How do children learn math in early childhood? What kinds of play improve problem solving and cognitive abilities? How does the brain change as we learn to read? These are some of the critically important questions our educational psychology faculty ask as leaders exploring the cutting edge of their fields.
One of the world’s leading centers for research on learning and development within formal and informal contexts, our faculty are recognized authorities in the cognitive, motivational, social, cultural, and neurological factors that underlie learning and performance. Our faculty and students engage in research that goes beyond the laboratory and makes a difference for schools, families, and communities.
Our graduate students collaborate with the field’s leading researchers, benefitting from mentorship and coursework that reflects the latest scholarship in educational psychology. With access to our department’s quantitative methodology faculty, students are also well-prepared to use a variety of research methodologies needed to address the significant and complex questions about learning, instruction, and development that confront society. Renowned alumni from Maryland’s educational psychology program carry on this legacy and advance the field nationally and internationally.
Finally, our status as the flagship university in the State and our location just outside of Washington, D.C. allow for close relationships with leading research agencies and nonprofit organizations on Capitol Hill and around the world. Celebrating 100 years of leadership in education this year, our college of education looks forward to advancing the field through pioneering research in educational psychology.
Laura M. Stapleton
Interim Dean and Professor, UMD College of Education
Educational Psychology Highlights
Educational Psychology ranked in the top 10 by US News & World Report rankings for the last decade. Our faculty highlights include:
- 4 Career and Lifetime Achievement Awards:
- Sylvia Scribner Career Award, Div. C, AERA
- Edward Thorndike Lifetime Contributions Award, Div. 15, APA
- Oscar Causey Outstanding Contributions Award, ILA
- 3 Early Career Awards:
- APS, APA, AERA
- 1 System Award for Mentoring
- Distinguished University Professor
- 2 University Distinguished Scholar-Teachers
- 15 keynotes/invited talks
- 5 editorships current* and past:
- Contemporary Educational Psychology*
- Educational Psychologist*
- Instructional Science
- American Educational Research Association
- Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
- 18 Grants and Fellowships Awards (2017-2019)
- Spencer Foundation
- McDonald Foundation
- Fellow Status granted 11 times
- 4 APA
- 3 AERA
- 3 APS
- 1 Society for Text and Discourse
- Organization Leadership Roles:
- 2 AERA Div. Vice-Presidents
- 1 APA President for Div. 15
- Major Committee Roles:
- Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
Kelly S. Mix
A former elementary school teacher, Dr. Mix’s work helps to bridge the gap between learning that occurs in psychological experiments and learning that occurs in the school context. She leverages the long history of human cognition research to help teachers improve student outcomes. Dr. Mix has served in numerous national service roles, and currently serves on the vision and development panels for the 2025 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Mathematics.
Kevin Niall Dunbar
An Association for Psychological Science Fellow, Dr. Dunbar currently is investigating the learning process that groups of UMD undergraduates use while designing experiments to be carried out on the International Space Station. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, WIRED magazine, and the Washington Post, in addition to journals like PLOS One and the Educational Psychology Review.
Richard W. Prather
The chair of the diversity committee for the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, Dr. Prather is also exploring via brain imaging whether there is a relationship between exposure to air pollution and cognitive development, as it relates to learning math. Publishing in the Journal of Cognition and Development and other top journals, his work extends beyond the laboratory and into schools, where he helps to develop interventions that improve math performance.
A recipient of the Association for Psychological Science’s Rising Star Award, as well as a Spencer Foundation grant award, Dr. Butler is co-editor of The Questioning Child: Insights from Psychology and Education, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.
With a $2.5M grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Lombardi is leading an inter-institutional research project that helps students evaluate connections between scientific evidence and explanations related to the causes of climate change. Through a scaffolding tool developed for this project, students learn deeply about the underlying science concepts, preparing them to be scientifically-literate citizens in today’s information-rich age.
With publications in Contemporary Education Psychology and Science Education, Dr. Lombardi is a recipient of early career research awards from the American Educational Research Association’s Division C (Learning and Instruction), American Psychological Association’s Division 15 (Educational Psychology) and NARST: A Worldwide Organization for Improving Science Teaching and Learning Through Research.
