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College of Education

Contexts of Learning & Development Lab

Contexts of Learning & Development Lab

The Contexts of Learning and Development Lab at the College of Education brings together faculty and students to address issues relating to healthy human development and learning across complex ecological contexts – classrooms, schools, families, and communities. Our members lead research, teaching, and service projects in collaboration with multiple stakeholders in the state of South Carolina and around the world.

  • About CLAD

    The mission of the Contexts of Learning and Development (CLAD) Lab is to leverage interdisciplinary approaches and an ecological systems perspective to advance the healthy development and learning of students and teachers in South Carolina and around the world.

    • Conducting rigorous, multi-method research to produce evidence-based theories of learning and teaching across developmental contexts.
    • Creating innovative professional development approaches to support educators.
    • Developing assessment tools for evaluating numerous aspects of the learning experience.

    Providing a variety of high-quality mentorship opportunities for learning sciences doctoral students so they may positively influence the state of education and human development in their future careers.


    Supporting educators and community partners through a variety of evidence-based professional development experiences.

    Our goal is to positively influence learning research, policy, and practice, through our work.

  • People


    Faiza JamilFaiza Jamil

    Faiza M. Jamil (Ph.D., Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science, University of Virginia) is an associate professor in Education and Human Development and the founder of the Context of Learning and Development Lab. She also serves as Dean’s Fellow for Inclusive Excellence in the College of Education at Clemson. Her research follows two complementary strands: 1) understanding the underlying psychological processes – cognitive, social, and emotional – that influence teachers’ classroom behaviors and career decisions, and 2) understanding the ways in which teacher-child interactions influence children’s learning and development. More specifically, Dr. Jamil conducts research that leverages her expertise in rigorous quantitative methodologies and professional development to better understand and improve the educational experiences of teachers and students within these two broad strands, with a particular focus on issues of educational equity. Dr. Jamil teaches courses related to human development in the Clemson’s Learning Sciences Doctoral Program and Teacher Education Programs, to which she brings her own experiences as a K-12 teacher in three countries.

    Heather Brooker Heather Brooker

    Heather Brooker (Ph.D., Clemson University) is a lecturer of assessment and educational psychology at Clemson University. Her research and service interests are in the relationship between assessment practices and student engagement and self-reflection within a backward design approach to instructional planning. In particular, how this relationship is affected by the “culture of achievement” perpetuated within student learning environments. Her current research efforts are focused on the use of diagnostic and formative assessment practices as tools for closing student achievement gaps. Dr. Brooker serves as the assistant coordinator of the Learning Sciences PhD program and serves as a faculty member in Clemson’s undergraduate and masters level teacher education programs. 

    DeOnte BrownDeOnte Brown

    DeOnte Brown (Ph.D., Learning Sciences, Clemson University) is an assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Florida State University. Dr. Brown's research focuses on equity in education with specific interests related to anti-Blackness in education, culturally affirming educational practices and the experiences of underrepresented students in attainment of educational outcomes. Primarily he emphasizes a focus on personal, behavioral, and environmental factors at the collegiate level. DeOnte’s dissertation research focused on understanding the relation among affirmation of Blackness in the educational environment and life and career perspectives of Black college students. Additionally, he leads a center focused on the success of underrepresented students (i.e., first-generation, students of color, students with limited resources, etc.)  and college access for middle/high school students with similar underrepresented identities as the college students.

    Amanda BennettAmanda Bennett

    Amanda Bennett (Ph.D., Learning Sciences, Clemson University) is a lecturer in Education and Human Development within the College of Education. Dr. Bennett serves as a faculty member in Clemson’s undergraduate and masters level teacher education programs and teaches courses related to child development, educational psychology, classroom-based research, effective online teaching, and STEAM assessment strategies, to which she brings her own experience as a K-12 teacher. Her research interests focuses on early childhood learning and development and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts/humanities, mathematics) instruction, specifically the integration and development of children’s social-emotional skills, and teacher professional development.

    Abby StephanAbby Stephan

    Abigail (Abby) Stephan (Ph.D., Learning Sciences, Clemson University) is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Institute for Engaged Aging. Dr. Stephan's research interests include intergenerational relationships in informal learning settings, self-directed learning throughout the lifespan, and familial influences on learning and development. Her work often employs a mixed methods design and is interdisciplinary, drawing from fields adjacent to learning sciences such as family and community science, developmental psychology, youth development, gerontology, anthropology, and sociology. To further the practical impact of her research, she recently became a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE).


