CEHD News Research

CEHD News Research

Learning & the Brain, BPS feature psych foundations study on seductive allure of neuroscience explanations

A study done by psychological foundations of education researchers—Ph.D. student Soo-hyun Im and associate professors Keisha and Sashank Varma— has been featured in both the Learning & the Brain website and The British Psychological Society (BPS) Research Digest. The articles, “Can you resist the seductive allure of neuroscience?” and “The public finds articles about education more convincing when they contain extraneous neuroscience discuss the group’s British Journal of Educational Psychology study. Their research showed that the general public is more likely to believe articles about educational topics when they are accompanied by both extraneous verbal neuroscience findings and brain images.

Read the full Learning & the Brain article. 

Read the full British Psychological Society Research Digest article. 

CAUSE researchers host NAAD webinar on propensity score matching

Researchers working on the First in the World project—run by CAUSE: Consortium for the Advancement of Underrepresented Student Engagement and made possible by the U.S. Department of Education and its programs—recently presented two propensity score matching (PSM) webinars for members of the National Association of Assessment Directors (NAAD). Professor and department chair Geoffrey Maruyama and Ph.D. students in the psychological foundations of education program—Anthony Schulzetenberg, Isabel Lopez, and Wei Song—along with Jason Johnson, a Ph.D. student in Organizational Leadership Policy (not pictured), presented to the group.

Propensity score matching (PSM) is a quasi-experimental statistical approach that attempts to create comparable treatment and control groups by controlling on background and other variables thought to be related to participation in programs and thereby allow better estimation of the effect of a treatment, policy, or other intervention.

“The experiences the students had in preparing the webinars provided an opportunity for them to consolidate their knowledge and think about how to explain the methods to people who were less knowledgeable,” says Maruyama. “We all will be repeating the webinars for all the recipients of First in The World grants this May.”

Students research with Varma, present at Undergraduate Research Symposium

Language Differences by Environment in STEM Classroom Engagement Activities research team (L-R: Chanel Flower, Evan Son, Samuel Bullard, and Corissa Wurth)

Eight undergraduate student enrolled in Associate Professor Keisha Varma’s EPSY 5200 – Community Engaged Research Experiences for Undergraduate Students course presented their research projects at the University wide Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 20 at Northrop Auditorium. In addition to taking Varma’s class, the students are conducting research on her National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Project ESPRIT, and U of M grant-in-aid funded SciGames Project. 

Project ESPRIT researchers

  • Social-media Learning Environments and Middle School Science Student Engagement, Celina Berndt, psychology major, College of Liberal Arts
  • Language Differences by Environment in STEM Classroom Engagement Activities, Chanel Flower, Evan Son, Samuel Bullard, and Corissa Wurth, psychology majors, College of Liberal Arts
  • The Effects of Familial Interaction on Students’ Science Scores, Haley Hauptman, psychology major, College of Liberal Arts
  • The Overall Exploration of Middle School Students’ Parental Involvement in STEM Education with Technology, Hao Liang, economics major, College of Liberal Arts

SciGames project researcher

  • Choice in Games: How Agency Affects Retention, Charlie Mackin, psychology major, College of Liberal Arts

Learn more about Varma’s research.

Panayiota Kendeou: 5 Tips for fending off fake news

Panayiota (Pani) Kendeou

Misinformation and misconceptions have always been a part of our lives. However, since 2016 misinformation and orchestrated “fake news” on the internet and social media have added dimensions and intensity that we have not seen in the past. Associate Professor Panayiota Kendeou is conducting research to help educators and parents understand the problem and help provide students with tools to identify and refute fake news and misinformation. Read more.

Education Week features MYDRG student research on how healthy habits increase college aspirations

Julio Caésar Cabrera head shot
Julio Caésar Cabrera

Julio Caésar Cabrera—Ph.D. candidate in the quantitative methods in education program in the Department of Educational Psychology and member of the Minnesota Youth Development Research Group (MYDRG)—has been featured in Education Week for research he presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting.

Using Minnesota Student Survey data, Cabrera and his MYDRG colleagues found students who practiced healthy habits—like sufficient sleep, good nutrition, and avoiding alcohol and drugs—were more likely to both plan to attend college and to achieve the level of academic success necessary for a college student.

“Not one variable alone can explain everything that’s going on in students’ outcomes,” Cabrera told Education Week. “It has to be almost a synergistic movement where we tackle all these [health factors] at the same time. When we take these four variables together, they have a huge impact.”

Cabrera’s was one of 11 MYDRG presentations at this year’s AERA and National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) meetings.

