Our mission is to advance education-related theory and methodology; to improve knowledge about the biological, psychological, technological, and social processes of learning, development, and mental health in diverse populations; and to enhance learning and mental health in educational and community contexts through innovative educational interventions and effective prevention/ intervention programs.


UW-Madison’s Department of Educational Psychology is regularly ranked as one of the top programs in its field in U.S. News & World Report.

“Our reputation is built on the faculty’s skill in conducting sophisticated and meaningful research — that is, research that has strong theoretical foundations, advanced research designs, and practical implications for educational practice,” says Ed Psych Department Chair Brad Brown. “Our faculty members are involved in studies of bullying, the fundamentals of math learning, use of technology to assist in learning and instruction, programs to inspire early reading, elements of successful family-school partnerships in rural areas, instruction for youths with autism, the adjustment of ethnic minority students to predominantly white college environments — a remarkable diversity of critical issues in education.”


Ed Psych Prof. Mitchell J. Nathan will present

“Educating the Embodied Mind”


Monday, Oct. 21 from 2:30-4 p.m. in Room 259 of the Educational Sciences Building

There is a growing appreciation for the role that body-based processes play in intellectual performance, learning, and instruction. Example processes include spatial reasoning, gestures, and perceptuo-motor simulations. This talk will explore evidence for embodied cognition from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, AI/robotics, and neuroscience; and investigate its utility for understanding and improving mathematics education. Prof. Nathan will also discuss efforts to educate embodied minds and offer new perspectives on the nature of knowledge and learning, as well as for the design of curricula and learning technology, classroom instruction, and formative and summative assessment practices.

Dr. Nathan is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Learning Sciences area of the Department of Educational Psychology. He researches how we think, teach, and learn with particular emphasis on the role that language and embodied processes play in understanding mathematics and engineering. Specifically, he explores topics such as the development of algebraic reasoning, engineering design, mathematical intuition, and geometric proofs, with attention to basic learning theory and educational practice.



Beginning in Fall 2019, the department’s School Psychology program will begin enrolling students for a new Master of Science (MS) Educational Specialist Certificate program. For this MS Educational Specialist Certificate in School Psychology, students will complete the program in 3 years (which includes 2 years of coursework and a 1-year internship), as opposed to the 5 years required in the PhD program. Graduates of the Educational Specialist (EdS) Certificate program will be prepared to work in schools and related educational settings as school psychologist practitioners and will be eligible for licensure as a school psychologist by the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction. Employment prospects for school psychologist practitioners are accelerating. Of all psychologist specializations, job prospects for school psychologists are among the best. For more information about the EdS Certificate program and program application instructions, click here.


Our minor program will expand your understanding of how individuals learn, processes of human development, research methods and statistics, and/or how to enhance learning and adjustment in school settings. Find more info here.

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Spotlight News


Department Profs. Craig Albers and Andy Garbacz have teamed up with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to create a new program that will focus on “rigorous, sophisticated, and interdisciplinary research that is responsive to needs identified by rural schools and communities.”

According to a WCER article announcing its creation, the Rural Education Research & Implementation Center, or RERIC (rare-ik) — is “a first-of-its-kind center in Wisconsin dedicated to improving educational outcomes for rural students, families and schools through rigorous, partnership-based research.”

The article continues: “In building capacity for RERIC, the co-directors have operated on two guiding principles: establish trust with rural residents and education leaders, and to listen. ‘We know from Katherine Cramer’s book, ‘The Politics of Resentment,’ how crucial it is to establish trust with rural communities. We’ve made it a priority to talk to people in rural Wisconsin, get to know them and hear their challenges.’ Albers says the response has been very positive. “People tell us, ‘Thanks for recognizing that we’re here.’

“According to UW‒Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory, 77 percent of Wisconsin school districts are rural or town districts. However, their unique needs have mostly been overlooked in policy and research, says Jennifer Seelig, RERIC’s assistant director whose award-winning, year-long ethnographic study of a rural school and community in Northern Wisconsin helped inform the approach that RERIC has taken to establishing rural research partnerships.”

Read the entire WCER article here.



