Current Research Projects in the College of Education

This page is organized into sections representing the following departments and centers. Select the desired page section by clicking on a name or scroll through the entire list to sense the scope of the College's sponsored activities.

This page is organized into sections representing the following departments, centers, and institutes. Select the desired page section by clicking on a name or scroll through the entire list to sense the scope of the College's sponsored activities.


Centers and Institutes



Center for Science and the Schools

Smith, A., Hill, K.
CSTATS-Ignited Collaboration

Penn State Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) and Ignited both have programs involving immersing teachers in industry/academic placements. CSATS works collaboratively with STEM researchers at Penn State and in industry to immerse teachers for a 6 week program in the summer and we provide professional development to develop and implement a classroom research project to translate their experience into the classroom. The classroom research project is designed to help teachers bring the nature of science and engineering into the classroom tied to their content/curriculum areas. The project allows teachers to design several investigations around phenomenon or problems focused from their research and also embeds Next Generation Science Standards and best science/engineering practices. Ignited partners with local companies and universities to provide paid 8week industry and research fellowships for K-14 educators. The 8-week fellowship immersion allows teachers to embrace the role of learner while contributing to and experiencing applications of the subjects they teach. Each educator develops an Education Transfer Plan that aligns with NGSS, Common Core and/or CA state standards to richly bring the summer experience back to students in the fall. The teachers learn critically important 21st century skills and become stronger advocates for their students as they enter the work force. By working together, CSATS can support how to build in depth classroom research projects from teachers in industry experiences, and Ignited can help support how to expand teacher opportunities, build strategic partnerships and bring 21st century skills into the classroom.

Ward, A.
Shell Oil Company
Shell Oil Company


Ward, A.
The Boeing Company
Boeing-Penn State Research Sabbatical Fellowships for Teachers

Ward, A., Hill, K., Grozinger, C., Patch, H.
Authentic Plant Pollinator Landscape Research for Educators (APPL-RED)

This program will provide the necessary framework for secondary school teachers to help their students understand the integrative, transdisciplinary, systems-nature of scientific research, particularly research in the areas of food, agriculture, and natural resources. Best practices for K-12 STEM teachers involve using the approaches of researchers to teach basic concepts in science, but teachers often lack the ability to generate an authentic research environment, where questions and hypotheses are not developed a simple, linear fashion by individual investigators but rather by dynamic, interactive collaborations that integrate multiple perspectives. We will use the challenge area of Food Security, particularly the crucial role of ecosystems services of pollinators on food production, to provide this framework.


Center for the Study of Higher Education


Garces, L.
Michigan State University, William T. Grant Foundation (Prime)
Amici and the Courts: A Case Study of the Research Use Process of Intermediary Actors

Dr. Garces will serve as one of the Senior Researchers for the project, contributing legal, substantive, and methodological expertise.



Curriculum and Instruction


Crosson, A.
Institute of Education Sciences
Returning to Our Roots: Development of a Morphology Intervention to Bolster Academic Vocabulary Knowledge for Adolescent English

The purpose of this project for the English Learners program is to develop and document the feasibility and effectiveness of an intervention for teaching academic vocabulary to English Learners (ELs) in middle school. The key innovation on which the program will be based is instruction is lexical morphology, which is teaching word meanings and relationships between words through their Latin roots. The intervention will draw features from our existing intervention for native English speaking adolescents, Robust Academic Vocabulary Encounters (RAVE), specifically, the use of authentic contexts, friendly definitions, and activities to engage active processing. We will incorporate these features to develop an intervention to teach academic vocabulary and lexical morphology.

Crosson, A.
Institute of Education Sciences
For Argument's Sake: Applying Questioning the Author Techniques to Move from Comprehension to Composition of Written Arguments

This project will develop and document the feasibility and effectiveness of an instructional intervention designed to support middle school students’ text-based argument writing skills
aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Our proposed intervention brings together research on powerful instructional strategies for developing higher-level text comprehension and argument writing. The project builds on a previous Goal 2 study in which we developed and tested the discussion-based Questioning the Author intervention, which promotes comprehension through open, meaning-based queries about the text. The proposed intervention, which we call Triple Q, will use formulations Questioning the Author queries to focus students’ attention at three levels—the “gist” of a text, features of argumentation, and an author’s language choices. These three query types will be used to systematically guide students through the process of comprehending and analyzing argument texts and, then planning, drafting, and revising their own text-based, written arguments.

Heid, K., Foletta, G., Sellers, J., Zbiek, R.

