Educational Psychology

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College of Education and Human Development wordmark.
Department of Educational Psychology wordmark.

Research topics: language, literacy & reading

Investigating how children learn to communicate and read from an early age

Reading is one of the most complex and uniquely human cognitive activities, and one that is essential for adequate functioning in our society. For these reasons, we study how children acquire language and other developmental recursors, how they learn reading skills, how to identify children who are at-risk for reading difficulties, how best to teach and assess reading skills, and how best to assess and teach language and early literacy. We address these questions from a variety of perspectives and methodological paradigms, ranging from laboratory to classroom and community.

Faculty & staff

Theodore J. Christ headshot
Theodore J. Christ

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Dr. Christ (school psychology) develops innovative, cloud-based, adaptive reading assessments and corresponding interventions. He leads the Formative Assessment System for Teachers Lab (FAST Lab), which is dedicated to research, innovation and translation..

Mark Davison headshot
Mark Davison


Dr. Davison (quantitative methods in education) works on the development of an innovative, theory-based reading assessment designed to diagnose specific types of poor comprehension in elementary school students.

Veronica Fleury headshot
Veronica Fleury

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Dr. Fleury (special education) investigates how behavioral features of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affect students’ ability to actively participate in traditional learning activities. She is currently investigating home book reading practices between caregivers and their preschool-age children with ASD to identify factors that can promote children’s ability to participate in shared reading experiences. This information will be used to guide the development of novel reading intervention strategies for young children with ASD.

Panayiota Kendeou headshot
Panayiota Kendeou

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Dr. Kendeou (psychological foundations of education) investigates the development of higher-order language and cognitive skills that support reading comprehension. She also conducts lab-based studies investigating how people learn new knowledge and revise pre-existing knowledge during their reading experiences.

Jennifer McComas headshot
Jennifer McComas


Dr. McComas (special education) focuses primarily on students who need intensive individualized support in reading. For those students, she conducts brief experimental analyses (BEA) to identify an instructional strategy that proves to be an effective approach for improving student performance in accuracy, fluency, or comprehension of written text. Based on the results of the BEA, she supports extended implementation of the intervention.

Scott McConnell headshot
Scott McConnell

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Dr. McConnell (special education) develops measures of language and early literacy development for preschool children, and explores interventions that promote language development in infants, toddlers, and preschool children. He is particularly interested in ways that “language” represents a foundational skill and essential precursor to comprehension of oral and written text.

Kristen McMaster headshot
Kristen McMaster

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Kristen McMaster (special education) collaborates with colleagues in cognitive psychology and school psychology to develop theory-based assessments and interventions to improve the reading comprehension and early writing skills of children identified as at risk or with disabilities. She also develops systems and supports to promote teachers’ use of data-based decisionmaking and evidence-based instruction.

Sashank Varma headshot
Sashank Varma

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Dr. Varma (psychological foundations of education) investigates the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying language comprehension. His current research is developing computational models of word and sentence comprehension that explain behavioral and brain imaging data in normal adults and patients with lesions.

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman headshot
Alisha Wackerle-Hollman


Dr. Wackerle-Hollman (school psychology) researches early literacy development and assessment, the transition of research to practice, community-based participatory research, children's literature and school readiness.

Steve Yussen headshot
Steve Yussen

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Dr. Yussen (psychological foundations of education) researches cognitive development and instructional psychology — particularly reading, and the intersection of schooling and children’s development.


EPSY 8115 - Psychology of Instruction and Technology

Seminar including, but not limited to, learning and instructional theories, advanced and emerging technologies, and measurement and evaluation.

EPSY 8116 – Reading for Meaning

This course provides a review of reading research from the fields of psychology, education, and cognitive sciences. In this course students gain an understanding of the cognitive processes that take place during comprehension and of the development of these processes. They also explore the applications and implications of this knowledge for educational practice, including instruction and assessment.

EPSY 8600 – Research in Reading Difficulties and Disabilities

This seminar is designed for doctoral students in special education and others interested in research on reading difficulties and disabilities. Students read about and discuss perspectives on reading disabilities, causes and consequences of reading disabilities, characteristics of students with reading disabilities, assessment and intervention for students with reading disabilities, and approaches to studying reading disabilities.

EPSY 8709 - Special Education Issues – Language and Early Literacy Development, Assessment, and Intervention for Young Children

This seminar addresses contemporary issues in theory, assessment, and interventions to promote language and early literacy development for young children (typically, those not yet age-eligible to enroll in Kindergarten) at risk for later reading delays. The course reviews and analyzes relevant theoretical models, basic research related to these theories, and applied research in assessment and intervention, particularly research conducted in the past 5 years as well as emerging issues of research and practice.

EPSY 8816 - Individual and Systems Academic Interventions

Theories, research, and practice underlying instructional/academic interventions for students. Systems consultation, organizational change.