Read the full article in Education Week

Ed Psych grad students attend Inaugural SRCD Tricaucus Preconference

Educational Psychology students participating in tricaucus preconference
L-R: Jose Palma, Eva Tseng, Isabel Lopez, Carlos Chavez, Jimin Park, Tai Do, Astrid Schmied, and Mireya Smith

Eight graduate students from the Department of Educational Psychology’s quantitative methods in education and psychological foundations of education programs attended the Inaugural Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Tricaucus Preconference on April 11 at the University of Minnesota during the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting.

The students met in small groups of Asian, Black, and Latino Caucuses to discuss career development and network with mentors.

The event was co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Departments of Psychology, Educational Psychology, Family Social Science, and the Institute of Child Development.

Butterfuss receives Graduate Student Research Excellence Award from AERA

Reese Butterfuss

Reese Butterfuss, a Ph.D. student in the psychological foundations of education program in the Department of Educational Psychology and a member of the Reading + Language Lab, has been awarded the 2018 Graduate Student Research Excellence Award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA; Division C; Learning and Instruction). This award represents Division C’s continuing efforts to recognize excellence in graduate student research. Butterfuss will receive his award at the division’s annual business meeting at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in New York City, April 13-17.

Butterfuss—under the mentorship of faculty member Panayiota (Pani) Kendeou—conducts research on the role of higher-order cognition on knowledge revision during reading comprehension. He has published several papers in this area. Read more about his most recent work on executive functions (EFs) and reading comprehension here. In addition to this award, Butterfuss received the Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) from the Society for Text and Discourse and the Research Excellence Award from the psych foundations program in 2017.

Butterfuss is currently a Graduate Research Assistant on the TeLCI project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. In his role on the project, Butterfuss, along with Britta Bresina, are leading the investigation on the role of EF in young children’s inference making.

Wolff co-leads fragile X imaging study revealing differences in infant brains

This could lead to earlier intervention and potentially better treatment outcomes.

Image from fragile x study

For the first time, researchers have used MRIs to show that babies with the neurodevelopmental condition fragile X syndrome had less-developed white matter compared to infants that did not develop the condition. Imaging white matter can help researchers focus on the underlying brain circuitry important for proper communication between brain regions. These findings could lead to new and earlier interventions, and potentially better treatment outcomes.

The study— co-led by University of Minnesota researcher Jason Wolff, Ph.D., and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill researcher Meghan Swanson, Ph.D., and published in JAMA Psychiatry —shows that there are brain differences related to the neurodevelopmental disorder established well before a diagnosis is typically made at age three or later.

“Our work highlights that white matter circuitry is a potentially promising and measurable target for early intervention,” said co-first author Wolff, an assistant professor of educational psychology in the College of Education and Human Development. “These results substantiate what other researchers have shown in rodents—the essential role of fragile X gene expression on the early development of white matter.”

Jason Wolff

Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder and the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability in males. Symptoms include intellectual disabilities, problems with social interaction, delayed speech, hyperactivity, and repetitive behaviors. About 10 percent of people with fragile X experience seizures. About one-third of people with fragile X meet the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder.

“One of the exciting things about our findings is that the white matter differences we observe could be used as an objective marker for treatment effectiveness,” said co-senior author Heather C. Hazlett, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine.

For this study, Wolff, Hazlett, and colleagues imaged the brains of 27 infants who went on to be diagnosed with fragile X and 73 who did not develop the condition. The researchers focused on 19 white matter fiber tracts in the brain. Fiber tracts are bundles of myelinated axons—the long parts of neurons that extend across the brain or throughout the nervous system. Think of bundles of cables laid across the brain. These bundles of axons connect various parts of the brain so that neurons can rapidly communicate with each other. This communication is essential, especially for proper neurodevelopment during childhood.

Imaging and analytical analysis showed significant differences in the development of 12 of 19 fiber tracts in babies with fragile X from as early as six months of age. The babies who wound up being diagnosed with fragile X had significantly less-developed fiber tracts in various parts of the brain.

“It’s our hope that earlier diagnosis and intervention will help children with fragile X and their families,” said Swanson, co-first author and postdoctoral research fellow at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC. “We also hope that this knowledge might inform drug development research.”

So far, drug clinical trials have failed to demonstrate change in treatment targets in individuals with fragile X.  One of the challenges has been identifying good treatment outcome measures or biomarkers that show response to intervention.

Other authors are Mark Shen, Ph.D., Martin Styner, Ph.D., and Joseph Piven, M.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Annette Estes, Ph.D., of the University of Washington; Guido Gerig, Ph.D., of New York University; and Robert McKinstry, M.D., Ph.D., and Kelly Botteron, M.D., of Washington University in St. Louis.

