College of Education and Human Development

Department of Educational Psychology

Research topics: Behavioral and social-emotional development

Determining sources of and developing solutions to behavioral and social difficulties

Our researchers identify and define problems by investigating sources or origins of behavioral and social difficulties in order to guide development of instructional practices and treatments, as well as developing reliable and valid assessment tools for identification and intervention.


LeAnne Johnson

Johnson (special education) researches interventions to improve outcomes for a range of preschool and elementary school-aged children who are at high risk given social, emotional, behavioral, and communication needs. Johnson is focused on creating the next generation of intervention studies that support high fidelity implementation of evidence-based interventions within tiered intervention and prevention models. This includes research projects that are designed to help: (1) better understand how treatment intensity interacts with child characteristics and child outcomes when we explore communication and social-behavioral skills, (2) test the efficacy of social-communication interventions for children with Autism, (3) explore variables that allow us to effectively adapt interventions to the unique characteristics of young children with social-emotional and communication delays, and (4) examine ways to improve adoption and implementation of evidence-based practices in the natural environments of young children.

Jennifer McComas

McComas (special education) applies functional analysis for problem behavior in educational and residential settings. She focuses on basic behavioral processes maintaining desirable and undesirable behavior, such as schedules of reinforcement, stimulus control, and establishing operations. She also studies behavioral treatment of problem behavior based on concurrent schedules of reinforcement as we as antecedent stimuli. Finally, she analyzes the academic behavior performance of students with behavior problems.

Faith Miller

Miller (school psychology) focuses her research on the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices in schools, particularly as it relates to improving outcomes for children who experience social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties (SEBD). Through her research, Miller examines critical factors that lead to the implementation of evidence-based practices for students with SEBD within multi-tiered systems of support. This includes the use of defensible assessments to inform data-based decision-making and problem-solving, as well as the development and delivery of a continuum of high-quality interventions to improve student outcomes. As an applied researcher, she works to bridge the research-to-practice gap in order to improve outcomes for students with SEBD.

Amanda Sullivan

Sullivan (school psychology) focuses her research on describing special needs among children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and understanding the educational and health services they receive. She is particularly interested in elucidating disparities in the educational treatment and outcomes of students with and at-risk for disabilities and identify malleable factors related to outcomes in order to inform policy and practice to better support students’ educational needs. Much of her work entails secondary analyses of large-scale datasets that allow for population estimates of students’ characteristics, experiences, and outcomes

Frank Symons

Symons (special education) conducts research to gain understanding of the severe behavior problems of children and adults with special needs, primarily those with developmental disabilities and emotional or behavioral disorders. For these two groups, much of his research has focused on self-injurious behavior and classroom aggression, respectively. The majority of his research has been observationally based, theoretically grounded in behavioral principles, and driven by a commitment to meaningful, functional outcomes.

Sherri Turner

Turner (counseling and student personnel psychology) investigates the social-emotional aspects of educational and career development among middle-school, high school, and college students. These include the social and emotional predictors of career development skills, choice and compromise processes, career beliefs, students’ self-estimated interests and abilities, and the motivational aspects of educational and career development (e.g., hope versus depression, proactivity, positive self-attributions).