Category Archives: Educational Psychology

Codding, colleagues honored for article on frequency of math interventions

Robin Codding headshot
Robin Codding

Robin Codding, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, and her co-authors on the paper “Manipulating Treatment Dose: Evaluating the Frequency of a Small Group Intervention Targeting Whole Number Operations,” are being honored with a Samuel A. Kirk Award by Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (LDRP).

The Samuel A. Kirk Award is overseen by the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD’s) Publications Committee, is given occasionally, and recognizes excellence in professional journal articles that have been published in LDRP.

The paper examined treatment dose of small-group mathematics interventions, comparing the frequency with which these interventions were delivered weekly (i.e., four times, twice, once) with a control condition while controlling for total duration. Results suggested that for the most proximal computation measure, treatment sessions occurring four times weekly produced clear benefits. On the application measure, students in all treatment groups outperformed students in the control condition. For the most complex computation measure, frequency was not a useful predictor. Grade was a moderating variable.

Codding and her co-authors will receive their award at the Special Education Convention & Expo, April 19-22 in Boston, MA.

Wolff, Elison part of team identifying autism biomarkers in infancy

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in infants with older siblings with autism, researchers from around the country, including the University of Minnesota (UMN), were able to predict which infants would later meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at two years of age, with 80 percent accuracy.

Jed Elison, Ph.D. and Jason Wolff, Ph.D.

“This area of research is incredibly exciting because it provides an opportunity to understand how autism unfolds early in life,” said Jason Wolff, Ph.D., an assistant professor in educational psychology at UMN and a study co-author. “It provides new clues about the timing and specific mechanisms of brain development that precede a diagnosis. It also offers the unprecedented possibility of predicting whether or not a child will develop autism based on neurobiological data.”

“Typically, the earliest an autism diagnosis can be made is between ages two and three. But for babies with older autistic siblings, our imaging approach may help predict during the first year of life which babies are most likely to receive an autism diagnosis at 24 months,” said senior author Joseph Piven, M.D., the Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

This research project included hundreds of children from across the country and was led by researchers at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) at the University of North Carolina (UNC). The project’s other clinical sites included the University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition to the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development, other key collaborators are McGill University, the University of Alberta, the College of Charleston, and New York University (see for more information.)

For this study, published today in Nature, the team of researchers conducted MRI scans of infants at six, 12 and 24 months of age. They found that the babies who developed autism experienced a hyper-expansion of brain surface area from six to 12 months, as compared to babies who had an older sibling with autism but did not themselves show evidence of the condition at 24 months of age. Increased growth rate of surface area in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of overall brain volume in the second year of life. Brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year.

The researchers then took these data – MRIs of brain volume, surface area, cortical thickness at 6 and 12 months of age, and sex of the infants – and used a computer program to identify a way to classify babies most likely to meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age. The computer program developed the best algorithm to accomplish this, and the researchers applied the algorithm to a separate set of study participants.

The researchers found that brain differences at 6 and 12 months of age in infants with older siblings with autism correctly predicted eight out of 10 infants who would later meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age in comparison to those infants with older ASD siblings who did not meet criteria for autism at 24 months.

According to the researchers, the findings may have implications for early detection and intervention in children who have older siblings with autism before a diagnosis is typically established. Diagnosis of ASD typically occurs after 24 months of age, the earliest time when behavioral characteristics of ASD can be observed. Intervening early could lead to improved outcomes, as the brain is more malleable in the first years of life compared with later in childhood.

“The findings lay the foundation for the field to move toward attempting to implement interventions before the symptoms that define autism consolidate into a diagnosis,” said study co-author Jed Elison, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UMN Institute of Child Development.

“Much of what we do as a field to help individuals with autism is reactive,” Wolff said. “We wait for children to fall behind before providing an intervention. We may now be able to find ways to prevent that from ever happening.”

The National Institutes of Health funded this study.

See media coverage of this story in the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, KARE TV, WCCO TV, and KMSP TV.

Clayton Cook: The power of habit: How to succeed at keeping your New Year’s resolutions

Clayton Cook head shot
Clayton Cook

We’re two weeks into the new year – have you already abandoned your New Year’s resolutions? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – and it’s not too late to recommit to your resolutions, particularly if they mean living a healthier life, living more consistent with your values, and/or improving your performance in work. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the common reasons that people fail to achieve their goals and look at some strategies you can employ to increase your chances for success in following through on your New Year’s resolutions. Read more.

Sullivan helps MAP Equity Assistance Center provide schools with professional development, technical assistance

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, is one of several Equity Fellows assisting the new Midwest and Plans (MAP) Equity Assistance Center in providing professional development and technical assistance to regional school systems.

The MAP Center was recently awarded a five year grant by the U.S. Department of Education to assist with desegregation and other civil rights issues in public schools in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Sullivan will contribute to the development of MAP products and services to facilitate implementation of culturally appropriate multitier systems of support for students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral development.

