The pandemic has heightened the importance of these efforts. The national pivot to remote education has revealed and widened disparities in access to high-quality learning opportunities. Educators’ ability to adapt, address inequities, teach remotely, and work collaboratively has never been more important to student success.
An excellent teacher can transform learning for thousands of students over the course of their career. Reflecting the needs of today’s classrooms, our teacher education programs prepare future educators to work with diverse student populations, utilize evidence-based approaches to online teaching and learning, and serve special education and English Language Learners.
Our pioneering researchers are advancing the field through rigorous research on how to best prepare new educators and support experienced teachers. Our research is shaped by input from practicing educators and is responsive to pressing educational issues identified by the community themselves. From math learning in early childhood to teaching reading to high schoolers with disabilities, our scholarship promotes excellence and equity in education.
Located in a diverse metropolitan area near the state and nation’s capitals, the University of Maryland provides a wealth of opportunities for field experiences. Our students have access to mentorship from world-class educators, as well as internships in local school systems that reflect our changing K-12 student populations. Our teacher preparation programs transform teaching and learning—for our students and theirs.
Jennifer King Rice
Dean and Professor
UMD College of Education
Jade Wexler, Ph.D.
Dr. Wexler’s scholarship focuses on improving literacy instruction for adolescents with reading difficulties and disabilities through innovative teacher professional development and coaching.
As principal investigator of Project CALI (Content Area Literacy Instruction), funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Dr. Wexler and her colleagues at University of Connecticut and Vanderbilt University developed and evaluated a middle school co-teaching and literacy professional development model designed to improve collaboration between general (content-area) and special education teachers and enhance reading achievement and content-area knowledge of students with disabilities.
The purpose of PACT Plus, a model demonstration project funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to Dr. Wexler (co-PI) and her colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin, was to build a school-wide literacy model in four middle schools. Researchers worked closely with practitioners in the schools to provide intensive professional development and coaching to teachers. Eventually, the research team scaled back support in an effort to transition ownership of the model to the practitioners. During PACT Plus, it became clear that the field could benefit from a more systematic literacy coaching model designed to support teachers’ varying levels of skill and will. Therefore, the team began to develop such a model (i.e., AIM Coaching).
Dr. Wexler and her colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin were just awarded two more federally funded grants to further the work on AIM Coaching. First, Dr. Wexler (PI) and her colleagues were awarded a $1.4M (2020-2024) Development and Innovation grant from IES to refine and rigorously evaluate the efficacy of AIM Coaching. Second, Dr. Wexler (PI) and her colleagues were awarded a $1.6M grant from OSEP (2020-2024) to answer questions related to implementation and sustainability of AIM Coaching under routine conditions. The OSEP project will include an administrator component, and researchers will also create a virtual version of AIM Coaching.
Shenika Hankerson, Ph.D.
"This type of curriculum is significant for educators who teach this population of learners. [When implemented,] African American students become engaged because they finally see what their language looks like. They are able to get really into school contexts that typically tend to erase them,” Dr. Hankerson said. “It’s also important in thinking about how we prepare teachers, as many educators have negative ideologies when it comes to African American language speaking students.”
Dr. Hankerson also leads the Research Institute for Scholars in Education (RISE) program, a $1.1M Institute of Education Sciences grant-funded project, which trains undergraduate students from underrepresented populations for doctoral study. Designed to increase diversity in education research, students in the RISE program receive research mentoring on language and literacy topics from UMD faculty while receiving academic mentoring from Bowie State University faculty.
Dr. Hankerson also published Black Voices Matter, a special English language journal on race and equity and language and literacy. She is a recipient of the prestigious Dr. Geneva Smitherman Fellowship for Research in Black Languages, Literacies, Cultures, Rhetorics.
Beatriz Quintos, Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
“We want teachers to be aware that multilingual students should be positioned as having assets,” said Dr. Quintos.
The study focuses on elementary schools in underserved communities in Arizona, Maryland and Missouri. Through study groups, researchers will propose and engage parents and teachers in open-ended, culturally-relevant math tasks. At its core, the project is built around challenging math tasks grounded in everyday life—like scaling the recipe of an horchata drink to a large party, or working with wrenches that have fractional measurements.
Findings from the study will help educators and researchers develop partnership programs that support long-term equity and learning goals for historically marginalized students. Prince George’s County has a diverse student body, and it’s essential that UMD collaborates with local school systems for these reasons, Dr. Quintos said.
The UMD team includes Carolina Napp-Avelli, Claudia Galindo, Melinda Martin-Beltran and Tarik Buli, as well as researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Missouri.
