University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Institute of Education Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellow Position

Children's Learning Institute / UTHealth Department of Pediatrics

The Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) within the UTHealth Department of Pediatrics seeks a candidate who demonstrates interest in postdoctoral research training focused on developmental and academic outcomes of preschool and early elementary children with or at risk for disabilities. Candidates need interest and background in on or both of the offered training topics: (1) Early Interventions & Assessments, and/or (2) Scalable Professional Development (PD) for Educators of Young Children. Our training framework is focused on helping fellows understand the benefits of Research-Practice Partnerships (RPPs) and develop skills to become valuable partners with practitioners through all stages of their research career. We believe future generations of education and child development researchers must be directly trained to value rigorous and relevant research within RPPs to produce scholarship that is relevant, scalable and addresses the most pressing needs of young children with or at risk for learning disabilities.

This Postdoctoral Research experience is a competitive training program funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) that will support a total of four fellows for two years each. Fellows will work with a primary mentor and a secondary mentor as well as team of educators, clinicians, and experts at CLI on aspects of education research design, partnerships, data collection, statistical analyses, dissemination through scholarly publications and presentations, and the development of grant applications. Planned training will occur within several strands that include required and optional activities. For example, one training strand will ensure fellows understand how to conduct rigorous research that meets the IES Standards for Excellence in Education Research and What Works Clearinghouse standards. Another training strand will ensure fellows enhance their professional skills by working within multidisciplinary teams at CLI as well as other researchers and educators focused on improving outcomes of young children with or at risk for disabilities.

We expect Postdoctoral Fellows will produce scholarly publications, participate in preparation of research grants, and conduct their own original research project within an active project. Much of Fellow’s training will occur through the leadership roles and management of aspects of an active grant at CLI to include the Fellow’s original research. Therefore, applicants’ cover letter should indicate how their interests align with one or more of the five active projects detailed below. The Fellow will be matched with one of three primary mentors at CLI - Susan Landry, Ph.D., Tricia Zucker, Ph.D., April Crawford, Ph.D. Fellows will also work with several secondary mentors, including Yoonkyung Oh, Ph.D., Michael Assel, Ph.D., Cheryl Varghese, Ph.D, and Gloria Yeomans-Maldonado, Ph.D..

This position is funded by the Pathways to the Education Science Research Training program, which was established by IES to develop a pipeline of talented education researchers who bring fresh ideas, approaches, and perspectives to addressing the issues and challenges faced by the nation's diverse students and schools. Should you wish to obtain more information regarding The Pathways Training Program and its mission, please refer to its website at for details.

The position is for two years and the salary will be $60,000 annually with benefits. Candidates will also receive a small stipend to cover research costs.

Minimum Requirements:

  • Applicants must have a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in a relevant discipline (e.g., education, public policy, psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, curriculum instruction, and special education, economics, sociology, political science, public health or related fields).
  • Applicants must be U.S. Citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.

Description of Qualified Candidates:

  • The applicant must have a record of research productivity through publications and presentations related to child development, education, or school-related public policy.
  • Competitive applicants should also possess skills in applied statistical methods; applicants with advanced statistical skills should explain their current knowledge.
  • Ability to work both independently and as a collaborative team member
  • Excellent interpersonal, verbal, and written communication
  • Strong organizational skills

Required Application Materials:

Interested applicants should submit the following materials to Dr. Tricia Zucker, Ph.D. at

  1. A cover letter detailing:
    • The applicant’s research interests and fit with the position
    • How their research experience and interests align with one or more active training grants
    • Note that you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S., as applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to be eligible
  2. Curriculum vitae
  3. Scholarly writing sample
  4. Names and contact information for three references


Applications are preferred by December 1, 2022, but may be considered at a later deadline if additional time is needed due to COVID-related impacts

UTHealth is committed to providing equal opportunity in all employment-related activities without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, gender identity or expression, veteran status or any other basis prohibited by law or university policy. Reasonable accommodation, based on disability or religious observances, will be considered in accordance with applicable law and UTHealth policy. The University maintains affirmative action programs with respect to women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and eligible veterans in accordance with applicable law.