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Simons Foundation.

This study, which used data collected from 2008 to 2016, would have been impossible without the dedication to research from families who had another older child already diagnosed with fragile X syndrome.

News coverage

MN Daily: U of M research works toward early diagnosis for rare developmental disorder

School Psych specialist certificate student receives Doris Duke Fellowship

Katherine Ridge
Katherine Ridge

Katherine Ridge, doctoral student in the Institute of Child Development (ICD) and specialist certificate student in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program , was recently awarded the Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being.

The fellowship, offered by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, aims to identify and develop a new generation of leaders who will create practices and policies that will enhance child development and prevent child maltreatment.

With the help of the fellowship, Ridge plans to investigate how characteristics of early relationships with caregivers influence children’s trusting decisions. Ridge hopes to promote the development of positive relationships between children and adults. “With the support of the Doris Duke Fellowship, I am especially excited to use the knowledge gained from our research to inform school-based support groups for children and their relationships with others during my internship year,” Ridge said.

Fellows receive an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to two years to support their dissertation and related research. Ridge is one of 15 doctoral students to receive the fellowship this year. Another school psychology student, Sophia Frank, was also awarded a Doris Duke Fellowship this year.

Zdawczyk, psych foundations student, receives NSF fellowship to study misconceptions in the science classroom

Christina Zdawczyk

Christina Zdawczyk, Ph.D. student in the psychological foundations of education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, has been awarded a second fellowship by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research at the Smithsonian Science Education Center in Washington, D.C. Zdawczyk’s project is titled: “Student Misconceptions in the Science Classroom: Examining Teacher Knowledge and Self-Efficacy.” In addition to this NSF award, Zdawczyk is a also an NSF Graduate Fellow.

Congratulations to Christina on her continued success and contributions to the field of educational psychology!

Wackerle-Hollman featured in MN Daily for work with SPPS on Hmong IGDIs

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, senior research associate in the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology program, was recently featured in the MN Daily for her work with St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) to develop Individual Growth and Developmental Indicators (IGDIs) for Hmong speaking students.

According to the article, St. Paul is home to over 26,000 Hmong speakers.

“Research shows learning a second language is easier for students who have a strong foundation in their first language, so knowing how well a student understands Hmong is key to helping them learn English as a second language,” Wackerle-Hollman told the Daily.

Read the full article.

Educational Psychology presents at CEHD Research Day

The Department of Educational Psychology had five presentations at this year’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Research Day held in McNamara Alumni Center on March 27. This annual event gives faculty, staff, and students across all departments of CEHD an opportunity to showcase their work and what they are doing on a local, national and international level.

Each presentation is in one of the college’s priority research areas which are—children’s mental health and welfare; education research and educational equity; living better, living longer; and autism and developmental disabilities.

Educational Psychology poster presentations

Education Research and Educational Equity

  • Development and Field Testing of Two Technology-Based Inferencing Interventions

*B. Bresina, *K. Wagner, K. McMaster, P. Kendeou, and the TeLCI and ELCII Teams

  • The Early Writing Project: Building on Promising Research

*K. Wagner, *E. Lam, *B. Bresina, *S. Birinci, *N. Weber, and K. McMaster

  • Secondary Mathematics Teachers’ Knowledge and Misunderstandings of Statistical Models

*Michael D. Huberty, Andrew Zieffler, Robert delMas, and *Nicola Justice 

  • Characterizing the Features of Instruction in Community College Algebra Courses

Dexter Lim, Irene Duranczyk, Laura Watkins, Vilma Mesa, April Ström, and Nidhi Kohli

Autism and Developmental Disabilities

  • Testing Two Observational System Approaches to Measure Behavioral Reactivity during Modified Quantitative Sensory Testing

*Alyssa Merbler, *Breanne Byiers, *Chantel Barney, and Frank Symons

*Denotes current or past student

Bolded names denote Educational Psychology faculty, staff or researchers

Tayler Loiselle, psych foundations student featured as an emerging scholar

Tayler Loiselle head shot
Tayler Loiselle

Tayler Loiselle, Ph.D. student in the psychological foundations of education program, was recently acknowledged as an emerging scholar by the Society for Research on Adolescence. Loiselle, under the mentorship of faculty member Keisha Varmaexplores research regarding the relationship between scientific reasoning ability and motivation in middle school students.

In addition to research, Loiselle has had first-hand experience in the classroom. She has worked as a special educational assistant in an elementary school where she helped initiate the creation of their first after-school program. Loiselle has also been a part of teaching kids about science and engineering through her positions as assistant coach and program coordinator of GEMS and GISE. These experiences contributed to Loiselle’s continuation in pursuing community-engaged research.

