College of Education and Human Development

Department of Educational Psychology

Sandra Christenson

  • Professor Emeritus

Sandra Christenson

PhD, University of Minnesota


Sandra Christenson is a professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. Throughout her career, she has researched interventions that enhance student engagement with school and learning, and identification of family and school contextual factors that facilitate student engagement and increase the probability for student success in school. Engagement is a multi-dimensional construct that involves four types of indicators: academic, behavioral, cognitive and affective and is highly influenced by specific facilitators such as family and school expectations. Christenson has been particularly interested in those students who are most alienated from traditional schooling practices and/or at highest risk for dropping out of school. Research on the effect of Check & Connect for students with and without disabilities in grades K-12 is in year 15. [more about this research]

Her research investigations have also been aimed at how students make a personal investment in learning, the role of student engagement for positive postsecondary enrollment, and the effect of motivational home support for learning on school completion and students’ learning success. In particular, she has been interested in the contextual supports for students from low income backgrounds to develop an optimistic, hopeful identity as a learner.

Christenson was the 1992 recipient of the Lightner Witmer Award from the American Psychological Association for scholarship and early career contributions to the field of school psychology, the 2005 recipient of the Blanche F. Ittleson Award for pioneering work with school-family partnerships from the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the 2007 recipient of the Senior Scientist Award from APA Division 16 in recognition of a career-long significant program of scholarship representing outstanding contributions to the scientific knowledge base of school psychology, and the 2007-08 recipient of the Ysseldyke Best Practices Award from Minnesota School Psychologists Association in recognition of principles, standards, and dedication that have enhanced the profession of School Psychology. She was also awarded the Birkmaier Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Minnesota.


Christenson, S.L., Whitehouse, E.L., & VanGetson, G.R. (2007). Partnering with families to enhance students’ mental health. In B. Doll, & J.A. Cummings (Eds.). Transforming school mental health services: Population-based approaches to promoting the competency and wellness of students services (pp. 69 – 101). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Decker, D.M., Dona, D.P., & Christenson, S.L. (2007). Behaviorally at-risk African American students: The importance of student-teacher relationships for student outcomes. Journal of School Psychology, 45(1), 83-109.

Reschly, A.L., Chaffin, M.C. Christenson, S.L., Gutkin, T. (2007). Contextual influences and response to intervention: Critical issues and strategies. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.). The handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 148 – 160). NY: Springer Science.

Appleton, J.J., Christenson, S.L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A.L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44(5), 427-445.

Reschly, A., & Christenson, S.L. (2006). Prediction of dropout among students with mild disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 27(5), 276-292.

Reschly, A.R., & Christenson, S.L. (2006). Promoting successful school completion. In G. G. Bear & K.M. Minke (Eds.). Children’s Needs-III: Development, Prevention, and Intervention (pp.103-113). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Carlson, C., & Christenson, S.L. (Eds.). (2005). Evidence-based parent and family interventions in school psychology [Special issue]. School Psychology Quarterly, 20(4).

Carlson, C., & Christenson, S.L. (Eds.). (2005). Evidence-based parent and family interventions in school psychology [Special issue]. School Psychology Quarterly, 20(4).

Sinclair, M.F., Christenson, S.L., & Thurlow, M.L. (2005). Promoting school completion of urban secondary youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities. Exceptional Children, 71(4), 465-482.