Category Archives: Educational Psychology

Sullivan and Susman-Stillman share research on how subsidy system impacts children with special needs

Amy Susman-Stillman
Amy Susman-Stillman
Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, and Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., research associate at the Center for Early Education and Development, recently hosted a research-to-policy briefing to discuss whether the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) equally benefits children with and without special needs.

The CCDBG is a $5.3 billion block grant program that provides funding to states, territories, and tribes in an effort to increase access to quality care for low-income families with young children. In 2014, Congress reauthorized the CCDBG and identified low-income children with special needs as a priority target population.

The briefing shared findings from a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research, Planning and Evaluation. For the project, Sullivan and Susman-Stillman analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of young children with and without special needs to determine whether children with special needs equally access child care subsidies and how child care subsidies affect use of various care types and quality.

Sullivan and Susman-Stillman’s analysis found that throughout early childhood, children with special needs are less likely to access subsidized child care and that subsidy use increased the likelihood that a family would use home- or center-based care. The analysis also found that subsidized children with special needs spend more hours in care than non-subsidized children with special needs, and that subsidy use does not ensure access to quality care.

According to Sullivan and Susman-Stillman, based on the study’s findings, stakeholders should address inequities in accessing subsidized care for children with special needs and reduce barriers parents and providers face in finding and supplying high-quality care.

Kendeou presents at symposium on reducing impact of misinformation, fake news

Dr. Panayiota Kendeou

Panayiota Kendeou, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s Psychological Foundations of Education program, recently traveled to Sydney, Australia, to present her work on the 12th biennial meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC). Kendeou was part of a featured symposium–organized by two world-renowned experts on misinformation,  Ullrich Ecker (The University of Western Australia) and Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol)–on research advances that reduce the impact of misinformation and fake news. At the event, Kendeou presented her work on the conditions that promote successful change of pre-existing beliefs in the context of her Knowledge Revision Components framework (KReC; Kendeou & O’Brien, 2014).

Dedicated to encouraging and promoting quality scientific research in applied domains, the SARMAC’s purpose is to enhance collaboration and co-operation between basic and applied researchers in memory and cognition.

Learn more about this and other work conducted in Kendeou’s Reading & Language lab.

CSPP alumnus, Blaine Fowers, receives Joseph B. Gittler Award

Dr. Blaine Fowers

Dr. Blaine Fowers, a 1983 alumnus of the Department of Educational Psychology’s Counseling & Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) M.A. program was recently awarded the Joseph B. Gittler Award, a premier award from the American Psychological Foundation. The annual award, which includes a $7,500 honorarium, honors theoretical psychologists who question the basic assumptions most psychologists take for granted.

“The Gittler award is an honor to receive because it is the premier award given to recognize work on the philosophical foundations of psychology in North America,” said Fowers. “The importance of the award was indicated by its first two awardees, Jerome Bruner and Daniel Kahneman (who also won a Nobel Prize), two giants in psychology.”

Fowers’ work helps to illuminate fundamental assumptions underlying psychological thinking. Currently, he teaches as a tenured professor at the University of Miami. Learn more.

Johnson awarded APF 2016 Gold Medal for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology

David W. Johnson

David W. Johnson, emeritus faculty member in the Department of Educational Psychology’s Psychological Foundations of Education program, was recently awarded the American Psychological Foundation (APF) Gold Medal for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology. Johnson received the medal in a ceremony held in Denver, Colorado in August of 2016.

Johnson has authored over 500 research articles and book chapters and over 50 books. He’s a former editor of the American Educational Research Journal and has served as an organizational consultant to schools and businesses throughout the world. His research interests include: cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts; conflict resolution (structured controversy and peer mediation); and social psychology of groups in general. Johnson is active in the field of organizational development and change, and in innovation in educational practice. His work emphasizes the integration of psychology theory, research, and practice.