    Shanada AdamsShanada McFadden

    Shanada is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences with an emphasis on developmental trajectories that lead to detainment and recidivism which impacts the learning environment. Shanada’s research interests include examining and developing protocols in academia and the judicial system that deal with undesirable behaviors. Prior to graduate school Shanada worked as a Licensed Masters Social Worker conducting a pilot study with Greenville County DJJ, appointed judges and the Greenville County Detention Facility to develop a protocol that incorporated Adverse Childhood Experience Scores once a juvenile is detained. Shanada has publications, presentations and news coverage surrounding the successes of her pilot study “Phoenix Connect”. This pilot study given its successes will be replicated in Columbia and Charleston. Shanada wants to further develop her research interests within the juvenile population. Additionally, she volunteers with other youth organizations that supports her research agenda.

    Virginia Clark.jpgVirginia Clark

    Virginia is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program. Her research interests include the overlap of education and neuroscience, looking at learning through a neurological lens as means to drive teaching methodologies. Virginia currently works as a graduate assistant for Clemson University’s Teacher Learning Progression through the College of Education. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University and a Master of Science degree in Biology, with a concentration in Neurobiology, from Georgia State University. Prior to beginning her PhD, Virginia worked as the Director of Research and Methodology at a non-profit K-12 school for children with neurological challenges and as an Adjunct Instructor at Georgia State University.

    Nora Lee HochstetterNora Lee Hochstetter

    Nora is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program. Her research interests include professional development for English Language Learner (ELL) instructors, effective teaching practices for fostering inclusivity and community-building in the multicultural classroom, and ELL student motivation and self-efficacy. Nora has a Master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a concentration in Applied English Linguistics. Prior to becoming a doctoral student, Nora taught adult English language learners in both nonprofit and higher education institutions. Currently, she works as a graduate research assistant in Clemson University's Teacher Learning Progression initiative, which offers personalized advanced professional development pathways for STEM instructors.

    Georgia McKownGeorgia McKown

    Georgia is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences program. Her research focuses on the academic development of military connected students as well as teacher education and professional development. She currently works as the Director of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation with the Military Child Education Coalition in addition to her graduate studies. Prior to graduate school, Georgia was an elementary school teacher in Virginia Beach and a reading teacher with the Institute of Reading Development. Georgia has also had the opportunity to teach Foundations of Digital Media and Technology and Human Development Across the Lifespan for Clemson's pre-service teachers.

    Robert O’HaraRobert O'Hara

    Robert is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences program. His research interests lie at the intersection of structured learning environments, sense of belonging, and academic confidence in undergraduate engineering students. Robert currently works as a graduate assistant on the NSF THINKER Project with CU-ICAR and serves as a graduate assistant for the Quantitative Clinic with the Department of Education and Human Development. Robert holds a Masters degree in Higher Education Administration. Prior to starting the program, Robert worked as a Housing and Residence Life professional focusing on residential curriculum, social justice advocacy and awareness, and Intergroup Dialogue.

    Lauren CalamasLauren Calamas

    Lauren Calamas is a junior at Clemson University with a double major in Mathematics and Secondary Education with an emphasis in Mathematics. Though she plans to have a career in teaching after graduation, Lauren is also interested in a future in educational research and learning sciences. She is volunteering on a project related to teacher ethnic and racial diversity in the workforce, for which she is assisting with data management.

  • Projects
    College of Education Podcast

    CLAD lab members will be hosting a podcast series starting in October to explore and highlight the perspectives of administration and faculty in the College of Education and across the University regarding the educational impacts and insights associated with the pandemic. In particular, how the pandemic has reshaped missions/objectives, research efforts/lenses, teaching philosophies/practices, and focus on service efforts in higher education. Furthermore, how self-reflection on the "lessons learned" can pave paths for applying these lessons to educational innovation and reform. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Heather Brooker at

    Understanding the Links Between PK-16 Early Learning and Developmental Experiences

    A secondary data analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (birth and kindergarten cohorts) will be used to investigate questions about the impact of early educational and developmental experiences on children’s learning outcomes in subsequent years, with particular focus the development of achievement gaps. One primary goal is to explore how early experiences with caregivers and teachers vary by children’s demographic characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic context, and to measure the extent to which these experiential differences influence children’s development and academic achievement in subsequent years of schooling through middle school. Contact Faiza Jamil for more information (

    The Contextual Causes & Consequences of Teacher-Student Ethnoracial Congruence

    The purpose of this project is to connect several sources of publicly available sociodemographic, economic, geographic, and school achievement data for three large, diverse states to better understand how localized variations in a complex array of sociodemographic characteristics and economic conditions potentially contribute to both the composition and quality of the teacher workforce, as well as student achievement gaps. This study will clarify the underlying mechanisms that explain the growing body of evidence suggesting that students benefit from having teachers who share their ethnic and racial identity. It will also inform how to more strategically deploy teacher recruitment and retention resources in school districts where the composition of the teacher workforce can have the greatest impact on closing ethnic and racial achievement and opportunity gaps. Contact Faiza Jamil for more information (

