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Research Spotlight: Kathrin Maki

Q & A with Kathrin Maki, Assistant Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My work centers around two interrelated lines of research. My first line of research examines how students in U.S. public schools are identified with learning disabilities and the issues associated with those identification procedures. The overarching questions underlying this work are (1) what are the issues associated with identification of learning disabilities and how do those issues impact appropriate service provision for students with learning disabilities, and (2) how should students be appropriately identified with learning disabilities?

My second line of research examines how researchers and practitioners can maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of academic interventions for students demonstrating reading and math difficulties. The overarching questions underlying this work are (1) how do we best use data to appropriately match interventions with students’ academic needs, and (2) based on theoretical principles, how can interventions be implemented and modified to ensure they are maximally effective?

What makes your work interesting?

I am really interested in how we best meet the needs of students with academic difficulties. Thinking through the big picture ramifications of how we identify students with learning disabilities and their consequential educational services is both conceptually interesting and disconcerting. There are several systemic policy implications for this work, particularly how we provide special education services and resources in the U.S.

Thinking through how the effectiveness and efficiency of academic interventions can be maximized is also especially interesting. In the field, we have fairly strong evidence for some specific reading and math intervention practices. However, I’m particularly interested in how we can use cognitive psychology and behaviorism principles to develop and modify interventions to ensure that interventions result in the greatest student growth in the shortest amount of time. Additionally, there are unfortunately a large number of students demonstrating academic difficulties in schools, including students identified with learning disabilities, and the potential to impact individual students’ academic trajectories as well as large-scale systemic change is particularly exciting.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a couple of projects examining how school psychologists use different pieces of assessment data to identify students with learning disabilities. Additionally, I have been engaged in work looking at the conceptualizations of intervention dosage particularly for reading fluency interventions. The goal of this work is to ensure that students with reading fluency difficulties receive adequate opportunities to practice reading to maximize their reading growth.