Research on the Impact of Teacher Education Lab


The Research on the Impact of Teacher Education (RITE) is a cross-departmental and collaborative research program at NIU related to K-12 teacher education. The RITE lab generates new knowledge through rigorous, relevant research across five strands:

  • Describing theoretical mechanisms, processes, or phenomena related to teacher education.
  • Describing relationships among teaching and teacher education constructs, and mediators and moderators of such relationships.
  • Testing theory about the design and impact of teacher education.
  • Estimating the implementation feasibility, and effects, of theoretically-grounded teacher education interventions or strategies.
  • Validating inferences derived from measures related to teaching and teacher education

The RITE lab seeks to initiate a focused, coordinated program of rigorous, relevant research around K-12 teacher education in five strands. Strands 1, 2, and 3 constitute basic research, whereas Strands 4 and 5 represent more applied aims. While all lab projects will address one of the five strands, teacher education is conceived broadly to include teacher education at different developmental stages (e.g., pre-service teacher, induction, in-service), teacher education that is formal and informal, and teacher education for different contexts (e.g., school levels, subjects).  

RITE Lab Team

Our project team consists of five core team members as well as many affiliates from within the COE and beyond, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and K-12 educators. The core team will bring to bear diverse theoretical, methodological or practical expertise with which to direct specific research projects and grant proposals. The core team members bring specific expertise in research methodology, teacher education, reading, ESL/bilingual education, special education and assessment.  

  • Natalie Andzik (assistant professor, SEED) - Her research focuses on training pre- and in-service teachers and practitioners how to implement best practices when supporting the academic and social needs of students with severe disabilities and students who display problem behavior. Natalie was the recipient of the "Excellence in Research and Artistry Award" from the College of Education in 2020. She has published numerous articles in high-ranking special education journals such as Exceptional Children, Teaching Exceptional Children, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and Behavior Modification. She is currently an external evaluator on a grant funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).  
  • David Nieto (assistant professor, CI) – His research focuses on education policy, language, and equity with particular emphasis on policies, programs, and practices that shape the education of culturally and linguistically diverse students. He has worked as director of bilingual and migrant education at the Illinois State Board of Education. He has also served as principal investigator and project director a National Professional Development grant sponsored by OELA with the goal of preparing elementary and secondary teachers to effectively address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. 
  • Todd Reeves (associate professor, ETRA) - His research addresses problems related to teacher education and development; educational assessment; and online learning; as well as problems that exist at the points of intersection among these domains. His work has been published in Teaching and Teacher Education, Journal of Education for Teaching, Action in Teacher Education, and The Teacher Educator, and he has served on grant projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Illinois State Board of Education.   
  • Peet Smith (assistant professor, CI) - Her research focuses on how pre-service and in-service teachers can better support upper elementary and middle-level students’ engagement in reading as well as the experiential and cognitive factors that impact students’ reading comprehension and strategy use. Her work has been published in Contemporary Educational Psychology, Literacy Research and Instruction, Journal of Literacy Research, and Illinois Research Council Journal. Peet has served as a project manager on a grant project funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and has presented her work at various state, national, and international research conferences.  
  • Melanie Walski (assistant professor, CI) - Her research addresses the intersection of policy and practice and the processes through which teachers come to understand reading instruction, curriculum, and instructional materials. Her work has been presented at national conferences for organizations such as the American Education Research Association, the Literacy Research Association, and the International Literacy Association. Her most recent research on instructional materials won the Literacy Research Association’s Best Paper Award for Area 9. She has served on grant projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois Governor’s Office for Early Childhood Development. 

Get Involved

All interested parties will have access to a reading library comprising important theoretical and methodological resources, and a list of relevant grant funders and programs. Key players and RITE lab affiliates, including students, will jointly and regularly participate in freely available professional development opportunities as well (e.g., Institute of Education Sciences YouTube resources, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness webinars, readings-based discussions). We are also hosting collaborative, collegial and open lab meetings at which each key player provides projects updates and solicits feedback will support project leads vis-à-vis project design through implementation or submission. 

Contact Todd Reeves at, director of the RITE lab, for more information or to get involved.

Contact Us

Educational Technology, Research and Assessment
Gabel Hall 208
DeKalb, IL 60115
815-753-9388 (fax)

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