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Sanford School researcher awarded $1.4 million grant from US Department of Education

Profile picture of Leigh McLean

Assistant Research Professor Leigh McLean will conduct a four-year exploration into how elementary teachers’ and students’ experiences might differ across math, science, and literacy, and what implications these differences may have for students’ learning in each subject.

January 17, 2019

Leigh McLean of Arizona State University’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics was recently awarded a nearly *$1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to conduct Project TEAS (“Teachers’ Effectiveness Across Subjects”).

The four-year project will explore how elementary teachers’ and students’ experiences might differ across math, science, and literacy, and what implications these differences may have for students’ learning in each subject.

McLean and her research team will be working with approximately 150 teachers and their nearly 3,600 students across six local school districts, and will use a variety of methods for evaluating teachers’ and students’ experiences in each subject including in-depth surveys and video observations of real classroom sessions. This approach will give a very detailed look at the types of challenges and uplifts that teachers and students might face as they transition from subject to subject across a typical school day.

With this study, McLean is trying to identify “vulnerable contexts” in which elementary teachers and their students might be at a higher risk for having negative teaching and learning experiences. For example, she predicts that math will be an area where teachers and their students experience more negative feelings like anxiety and fewer positive feelings like enjoyment for teaching/learning. 

“By discovering things like this, we will be able to inform the creation of teacher training and professional development programs that can help elementary teachers build the skills they need to support students in all core subjects,” says McLean.

Student opportunities: Project TEAS is currently recruiting undergraduate research assistants to assist in data collection, entry and analysis, much of which will take place in local elementary schools. This is a great opportunity for interested undergrads to gain valuable experience in educational research, as well as to make important connections not only with ASU faculty but with local community partners in the field of education. In addition, there will be opportunities for undergraduates who work on the study for research credits to transition into paid student worker positions if they would like to contribute longer-term. The project is currently recruiting for positions beginning in Fall 2019. For more information on these opportunities, please email the project TEAS team at

*This project will be 100 percent financed with federal funds. Total amount of federal funds for the project is $1,396,915. No other funds from nongovernmental sources will be used to support this project.

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