Sarah McGrew, Ph.D.
“Many young people report that social media is their top source for news,” said Dr. McGrew. “We need to help students develop skills to find reliable information so they don’t fall prey to misinformation when they’re online.”
In one of her studies, high schoolers learned strategies for evaluating online information that professional fact checkers used. The study, which showed an improvement in students’ ability to evaluate information after learning fact-checking strategies, was published by Computers and Education. As phones and computers give unparalleled access to information, deciding what to trust is critical for making personal, community and political decisions. It’s the responsibility of schools to teach students strategies for navigating digital information, Dr. McGrew said.
“If we’re turning to the internet for information, we have to be able to evaluate it. I think as part of the civic mission of schools, it’s our responsibility to help students learn how to deal with this and take advantage of the strengths of having access to so much information while avoiding its pitfalls.”
Diane Jass Ketelhut, Ed.D.
Dr. Ketelhut is the principal investigator for a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation that aims to help teachers provide young children with a foundation in computational thinking, increasing access to and diversity in computer science.
Dr. Ketelhut conducts research on virtual reality in the classroom, examining how immersive environments can increase student learning and self-efficacy by drawing on the benefits of situational learning. Virtual environments, where each keystroke is recorded, also allow teachers to better assess student performance.
Tamara Clegg, Ph.D.
With Dr. Jon Froehlich at the University of Washington and their interdisciplinary research team, Dr. Clegg drew from her expertise in education and technology to develop an e-textile shirt that helps school-aged children learn about anatomy and physiology. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the BodyVis shirt contains sensors and displays children’s live body data so they can see how their bodies work during physical activity. As a child sporting BodyVis moves, the shirt lights up in accordance to the their heart and breathing rate.
“The big goal is to see how these types of technologies can transform learning experiences that children are able to have,” Tamara Clegg said to The Baltimore Sun in an article about the innovative project.
David Weintrop, Ph.D.
Dr. Weintrop is a 2020 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and will work with Washington D.C. public schools to integrate computational thinking into 4th grade mathematics classrooms through a curriculum called Sphero.Math.
“We’re looking at ways to design the curricula to allow learners with little prior experience with computing to engage with robotics and mathematics, but also draw on their lived experience and prior knowledge, ways that they can better align who they are with what they’re doing in the classroom.”
In Chicago, Dr. Weintrop is working with public school districts to design a middle school science curriculum called Scratch Encore, which uses cultural context to engage kids in computer science ideas. Along with UMD Associate Professor Dr. Janet Walkoe, Dr. Weintrop is part of a $4 million dollar project funded by the U.S. Department of Education entitled: Including Neurodiversity in Foundational and Applied Computational Thinking (INFACT). The project seeks to design, develop, and implement a comprehensive and inclusive program for computational thinking in grades 3 through 8.
Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention
Christy Tirrell-Corbin, Ph.D.
Clinical Professor, CECEI Director
Improving Teacher Education with Avatars
Daniel Levin, Ph.D.
Associate Clinical Professor
Dr. Levin’s research with avatars focuses on creating opportunities for pre-service teachers to practice engaging in complex teaching practices, and exploring how teacher educators can use these opportunities as assessment to guide feedback and support classroom supervision of interns.
Global Technology Education for a Digital World
One of the innovative ways UMD prepares its students is through the integration of the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standards, utilized to exhibit pedagogical skills and digital proficiency via an electronic portfolio.
While other educator portfolios are solely paper-based or reflections of traditional instruction, each UMD teacher candidate submits digitized portfolios focused on the implementation of technology to solve problems and build community.
“We are requiring teachers to use digital resources to empower learners. The structure of the portfolios encourages not just innovation, but also collaboration, leadership, analysis, and design, all while accommodating learner variables,” Dr. Ebony Terrell Shockley said.
Students provide a variety of creative, complex submissions, such as providing evidence of a maker-space mindset, documenting instructional interventions with avatars, and planning for futuristic technology.
“Our students are challenged to rethink conventional approaches, and consider novel ways to communicate, form learning networks, and use technology ethically in their classrooms,” said Dr. Terrell Shockley.
In her Digital Tools and Communities Course, teacher candidates enhance their digital skills in preparation for PK-12 classrooms by providing multiple representations that capture key ideas across disciplines and use technology to access, interpret, evaluate, and apply information.
Ebony Terrell Shockley, Ph.D.
Associate Clinical Professor and Executive Director of Teacher Education
“An asset-based approach means that if the student speaks English differently and makes what the teacher says is a mistake, that the teacher doesn’t stereotype the student. Instead, the teacher supports the student in choosing language that is situationally-appropriate,” said Dr. Ebony Terrell Shockley, Co-Principal Investigator.