Christ’s CBM of oral reading article named one of five most cited in Journal of School Psychology

Dr. Theodore J. Christ

Theodore J. Christ, director of CAREI and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently recognized by the editors of the Journal of School Psychology for a paper he and his students published in 2013. The article, “Curriculum-Based Measurement of Oral Reading: Multi-study evaluation of schedule, duration, and dataset quality on progress monitoring outcomes,” was named one of the top five most cited works in the Journal of School Psychology in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

View the award by the Journal of School Psychology

Cook featured in Forbes article on keeping New Year’s resolutions

Clayton Cook head shot
Clayton Cook

Clayton Cook, John W. and Nancy E. Peyton Faculty Fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and associate professor in the department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently interviewed by Forbes for the article “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.”

In the article, Cook explains which conditions make it more likely we’ll keep our resolutions and how can make them into habits.

Read the full article.

Deno to receive posthumous Outstanding Achievement Award

Stanley L. Deno headshot
Stanley L. Deno

Stanley L. Deno—professor emeritus until his passing on October 12, 2016—will be honored with a University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award. Deno graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. After earning his doctorate, he became a faculty member at the University of Delaware from 1965 to 1969. In 1969, Deno returned to the University of Minnesota where he was a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology until he retired in 2009.

Deno is receiving this award for his career’s work, which focused on students’ progress in developing basic skills. His research led to the development of simple indicators to index student strengths in reading, writing, and math that measure performance over time. Known as Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), these indicators are now a set of federally-recognized procedures that teachers use nationwide to identify and help special education students with mild disabilities who are underperforming in the classroom.

Deno’s work—described by colleagues as “brilliant”—influenced educational policy and practice, and inspired researchers who are dedicated to improving student learning. In an interview, he said that teaching possessed the greatest chance of leading to lasting social change in relation to educational innovations. He carried that perspective throughout his career both in his research and as a mentor to students and colleagues, saying, “once an adviser, always an adviser.”

Deno’s family will accept his Outstanding Achievement Award on his behalf in a late May 2017 ceremony.

Psych foundations students to present at annual AERA meeting

Psychological foundations of education students, Kelsey Will, Reese Butterfuss, Bader Moshen, and Nic VanMeerten—as well as post-doctoral researcher Gregory Trevors—will present at the 2017 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting April 27-May 1. The theme of this year’s event is Achieving the Promise of Equal Educational Opportunity. Presentation topics will include:

  • “Reducing Interference from Misconceptions: The Role of Inhibition in Knowledge Revision,” Reese Butterfuss
  • “Exploring Student Engagement in an Augmented Reality Game,” Nic VanMeerten
  • “The Role of Quality Explanations in Knowledge Revision,” Kelsey Will
  • “Refuting vaccine misconceptions,” Gregory Trevors

Learn more about AERA’s Annual Meeting.


Nic VanMeerten, psych foundations student, hosts Games Research Forum

Nic_VanMeerten-thumbnailOn December 2nd, the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Digital Games and Learning Research Collaborative led by Nic VanMeerten, Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, hosted a Games Research Forum that explored how to broaden interdisciplinary research on digital games and learning within the University of Minnesota system.

University of Minnesota faculty members Keisha Varma (Department of Educational Psychology), Lana Yarosh (College of Science and Engineering), and Edward Downs (University of Minnesota-Duluth) supported the effort as part of a collaborative leadership team.

Read the TECHdotMN article “Minnesota’s digital gaming minds meld at Games Research Forum” for a full recap of the event.

Jitendra keynotes Specific Learning Disabilities conference in India

Asha Jitendra headshot
Asha Jitendra

Asha Jitendra, Rodney Wallace Professor for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, delivered a keynote speech at this year’s Specific Learning Disabilities Conference on December 2 at the Maliya Aditi International School in Bangalore, India.

Jitendra’s keynote, “Effective practices that accommodate diverse learners: Research to practice,” presented effective instructional strategies for enhancing the academic performance.