Currently, Loiselle is a Graduate Research Assistant on the ESPRIT project, Fostering Equitable Science through Parental Involvement and Technology.  The ESPRIT Project is funded by the National Science Foundation (Award #1657088 ).  In her role on the project, Tayler is investigating how a social media learning environment can increase student engagement and parent involvement for middle school students from underserved communities.

You can read more about Tayler Loiselle and her recent accomplishment here.

Varma joins Search Institute board of directors

Keisha Varma

Keisha Varma, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Search Institute.

According to the Institute, Varma was selected for her “work with families which will be very helpful as we work together to positively impact the future for our youth.”

For more information on Varma’s research, including recent projects working with parents, visit her STEM Thinking, Reasoning, and Learning Lab page.

Rise in Ed Psych, CEHD rankings shows strength of programs, research, and service

The Department of Educational Psychology once again holds top ten rankings in the 2019 U.S. News Rankings of Graduate Schools, ranking 5th overall in special education (up from 8th last year) and maintaining a 9th overall ranking in educational psychology.

The department is part of the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) which U.S. News ranked 11th among public professional schools of education, 19th among all schools. CEHD was also recognized as the top public school of education in the Academic Ranking of World Universities’ 2017 rankings. CEHD’s developmental psychology program in the Institute of Child Development was ranked #1 in the 2017 rankings.

“The college is uniquely positioned to address many of our toughest educational challenges,” said Dean Jean K. Quam, “especially in areas such as educational equity, teaching and learning innovations, and children’s mental health and development.”

Learn more about the Department of Educational psychology’s top-rated master’s and doctoral programs.

Educational Psychology presents 15 times at CRIEI

Faculty, researchers, and students across the Department of Educational Psychology’s school psychology, special education, and quantitative methods in education programs presented 15 times at this year’s Conference on Research Innovations in Early Intervention (CRIEI).

The event was held in San Diego, California on March 1-3 2018 and showcased new research on interventions for young children with disabilities or those at risk for developmental delays and their families. Posters from the event are on display throughout the Education Sciences Building.

 Posters presentations

  • Integrating and Sustaining Evidence Based Practices in the Community: A LENA Start™ Example

*Marianne Elmquist, *Erin Lease, and Scott McConnell

  • Measuring and Evaluating Team-Based Problem Solving: A Means for Crossing the “Data Use” Chasm?

LeAnne Johnson, *Andrea Ford, *Maria Hugh, and *Brenna Rudolph

  • Developing a Prosocial Teacher Rating Scale for Universal Screening in Preschool and Kindergarten

Kristen Missall, Scott McConnell, Salloni Nanda, and Ellina Xiong

  • Investigating the Psychometric and Content Characteristics of Common Items Across Languages: Spanish and English Picture Naming Early Literacy Assessments

*Qinjun Wang, *Jose Palma, Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, and Michael Rodriquez

  • Investigating the Relationship between Performance Variation in an Early Comprehension Task and Student Demographic Background

*Kelsey Will, *Qinjun Wang, *Erin Lease, and Alisha Wackerle-Hollman

  • Measuring Child Engagement: What’s in a Definition?

Veronica Fleury, *Pang Xiong, *Maria Hugh, and *Andrea Ford

  • What’s in a Name: Exploring Children’s Alternate Responses to Picture Naming

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, Robin Hojnoski, Kristen Missall, Scott McConnell, Elizabeth Boyd, and Sana Hussein

  • Translating Evidence-Based Practices into Routine Practices with Young Children with Autism

*Andrea Ford, LeAnne Johnson, and Veronica Fleury

  • Measuring and Defining Engagement for Young Children with Developmental Disabilities During Free Play: A Systematic Review.

*Maria Hugh, Veronica Fleury, and LeAnne Johnson

  • Online Learning Environments for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A statewide perspective on implications and issues for early identification and service delivery.

*Maci Spica and LeAnne Johnson

  • Progress Monitoring in Early Childhood Special Education: In Search of Current Trends & Future Needs

*Brenna Rudolph & *Maria Hugh

Panel presentations

  • Child Engagement: Defining, Measuring, Analyzing, and Other Issues of the Chicken and Egg Sort

LeAnne Johnson, Robin McWilliam, and Kevin Sutherland

  • Battling Pseudoscientific approaches to “Treating” Autism: The Role of the Research Scientist

Veronica Fleury, Ilene Schwartz, and Elizabeth Pokorski

  • How long Do We Have? Speeding Development and Deployment of Meaningful Solutions

Scott McConnell, Charles Greenwood, Jomella Thompson-Watson

  • Classroom Quality for Dual Language Learners and the Relationship to Growth in English and Spanish

Lillian Duran, Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, and Maria Cristina Limlingan


*Denotes current or past student

Bolded names denote Educational Psychology faculty, staff or researchers

Kendeou gives talks on reading comprehension at University of Padova, Italy

Panayiota (Pani) Kendeou

Panayiota (Pani) Kendeou, Guy Bond Chair in Reading and associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, traveled to the University of Padova, Italy from March 12-17 to present her research on reading comprehension.

