free play. Later students reflect upon their own experiences and share their memories in a group. One semester this involved linking, through web video conferencing, with a group of Russian students who, in turn, shared their memories of growing up. You also might see guest speakers including parents, early childhood special educators, or pediatric occupational therapists in my classes. I believe that learning from real experiences helps students develop deeper understandings. In some classes, we explore current issues and debate ideas. Our students often amaze me with their analyses and insights.
Many graduates remain in contact over the years. At times we may see each other at professional conferences. Sometimes these graduates even become mentors to our current students during practica and internships!
About research interests: My primary areas of research include methods and strategies for working with children with disabilities, assessment of development and learning, and assistive technologies.
Each year I work closely with a small group of students who are interested in learning about assistive technology devices. Some of these materials enable children with disabilities to participate more fully in play and learning. Other technologies help children communicate with family and friends. Students can earn money while they learn more about these materials in the UMF Assistive Technology Collection which is housed in the Kalikow Curriculum Materials Center. As part of their work, students may demonstrate a device or help a visitor find materials. As students develop their expertise, they may conduct presentations in classes at UMF. Sometimes our students even are invited to do presentations by faculty from other colleges in Maine!
Highlights of interesting scholarly work: In addition to my work with students in assistive technology, I also involve interested students in on-going research. I have published numerous journal articles and co-authored seven college textbooks. One of these books, Assessment of Children and Youth with Special Needs, is in its fourth edition. In a previous edition, a student even had her contributions published.
A few years ago, I was asked to conduct a series of workshops for teachers of young children in Indonesia by the Sampoerna Foundation Teacher Institute. Teachers from the various islands that make up this Southeast Asian country attended.
More recently, I spent a semester in Singapore as a visiting professor. There I taught several different courses and introduced students to assistive technology. Afterwards, one student made a pair of chopsticks for a child with fine motor difficulties! In 2011, I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Special Education Network in Asia International Conference.
Outside interests: On weekends, I enjoy hiking and biking with my husband. Winter is my favorite season and often you can see me at Titcomb Ski Slope in West Farmington or at the annual dog sled races on beautiful Highland Lake.
Name: Dolores Appl
Title: Associate Professor, Early Childhood Special Education
Degrees: Ph.D. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; M.S. Northern Illinois University; B.A.S. University of Minnesota-Duluth
In the Classroom: Engaging Students — Setting High Academic Expectations:
Dolores Appl’s main classroom goal is to link theory to practice — to simulate the experiences and responsibilities Early Childhood Special Education students will likely find in their future classrooms or in other work environments. She does this by starting with a classroom discussion and presentation of theoretical content and research, then moving toward a guided practice of those theories, and finally by having her students apply those classroom theories and research to actual practice.
Each Early Childhood Special Education student is required to apply course content in practicum settings. For instance, in the classroom Dolores might discuss child development issues, theories, and research. Then at the practicum site, those Early Childhood Special Education students will work with area children and families on activities that focus on the same issues, theories, and research they discussed in class. This process allows Dolores’ students to actually see and try out those issues, theories, and research in practice.
A big part of the Early Childhood Special Education program at Farmington involves students working hands-on with children and their families. They do this at the on-site UMF children’s programs and through a number of inclusive programs for young children and their parents. These programs include preschool, childcare, and parent-child playgroups.
Here, in the playgroup practicum based on PIWI, the students not only work closely with the young children, but they also work closely with the children’s parents — a valuable component of the program. It is also this “classroom theory and research turned into practice” component that makes UMF’s Early Childhood Special Education program stand apart.
A True Academic — Areas of Special Interest:
Dolores Appl said she has always been interested in 3- to 5-year-olds and did her dissertation on beginning Early Childhood Special Education preschool teachers.
During her doctoral studies Dolores learned the PIWI model and became more involved with infants, toddlers, and their parents.
She also has a very strong passion in preparing teachers to provide quality programs and services for children of all needs and all abilities. You see, Dolores strongly believes in inclusion — the right for all children, with and without disabilities, to participate in quality programs.
Collaborating with UMF Students on Scholarly Publications:
Dolores recently collaborated with Kate Longstreet Farrar and Karen Smith, Kate’s collaboration course instructor. They wrote an article about research Kate did that linked her playgroup experience with her collaboration course, which was published in Infants and Young Children: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Early Childhood Intervention in 2012. The title of the article was “Learning family-centered practices through a parent-child playgroup practicum.”
Dolores worked with 2009 UMF Early Childhood Special Education student Amber Royea on an article for Early Childhood Education Journal, entitled “Every voice matters: The importance of advocacy.” The two also presented their PIWI-Inspired Playgroup experiences at the 2009 Maine Parent Federation. The title of their presentation was “A parent-child playgroup approach that addresses individual family goals.”
She and 2009 UMF Early Childhood Special Education student Kassandra Melton presented “Parent-child playgroups as a natural environment for addressing individual goals and state early learning guidelines in a developmentally appropriate way” at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, held in Washington, D.C.
Dolores worked with 2008 UMF Early Childhood Special Education graduates Maegan Cunliffe and Jennie Holbrook on a project incorporating the Maine infant-toddler learning guidelines into the playgroup curriculum, which is based on the PIWI model. They presented their work at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, held in Dallas, Texas.
She collaborated with 2007 UMF Early Childhood Special Education graduate, Shannon Brown, conducting research on father-son interactions that was published, “A father’s interactions with his toddler: Personal and professional lessons for early childhood educators (Early Childhood Education Journal).
Dolores worked with UMF Early Childhood Special Education graduate student Tobyn Pratt on a professional manuscript (published in 2007 in Early Childhood Education Journal) that explores how children’s books can be used to help youngsters understand children with special needs, as a way of promoting an inclusive community in classroom settings.
Outside of Academia — Personal Interests and Activities:
Outside of her academic life, Dolores Appl is hard at work renovating her 1860’s circa home in Farmington and enjoys cross-country skiing, gardening and other Maine outdoor activities.
She also enjoys following the accomplishments of her young grandchildren, who live with their parents in Austin, Texas.