National Science Foundation
Penn State University Secondary Mathematics Noyce Scholars Program

This program will identify, and prepare as secondary mathematics teachers, undergraduates with interest and ability in mathematics and interest in teaching in high-need rural or urban-centered school districts. Each student who completes the program, a Noyce Scholar, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics as well as with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (mathematics) or a master’s degree in mathematics education. The program experience is technology-intensive and includes tutoring of students from high-need
schools in an Upward Bound program or a second-language learning program, experience in designing and teaching sequences of lessons in high-need rural and/or urban schools, participation in seminars that focus on place-based teaching in high-need schools, and student teaching in a high-need Pennsylvania school.

McDonald, S.

Concord Consortium (Prime: NSF)
GEODE: Geological models for Explorations Of Dynamic Earth

The goal of this project is to design a transformational geodynamic simulation combining surface and subsurface processes in a way that supports learning across multiple representations. We will also study the impact of this tool to support student learning, in particular around the nature of uncertainty in scientific modeling, as well as study the practices developed by teachers to support learning in a curricular context integrating this technology tool.

Plummer, J.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific (Prime: NSF)
My Sky Tonight: Early Childhood Pathways to Astronomy

Two pairs of studies will be conducted for this project.  The first will examine ISE practitioners' goals and pedagogical knowledge about astronomy education for early childhood.  The second study will focus on children's development of concepts and scientific practices in astronomy.

Plummer, J.
Harvard University (Prime: NSF)
Thinking Spatially about the Universe: A Physical and Virtual Laboratory for Middle School Science

Penn State will partner with the core research and development team at Harvard University.  The research is designed around implementing modules to support student learning on three astronomical phenomena.

Whitney, J.
Life of Purpose LLC
Understanding the experiences of students in recovery from substance use disorders at large public research universities who are participating in Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs)

This phenomenological study explores the lived experience of students in recovery from substance use disorders at large public research universities who participate in their universities’ Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs).  The objective of the study is to better understand how students in CRPs at large public research universities make sense of their drinking and recovery actions, to determine which social and cultural discourses are apparent in their stories, to analyze how they use discourses and negotiate between competing discourses, in order to better inform the ongoing work of supporting student in recovery in CRPs.

Zembal-Saul, C.
U.S. Department of Education
Science 20/20: Bringing Language Learners Into Focus Through Community-School-University Partnership

Science 20/20 will develop and implement a professional development model that connects community-school-university partners to foster ambitious and equitable science teaching practices in Hazleton Area School District elementary classrooms that contribute to ELs’ academic success. Using collaborative action research, teachers and administrators will partner with parents and community educators to design instructional materials that leverage the cultural and linguistic resources embedded in students’ homes and community and incorporate evidence-based approaches for engaging ELs in scientific and engineering practices and discourse. Science 20/20 will also support the preparation of preservice teachers of ELs by placing them in participating mentor teachers’ classrooms for student teaching. An online platform that houses the professional development resources and instructional materials emerging from this project will be created to support long-term sustainability and larger-scale impact across the district.

Education Outreach


Bradaschia, L.

Humphrey Fellowship Program Office
The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program

The Humphrey Fellowship Program is a one-year non-degree program of combined academic and professional development opportunities. It brings accomplished mid-career professionals from designated countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East to selected universities in the United States for public service, advanced study, professional training, and work-related experiences.

Education Policy Studies


Gamson, D.
Spencer Foundation
What Students Knew and Were Able to Do: Two Centuries in Search of American Educational Standards

The goal of this project is to undertake an analytic history of how educational leaders in the United States have created educational standards over the past two centuries -- focusing especially on successive efforts to create common, uniform academic learning expectations -- and to illustrate how generations of educators have sought to specify, clarify, and at times intensify, what students were meant to know and be able to do.


Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education


Conyers, L.

Pennsylvania Department of Health
Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (PEHTI)

This project serves to provide technical support and capacity development to the PA Department of Health, Division of HIV Disease (Department) and selected sites in order to expand access to HIV testing for disproportionately affected populations through the routinization of opt-out HIV screening in healthcare settings, in accordance with applicable laws, PEHTI protocols and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2006 Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings (Guidelines) and; to develop sustainability of this initiative by providing technical support and capacity development to the Department and selected sites on methods to seek third-party reimbursement for HIV testing, where applicable.

Educational Psychology:

Murphy, K.
Institute of Education Sciences
Quality Talk: Developing Students' Discourse to Promote Critical-Analytic Thinking, Epistemic Cognition, and High-Level Comprehension

The purpose of this study is to iteratively develop and examine the usability, feasibility, and fidelity of a model of discussion with accompanying instructional materials aimed at improving primary school students' critical-analytic thinking, epistemic cognition, and subsequent high-level comprehension of text in classroom settings.