Dr. Susan Sheridan recently became the inaugural recipient of the Department’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Sheridan, who earned her PhD here in ’89, is the director of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools and the George Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

She received the award after giving a presentation on her work to a packed room of Ed Psych faculty, students and others from the campus community. Specifically, her talk highlighted her research on Teachers and Parents as Partners (previously known as conjoint behavioral consultation), a family-school partnership intervention that supports children’s development by engaging families, strengthening family-school connections, and building parent and teacher competencies.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Sheridan on the award and thanking her for her many years of groundbreaking research and inspiring service to our field!



For some time now, Ed Psych Prof. Haley Vlach has had a reputation as a supportive, encouraging educator among the many students she teaches and works with in her lab.

And now, the University has taken note, recently awarding her with the Undergraduate Mentoring Award. The campus-wide honor recognizes faculty members for extraordinary outreach and interactions with undergraduates in research, scholarly and creative endeavors.

Those who have worked with Prof. Vlach, who’s a member of the department’s Human Development area, say the award is well deserved. “Haley is always patient and thoughtful in helping students understand proper research methods,” says Megan Kaul, a PhD student and the former manager of Prof. Vlach’s Learning, Cognition, and Development Lab. “But she also takes the time to get to know students individually, often talking with them about their classes.”

Current LCD lab manager Alexis Hosch agrees. “Haley makes it a priority to connect with students,” she says. “She encourages them to gain diverse research experiences and supports them beyond just their academic goals.”

Prof. Vlach is the second Ed Psych professor to win the Undergraduate Mentoring Award in two years. In 2017, Prof. Ed Hubbard, also of the department’s Human Development area, won the award for his work with students in class, his lab and at the Waisman Center.


Ed Psych Prof. David Kaplan of the Quantitative Methods area will be delivering to two lectures at other universities in Fall 2019.

On Sept. 27, he will give the Donald O. Hebb Lecture in the Department of Psychology at McGill University. Hebb was considered one of the most important psychologists of the 20th century. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of London, and was president of the Canadian and American Psychological Associations. The topic of this lecture will consider the quantification of uncertainty in models and methods in large-scale educational research.

Then on Oct. 29, Kaplan will give the Anne Anastasi Lecture at Fordham University, which will consist of a public lecture and a Department of Psychology Colloquium. Anastasi was a pioneer in psychological measurement and in 1972 was the first woman in over 50 years to serve as president of the American Psychological Association. The topic of Kaplan’s public lecture at Fordham will be on issues regarding the proper interpretation of large-scale educational assessments. His colloquium will concern recent developments in Bayesian approaches to addressing uncertainty in statistical models.

For more on these lectures, click here. For more information about Prof. Kaplan and his research, click here.


Albers, Garbacz, and Kratochwill Awarded OSEP Training Grant to Prepare School Psychology Doctoral Students for Leadership Careers in Academia

School Psychology faculty members Craig Albers and Andy Garbacz, in addition to School Psychology Professor-Emeritus Tom Kratochwill, were awarded a 5-year, $1.25 million U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Program (OSEP) Preparation of Leadership Personnel training grant.

The project, entitled Preparing School Psychologists to be the Next Generation of Leaders in School Psychology Evidence-Based Practices for Students with Disabilities, will provide five years of student funding and support for up to six school psychology doctoral students interested in pursuing careers in academia.

The program will emphasize the development of expertise in evidence-based prevention programs for use with diverse children at risk for disabilities, high-need children with disabilities, and high-need schools and districts. Trainees will receive in-depth training in research, scholarship, teaching, mentoring, and supervision as well as prevention science and evidence-based prevention practices.

“This training grant opportunity addresses two areas of tremendous need within school psychology. The first is the need to address the faculty shortages that exist within school psychology. The second is the need for faculty trained in prevention and early intervention practices, who will then assist in training the next generation of practicing school psychologists,” explains Albers. “This training opportunity will provide unique and explicit training in both of these areas. We’re confident that graduates of the program will be in high demand when they enter the job market.”

OSEP’s Preparation of Leadership Personnel awards assist states in meeting their responsibility for providing personnel to serve children with disabilities. The program supports competitive awards to help address state-identified needs for qualified personnel in special education, related services, early intervention, and regular education to work with children with disabilities as well as to ensure that those personnel have the skills and knowledge that are needed to serve children with disabilities, and that such skills and knowledge are derived from practices determined to be successful through research and experience.

Program funds support projects in a variety of areas, including leadership personnel and personnel to serve children with low- and high-incidence disabilities. The program also supports projects of national significance that address personnel issues with broad applicability.

