Devin M. Kearns

Assistant Professor

Expertise: Reading instruction for elementary age students, English phonics, learning disabilities in reading (dyslexia), word recognition, psychology of reading, reading intervention in a neurobiological context, responsiveness to intervention (RTI) systems/multi-tier systems of support (MTSS), intensive intervention

Department of Educational Psychology, Neag School of Education

Assistant Professor of Special Education

Research Scientist, Center for Behavioral Education and Research

Research Scientist, Haskins Laboratories


Academic Degrees:

Ph.D., Special Education, Vanderbilt University

M.A., Elementary Literacy and Language Arts, Loyola Marymount University

B.A., History and Government, cum laude, Georgetown University



Dr. Kearns researches reading disability in elementary age children, focusing on developing and implementing programs to prevent and remediate reading problems.

He is currently conducting studies to

(1) understand change in the neurobiology of reading as a result of reading intervention (Computer-Assisted and Reading Intervention with Neuroimaging of Growth–Project CARING)

(2) examine how late-elementary-age children read polysyllabic words and how different interventions may induce different patterns of cortical change (Interventions and Neuroimaging for Polysyllabic Word Reading–IN/PoWR), and

(3) develop a professional development experience for co-teachers in content-area classrooms in middle schools, to enhance the quality of literacy instruction and support (Content-Area Literacy Instruction–Project CALI).

To understand more about his work, the following presentations are helpful. The first describes the work in technical terms. The second provides an overview in less technical terms and information for teachers about instruction for polysyllabic word reading.

Dr. Kearns’s academic work has appeared in journals like Exceptional Children, the Journal of Educational Psychology, the Journal of Learning Disabilities, the Journal of Research on Educational EffectivenessReading Research Quarterly, and Scientific Studies of Reading. More information about his publications and some links to full-text can be found on his Research Gate or Google Scholar page.

Dr. Kearns has seven years of classroom experience, working in elementary education as a general-education teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist. He has provided professional development and done curriculum design for federally-funded centers, universities, and schools and districts across the U.S. and Canada. Below is a video of Dr. Kearns teaching sixth graders to read polysyllabic words.


Dr. Kearns was a Learning Sciences Institute and Institute of Education Sciences Fellow, and he was the 2010 recipient of Vanderbilt University’s Robert Gaylord Award for Writing Excellence. Dr. Kearns is a member of the editorial boards for Assessment for Effective Intervention, the Journal of Educational Psychology, the Journal of Learning Disabilities, The Reading Teacher, and Remedial and Special Education. 


Recent Publications and Presentations:

You can also view his complete CV: Devin Kearns-Curriculum Vitae.



 Wei, Y., Lombardi, A., Simonsen, B., Coyne, M., Faggella-Luby, M., Freeman, J., & Kearns, D. M. (in press). A revised embedded planning tool for tier three reading instruction. Learning Disabilities: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Steacy, L. M., Kearns, D. M., Gilbert, J. K., Compton, D. L., Cho, E., Lindstrom, E. R., & Collins, A. A. (2017). Exploring individual differences in irregular word recognition among children with early-emerging and late-emerging word reading difficulty. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, 51–69. doi:10.1037/edu0000113

Toste, J. R., Capin, P., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G. G., & Kearns, D. M. (2017). Multisyllabic word reading instruction with and without motivational beliefs training for struggling readers in the upper elementary grades: A pilot investigation. Elementary School Journal, 117, 593–615. doi:10.1086/691684

Dobbs, C., & Kearns, D. M. (2016) Using new vocabulary in writing: Exploring how word and learner characteristics relate to the likelihood that writers use newly taught vocabulary. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 29, 1817-1843. doi:10.1007/s11145-016-9654-8

Kearns, D. M., Rogers, H. J., Al Ghanem, R., & Koriakin, T. (2016). Semantic and phonological ability to adjust recoding: A unique correlate of word reading skill? Scientific Studies of Reading, 20, 455–470. doi:10.1080/10888438.2016.1217865

