Dear Colleagues,

In these unprecedented times, we wanted to commend the resiliency being shown by UCI faculty, staff and students. The rapid shift to remote teaching, learning and research collaboration is a challenge that many of you have embraced. Your efforts are appreciated and will help ensure that UCI continues to be a leader in promoting evidence-based teaching. Although we have cancelled the remaining in-person programming for the quarter, the Education Research Initiative (ERI) team continues to work to support UCI educators and education researchers along with our partners in the broader Orange County community. We hope to connect with many of you remotely or in person in the near future.

Brian Sato
Natascha Buswell
Di Xu
Laura Tucker
Adrienne Williams

UCI Education Research Initiative Team

ERI Awards Five Mini Grants to UCI Researchers and Educators

The ERI’s 2019-20 call for mini grants resulted in nearly 30 fantastic submissions from Schools across campus. The aim of these grants is to facilitate the development of outstanding research in higher education teaching and learning as well as the implementation of evidence-based activities and programs aimed at improving outcomes for a wide variety of populations. The funded projects are as follows:

Recruiting and Supporting Future Latinx Teachers

Hosun Kang
Hosun Kang, Associate Professor, Education
Virginia Panish
Virginia Panish, Director of Teacher Education, Education
Susan Toma-Berge
Susan Toma-Berge, Coordinator of Multiple Subject Credential Program, School of Education
Acacia Warren
Acacia Warren, Single Subject Program Coordinator, School of Education

This project intends to address the persistent mismatch between the demographic profile of California’s teacher workforce compared to that of its student population by recruiting and supporting a more ethnically diverse cohort to the UCI Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.

The goals are twofold:
1. Recruiting more teachers of color, specifically Latinx teachers in the UCI MAT program, and
2. Supporting Future Latinx teachers during the preparation period and beyond through the creation of a Future Latinx Teachers (FLT) and their allies club in the UCI MAT Program.

Understanding and Improving Student’s Critical Thinking in the Age of Fake News, Sensational Headlines and Seductive Information

Fernando Rodriguez
Fernando Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Teaching, School of Education
Joseph Aubele
Joseph Aubele, Ph.D. student, School of Education

The goal of this project is to examine how information and different social media sources can affect college students’ understanding of information and their ability to think critically in this context. By using multi-experiment, mixed-method approaches, this work will uncover the reasoning strategies students use when reading and evaluating fake news articles and their features (e.g. sensational headlines, anecdotal stories.). The findings will not only advance understanding of students’ critical thinking skills, but will also provide UCI and the larger academic community with strategies to help students become critical consumers of information.

Creation and Implementation of a Program to Grant UCI Bachelor’s Degrees to People Who are Incarcerated

Pavan Kadandale
Pavan Kadandale, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences
Valerie Jenness
Valerie Jenness, Professor of Criminology, Law & Society, Sociology, and Nursing Science, School of Social Ecology
Keramet Reiter
Keramet Reiter, Associate Professor of Criminology, Law & Society, School of Social Ecology
Carroll Seron
Carroll Seron, Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law & Society, School of Social Ecology

At least 95% of people in California prisons will return to their communities lacking the tools to compete in today’s labor market. To ensure that a traditionally forgotten population has access to higher education, the project team, in collaboration with Southwestern College, will enable UCI faculty to teach courses at the Ronald J. Donovan Correctional Facility providing incarcerated students with the opportunity to earn a UCI B.A. degree. This project will serve as a model for other colleges and universities to pave the way for attainment of the dream of higher education for “anyone from anywhere”.

Transfer Student Success: The Impact of Peer Mentors on Mentee Academic Achievement and Social Belonging

Jonathan Alexander
Jonathan Alexander, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Informatics, School of Humanities
Kevin Huie
Kevin Huie, Student Success Initiatives Executive Director
Rocco Fragomeni
Rocco Fragomeni, Manager, Edge Programs
Joanna Hernandez
Joanna Hernandez, Student Success Initiatives Assistant Director
Arturo Razo
Arturo Razo, Student Affairs Specialist, Edge Programs
Delaney Stucki
Delaney Stucki, Counselor, Edge Programs

Knowing that some students struggle with a sense of belonging, which can negatively impact persistence, time to degree, and GPA, the goals of this project are to implement and assess the impact of a transfer student-focused peer mentoring program. Beginning this summer, first-year transfer students will have the option to participate in the Transfer Edge program, which includes a mandatory seminar, co-curricular programming, professional support, and peer mentorship. Transfer Edge students will receive continued support throughout the academic year as part of the First Year Transfer Experience. The marrying of these two experiences will provide an opportunity to evaluate how peer mentorship can positively impact transfer students’ success.

IMPROVE Teaching, Motivational Beliefs and Emotion in Higher Education

Charlott Rubach
Charlott Rubach, Postdoctoral Scholar, School of Education
Jacqueline Sue Eccles
Jacqueline Sue Eccles, Distinguished Professor of Education, School of Education
Sandra Simpkins
Sandra Simpkins, Professor, School of Education
Richard Arum
Richard Arum, School of Education Dean and Professor of Sociology and Education

Although there is a great deal of research linking students’ experiences in K-12 classrooms to their academic motivation, emotional well-being, and performance, little is known about these associations for college students. This project is designed to help fill this gap by building on an existing UCI project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to better measure the student experience in higher education. The study aims to investigate the links between classroom experiences and changes across time in college students’ learning, engagement with and emotional reactions to their academic courses, and their more general psychological well-being.

For more information about the Education Research Initiative, visit