Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Chunyan Yang

University of Maryland, College Park

Research Focus

Chunyan Yang is a school psychologist studying how school members interact with their ecological contexts to find their resilience individually and collectively when facing risks and adversities. Her work to date has focused on three central questions: (1) how to assess and reduce the risks and adversities experienced by vulnerable school members as individuals and as groups; (2) how to leverage promotive and protective factors in school-wide practices to alleviate the negative impacts of risks and adversities among individuals and groups; and (3) how do diverse socio-cultural and demographic contexts of individuals and groups generate or shape risks and resilience processes?  

My plans for the Fellowship

During my fellowship, I will study the role of digital technology in shaping the risk and resilience experiences of students and educators and in leveraging young learners’ and their teachers’ actionable and sustainable engagement and implementation with school-wide SEL. I will study school/district sites, where a digital platform with Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) functioning is implemented in three distinct stages to improve students’ social, emotional, and academic learning. The project aims to (1) identify the main facilitators and barriers contributing to actionable and sustainable implementation; 2) identify innovative, feasible, and cost-effective implementation strategies used by teachers and administrators that could improve students’ learning; 3) examine how above implementation determinants and outcomes vary depending on the diverse socio-economic, racial/ethnic, and cultural/linguistic backgrounds and contexts of teachers as individuals and groups. I will use a multi-level and multi-method approach to examine how digital technology interacts with school-wide SEL implementation conditions and contexts to influence students’ learning and development in authentic educational settings.  

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives? 

While growing evidence has supported the positive impact of school-wide SEL programs and practices on students’ development and learning, evidence-based SEL programs and practices have been slow to enter typical education settings and their effects tend to fade over time. Education technology holds enormous promise to address this issue through personalizing learning, engaging the disengaged, complementing what happens in the classroom, extending learning outside the classroom, and providing access to students who otherwise might not have sufficient educational opportunities. However, we have a limited understanding of how digital technology can be leveraged to improve teachers’ and young learners’ actionable and sustainable engagement and implementation in school-wide SEL practices and programs. I hope my work will help address some of the research-practice gaps by exploring the role of digital technology in school-wide SEL implementation and the conditions under which technology can assist or hinder students and their teachers in achieving their full potential in terms of social and emotional learning and teaching. The long-term goal of my work is to help unlock education technology’s full potential in scaling up school-wide SEL practices and maximizing its impact on learning and development.