University of Pittsburgh School of Education

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Joseph Pieri - Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Schools

Published on 12/6/2013 3:27:00 PM

Joseph W. Pieri, a doctoral student in the applied developmental psychology (ADP) program, has 13 years of work experience in education. Most recently he worked as an assistant dean in the Office of Undergraduate Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Before moving to higher education, Pieri was a school psychologist at a primary school in Massachusetts. He is currently completing his final semester of classwork and preparing to take his comprehensive exams. Next year, he will propose his dissertation, which will focus on helping schools improve their implementation quality for social and emotional learning (SEL) programs.

“In my professional experiences, I have focused on helping individual work towards maximizing their academic potential and achieve a genuine sense of accomplishment,” said Pieri. “Prior to my doctorate work, I approached this passion from the perspective of a clinician, working predominantly on an individual basis. The ADP program is helping me to develop the research and critical thinking skills needed to understand how schools can also maximize their potential. Through my coursework, research experiences and interactions with faculty and peers, I am learning how to help schools systematically implement practices that lead to positive outcomes for students and teachers.”

Pieri’s research focuses specifically on improving the impact of SEL programs. This past June, he presented a paper that also served as his predissertation, at a national conference in San Francisco, hosted by the Society for Prevention Research.

“The purpose of this study was to articulate how SEL coaches individualized their training for schools,” said Pieri. “The findings suggest coaches individualized their training based on factors such as principal leadership quality, teacher experience, and school climate. Further, coaches individualized their training by altering the format of their training sessions, varying the level of candidness in feedback, changing the amount of program content covered, and shifting the expectations for implementation.“ Pieri and his advisor Shannon Wanless—an assistant professor in the School of Education—in the process of submitting this paper for publication. With the aid of a research grant awarded to Pieri by the School of Education, he plans to extend this work next semester.

After graduating in the spring of 2015, Pieri says he would like to attain a faculty position that allows him to continue his career in education through teaching and research.

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