CEHD News Special Education

CEHD News Special Education

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

Students present research at 2018 GSRD

The 18th Annual Educational Psychology Graduate Student Research Day (GSRD) was held on March 2, 2018 to celebrate outstanding student accomplishments in research. GSRD provides an opportunity for graduate students to present their research and to be recognized by peers and faculty.

The event took place in the Mississippi Room in Coffman Memorial Union and featured four student research paper presentations and 34 posters on display with students available for Q&A. Faculty and peers were able to walk around and learn more about the variety of research taking place within the department.

GSRD is a well-attended and well-recognized event at the University of Minnesota, and the Department of Educational Psychology continues to be pleased with the excellent work students produce on their research accomplishments.

View the 2018 GSRD program for more information on presentation and program topics.

Golos receives $1.2 million grant to train teachers to support Deaf/Hard of Hearing children and those with disabilities

Debbie Golos, Ph.D.

Debbie Golos, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program and coordinator of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) teaching licensure and M.Ed., has been awarded $1.2 million over five years by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Project PACT: Preparation about Collaborative Teaching, offers funding to support future Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) teachers. In partnership with Kathy Seifert—learning disabilities licensure and M.Ed. coordinator—and Professor Kristen McMaster, Project PACT will also offer funding to graduate students in the Academic and Behavioral Strategist (ABS) program. Students interested in interdisciplinary approaches to teaching will receive funding throughout their teacher preparation and master’s degree program and will participate in cross collaborative activities supporting school age Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and those with disabilities.

More information on Project PACT.

McMaster, colleagues receive Samuel A. Kirk award for article on data-based decision-making

Kristen McMaster

Kristen McMaster, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, was recently recognized for her article, “Data-based decision-making: Developing a method for capturing teachers’ understanding of CBM graphs.” The article—led by Christine Espin, professor of learning problems and specialized interventions at Leiden University and co-authored by Stan Deno, professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Psychology until his passing in 2017 and others—received the prestigious Samuel A. Kirk award for best research article published in 2017. Named for one of the United States’ most impactful leaders in the field of special education and learning disabilities, this award is occasionally given to a journal article published in Learning Disabilities Research & Practice that exhibits excellence.

McMaster accepted the Samuel A. Kirk award on behalf of herself and her colleagues at the Council for Exceptional Children’s Annual Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida, February 7-10. In recognition of their efforts, the researchers received a plaque and a small monetary award.

Q&A with Britta Bresina, special education Ph.D. student

Britta Bresina

Why do some students continue to struggle with reading, even after years of intensive intervention? A former teacher, Ph.D. student Britta Bresina wants to find out what can be done about it.

We asked Britta some questions about her experience as special education student, as well are her work and research. Here’s what she said:

What is most exciting about your work and research?

“I honestly believe it will have a positive impact on the lives of many students who struggle to learn. Being a teacher, I was able to both have and directly see the impact I made on the lives of my students. It was very powerful. When I decided to leave my classroom to come back to school full-time, I struggled a bit knowing that I was walking away from that environment. However, like one of my students told me, I have the potential to help even more students by being a researcher and teaching future teachers. That is pretty awesome.”

What have you most enjoyed about your experience in the special education program?

“I have greatly enjoyed how closely I get to work with the faculty we have in our program. They are approachable, a wealth of knowledge, and really want to help graduate students in this program grow. I have also enjoyed the exposure I’ve gotten to the greater field of special education researchers through attending conferences and other opportunities.”

Do you have a productivity secret that helps you get through school?

“Read a lot! The more you read, the more questions you will have that will help you generate research ideas. Also, get some friends together and start a writing group where you analyze scientific writing, set goals, and hold each other accountable. Finally, like all special educators know, you must monitor your progress toward your goals!”

What’s your favorite restaurant near campus/in the Twin Cities?

“I have many. The best place to celebrate the end of a semester is Loring Pasta Bar – awesome atmosphere and unique dishes. The best place to grab lunch or coffee with friends is Purple Onion – so good! The best happy hour is at Kafe 421! All excellent.”

McMaster, colleagues receive AEI’s Honorable Mention Award

Kristen McMaster, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, and her co-authors Cynthia Puranik, Melissa Patchan, and Mary Sears, recently received the Honorable Mention Award from Assessment for Effective Intervention (AEI) for their article, “Examining Alphabet Writing Fluency in Kindergarten: Exploring the Issue of Time on Task.”

The researchers’ paper received the second most votes from the journal’s board for Article of the Year, earning the Honorable Mention Award which is given to researchers who contribute to the advancement of the science of assessment to inform intervention in schools.