School Leadership:

Murphy, K.
National Science Foundation
Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

Quality Talk (QT) is an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model that we hypothesize will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education.  Researchers have argued that meaningful scientific discourse can promote students' conceptual understanding, development of scientific practices, and overall science literacy.  However, such discourse requires advanced pedagogical content knowledge that is often not taught in preparation programs.  By integrating QT, this project will have a transformative effect upon the teachers' professional vision, with subsequent effects upon their students' scientific literacy.

Special Education:

Herbert, J., Coduti, W., Conyers, L., Gines, J., O'Sullivan, D.
U.S. Department of Education
Long-Term Training of New Personnel to Work in State Vocational Rehabilitation

This grant supports the recruitment, admission, training, and employment of 40 new master's level students to work as State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors supported through RSA funds with an additional two rehabilitation counseling master's students supported through Penn State University funds.

Lee, D., Brooks, D., Gatzke-Kopp, L.

U.S. Department of Education
Institute of Education Sciences

Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success across the Middle School Years: Project SEALS

As students transition to middle school they face many new challenges. The goal of this research project is to evaluate a universal intervention program that is aimed at creating classroom instructional contexts and school social communities that promote the adaptation of students during the first year of middle school.


Lee, D. & Riccomini, P.
U.S. Department of Education
Training in the Professoriate for Special Education (TIPS)

The grave shortage of PhD level persons in special education (SpEd) teacher preparation programs continues. Training in the Professoriate for Special Education (TIPS) is designed to address research identified needs in the infrastructure of doctoral student recruitment and retention.  TIPS’ goal is to graduate eight new professors who are able to generate and communicate evidence-based practices (EBP) to teachers of high-needs learners with disabilities.


Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy


Clymer, C.
U.S. Department of Education

William F. Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy

The William F. Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy will provide national leadership in the field of family literacy. The Institute will focus on developing a sound conceptual, interdisciplinary research base for guiding practice and policy in family literacy. Based on research findings, the Institute also will build the capacity of the field to provide high quality, research-based instruction and program development in family literacy through this research.


Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy


Clymer, C., Gnanadass, E., Toso, B.
Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation
Training Title I PA CareerLink Staff to Use the Foundation Skills Framework, Including Delivery of Four Workshops and Follow‐up

The Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy staff will develop and provide a training program for PA CareerLink staff working with participants in the Pathway to Employment initiative to develop soft skills so that they can successfully complete occupational training and move forward on a career path.

Grumm, M., Clymer, C., Yeager, J., Weirauch, D.

PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Adult Basic & Literacy Education (ABLE)
Management Information System Support

This project will provide technical support and professional development to PDE ABLE staff and its statewide network of adult and family literacy providers in order to: 1) build the capacity of adult educators to collect and enter data accurately, and 2) use those data to inform efforts to improve the quality of adult education instruction.  Project staff also will work cooperatively with other state leadership initiatives (e.g., Regional Professional Development Facilitation and Consultation Services) and Bureau staff to maximize the impact of professional development and related support to that end.

Hamilton, K., Clymer, C., Love-Schooley, R., Toso, B.
Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation
Project Alignment: Adapting and Developing an Integrated Education and Training (IET) Curriculum for the Pathways to Employment Program

This project will identify existing national models of integrated education and training (IET) curricular materials. Additionally, project staff will develop an adaptation guide that directs adult education provider teams in adaptation of these resources for local needs. Project staff will also develop new IET curricular materials that align to occupational training in manufacturing and healthcare. Finally, project staff will design and deliver training that introduces these products and their use, to adult education teams in a 21 county area
in Pennsylvania.


Hamilton, K., Toso, B., Clymer, C.
PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Adult Basic & Literacy Education (ABLE)
Workforce Development System Liaison

This project will provide workforce development and workforce education support and assistance to the ABLE Director and staff.  It will support the collaboration and coordination of ABLE with workforce development partners at the national, state, and local level.  Additionally, this project will provide training and technical assistance opportunities to ABLE administrators, case managers, teachers, tutors, and support staff in ABLE-designated Workforce Investment Areas (WIAs) targeted for focused career pathways programming.  Project staff will also coordinate and collaborate with the ABLE Professional Development System (PDS) team, the Distance Learning Project, and other ABLE initiatives to create and maintain a transparent PDS capable of providing the agility and flexibility of programming that will maximize the impact of professional development training and technical assistance to help adult learners reach their goals.