Prior to the conference, Jitendra led a workshop on “Helping teachers teach elementary students word problem solving using schema-based instruction.” The goal of the workshop was to equip elementary school teachers with effective instructional strategies for teaching mathematics to children with learning problems.

In addition to delivering the keynote and leading the pre-conference workshop, Jitendra also hosted two breakout sessions at the event. The first was “Big Ideas in Mathematics” and focused on developing big ideas in fractions and proportional reasoning to promote mathematical understanding. The second was called “Improving mathematical problem solving using strategy instruction.” In this session, Jitendra demonstrated how visual representations can help students focus on the relationship between quantities central to many mathematical problems.

This first-ever Specific Learning Disabilities Conference was a national event organized to address the need for greater awareness and understanding of Specific Learning Disabilities in India. The purpose of the conference was to: increase awareness of the nature of specific Learning Disabilities among middle and high school students; share subject specific classroom and home based strategies; discuss existing accommodations and accommodation pathways; examine existing policies and laws; and empower stakeholders to advocate for the rights of students with specific learning disabilities.

Learn more about Asha Jitendra’s research. 

Andrew Zieffler: Making connections

Andrew Zieffler
Andrew Zieffler

Walking into Andrew Zieffler’s office, I can’t help but wonder about the signed Dawson’s Creek posters on his wall, “What’s the story behind those?” I ask. “Back when I was teaching high school math, talking about Dawson’s Creek was a way to connect with my students.” Zieffler explains. “And over time, I became a fan of the show.”

Zieffler didn’t always see teaching as his calling. “My dad was a high school math teacher,” he says. “It was the one thing I didn’t want to do.”

Starting out as an undergraduate, Zieffler planned to become an engineer but ended up changing his major seven times. “I was history major for awhile, a German major for awhile. I was going get a degree in math but got talked into also majoring in education,” he recalls.

After graduation, Zieffler taught AP statistics and various math courses in a high school for four years. “I enjoyed teaching high school a lot,” he says. “The teaching, coaching, and getting to know kids was great.”

Four years into teaching, Zieffler began looking for a new challenge. Initially, he wanted to study math history at Brown—that is until he met professor of educational psychology, Joan Garfield. On a whim, Zieffler drove down from St. Cloud to visit the College of Liberal Art’s Math Department. When he mentioned his interest in statistics education, they referred him to Garfield.

Garfield was the mastermind behind the statistics education track in the quantitative methods in education program, and her passion inspired Zieffler to choose another path. “Joan and I talked for what must have been three hours, and my back-up school suddenly became my first choice,” he says.

Zieffler graduated with his Ph.D. in educational psychology. Now a senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology’s Quantitative Methods in Education program, he teaches graduate level courses in statistics. Zieffler also oversees a group of graduate students who teach an undergraduate Basic and Applied Statistics course. “I work with graduate students to teach and write curriculum based on what we know about how people learn statistics,” he says.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Zieffler conducts research and outreach in over a dozen area schools where he leads the College in the Schools (CIS) program for statistics. CIS is a nationally accredited program that brings U of M faculty together with high school teachers to offer University courses in high schools.

“Most mathematics teachers have only had one or two college courses in statistics, and they’ve never had classes in pedagogy,” Zieffler says. As part of the program, he and his students study teachers’ understanding of different concepts in statistics and how it affects student learning. From there, they make recommendations for teacher professional development.

Just as Dawson’s Creek grew on him, so did teaching. “The most exciting part about of what I do is working with students,” he says. “It’s fun to see them grow and make connections between different concepts to solve problems.”

