Research Centers and Projects

Our faculty and students conduct leading-edge research on how people learn and how to teach in the 21st century contexts in order to improve and transform educational practices. Our current research focuses on four cross-cutting themes:

• Innovations in learning with technology;
• STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning and teaching;
• Language, literacies, and TESOL; and
• Teacher learning and school improvement.

Over the past five years, our faculty members have obtained over $6 million grants from NSF, IES, Spencer, NYS Department of Education, and so forth to support various research endeavors. The quality and impact of these research projects are leveraged through cross-disciplinary collaboration and partnerships among educational researchers, school practitioners, and policy-makers.

Recently Funded Projects

Title: Connecting Idea Threads Across Communities for Sustained Knowledge Building

PI: Jianwei Zhang

Co-PIs: Mei-Hwa Chen (Computer Science, UAlbany), Feng Chen (Computer Science, UAlbany), Carolyn Rosé, (Carnegie Mellon University), Marlene Scardamalia (University of Toronto)

Sponsor: National Science Foundation (Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program IIS #1441479)

Start/End Date: September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2018

Total amount: $1,342,537 over 4 years

To prepare students for creative careers in a knowledge-based society, schools need to cultivate collaborative inquiry-based practices by which knowledge-creating communities expand our society’s knowledge. Students need to engage in sustained inquiry and discourse by which ideas are continually developed, refined, and built upon. This sustained, progressive trajectory of inquiry is rare in classrooms, but it is achievable. This project will create technological infrastructures and classroom designs to support such sustained trajectory of inquiry in each community and further extend it to an international network of classrooms that co-investigates problems of global importance. Our previous NSF-sponsored project has created Idea Thread Mapper (ITM): a collective knowledge mapping tool to trace and visualize threads of ideas growing in extended online discussions (see This project will expand ITM to provide automated analysis for students to review idea threads (lines of inquiry) emerged from their online discourse and selectively publish productive idea threads to a cross-community networking platform. Enabled by this platform and its automated idea analysis tools, we will conduct set of design-based studies in a network of elementary classrooms studying core scientific topics. The results will shed light on new designs of education for sustained knowledge building across learning communities (e.g., across classes addressing similar issues; across years of school).

Title: Designing Cross-Cultural Collaborative Online Learning Tool-Kit for SUNY Faculty

PI: Alex Kumi-Yeboah

Sponsor: Innovative Instruction Technology Grants (IITG)

Start/End Date: September 2016 to September 2017

Total amount: $ 10,000

The proposed toolkit aims to foster faculty awareness about cross-cultural collaboration in online learning gain exposure and connections to our global society. The proposed toolkit will include information for faculty on varied ways to deal with and promote cross-cultural collaborations: Using non-discriminatory language and being aware that cultural diversity exists both in nationality/ethnicity as well as in generation, religion, political beliefs, or socioeconomic status. It is also important that online instructors understand and become aware of the cultural-based differences in online classrooms. It will help cultivate cultural sensitivity for faculty- student interaction online learning environment. This proposed toolkit will comprise of information on how SUNY faculty who teach online courses would incorporate elements of multicultural education to promote cross-cultural collaborations in online learning environment to meet students’ diverse cultural, social, and academic needs. It will also help faculty on how to multicultural issues in online learning environment such as addressing cultural sensitivity issues, deal with asynchronous and synchronous communication, language and cultural issues in online learning to promote effective interaction with all students.

Title: Teachers’ Perceptions of Civic Education and Deliberative Practice

Co-PI: Brett Levy (UAlbany) and Shira Epstein (CCNY, CUNY)

Sponsor: Kettering Foundation

Start/End Date: January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017

Total amount: $10,000

This study examines the following two questions: (1) How are teachers prepared to enact civic learning projects? (2) How can education course work influence teachers’ perceptions of civic education? Because many teachers learn to facilitate youth civic engagement on an ad hoc basis, we seek to better understand how teachers’ civic education competencies can be supported by teacher educators. Furthermore, given that deliberation can be a central element of civic engagement, we aim to examine how professional learning experiences can shape teachers’ perceptions of deliberation as a pedagogical activity. During an online course on civic education, we will document the participating teachers’ experiences by analyzing their course assignments and by inviting them to participate in interviews. At the conclusion of the semester, we will analyze participants' papers, discussion board posts, unit plans, and interview transcripts for evidence of the development of their knowledge about civic education and their perceptions of deliberation.