“I’m excited to partner with the MAP Center to support schools’ efforts to create equitable systems and support the learning and wellbeing of all learners,” she says. “This is as important now as it’s ever been and with the MAP center, we have a great opportunity to develop tools tailored to our local communities.”

Ysseldyke recognized for outstanding contributions to school psychology training

James E. Ysseldyke

Jim Ysseldyke, professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, received the 2017 award for Outstanding Contributions to School Psychology Training from the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs. Ysseldyke was recognized for his contributions to graduate preparation and leadership in numerous centers, professional organizations, task forces, and other local, regional, and national organizations that shaped school psychology since he entered the field 45 years ago.

Amanda Sullivan, coordinator of the school psychology program, and Janet Graden, coordinator of the University of Cincinnati school psychology program and Ysseldyke’s former advisee, presented the award at the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs’ recent meeting in Hollywood, FL. Educational Psychology professor emerita Sandra Christenson received the award in 2009.

Instructor profile: Kelli Howard

Dr. Kelli Howard

Kelli Howard took an interest in psychology at an early age. “I was always fascinated by people and relationships—why we do what we do or how we become what we become. I figured I’d go into psychology of some kind.”

Howard was a tennis player in college, and it was her coach, a professor of physical education, who first inspired her to think about pursuing her doctorate. “Getting a Ph.D. was not a path many women in my life had taken. I loved her enthusiasm and passion for working with the group she had chosen to help. I began to consider how my undergraduate degree in psychology might provide opportunities for me to find my place helping others as well.”

Initially interested in studying forensic psychology, Howard went to work for a jury consulting firm after completing her undergraduate degree. “The more work I did in forensics,” she says, “the more I realized I didn’t want to focus my work on such a tiny percentage of the population. I became more excited about helping people with their every day concerns—grief, trauma, loss and things that are more common.”

Howard began to carve out a path for herself, working in a number of different “helper” jobs, including: career counselor and coach, crisis counselor, and counselor for survivors of human trafficking. At the same time, she completed her M.E.d in postsecondary administration and student affairs and, later, began pursuing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and conducting research on topics related to schools and mental health.

“At the time it all felt hodgepodge,” she says, “but it was all kind of leading me here—just in a circuitous route.”

Howard recently graduated with her Ph.D. in counseling psychology through the College of Liberal Arts. She did her dissertation on designing and evaluating online counseling programs for college students without access to such tools.

“Anxiety and depression are common ailments for college students. However, they often don’t get the counseling they need for a number of reasons: the perceived time it takes, lack of convenient options, and increasingly long wait times to see someone,” she explains. “We delivered an intervention in the classroom and tested how it impacted students’ emotions and academic performance.”

Last fall, Howard began teaching master’s students in our counseling and student personnel psychology program, starting with the Introductory Skills and Theories and Practicum Supervision courses. This spring, she’s once again teaching the Practicum Supervision course as well as Clients in Crisis and Assessment and Counseling Clients with Psychological Disorders.

When asked what she likes most about her new role. Howard says, “I love it all. I’m helping students pursue something that’s meaningful for them and does a service for the world.” She continues, “Helping students find their place and developing their careers is such a privilege.”

Anthony Schulzetenberg receives “Thank a Teacher” note from student

Anthony Schulzetenber

The Center for Education Innovation allows students to send thank you notes to teachers who make a positive difference on their achievement and development. Educational psychology Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, Anthony Schulzetenber is already making a difference in his students’ lives, and received a “thank you” note from one of them in an official letter from the Center of Education Innovation. The note reads:

“Thank you, Anthony for your help and patience during the semester! You went through very important stuff covered in lectures with us and explained everything with great examples in our lab. You are the best TA I have ever had. I feel really lucky to be in your lab section. Thanks a lot!” -Yue Zuo

Since 1998, the Center for Educational Innovation has formally recognized unsolicited student feedback and praise to University of Minnesota teachers through the Thank a Teacher program.

Have you had a teacher that has made a difference in your education? Thank them here.

Trevors’ research mentioned in “Learning from Donald Trump’s new rules”

Dr. Gregory Trevors

Dr. Gregory Trevors, post doctoral fellow in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program and the Reading & Language Lab, was recently mentioned the Globe and Mail article, “Learning from Donald Trump’s new rules.” The article argues, “while leaders in the political arena and outside have followed certain time-honored rules for handling controversy and scandals… Trump has not” and shares five “new rules” based on his behavior.

Specifically in Rule 3 of the article, “Persuading people with facts may not work,” Globe and Mail argues that “facts failed to stop” Trump from winning the presidency. The publication supports this argument with Trevors’ research on how new information can threaten its recipients’ sense of identity. Originally covered by the British Psychological Research Society’s Digest, Trevors’ research shows that new information can trigger negative emotions, which impair the understanding and digestion of written information.

Learn more about research being done in the Reading & Language Lab.

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.”