Kendeou discusssed the development of technology language comprehension interventions (projects TeLCI/ELCII) as well as the science of debunking misconceptions and fake news. The talks took place in the Department of Developmental and Socialization Psychology and were hosted by Professors Lucia Mason (Director of the EdPsych Lab) and Barbara Arfe (Director of the Learning Lab for Deaf Children).

The University of Padova was established in 1222 and has been home to astronomers Copernicus and Galileo and the first woman in the world to receive a doctoral degree (1678, Elena Cornaro).

For more information on Kendeou’s research related to language and memory with a focus on understanding and improving learning during reading, visit her Reading + Language Lab site.



School psych Ph.D. student awarded fellowship to prevent child abuse and neglect

Sophia Frank, Ph.D. student in the school psychology program in the Department of Educational Psychology, has been awarded a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-being from the University of Chicago.

The fellowship recognizes emerging leaders capable of creating practice and policy initiatives that will enhance child development and improve the national ability to prevent all forms of child maltreatment.

Frank will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to two years to support her dissertation and related research with her advisor John W. and Nancy E. Peyton Faculty Fellow in Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and Associate Professor Clayton Cook.

Frank was one of only 15 doctoral students across the country to receive the fellowship.

Im to present theory on arithmetic sense at 2018 Doctoral Research Showcase

Soo-hyun Im

Soo-hyun Im, Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, will present his research on “The development of arithmetic sense and its predictive relationship to mathematical achievement” at the Graduate School’s 2018 Doctoral Research Showcase. Im is one of only 59 Ph.D. students University-wide to present at the showcase which takes place April 3 from 12-2 p.m. in Coffman Memorial Union’s Great Hall.

Learn more about Im’s research and graduate school experience in Educational Psychology.

Q&A with Soo-hyun Im, psych foundations student

Soo-hyun taught elementary school for five years before pursuing his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, specifically within the psychological foundations of education program. Soo-hyun’s teaching experience made him interested in how students learn and think. He plans to use his degree in Educational Psychology as a way to bridge the gap between laboratory research and authentic classroom practices—ultimately, between education and learning sciences.

We asked Soo-hyun a few questions about his experience as a psych foundations student and what insights he’d like to share with prospective students. Here’s what he said:

Q: What is most exciting about your work?

“Currently, I am working on my dissertation research. It builds on the cognitive science and mathematics education literature on efficient, flexible, and adaptive strategy use in arithmetic problem-solving. Its goal is to evaluate a new proposed theoretical construct—arithmetic sense. I define this as the adaptive use of various strategies when solving complex, novel problems—for predicting individual differences in mathematical achievement among elementary school students and college students. I hope that this research will inform the development of evidence-based instruction.”

Q: How have your professors helped you along the way?

“I owe a lot to my advisor and professors in Educational Psychology. They value and listen to students’ voices. With support and collaboration from them, I have been able to complete and be involved in several research projects: 1) investigating how people reason about the educational relevance of neuroscience findings; 2) improving the proportional reasoning skills of 7th graders; 3) improving the reading comprehension of struggling readers (K-2).”

Q: How has your cohort helped you along the way?

“Before entering graduate school, I had never been to the U.S. In my first year, my colleagues helped smooth my transition in terms of language and culture. Senior colleagues in our program also provided guidance in terms of taking courses and conducting research. Now, as a senior graduate student, I would like to give back and take on this role for other students.”

Q: What would you like prospective students to know?

“Do not be afraid of exploring and learning new topics in your research.You’ll uncover many opportunities, and faculty and colleagues in your program will support and value your research interests. There are ups and downs in graduate school and life. It is important to strike a balance between work and life. Time and stress management are key in graduate school.”

Q: What are you looking forward to with graduation?

“After graduation, I plan to pursue my research at the intersection of psychology and education in a tenure-track position at a research university. Building on my graduate work and propelled by my dissertation project, I will pursue a research program investigating children’s strategic thinking when solving mathematical problems and applying these results to develop evidence-based instruction.”

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

“I enjoy riding a bicycle or inline skating around Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet. I look forward to the spring and summer to do these outdoor activities.”