Title: NYKids: Inform, Inspire, and Improve

PI: Kristen Campbell Wilcox

Co-PIs: Karen Gregory

Sponsor: The State of New York (line item in the executive budget)

Start/End Date: 2014- Present (funded yearly)

Total amount: $2,494,600 funding to date, with $235,000 approved for 2016-17 FY

NYKids is a project designed to inform, inspire, and improve the P-12 educational system in New York through a partnership between the University at Albany, leading private and public organizations, and P-12 school and district educators. In the spirit of research-to-practice partnerships, the NYKids advisory board includes AETNA; Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA); Capital Region BOCES; McGraw-Hill Companies; New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; New York State Association of Teacher Educators; New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc. (NYSPTA); New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS); New York State Department of Education; New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA); New York State United Teachers (NYSUT); School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). These advisory board members help co-construct the aims for research and school improvement efforts. With regard to research, the project team has completed 8 studies of higher-performing schools ranging from elementary, to middle, to high schools and ranging in focus from science education to high school graduation. The study findings are presented on the NYKids website ( ) along with searchable databases to inform those interested in comparing education outcomes across schools and districts. The findings are also used in professional development institutes and seminars using improvement science principles to identify priority areas and implement strategic innovations to improve student outcomes. Finally, the project studies the impact on competencies in identifying levers to improvement and achieving proximal and distal goals as educators engage in the professional development. The results of these studies will recommend next iterations of school and district improvement processes and instruments.

Title: College-Ready Writers Program

PI: Robert Yagelski

Sponsor: National Writing Project (federal i3 flow-through grant)

Start/End Date: March, 2013 through June, 2017

Total amount: $613,000

The College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) is a national research and professional development initiative that is designed to help low-achieving, high-poverty rural school district improve student achievement, with an emphasis on argument writing, and enhance graduation and college attendance rates. Twelve National Writing Project sites in ten states partnered with 44 rural school districts to implement the program, which served over 400 teachers and 25,000 students. As one of those twelve sites, the Capital District Writing Project, hosted by the UAlbany School of Education and directed by Professor Robert Yagelski, provided intensive, sustained professional development to middle and high school teachers in four rural capital Region school districts to help those teachers strengthen their ability to teach college and career-ready writing—with a specific emphasis on writing arguments based on nonfiction texts. An evaluation study of the project, using a quasi-experimental design, showed that students whose teachers participated in the CRWP performed better on four main attributes of argument writing—content, structure, stance, and conventions—than students in similar classes whose teachers were not part of CRWP. These findings are the basis for ongoing professional development in other districts.

Title: A provocative object: Designing an interactive and playful mathematical experience

PI: Caroline Williams-Pierce

Sponsor: FRAP A

Start/End Date: May 1, 2016, to April 30, 2018

Total amount: $10,000 over two years

The study will develop and evaluate a provocative object – that is, a digital media experience designed to provoke verbal justification and proof practices – used by pairs of children. In particular, we will design and develop an e-book, with activities embedded in a supporting narrative that focus on multiplying unit, proper, and improper fractions. In particular, the e-book will present quantities representing the fraction and the whole in such a fashion that the player-reader must engage in the authentic mathematical activities of conjecturing a fractional relationship, persuading their fellow player-reader of the legitimacy of the conjecture, then testing and revising the conjecture, and repeating. After development, pre-existing self-identified pairs (e.g., friends or siblings) of middle-school age player-readers will be recruited to participate in semi-structured e-book interviews, with the specific goals of examining both the fractions learning and the justification practices that emerge while engaging with this provocative object. Transcribed video-recordings of these sessions will be analyzed through an embodied constructivist lens that considers perception and action as inextricably interwoven with justification and proof practices. The written results will be disseminated to both mathematics educators and learning game designers, and the e-book will be shared online and publicized via teacher journals.