Ongoing Research Training Grants

Topic 1: Early Interventions & Assessments
Possible Mentors: Landry, Zucker, Crawford, Oh, Yeomans-Maldonado, Assel

Aligned with NCSER’s Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education topic, these projects focus on early interventions for children with or at risk for disabilities.

STEM Experiences for Elementary-Age Girls. This NSF-funded project (2115579) led by Drs. Zucker and Yeomans-Maldonado evaluates an inquiry-based, afterschool program that serves both elementary school girls and boys and explores if adding storytelling components to the out-of-school time (OST) learning will better support girls’ interest in STEM. The storytelling features include:(a) shared reading of books featuring females in STEM; (b) students’ own narratives that reminisce about their STEM experiences; and (c) video interviews of female parents and community members with STEM careers. A secondary aim of this project is to build capacity of schools and afterschool providers to deliver and sustain afterschool STEM enrichment experiences in collaboration with the Children’s Museum Houston (CMH) using their curriculum called Afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (A’STEAM). Although A’STEAM has been implemented in over 100 sites and shows promise, to scale-up this and other promising afterschool programs, the team will evaluate how professional development resources and the co-facilitation approach can build afterschool educators’ capacity to deliver the most promising approaches.

Teaching Together: The Added Value of Tiered School Plus Home Interventions for Young Children At-Risk for Language Difficulties. The purpose of this IES-funded project (R305A210157) led by Dr. Tricia Zucker is to examine the efficacy of supports in both the classroom and home settings for pre-kindergarten (pre-k) children who are at risk of academic difficulties due to limited oral language skills. In early childhood classrooms serving low-income students, up to 50% of children may exhibit language difficulties, which are associated with long-term challenges for reading and academic success. Yet evidence demonstrates that early language difficulties can be reduced or ameliorated by providing universal/Tier 1 or targeted/Tier 2 language interventions at school and home. Tiered language supports may ameliorate language difficulties for many pre–k children who need increased opportunities to build language skills, including English learners (ELs). The classroom intervention includes four Tier 1 whole-group and four Tier 2 small-group lessons per week delivered by the classroom teacher. Teachers will also complete general language support online modules and family engagement online modules. The family intervention includes Tier 1 after-school family events/workshops; Tier 1 parent-teacher conferences to create action plans to support learning at home and school; and Tier 2 remote coaching sessions. The interventions emphasize shared book reading, vocabulary explanations, multiple-turn conversations, and language support strategies. Teachers and parents receive aligned, weekly text messages with activity videos and tips to support children's oral language. A sample of 540 children who demonstrate weak English oral language skills will be recruited pre-k classrooms in North Texas. Children will largely be from low-income backgrounds and diverse ethnicities, including English learners (ELs) who mostly speak Spanish at home. Parent-child dyads will participate in home observational assessments in English or Spanish. Child pre-k outcomes include measures of classroom discourse, taught vocabulary, distal vocabulary, and broad language.

Pre-K Home and Classroom Interventions for Spanish-Speaking English Learners. This initial efficacy study focuses on language development and is funded by IES within the Early Learning Programs & Policies topic. Young dual language learners (DLLs) living in poverty are at risk for later reading difficulties and are less likely than their peers to encounter the level of responsive, extended conversations in their homes and preschools needed for school readiness. Furthermore, many types of dual language programs in U.S. schools operate in ways that delay regular exposure to English until later grades, rather than systematically teaching in ways that build on students’ knowledge of their home language to accelerate English proficiency. The proposed project will evaluate a dual-language approach that: a) maintains and improves the home language of DLLs who speak mostly Spanish in their homes via parent coaching, and b) simultaneously coaches teachers to use an explicit cross-language transfer approach in which sophisticated concepts are introduced in Spanish before English. The expected outcome of this project is increased understanding of effective classroom instruction and family engagement approaches for DLLs’ at risk of later reading difficulties. The research sample will include 90 pre-kindergarten (pre-k) classrooms that use dual language models with Spanish-speaking students. A sample of 720 Tier 2 eligible children and their families within these classrooms will participate. Eligible 4-year-old children will meet screening criterion and speak Spanish at home. We expect almost all Hispanic or Latino participants. The primary child outcomes include Spanish and English oral language measures as well as secondary benefits for executive function and social-behavioral outcomes.