McMaster and her colleagues will receive will their award at the upcoming business meeting of the Council for Educational Diagnostic Services, held during the annual convention of the Council for Exceptional Children in Tampa, Florida, February 7–10.


Instructor profile: Ginny Zeyer, special ed D.D. supervisor and adviser

Virginia (Ginny) Zeyer head shot
Virginia (Ginny) Zeyer

Ginny Zeyer started her special education career at 16 years old, babysitting a child with autism. Her drive and willingness to learn led her to earn licenses in every disability, develop work and transition programs, alternative education, and administration. Now, she finds herself as a supervisor of the developmental disabilities (DD) program at the University of Minnesota.

Growing up, Ginny thought she wanted to be an elementary teacher.

“The more I worked in special education, the more passionate I got. I saw an opportunity for how much more we could be doing as educators.”

She continues, “There’s so much you can do in special education. You can teach disabilities, build curriculum, develop programs in schools. I’ve written grants to help at-risk students in a work program and had the opportunity to start a new alternative education school.”

In the Department of Educational Psychology, Ginny loves working with younger teachers.
“It’s nice to feel like I have so much impact on them from my background and experiences. I give them ideas, and they give me ideas. I’m constantly learning, and the students here are very appreciative.” Zeyer says.

Ginny’s advice to students: “Take advantage of all the learning that happens in the classroom. It will prepare you to have a successful teaching experience. Also, build relationships with your professors. It will help you progress through all the skills you need, and they know what skills you need.”

Outside of work, Ginny enjoys cooking and trying new recipes (chicken piccata, creme brule, sweet potato gnocchi, etc.). She also enjoys spending time with her 19 year old grandson who lives in the Twin Cities.

This article was originally written by Ciara Metzger.

Rose Vukovic receives ‘Thank a Teacher’ note from student

Rose Vukovic

The Center for Education Innovation’s (CEI), Thank a Teacher program provides an opportunity for students to recognize their teachers that have made a positive impact on their education and development through unsolicited feedback. Dr. Rose Vukovic, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor in the special education program recently received one of these “thank you” notes in an official letter from CEI, showcasing her continued impact on students’ lives.

The note reads:

“Thank you so much for a great semester Rose. The environment you made in the classroom made it such a nice place to want to come and learn more each session. I feel I have gained a lot of knowledge from this class and that is all because of the way you presented the material and made it such a welcoming and connected learning environment.

-Tara Ostendorf”

This is not the first CEI “thank you” note Rose has received. View the other letter.

Have you had a teacher that has made a difference in your education? Visit CEI’s website to thank them.

Fleury receives grant to develop reading intervention for preschoolers with autism

Veronica Fleury

Veronica Fleury, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). The project, Students and Teachers Actively Reading Together (START), will evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of an adaptive shared reading intervention for preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

START’s first-stage intervention will be traditional dialogic reading—which encourages adults to prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions while reading to them—delivered in small groups of three to four students. Children who respond well to dialogic reading will continue with the group intervention. Those who are slower to respond will be randomized to one of two intensified instruction conditions.

This proposal is related to an application submitted to the Institute of Education Sciences for a larger four year development project that is currently under consideration.

Jitendra’s article recognized as one of top read in Exceptional Children

Asha Jitendra headshot
Asha Jitendra

Asha Jitendra, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s article, “Is Mathematical Representation of Problems an Evidence-Based Strategy for Students With Mathematics Difficulties?” was recognized by the Council for Exceptional Children’s e-newsletter as a top read article from the journal—one of the most respected in special education. Jitendra’s article evaluates the quality of the research and evidence base for representation of problems as a strategy to enhance the mathematical performance of students with learning disabilities and those at risk for mathematics difficulties. 

Read the full article here.


New graduate program trains students to analyze behavior, improve lives of people with disabilities

The new master’s degree will help meet the state and national need for Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

Approximately one in every ten people or 11.2% of people in Minnesota and 13.1% of people in the United States are living with some kind of disability according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

It’s with that in mind that Jennifer McComas, associate chair and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, developed the new master’s degree in special education with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis (A.B.A).

Jennifer McComas

“The new program is designed to teach students about the principles of behavior,” explains McComas, “how to recognize the influence of social interactions and other environmental variables and recommend changes to improve the day-to-day lives of people with disabilities.”

Now approved by the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the A.B.A. program is designed prepare students to sit for their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam and to work with people with disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities.

“The M.A. is a good fit for psychology and education majors and those interested in applied research who want to make a difference in the world around them,” McComas says.