    Academic Opportunities for Military-Connected Students

    This project uses bioecological system theory to organize existing work concerning military-connected children and families in an effort to understand the various assets and constraints that the military lifestyle may have on children’s academic development. Additionally, this project will use latent profile analysis to explore trends in academic development within the military-connected student community to better understand which military lifestyle demands may be protective or disruptive to students’ academic development. Finally, this study will use qualitative interviews with teachers, parents, and students in the military-connected community to more deeply explore the military-connected student experience. Taken together, the parts of this project will help to explore the complex relationships between military-connected students and their communities in order to guide the development and implementation of future interventions. Contact Georgia McKown for details (

    Examining Intergenerational Relationships in the Family

    This project evaluates learning experiences between adjacent and non-adjacent generations in the family against core components of structured intergenerational learning. It explores the contemporary grandparent’s experience, role, and purpose in the family using a mixed methods approach, and further examines the influence of grandparent relationship type, either recreational or custodial, during childhood and the role of intergenerational narratives on life satisfaction in emerging adulthood. The overall purpose of this collective work is to develop a deeper understanding of intergenerational relationships within the family context, with special consideration of experiences and wellbeing outcomes for non-adjacent generations. Contact Abigail Stephen for more information (

    Belonging in Engineering Undergrads

    This study seeks to better understand how classroom environments (i.e. structured learning environments) and identity, specifically racial and gender identity, influence or control the complicated relationship between sense of belonging and academic success within undergraduate engineering classrooms. The project draws on the experiences of individuals in classroom environments to demonstrate how environments, both individually and interacting with race and gender, create differences among students within those classrooms in an effort to use the results to influence how classroom environments are structured. Contact Robert O’Hara for more information (

  • Publications

    Jamil, F., & Emerson, A., McKown, G., Stephan, A. (in press). The Struggle is Real: An Investigation of Preschool Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Challenging Behaviors through Reflective Writing.

    Walters, S., Hirsch, S.E., McKown, G., Carlson, A., & Allen, A. (2021). Mixed-reality simulation with preservice teacher candidates: A conceptual replication. Teacher Education and Special Education.

    Herro, D., McNeese, N., O’Hara, R., Frady, K., & Switzer, D. (2021). Exploring graduate students’ collaborative problem-solving in engineering design tasks. Journal of Engineering Design, 32(9), 496-515.

    O’Hara, R.M. (2020). STEM(ing) the tide: A critical race theory analysis in STEM education. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, X(X), xx-xx.

    Hirsch, S.E., Chow, J., Randall, T., Neemer, S., & McKown, G. (2020). Evaluating the effect of embedded responses in multimedia-based instruction with preservice teachers. Behavioral Disorders.

    Blackmon, Z.R., O’Hara, R.M., & Viars, J.W. (2020). Microaggressions, sense of belonging, and sexual identity within residence halls. Journal of College     and University Student Housing, 46(3), 46-59.

    Allen, A., Stecker, P., McKown, G., Johnson, F., Rodgers, M., & Randall, K. (2020). Peer tutoring with audio prompting for high-frequency word reading: an intervention for young readers. Remedial and Special Education. Manuscript under review. 

    Fine, C., Stewart-Tillman, K., Brown, D. and Green, J. (in press). The Ripple Effect: A Nation in Crisis and a Campus in Turmoil. In H.O-D. (Ed), Confronting Critical Equity and Inclusion Incidents on Campus: Lessons Learned and Emerging Practices. Routledge.

    Boettcher, M., Brown, D., Tugas, F., Harry, D. and Orellana, E. (in development). Renaissance MAN: Developing a Community of Support for Men of Color.

    Herro, D., McNeese, N., O’Hara, R., Frady, K., & Switzer, D. (2020). Exploring graduate students’ collaborative problem-solving in engineering design tasks. [Manuscript submitted for publication].

    Roberts, A., LoCasale-Crouch, J., Hamre, B., & Jamil, F. (in press). Preschool teachers’ self- efficacy, burnout, and stress in online professional development: A mixed methods approach to understand change. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.

    Linder, S. & Bennett, A. (2020) Leveraging read alouds for mathematical connections. Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching Pre-K-12, 113(4), 317-321.