Topic 2: Scalable Professional Development (PD) for Educators
Possible Mentors: Zucker, Crawford, Landry, Varghese, Yeomans-Maldonado

Aligned with NCSER’s Professional Development for Educators topic, these projects evaluate PD approaches for inclusion classroom teachers of young children with or at risk for disabilities.

Building Coaching Capacity: Core Competencies for Coaching PD Program: This project is funded by IES (R305A210075) and is led by Drs. April Crawford and Cheryl Varghese. The purpose of this project is to develop a generalizable professional development model, Core Competencies for Coaches Professional Development Program (C3PD), that supports coaches who work with early childhood classroom teachers in diverse programmatic contexts (public school pre-k, Head Start, childcare). The research team will iteratively develop a scalable, technology- mediated professional development model that trains coaches to implement evidence-based coaching strategies with early childhood classroom teachers, regardless of their setting. In Years 1 and 2, the development team will develop and/or refine key C3PD intervention materials (e.g., coaching video and resource library, video submission guidelines and rubrics, online professional learning series, implementation toolkit). In Year 2, a small sample of coaches (n = 6) will participate in a feasibility study to pilot a subset of course material and engage in two trial professional learning communities (PLCs), which will be used to revise C3PD intervention materials. An underpowered RCT will be conducted in Years 3 and 4 to evaluate the promise of C3PD on coach-, teacher-, and child-level outcomes. Coaches will be randomly assigned to C3PD or to a control group. Coach measures include knowledge, self-efficacy, and growth in coaching competencies; teacher measures include self-efficacy, satisfaction with coaching, and classroom observations. In Year 4, the research team will assess children on language and literacy measures; teachers will rate children's behavioral and social competencies.

Developing Talkers: Building Effective Teachers: This initial efficacy study is funded by IES and directed by Dr. Tricia Zucker. Researchers will evaluate the impact of two theoretically distinct versions of an intervention called Developing Talkers that uses a multi-tiered system of support. PD is designed to improve teacher facilitation of academic language skills and the academic language skills of kindergarten students. The two versions are the Scripted Approach and the Teacher-Inspired Approach. Researchers will monitor teacher uptake of evidence-based practices during a first stage of intervention. At the second stage, researchers will provide additional individualized professional development (PD) resources based on teacher performance using a Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART) design. Researchers will explore aspects of teacher cognition, such as memory and vocabulary and other behavioral factors, including, self-efficacy and social norms, that may explain changes in teacher knowledge and behavior. Fellows can participate in: (a) analysis of profiles of teachers’ cognitive and non-cognitive traits associated with uptake of evidence-based practices, or (b) use mixed methods approaches to understand how scripted versus teacher-inspired approaches impact teachers’ approaches to PD/learning and instruction.

Continuous Improvement for Teachers: This is an initial efficacy study funded by IES (R305A180406) and directed by Dr. April Crawford. In this replication study, researchers will implement three contrasting professional development approaches (guided self-study, facilitated professional learning communities, and remote coaching) of the Texas School Ready! (TSR) PD model. TSR is embedded in 25 community-based lead agents across Texas. By testing the efficacy of the intervention in 440 classrooms with contrasting PD approaches, researchers will identify cost-effective approaches that maximize impact while also taking into account local needs and constraints. Key outcomes include pre-k teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and instructional practices and children's academic and social skills. Fellows can participate in: (a) mixed methods studies of participant’s videotaped instructional activities and responses to guided reflection prompts; (b) analysis of detailed fidelity data (e.g., coach responsiveness ratings, teachers’ online module component usage) to understand components for success.

UTHealth Link: Open Postdoc Positions - Office of Postdoctoral Affairs - UTHealth

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Last updated: 2022-09-02