A full-time, on campus program, the M.A. in special education with an emphasis in A.B.A. is currently accepting applications for fall 2018. Students who enroll in the program will be required to complete 36 total credits (nine credits in four semesters), including three semesters of practical experience working alongside a BCBA. They’ll also complete a final research project, guided by University of Minnesota faculty and staff, like McComas, who are experts in the area of applied behavior analysis.

“We’ll approach applied behavior analysis from a scientific perspective,” McComas says. “Students will be challenged to become consumers of research and prepared for the real world through supportive supervisory experience, which is essential when working with people with disabilities.”

Amy Hewitt

Amy Hewitt is a senior research associate with the Institute for Community Integration at the University of Minnesota and has worked for over 30 years to improve community inclusion and quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families.

“This new program is timely and responds to a critical need in Minnesota. With newly implemented policies that fund early intensive behavioral intervention for people with autism and the focus on positive behavioral support in the MN Olmstead Plan there is a high need for qualified professionals,” Hewitt says. “This program will help to ease the high demand to grow this workforce.”

Graduates of the program will help meet the state and national need for BCBAs who work with people with disabilities to identify opportunities to make positive behavior changes leading to more fulfilling lives.

McMaster delivers keynote at Korean Educational Psychology Association

McMaster delivers keynote at KEPA.

Kristen McMaster, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, keynoted the 50th anniversary conference of the Korean Educational Psychology Association (KEPA) on October 20. McMaster presented her research on “Using Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies to Promote Reading Achievement for Students at Risk.”

Congratulations to Dr. McMaster on this great honor!

McMaster, Shin, and Jung present research on data-based instruction at ICER in South Korea

Kristen McMaster, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, Jaehyun Shin, a postdoctoral fellow working with McMaster, and Pyung-Gang Jung, an alumna of the special education Ph.D. program now working at EWHA Womans University, presented at the International Conference for Learning Research (ICER) in Seoul, South Korea on October 19.

The three scholars shared their research around data-based instruction. McMaster presented her work “Using Data-Based Instruction (DBI) to Support Students’ Early Writing Development.”  Shin shared his meta-analysis on “Relations between CRM (Oral Reading and Maze) and Reading Comprehension on State Achievement Tests.” Finally, Jung discussed the results of her meta-analysis on the “Effects of Data-Based Instruction for Students with Intensive Learning Needs.”

The ICER is an international conference, organized by Education Research Institute at Seoul National University, held annually for the purpose of disseminating and supporting research in education as well as of building academic networks within the Asia-Pacific region. ICER has become a special venue for international academics to share educational research outcomes and to discuss core educational issues in the region. Since the year of 2000, more than 4,000 people from more than twenty countries have attended the event.

Welcome to Ed Psych, Michelle Marchant-Wood!

Michelle Marchant Wood

We’re excited to welcome Michelle Marchant-Wood, Utah native and former associate professor in the special education program at Brigham Young University to Ed Psych! After moving to Minnesota, she began working as a research associate at the University of Minnesota for Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). Michelle managed an evaluation project with the Anoka Hennepin school district which was under the direction of Dr. Kimberly Gibbons.

When the opportunity afforded itself to teach special education again, she couldn’t pass it up.

“I always love interacting with college students. I love their excitement for being teachers. They’re eager to try new things.” Marchant-Wood says.

Currently, she teaches three educational psychology courses that keep her on her toes, (EPSY 5619: Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities in Math, EPSY 5611: Research-Based Practices in Academic and Behavior Disabilities, and EPSY 5616: Behavior Analysis and Classroom Management).

“I’ve been impressed with the quality of students here. I taught at a private institution that is very difficult to get into (BYU has less than a 50% acceptance rate). I was interested in knowing what it was going to be like teaching at a state institution, but the quality of students here has been most impressive.”

She continues, “I also have really enjoyed getting to know the faculty here. They’re quality people and I have a lot to learn from them.”

Marchant-Wood wants prospective students to realize the great need and ample opportunities available in the field of special education Students are able to get jobs and make a difference.

“The faculty here are known throughout the country for the exceptional research they conduct, which takes a lot of time and effort. Prospective students need to know they’re going to have amazing opportunities here in Minnesota at this program.”

Outside of work, Marchant-Wood explores the cultural opportunities in the Twin Cities. She and her husband frequent orchestra hall and enjoy shows at the Guthrie. She also likes to stay active, by biking, running, and going to the lakes.

McComas to present on telehealth for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities at BABAT 2017

Jennifer McComas

Jennifer McComas, associate chair and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Rodney S. Wallace Professor for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, was invited to present at this year’s Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis (BABAT) Conference on October 13.

McComas will present research she conducted with Department of Educational Psychology Ph.D. student Brittany Pennington and alumni Jessica Simacek and Adele Dimian on “Functional Communication Training for Individuals with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: Breaking Down Geographic Barriers with Videoconferencing Technology.”