    McKown, G., & Stephan, A. (2020). Wellbeing outcomes for youth and home caregivers: a comparative case study of families facing separation. Journal of Child and Family Studies. Manuscript under review.

    Bennett, A. & McKown, G. (2020) Mobile devices and their impact on teacher professional development. In Deaton, C., Linder, S., Herron, J., & Visser, R. (Eds.), Mobile Book 3. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC.

    Stephan, A. (2020). Intergenerational learning in the family as an informal learning process: A review of the literature. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 19(4),

    von Suchodoletz, A., Jamil, F., Larsen, R., & Hamre, B. (2018). Personal and contextual factors associated with growth in preschool teachers' self-efficacy beliefs during a longitudinal professional development study. Teaching & Teacher Education.

    LoCasale-Crouch, J., Jamil, F., Pianta, R., Rudasill, K., & DeCoster, J. (2018). Observed quality and consistency of fifth graders’ teacher-student interactions: Associations with feelings, engagement and performance in school. Sage Open.

    Jamil, F. M., & Hamre, B. K. (2018). Teacher reflection in the context of an online professional development course: Applying principles of cognitive science to promote teacher learning. Action in Teacher Education, 40(2), 220-236. doi:10.1080/01626620.2018.1424051

    Jamil, F., Linder, S., & Stegelin, D. A. (2018). Teacher beliefs about early childhood STEAM education: Promises & challenges. Early Childhood Education Journal. 46(4), 409-417.

    Jamil, F. (2018). A reflection on the evolution of a replication study. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(1), 111-115.

    Jamil, F., Larsen, R., & Hamre, B. (2018). Exploring longitudinal changes in teacher expectancy effects on children’s mathematics achievement. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(1), 57-90.

    Lee, D.M., Stefl, S.K., Linder, S.M., Lee, C.M., Jamil, F.M., High, K.A. (2017). How many hats do you wear: Building research capacity for STEM faculty development workshop. In ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings.Washington, DC: American Society for Engineering Education.

    Jamil, F. (2017). Math by the month: Spring showers bring many flowers. Teaching Children Mathematics, 23(7), 402-403.

    Quigley, C. F., Herro, D., & Jamil, F. M. (2017). Developing a conceptual model of STEAM teaching practices. School Science and Mathematics, 117(1-2), 1-12.

    Jamil, F. (2016). Math by the month: The power of pets. Teaching Children Mathematics, 23(1), 20-21.

    Jamil, F., Sabol, T., Hamre, B., & Pianta, R. (2015). Assessing teachers’ skills in detecting and identifying effective interactions in the classroom: Theory and measurement. Elementary School Journal, 115(3), 407-432.

  • Presentations


    McKown, G. (March 2022). Preparing teachers to meet the needs of military-connected students: suggestions for teacher education programs and accrediting bodies. Proposal submitted to American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education annual meeting, New Orleans, LA.

    Griffith, C.A., McKown, G., Hirsch, S.E. (January 2022). Using mixed-reality simulation to practice facilitating IEP meetings with preservice teachers. Proposal submitted to Council for Exceptional Children annual meeting, Orlando, FL. 


    Jamil, F., O'Hara, R., Stephan, A., Bennett, A., McKown, G. (2021, October). Representation matters: Understanding the role of an ethnically diverse teacher workforce in closing opportunity gaps. Paper accepted at the Scholarly Consortium of Innovative Psychology in Education, Biennial Meeting, Virtual.

    McKown, G., & Visser, R. (2021, June). #Pre-serviceteachers’ perceptions of using twitter for PLNs. Proposal accepted to International Society for Technology in Education annual meeting. San Antonio, TX.

    Stephan, A., & McKown, G. (2021, April). A discussion on enhancing teachers’ understanding of students’ diverse family systems. Symposium at American Education Research Association annual meeting, Miami, FL.

    McKown, G. (2021, March). Twitter as a Tool for Professional Learning Networks with #PreServiceTeachers. Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education annual meeting, virtual conference. 

    Allen, A., Stecker, P., Johnson, F., McKown, G., & Randall, K. (2021, March). Peer tutoring with audio prompting: Impact on high-frequency word reading. Council for Exceptional Children annual meeting, Baltimore, MD.

    Randall, K., & McKown, G. (2021, March). Self-determination instruction for students with IDD attending a post-secondary educational setting. Council for Exceptional Children annual meeting, Baltimore, MD.

    Martin, L., McKown, G., Eikner, L. (2021, February). Creating a collaborative and sustainable teacher induction program: A university and multi-district partnership. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education annual meeting, Seattle, WA.

    Randall, K., & McKown, G. (2021, March). Self-Determination instruction for students with IDD attending a post-secondary educational setting. South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children, annual virtual conference.