Prins, E., Clymer, C., Toso, B.
Institute of Education Sciences
Career Pathways Programming for Lower-Skilled Adults and Immigrants: A Comparative Analysis of Adult Education Providers in High-Need Cities

During this project, Penn State is partnering with three adult education agencies: Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, Houston Center for Literacy, and Miami-Date County Public Schools.  The chief research aim is to map the landscape of how adult education providers in each city integrate career pathway components and interact with workforce development and post-secondary systems to enable adults to access career pathways.


Toso, B., Clymer, C., Weirauch, D.
National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)
Toyota Family Learning: Families Learning and Serving Together (TFLST) Grant Project Evaluation

The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy will design and deliver a formative evaluation of the TFL grant.  The purpose of the evaluation is to collect and analyze targeted descriptive, demographic, and outcome data to provide NCFL with information to promote promising practices and to drive program improvement.

Vail, M., Clymer, C., McDowell, W., Forlizzi, L., Hunter, M., Love-Schooley, R.
PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Adult Basic & Literacy Education (ABLE)
Career Pathways Direct Service Model

Based on research that indicates that students learn better when instruction connects to authentic work situations and problems, this program will provide students with an integrated curriculum that will prepare them for further education, job training, employment, and careers.  Career exploration or specific industry sectors, careers, and occupations will provide the context for instruction, so students can prepare for employment and careers while acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue postsecondary education and/or training.  Learning objectives and instructional strategies will combine academic and vocational content, which will strengthen the acquisition of basic skills in the context of work.  The integrated curriculum will enable students to prepare not just for their next job, but also for further education that can help them advance in a career.


Webster, S., Clymer, C., Grumm, M., Weirauch, D., Forlizzi, L.
PA Department of Education (PDE) - Bureau of Adult Basic & Literacy Education (ABLE)
Adult Education Professional Development System Course Management

This project will focus on the design, development, content, and delivery of high-quality professional development activities for all ABLE practitioners; however, emphasis will be placed on improving teacher effectiveness.  Using current research on high-quality professional development as a framework, existing professional development activities, currently included in the ABLE taxonomy, will be evaluated and improved or enhanced, as needed.



Learning and Performance Systems

Borge, M.
National Science Foundation
EXP: Collaborative Research: Fostering Ecologies of Online Learning through Technology Augmented Human Facilitation

With the recent press given to online education and increasing enrollment in online courses, the need for scaling up quality educational experiences online has never been so urgent. The goal of this project is to develop adaptive online learning communities that dynamically assign learners to short term learning groups that meet their immediate learning and interaction needs, supported by intelligent conversational agents that support productive group dynamics and in this way use the students themselves to provide much of the human side of instructional support that they need in order to thrive in these online learning environments.

Peck, K.
Texas State University; Prime: NASA
NASA Educator Professional Development (EPD): Digital Badging Component

The team at Penn State will work in collaboration with the team from Texas State University to provide the opportunity for as up to 250,000 inservice teachers, preservice teachers, and others engaging in hundreds or potentially thousands of NASA-related learning activities to earn "open digital badges."  Digital badges are digital images that contain metadata about several important elements of the learning that has occurred, including who or what organization issued the badge, what has been learned, the evidence that was submitted to document the learning, the assessment processes, and more.

Zimmerman, H.
Institute of Museum and Library Services
STEM Pillars: Supporting Rural Communities with Science Stories, Experts, and Inquiry Activities

This project aligns with the IMLS learning performance goal for inclusive and accessible learning. The six informal sites (four libraries and two museums) will work together with Penn State learning scientists to develop narrative- and inquiry-based materials for families with elementary aged children (aged 6 to 10 years old) that reflect science relevant to rural communities.


Professional Personnel Development Center


Pellock, C.
Pennsylvania Bureau of Career and Technological Education
Professional Personnel Development Center for Career & Technical Education

The on-going successful partnership between the Department of Education's Bureau of Career and Technical Education and the universities charged with responsibility for preparing career and technical teachers through establishment of the Professional Personnel Development Centers (PPDC). The Penn State PPDC was established, and continues to function, as an integral component of the university's CTE teacher preparation units rather than as a separate entity. Penn State is committed to the operation of an effective, efficient, comprehensive program of professional development for CTE. That commitment is fulfilled throught the delivery of services that produce knowledgeable, skilled, engaged, and flexible CTE educators who are engaged in preparing Pennsylvania's workforce with the knowledge and skills needed by business and industry.


Threeton, M.
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Field-Based Certification of Vocational Instructors at the PA Department of Corrections

An educational program of studies for State Correctional Vocational Instructors will be provided that will meet the requirements for Vocational Level I and Level II Certification and enable the State Correctional Vocational Instructors to fulfill the requirements for receiving an endorsement for Vocational Instructional Level I and Level II certificates.