McComas’ research is primarily focused on the influence of behavioral mechanisms and social context on severe problem behavior and academic difficulties and the acquisition and persistence of pro-social behavior. She is head of the special education emotional and behavioral disorders licensure and M.Ed. and is launching a new M.A. in special education with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis (A.B.A.) now open for applications for fall 2018.

The Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis (BABAT) Conference has been hosted at UMass (Amherst) every year for 30 years. The conference brings together professionals, teachers, students, and persons interested in the areas of behavior analysis, autism, developmental disabilities, ethics, behavioral medicine, staff development, and more. BABAT is an affiliated chapter of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts serve as a resource for behavior analysts and those interested in behavior analysis in the northeast region.

Vukovic presents research on math skills and attitudes of children with reading difficulties

Rose Vukovic

Rose Vukovic, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, was invited by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to present her research on “Math Skills and Attitudes of Children with Reading Difficulties” at the STEM Education, Learning Disabilities, and the Science of Dyslexia conference in Washington, D.C. on September 26.

Following the conference, Vukovic was quoted in two articles by Education Week“Reading and Math: Two Sides of the Same Coin” and “Researchers Probe Connections between Math, Reading Research” on her research.

“When we say ‘learning disabilities’, we are mostly talking about reading,” Vukovic told Education Week. “We have to pay attention to other facets as well. We can’t do reading to the exclusion of everything else.”

This was the first ever STEM Education, Learning Disabilities, and the Science of Dyslexia conference. Hosted by the Instructional Research Group and supported by National Science Foundation researchers, the conference was started to help support the READ Act (Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act) which passed in  February 2016 to facilitate research on dyslexia. The aim of the conference is to encourage collaborations among researchers involved in dyslexia and learning disability research, especially those connected with science, engineering, mathematics, and technology.


Special education bachelor’s degree program ranked third in nation

The special education bachelor of science degree and academic and behavioral strategist (A.B.S.) licensure program in the Department of Educational Psychology within the College of Education and Human Development has been recognized as the number three special education undergraduate program in the nation.

The results are produced by Best Education Degrees, whose mission is to provide information on the best schools specializing in educational degrees and to enable, empower, and enhance the careers of education professionals and education students alike.

According to Best Education Programs, special education programs were ranked based on their reputation, tuition, academic support per student, and average early salary ten years after graduation. Scores were determined by examining specific data points from organizations such as the National Center for Education StatisticsU.S. News and World Report, and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Payscale was used to determine average salaries. Best Education Degrees collected the data and assigned a total score for each school based on the criteria.

The special education bachelor of science degree and A.B.S. licensure program was launched in fall 2014. The program is unique in that graduates earn their degree and teaching license in just four years and have the opportunity to study alongside leaders in the field of special education.

Scholarships are available for undergraduates interested in special education.

  • Incoming first-year special education students are automatically considered for the Campbell Scholarship for Education. Visit the Office of Admissions scholarships page for more information on this and additional CEHD scholarships available to incoming first-year students.
  • Each year through 2018-19, the Schulze Future Teacher Scholars Program will award scholarships of up to $10,000 to eligible undergraduate students, including students from the special education program.

See the full list of rankings.

Learn more about the bachelor’s degree in special education.




Kendeou, McMaster co-author Psychology Today post on role of inferences in reading comprehension

Panayiota Kendeou, Guy Bond Chair in Reading and associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, and Kristen McMaster, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program,  recently wrote a blog post for Psychology Today.

In the blog post, Kendeou and McMaster shared their research on the use of educational technology to help students in grades K-2 make inferences—a skill that helps improve reading comprehension.  The blog post details the two intelligent tutoring system technologies the duo and their team are developing as part of their U.S. Department of Education funded grants.

Read the full blog post in Psychology Today.

Get more information on the Kendeou and McMaster’s intelligent tutoring systems.

Dr. Samuel Odom gives talk, ‘Running with the Wolves of Special Education’

Dr. Samuel L. Odom speaks on special education topics at scholar talk.

On September 1, 2017, educational psychology students, faculty, and staff gathered for a scholar talk featuring Dr. Samuel L. Odom, director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Education. The talk, “Running with the Wolves in Special Education: Colleagues, Science, and Practice” covered today’s issues in special education and best research and teaching practices.

Dr. Odom has authored or co-authored over one hundred publications, and edited or co-edited over eleven books on early childhood intervention and developmental disabilities. His research addressed topics related to early childhood inclusion and preschool readiness. Currently, his research focuses on autism spectrum disorder (ASD).