Dr. Ramani investigates how parent-child interactions, parental beliefs, and the early home environment contribute to children’s mathematical knowledge, and how peer cooperation in young children can benefit children’s cognitive development. Together, her work focuses on the benefits and unique processes of learning through joint play and cooperation with adults and peers, and their importance for educational practices with young children.
Dr. Ramani’s recent research, funded by the National Science Foundation, examines how tablet-based games can boost children’s math learning and working memory. Dr. Ramani’s work has been published in Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and the Journal of Educational Psychology, among other top journals.
Patricia A. Alexander
Distinguished University Professor
Named one of the most productive educational psychologists for more than a decade, Dr. Alexander’s work wrestles with the timeless question of how we learn, as well as engaging with the pressing issues of today, like how a shift to digital reading affects learning.
Among her leadership roles, Dr. Alexander has served as President of Division 15 (Educational Psychology) of the American Psychological Association and currently serves as the senior editor of Contemporary Educational Psychology. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the Society for Text and Discourse. She is a recipient of the E.L. Thorndike Lifetime Achievement Award from APA Division 15, the Sylvia Scribner Career Award from AERA Division C, and the Oscar Causey Career Award from the Literacy Research Association. Her pioneering work is reflected in her appointment as a Distinguished University Professor, the highest university recognition for scholarship.
Donald J. Bolger
Using brain imaging, Dr. Bolger tracks how the brain changes as we learn, including over time spans and through the course of learning. He examines how the brain responds to particular situations—like learning a word—and identifies differences in the learning trajectories of neurotypical children and children with disabilities. His work helps advance understanding of the basis of language disabilities and how to remediate learning issues, whether through instructional interventions or neural-based interventions like pharmacological tools.
A recognized expert on reading, Dr. Bolger’s work on learning to read has recently been featured on American Public Media’s podcast, while Inside Science interviewed him on whether or not it is possible to be dyslexic in Chinese.
Her cross-linguistic work, looking at Chinese-English, Spanish-English and Korean-English language pairs, delves into universal and language-specific processes that facilitate literacy development. Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, her work sheds light on how to develop a successful bilingual reader, which is a critical and distinct field of scholarship, as more than half the global population speaks two or more languages. Dr. Wang is a Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science and the Psychonomic Society. She has served on the National Advisory Committee for Praxis, a test that measures the academic skills and content knowledge needed for teaching.
Cognition and Development Laboratory
Disciplined Reading & Learning Research Laboratory
Laboratory for Neurodevelopment of Reading and Language
In one study, Dr. Bolger and his students explored how phonics and holistic approaches are used to teach people how to read and the effectiveness of those approaches. His use of brain imaging has shed light on the development of reading, in particular the neurocognitive differences between neurotypical readers and those with learning disabilities.
Gregory R. Hancock, Ph.D.
Professor and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher
Structural equation modeling, latent growth models,
reliability, planned missing data designs, and statistical power.
Jeffrey R. Harring, Ph.D.
Statistical methods for longitudinal and clustered data, finite mixture modeling, nonlinear structural models, and statistical computation.
Hong Jiao, Ph.D.
Testlet, multilevel, and mixture item response theory modeling, using process data for cognitive diagnosis, psychometrics in large-scale assessment.
Yang Liu, Ph.D.
Psychometrics, item response theory, statistical inference, categorical data analysis, latent variable modeling.
Laura M. Stapleton, Ph.D.
Professor and Associate Dean of Research, Innovation and Partnerships
Analysis of administrative data and survey data obtained under complex sampling designs and multilevel latent variable models.
Peter M. Steiner, Ph.D.
Causal inference, quasi-experimental designs including matching and regression discontinuity designs, graphical models, causal replication, factorial survey and vignette experiments.
Tracy M. Sweet, Ph.D.
Social network analysis, multilevel models, Bayesian inference, data science.
Ji Seung Yang, Ph.D.
Measurement and quantitative research methods using latent variable models for social sciences.