Albers is an associate professor and Director of Training within the School Psychology doctoral program, Chair of the UW’s Prevention and Intervention Sciences minor and graduate certificate program, Co-Director of the Rural Education Research and Implementation Center (RERIC), and Editor-Elect of the Journal of School Psychology.

Garbacz is an assistant professor within the School Psychology doctoral program, Director of the Department of Educational Psychology’s Prevention, Intervention, and Enhancement Graduate Training Program, and Co-Director of RERIC.

Kratochwill is professor emeritus, having served on the School Psychology faculty for 33 years. He is recognized as one of the most influential scholars within school psychology, having published more than 200 journal articles during his career.

Remembering Prof. Frank Baker

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our friend and former colleague Prof. Frank Baker. Dr. Baker, who passed in early November at the age of 90, was a professor with the Department’s Quantitative Methods area for more than three decades. He also served a term as Department Chair. Baker did pioneering work in Item Response Theory, which is a paradigm for the design, analysis, and scoring of tests, questionnaires, and other measurements. His work on Item Response Theory and other quantitative issues led to more than 100 research publications throughout his career. He retired from the Department in 1998. Dr. Baker was an avid skier, serving on the ski patrol of nearby ski hills even into his retirement years. He also designed and built model airplanes and was a founding member of the Madison Area Radio Control Club. His interest in flight went far beyond model airplanes. He earned his private pilot’s certificate and rebuilt a badly-damaged Piper Cub airplane, which he flew around the country. In 2004, he published a book on his cross-country flying adventures entitled “Piper Cub Tales.” A devoted father, grandfather and husband, Dr. Baker was also a member of the U.S. Air Force, flying some 50 combat missions as a navigator during the Korean War. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. “Those who knew Frank will remember his candor, high standards, and wry sense of humor,” says current Department Chair Prof. Brad Brown. “He will be greatly missed.” Private memorial services will be held in Minnesota. Read his full obituary here.

MSPE Program Gets New Director

Lisa Hebgen has taken over as director of the Department’s Master of Science for Professional Educators program. She succeeds interim director Mary Louse Gomez. Hebgen, who was previously the associate vice president of student success for the Wisconsin Technical College System, is excited about her new role. “I love working with educators, especially when it comes to helping them decide on continuing education options,” she says. “Deciding to enroll in a master’s degree is a big step. Typically it means educators are seeking greater job opportunities, other educational related positions or enhancing their teaching skills.” Enrolling in MSPE, a unique two-year fully-online program, allows them the opportunity to gain experience in each of these options as it combines instruction from the departments of Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Psychology and Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Another key feature is that it requires educators to be employed during their graduate studies, which allows the coursework to be fully integrated into their current work setting. The program follows a cohort model with all students beginning in the summer term and taking classes in sequence with the same group of students for both years. Hebgen is looking forward to growing the program as well. “I’m excited to learn about the market for educators who are pursuing graduate degrees,” she adds. “By talking to students and faculty about where the field is headed and about their ideas for courses and coursework, we can learn how to better serve our students and meet their needs.” For more information about the MSPE program, visit their website here.

New Research on Reading with Robots Shows Promise

A new study from a lab in the Ed Psych department has found that a ‘learning companion robot’ can successfully encourage children to read through subtle social interaction. And this new research is earning plenty of attention. In the study, the research describes how Learning Sciences graduate student Joseph Michaelis built a robot – which he named Minnie – to serve as a reading buddy for middle school kids. His research, published in the journal Science Robotics earlier this month, found that Minnie’s new middle school friends grew more excited about books and more attached to the robot over the time the children spent reading to it. “After one interaction, the kids were generally telling us that, sure, it was nice to have someone to read with,” explains Michaelis. “But by the end of two weeks, they’re talking about how the robot was funny and silly and afraid, and how they’d come home looking forward to seeing it again.” As the child reads to the robot, it reacts to what’s happening in the book. “The goal is to try to make it as genuinely conversational as possible. If you were reading a book to me, and I was surprised, I’d say something like, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!” explains Michaelis, a PhD candidate. “So, when a scary part of the book happens, the robot says ‘Oh, wow, I’m really scared.’ It reacts like it would if it had a real personality.” A number of media outlets have picked up on this new notable research. To read the story on CNN’s website, click here. Also check out the story in Popular Science here. And if you would like to read the Science Robotics journal article, click here.