    Randall, K., & McKown, G. (2021, March). Perceived impact of COVID-19 on adults with intellectual and developmental disability: A qualitative study. South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children, annual virtual conference.

    O’Hara, R., Benson, L., Bolding, C. J., & Ogle, J. (2021, June). Relationship between goal orientation, agency, and motivation in undergraduate civil engineering students. Paper submitted to 2021 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Long Beach, California.  

    Frady, K., Brown, C., Huang, S., & O’Hara, R. (2021, June). Developing two-year college student engineering technology career profiles. Paper submitted to 2021 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Long Beach, California.

    Bennett, A., Shekell, C., Quigley, C., & Herro, D. (2021, April). STEAM conceptualizations and supports in two schools: A leadership for learning perspective. Presentation accepted at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, virtual.

    Madison Schenck, S. & O’Hara, R.M. (2020). Emboldened: A quantitative analysis of K-12 language teachers' resistance to Trump's damaging rhetoric. Presentation accepted at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, virtual.

    Allen, A., Stecker, P., Johnson, F., McKown, G., & Randall, K. (2021, March). Peer tutoring with audio prompting: Impact on high-frequency word reading. Poster accepted at Council for Exceptional Children annual meeting, Baltimore, MD.

    Randall, K., & McKown, G. (2021, March). Self-determination instruction for students with IDD attending a post-secondary educational setting. Multi-presentation session accepted at Council for Exceptional Children annual meeting, Baltimore, MD.

    Stephan, A., & McKown, G. (2021, March). A discussion on enhancing teachers’ understanding of students’ diverse family systems. Symposium at American Education Research Association annual meeting, Miami, FL.

    Martin, L., McKown, G., Eikner, L. (2021, February). Creating a collaborative and sustainable teacher induction program: A university and multi-district partnership. Paper presented at American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education annual meeting, Seattle, WA.

    Rapa, L. J., Jamil, F. M., & Bolding, C. J. (2021, February). Exploring relations among teachers’ critical consciousness and self-efficacy and the critical consciousness of youth. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence Virtual 2021 Conference.


    McKown, G. (2020, November). Twitter and professional learning networks for pre-service teachers. Presented at Learning Sciences Graduate Student Conference, online.

    Bennett, A. (2020, October). Integrating play and STEAM teaching into early childhood classrooms. Workshop presentation accepted at the annual meeting of the Conference on the Value of Play, Clemson, SC.

    O’Hara, R.M., Bolding, C.W., Ogle, J.H., & Benson, L. (2020, June). To be(long), or not to be(long): Factors predicting students’ sense of belonging in engineering. Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Montreal, Canada.

    Stephan, A., Stephan, E.A., & Miller, M.K. (June, 2020). Extended exam wrappers: A comparison of approaches in a learning strategies course. American Society for Engineering Education Conference Proceedings. Montreal, Canada.

    Whisler, L., Stephan, E.A., & Stephan, A. (June, 2020). Continuing to promote metacognitive awareness in a first-year learning strategies course. American Society for Engineering Education Conference Proceedings. Montreal, Canada.

    Baker, A., Bennett, A., Herro, D. & Quigley, C. (March, 2020). Elementary student perspectives of a STEAM-based makerspace: Connections to real-world contexts. In Gary H. Marks & Denise Schmidt-Crawford (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1261-1265). Online: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved from

    Baker, A., Bennett, A., & Stephan, A. (2020, March). The influence of preschool educators’ beliefs about play-based learning on instructional delivery. Presentation accepted at the annual meeting of the Conference on the Value of Play, Clemson, SC.

    Stephan, A. (March, 2020). Finding Oneself in the Modern World: The Influence of Intergenerational Relationships on Youth Identity Development. Poster accepted to Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, San Diego, CA. [conference cancelled]

    Stephan, E.A., Stephan, A., Whisler, L., Miller, M.K., & Neptune, A.I. (March, 2020). Engineering learning strategies course supports student retention. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Southeast Annual Conference. Auburn, AL.

    Brown, D., Fine, C., Hanks, S., Minder, C., Meggett, K. (March 2020). Pathways to graduate education: Supporting underrepresented students in research. Educational Session presented at 2020 Conference of Southern Graduate Schools, Birmingham, AL.

    Whisler, L., & Stephan, A. (February, 2020). Impact of entangled learning on first year undergraduate engineering student readiness for self-directed learning. Proceedings of the International Society of Self-Directed Learning. Cocoa Beach, FL.


  • Contact Us

    Have a question or comment about the CLAD? Email CLADLAB@CLEMSON.EDU

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