The research team helps teachers provide students skills to switch between informal home language and more formal school language. For instance, teachers may draw a comparison in language and clothing choices in different settings.
“In schools where uniforms are required, we might make the point to a student that they speak or dress differently at home vs. school and share that neither example is better than the other,” Dr. Terrell Shockley said.
Dr. Terrell Shockley studies underrepresented groups and their teachers in STEM, literacy, and exceptional education contexts. Her research aims to center the voices of marginalized learners, primarily those who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). In addition to Toggle Talk, she is a Co-PI of an NSF-funded project and USDE-funded project, both are designed to increase the number of underrepresented groups in science disciplines.
Lawrence Clark, Ph.D.
A new collaboration between UMD and the state’s two largest school districts will create innovative preparation opportunities for teacher education students, bolster professional development for practicing teachers, and promote equity across Maryland public schools.
Led by Dr. Lawrence Clark, the Maryland Professional Development Schools 2025 Project is a cooperative effort by the UMD College of Education, Montgomery County Public Schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Montgomery County Education Association, and Prince George’s County Education Association. The project is supported by a $2.3 million grant from the Maryland State Department of Education.
“This project provides us an opportunity to pilot and refine a range of educator preparation and professional development activities. This unprecedented collaboration between UMD, PGPCS, MCPS and their employee organizations will push us all to rethink limits and explore new possibilities of working across institutional and school district lines.”
The overarching goal of the project is to pilot features of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an ambitious framework designed to improve educator preparation and expand teacher career opportunities in Maryland schools. Project components consist of a comprehensive professional development model, redesign of the teaching internship, and exploration of teacher career ladder opportunities.
Dr. Clark brings a strong background in teacher development to the project; his research explores the range of influences on mathematics teachers’ pedagogy. He is also the Principal Investigator of Mathletics, an NSF-funded project designed to increase middle school students’ interest in data analytics through contextualizing statistics in sports contexts.
Ayanna Baccus, Ph.D.
Associate Clinical Professor
“The reading clinic gives our candidates hands-on experience teaching reading,” Dr. Baccus, reading clinic director, said. “They try out different literacy interventions and respond to different needs presented in the classroom. Candidates work in pairs—a hallmark of our program—as they teach and assess together. They collaborate for instruction and they coach one another as well.”
The program is a partnership between the university and the City of College Park Youth, Family, and Senior Services. Partially funded by a community grant, the program is provided at no-cost to most students from the local area.
“Literacy is an area that cuts across other content areas,” Dr. Baccus explained. “To do well in science and social studies, you need to be able to read and write well; no matter the subject, there is a literacy component.”
Janet Walkoe, Ph.D.
“Often, children can gesture an idea before they can fully articulate it in formal classroom language,” Dr. Walkoe said.
The innovative approach gives teachers a window into other dimensions of student thinking, with a facilitator helping small groups of teachers synchronously tag student actions on an interactive video screen. Through the project, Dr. Walkoe hopes teachers and students notice precursors of algebraic thought, such as the relationship between balance in a playground and balance in math, and capitalize on the innate resources children bring to math.
“Algebra is a gatekeeper for kids—those who don’t have success in algebra get shut out from advanced science careers,” she said. “Right now, we don’t pay enough attention to kids’ resources. Instead of teaching algebra from the top-down, I’m interested in teaching algebra from the bottom-up.”
Teacher Innovation Grants: Responding to the Pandemic
Alison Jovanovic, Senior Faculty Specialist; Loren Jones, Assistant Clinical Professor
Alison Jovanovic, a senior faculty specialist, and Loren Jones, clinical faculty, received a teaching innovation grant from the university to re-imagine the seminar and internship experience for teacher candidates in our secondary and K-12 undergraduate and graduate programs. Given the significance of personal interaction in the seminar and in-classroom teaching internship, transitioning to a virtual environment presented significant challenges.
Supported by the grant, our teacher education program pivoted to preparing teacher candidates to observe experienced teachers build rapport in a virtual context; modify lesson plans for the online environment; effectively teach content via the school system’s platform; and adeptly use virtual tools to assess students’ understanding.
Additionally, the teaching team redesigned several internship and seminar-based tasks and experiences with a new technology-based component that aligns with our new International Society for Technology in Education standards, which also translated to new technological abilities for COE faculty.
[Teacher candidates in teacher education programs were able to develop a Bitmoji classroom as part of the pivot to virtual instruction. Image: Alison Jovanovic.]