Ed Psych faculty, students call on lawmakers to approve special education funding

On December 2, Jennifer McComas, associate chair and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, led a calling party of roughly 20 faculty and students in the special education and school psychology programs. The group contacted federal lawmakers to encourage them to approve a Continuing Resolution for funding that includes funding at last year’s level for Personnel Preparation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“The House and Senate are expected to vote on a Continuing Resolution by December 9, before they recess for the remainder of the year. Federal funding for Personnel Preparation under IDEA is essential for institutions of higher education to support students in teacher preparation and leadership training programs. In just the past 5 years, more than a dozen Ph.D. students and countless licensure students in the Educational Psychology program have received federal grants and scholarships to support their education. A funding reduction would almost certainly mean a decrease in available fiscal support for students in our Special Education and School Psychology programs. And disabilities affect us regardless of political ideology or party affiliation, so it is one issue that is easy to talk about with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.” 

Project LEEP trains school psychology students for faculty careers

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs recently awarded associate professors Robin Codding and  Amanda Sullivan with a $1,192,606 leadership development grant (over five years from 2016-2021). The project, Leaders Enhancing Evidence-based Practices (Project LEEP), funds fellowships designed to prepare future faculty in school psychology with expertise in applying and sustaining evidence-based practices to schools. Five students in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program were awarded LEEP fellowships: Jordan Thayer, Alaa Houri, Aria Fiat, Kourtney McNallan, and Madeline Larson.

Project LEEP fellows are trained in: data-based decision making; development and evaluation of evidence-based practices; prevention and intervention using evidence-based practices, and consultation and translation of interventions; as well as leadership competencies in instruction and mentoring in higher education, and research and dissemination. Students receiving the award must complete a variety of experiences—coursework in research methods and statistics, research related to multi tier systems of support (MTSS), and apprenticeships with faculty with related research interests.  

In addition, fellows attend monthly pro-seminars that provide professional development opportunities for pursuing a career as a faculty member. Past pro-seminar topics have included: finding your “fit” in a faculty position based on professional values and goals; types of faculty positions available in the field of school psychology; and what is tenure and how to successfully achieve it. Future Project LEEP pro-seminars will help fellows identify their professional goals and structure training plans to meet the benchmarks needed to obtain a faculty position upon graduation.

Learn more about the school psychology program.

Varma promotes positive math mindsets, parent involvement for minority and immigrant families

Keisha Varma, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, is working with Anne Sullivan Middle School, as part of the project GopherMath to design programs to increase parent involvement for minority and immigrant families. Her work is a collaboration with faculty from the Department of Educational Psychology, Institute of Child Development, and Department of Curriculum and Instruction and is funded by the University of Minnesota’s Office of the President and Generation Next.

Currently, Varma is designing programming promoting positive mathematical mindsets, including dealing with math anxiety and supporting math learning in 3rd – 6th grade students. Parents attend monthly meetings that include presentations and small group discussions. Next semester, her work is expanding to include text messaging to support interactions between parents and teachers and encourage curriculum-informed math activities at home.

Emerging educator awarded Pomegranate Prize, thanks Vukovic for support

Rose Vukovic headshot
Rose Vukovic

What teacher most impacted you? For recent Pomegranate Prize recipient Rachel Harari, it was Rose Vukovic. When Harari was an undergraduate English honors student at New York University, she approached Vukovic, an assistant professor at NYU at the time, hoping to learn about students with learning disabilities. Vukovic challenged Harari to stretch herself beyond simply learning about the topic and, instead, to find a way to contribute to it. As a result, the two worked together to publish a study on mathematics anxiety in young children. Vukovic says it’s this kind of collaboration that brought her to Minnesota to be the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Educational Psychology.

Upon receiving their awards, Pomegranate Prize winners were encouraged to create a 20-second video thanking their most influential teacher. Harari, now the department chair and an English teacher at Magen David Yeshivah High School in Brooklyn, NY, thanked Vukovic in a video saying, “I wanted to thank Rose Vukovic, my professor at NYU, for showing me that it’s not enough to just have an idea. That you have to actually make it happen. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, Rose.” Watch her video.

The Pomegranate Prize honors rising leaders who have been in the field of Jewish education for up to ten years. The award is given by the Covenant Foundation which honors outstanding Jewish educators and supports creative approaches to programming. The Foundation works to strengthen educational endeavors that perpetuate the identity, continuity and heritage of the Jewish people.

