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LEARN Center - About Us



1380 Lawrence Street, Room 609
P.O. Box 173364
Denver, CO 80217-3364


Dr. Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Laboratory of Educational Assessment, Research and InnovatioN (LEARN) at the School of Education & Human Development. Dr. Ruiz-Primo earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Specializing in educational assessment, her research work focuses on the development and technical evaluation of innovative science learning assessment tools - including performance tasks, concept maps, and students science products - and on the development of a conceptual framework of academic achievement. She has conducted research on the instructional sensitivity of assessments, their proximity to the enacted curriculum, and curriculum implementation and assessment practices in the classroom. In 1993, Dr. Ruiz-Primo was awarded with a program evaluation fellowship from the American Educational Research Association. She is the first author of the Student Guide, Statistical Reasoning for the Behavioral Sciences, and multiple book chapters and articles published in major peer-reviewed educational and measurement research journals.

Dr. Deanna Iceman Sands is a Professor and the Associate Dean of Research and Leadership Education in the School of Education & Human Development. She earned her Ed.D. in Special Education Research and Administration from the University of Alabama. Dr. Sands has served on the faculty of the University of Colorado Denver for over 20 years, where she has taught numerous courses on assessment, curriculum and instruction, and mentored many Colorado teachers. Her research has focused on issues pertaining to student engagement, agency, and self-determination as they relate to curriculum, assessment, instruction and school reform. A prolific author, she has published refereed books, book chapters, and numerous professional articles published in the Journal of Research in Special Education, Teaching and Teacher Education, and Educational and Psychological Measurement. In addition to her expertise in special education, Dr. Sands also is a nationally recognized expert on professional development and teacher preparation. 

Dr. Heidi Kroog is Post-Doctoral Researcher in LEARN. Dr. Kroog's research focusses on issues in K-16 STEM curriculum, instruction, and assessment. She has a specialized interest in the the design and evaluation of instructional innovations in undergraduate STEM courses as well as the assessment of, and for, learning in these contexts. Dr. Kroog's most current research focusses on understanding how formative assessment plays out in real K-12 classrooms, and how theoretcial definitions of formative assessment can be informed by empirical research. She feels very fortunate to be a part of LEARN and to have the opportunity to work with such a vibrant and wonderful group of researchers.

Kendra Occhipinti is the Research Coordinator for all of the grant projects in LEARN. Ms. Occhipinti earned her Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Colorado Denver. She manages all of the logistical and post-award management for the LEARN projects. Ms. Occhipinti came to LEARN because of her background in informal science education. She is most interested in research considering how science knowledge is translated to the non-science community.

Kristin King Hess is a PhD candidate and a research assistant for LEARN.

Ashley (Kost) Chrzanowski is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder and a research assistant for LEARN. Ms. Chrzanowski's research focuses on the intersection of assessment and language issues in public schools in the United States, with a focus on teachers’ perceptions of assessment for emerging bilingual students. She hopes to be able to contribute work that helps people to understand the forces that impact teachers’ assessment practices as well as what we can do to support teachers in becoming critical users of assessment.

Dr. Chao Wang is a post-doctoral researcher in the department of Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity in the University of Colorado at Boulder and a research assistant for LEARN. She was a language teacher both in the U.S. and abroad for seven years before earning a Ph.D. in bilingual education and English as a Second Language.  She specializes in the linguistic and sociocultural issues that are relevant to the academic success of cultural and linguistically diverse students. 

Major Grants and Contracts

2010-2015   Developing and Evaluating Measures of Formative Assessment Practice, Institute of Educational Sciences: $1,453,958

2009-2010    Study of Reading Recovery and First Grade Literacy Instruction, Cherry Creek School District.

2009-2010    Study of the High School Literacy-across-the-Curriculum Professional Development Project, Cherry Creek School District.

2008-2014    Building a Methodology for Developing and Evaluating Instructionally Sensitive Assessments. National Science Foundation: $1,015,927.

2008-2010    Identifying Critical Characteristics of Effective Feedback Practices in Science and Mathematics Education. National Science Foundation: $259,327.

2008-2009    Development of the Evaluation Plan for the Program Hagamos Ciencia. Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENACYT). Panamá: $199,496.

2006-2009    Undergraduate Science Course Innovations and Their Impact on Student Learning. National Science Foundation: $280,000.

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