Title: A Mixed Methods Examination of the Construction of Reading Labels through Secondary School Contexts

PI: Julie Learned

Sponsor: University at Albany, Faculty Research Award Program

Start/End Date: May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2017

Total amount: $4000

Efforts to problematize, if not abandon, struggling reader (and writer) labels have a long. Research has shown that the reification and acquisition of deficit labels undermine youths’ literacy learning. Still, deficit labels persist. Solutions to do not lie in simply relabeling students or ending reading support efforts. After all, the real dilemma of making meaning with complex texts challenges many secondary students. In order to dismantle labels and thereby improve secondary literacy learning opportunities, this study aims to examine how reading achievement labels—and the interpretations about proficiency and difficulty that undergird them—are constructed and maintained through the contexts of schooling. Through surveys, observations, and interviews, I am investigating how students with different reading labels (e.g., struggling, proficient, advanced) construct and experience the contexts of school literacy learning; what constitutes proficient and struggling demonstrations of reading-related skills, practices, and identities in differently tracked classroom contexts; and how students’ and teachers’ interactions with classroom contexts mediate their interpretations of reading proficiency and difficulty. This study will help explicate the role that school contexts play in the dynamic construction of reading proficiency/difficulty and thus contribute to the creation of productive contexts through which all students can grow as readers, writers, thinkers, and people.

Title: Technology-enhanced multimodal instruction in science and math for English language learners: A program of professional development

PI: Carol Rodgers

Co-PI: Alan Oliveira

Sponsor: US Department of Education

Start/End Date: July 2012- May 2017

Total Amount: $1,877,329

This is a program of professional development centered on data-driven strategies for instructing English Language Learners in the academic content areas, specifically science and mathematics via technology-enhanced classroom communication. Our overarching objective is to mentor educators across New York State to affect optimal learning on the part of English Language Learners (ELLs). The project centers on regional, district and onsite training sequences in math and science technology-enhanced instruction for ELLs that are grounded in research on multimodal approach to language and STEM content learning. The baseline rationale for this project is that technology-enhanced instruction in STEM subjects offers multiple modes of communication (speech, text, picture, graph, symbol, gesture) that teachers can strategically draw upon to support and improve ELLs’ school learning by providing them with access to linguistically rich instructional contexts in which to meaningfully and naturalistically use and become exposed to the English language. A key focal point of this project is the professional development of teachers to effectively incorporate multiple modalities or communicative sources of information (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) to support and enhance ELL’s school learning experiences. Pre-service and in-service educators are supported through collaborative team sessions, summer institutes, district professional development, and specialized training in instructional technology for supporting and enhancing content learning, specifically math and science.

Title: A New Online Certificate in Computer Science Education

PI: Peter Shea

Sponsor: SUNY High Needs Program

Start/End Date: September 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016

Total amount: $71,000 for one year

The objective of this grant is to address the need to prepare teachers to engage students in
Computer Science principles and practices to expand the supply of students able and
eager to participate in Information Technology programs at the college level. Specifically, we
will develop a fully online, 15-credit graduate certificate program focusing on secondary
teacher education in the area of information technology and computer science.

Technology-Enhanced Multimodal Instruction in Science and Math for English Language Learners Project (MOP)

The Technology-Enhanced Multimodal Instruction in Science and Math for English Language Learners Project is an innovative program of professional development centered on data-driven strategies for instructing English Language Learners (ELLs) in the academic content areas, specifically science and mathematics via technology-enhanced classroom communication. The rationale for this project is that technology-enhanced instruction in STEM subjects offers multiple modes of communication (speech, text, picture, graph, symbol, gesture) that teachers can strategically draw upon to support and improve ELLs' high school learning by providing them with access to linguistically rich instructional contexts in which to meaningfully and naturalistically use and become exposed to the English language.