McConnell, LENA Start recognized by Mayor Hodges

Scott McConnell headshot
Scott McConnell

The University of Minnesota and College of Education and Human Development, with leadership from Scott McConnell, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, were recognized recently by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Kara Dukakis from Too Small to Fail for contributions to the launch and evaluation of LENA Start, a promising intervention to promote parent-child interaction and early language development—and, as a result, reduce disparities—for families of young children. Part of this work will help support Mayor Hodges’s Talking is Teaching campaign.

Golos, Penny quoted in MN Daily article on visual literacy for Deaf students

Debbie Golos, professor of Deaf Education in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program and coordinator for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) teaching licensure and M.Ed. program and Jonathan Penny, coordinator for the American Sign Language (ASL) program were recently quoted in the Minnesota Daily article, “In blended families, Deaf literacy is vital for communication.”

The article discusses the value of early access to visual language for d/Deaf children—specifically those with hearing parents. After noticing a gap between the literacy skills of sixth grade deaf children who had been exposed to ASL from birth and those who had not, Golos developed a video series called Peter’s Picture to promote language and literacy development in DHH children. Increasing evidence shows that learning ASL can benefit all children—deaf, hard of hearing, hearing, and deaf children who use spoken language. ASL helps increase children’s spoken language skills because it provides a foundation for language. Penny, whose first language is ASL, says videos, like the Peter’s Picture series, are an extremely effective way to teach ASL. “Whether the parents are skilled or not skilled (in ASL), it’s important to give children a way to learn ASL because ASL is their natural language, period,” he told the Minnesota Daily. In the article, Golos discussed plans for future research—creating additional videos in the series and supplemental materials for teachers and deaf children but also adding voice over options for those who are not fluent in ASL. Finally, she’d like to conduct additional studies to see how these types of educational media can be used both in the classroom and at home.

Read the full article.


Michael Rodriguez: What you need to know about the GRE

Michael Rodriguez head shot
Michael Rodriguez

Many prospective students feel a twinge of anxiety when they think of taking the Graduate Record Examination, otherwise known as the GRE. That’s why the College or Education and Human Development asked QME professor Michael Rodriguez to provide some insight for people preparing to take the GRE and to answer the frequently asked questions about the test. Read more.

Codding publishes book on Effective Math Interventions


Building foundational whole-number knowledge can help put K-5 students on the path to academic success and career readiness. For this reason, Robin S. Codding, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology school psychology program, and her colleagues, Robert J. Volpe and Brian C. Poncy, recently published a book, Effective Math Interventions. Filling a gap for school practitioners, the book presents step-by-step guidelines for designing and implementing class-wide, small-group, and individual interventions for mathematics difficulties. Effective procedures for screening, assessment, intervention selection, and progress monitoring are described and illustrated with detailed case vignettes. User-friendly features include 20 reproducible handouts and forms; the print book has a large-size format with lay-flat binding for easy photocopying. Purchasers also get access to a Web page where they can download and print the reproducible materials.

The book (which comes out February 2017) is available for pre-order now.

Dr. Codding’s research interests focus on the intersection of intervention and implementation by developing and exploring the effectiveness of school-based interventions, the factors that contribute to student responsiveness of those interventions, and strategies to support intervention implementation. Her work has emphasized academic interventions and associated assessment for data-based decision making, particularly in the area of mathematics. Dr. Codding is currently an Associate Editor of the School Psychology Review and has previously served in the role of Associate Editor for the Journal of Behavioral Education and the Journal of School Psychology.  

Autism expertise leads to earlier diagnosis

Jason Wolff
Jason Wolff

Jason Wolff, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, and colleagues like Jed Elison, assistant professor in the Institute for Child Development, are trying to better understand the causes of autism spectrum disorder — to diagnose it at earlier stages when treatment is more effective and to anticipate needs for therapy and support in the larger community. Read more.