 Kearns, D. M., Steacy, L. M., Compton, D. L., Gilbert, J. K., Goodwin, A., Cho, E., Lindstrom, E. R., & Collins, A. A. (2016). Modeling polymorphemic word recognition: Exploring differences among children with early-emerging and late-emerging word reading difficulty. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 49, 368–394. doi:10.1177/0022219414554229

McCarthy, T., Rosenblum, P. L., Johnson, B., Ditel, J, & Kearns, D. M. (2016). The Artificial Intelligence Tutor: A supplementary tool for teaching and practicing braille. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 110, 310–322

Powell, S. R., Kearns, D. M., & Driver, M. K. (2016). Exploring the connection between arithmetic and prealgebraic reasoning at first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108, 943-959. doi:10.1037/edu0000112

Al Ghanem, R., & Kearns, D. M. (2015). Orthographic, phonological, and morphological predictors of children’s word reading skills in Arabic: A literature review. Reading Research Quarterly, 50, 83–109. doi:10.1002/rrq.84

Kearns, D. M. (2015). How elementary-age children read polysyllabic polymorphemic words. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107, 364–390. doi:10.1037/a0037518

McMaster, K. L., Jung, P.-G., Brandes, D., Pinto, V., Fuchs, D., Kearns, D., Lemons, C. J., & Yen, L. (2014). Customizing an evidence-based reading practice: Balancing fidelity and flexibility. The Reading Teacher, 68, 173–183. doi:10.1002/trtr.1301

Miller, A. C., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Compton, D., Kearns, D. M., Zhang, W., …, Peterson, D. (2014). Behavioral attention: A longitudinal study of whether and how it influences the development of word reading and reading comprehension among at-risk readers. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 7, 232–249. doi:10.1080/19345747.2014.906691

Goodwin, A., Gilbert, J. K., Cho, S.-J., & Kearns, D. M. (2014). Probing lexical representations: Simultaneous modeling of word and reader contributions to multidimensional lexical representations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 448–468 doi:10.1037/a0034754

Gilbert, J. K., Goodwin, A. P., Compton, D. L., & Kearns, D. M. (2014). Word reading as a moderator of morphological awareness and reading comprehension. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 47, 34–43. doi:10.1177/0022219413509966

Lemons, C. J., Kearns, D. M., & Davidson, K. A. (2014). Data-based individualization in reading. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(4), 20–29. doi:10.1177/0040059914522978

Kearns, D. M., & Fuchs, D. (2013). Does cognitively focused instruction improve the academic performance of low-achieving students? Exceptional Children79, 263–290.

Fuchs, D., Hale, J. B., & Kearns, D. M. (2011). On the importance of a processing-deficit perspective: An introduction. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44, 99–104. doi:10.1177/0022219411400019

Gilbert, J. K., Compton, D. L., & Kearns, D. M. (2011). Word and person effects on decoding accuracy: A new look at an old question. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 489–507. doi:10.1037/a0023001

McMaster, K. L., Fuchs, D., Saenz, L., Lemons, C., Kearns, D. M., Yen, L., … Fuchs, L. S. (2010) Scaling up PALS: Importance of implementing evidence-based practice with fidelity and flexibility. Division of Learning Disabilities Newsletter, 28, 1–3.

Kearns, D. M., Fuchs, D., Meyers, C. Berends, M. McMaster, K., Saenz, L. S., … Smith, T. M. (2010). Factors contributing to teachers’ sustained use of Kindergarten Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3, 315–342. doi:10.1080/19345747.2010.491151

Books and Chapters

Carlisle, J. F., & Kearns, D. M. (2017). Learning to read morphologically-complex words. In K. Cain, R. Parrila, & D. L. Compton (Eds.), Theories of Reading Development, pp. 191–214. John Benjamins Publishing Company.  doi:10.1075/swll.15.11car

Fuchs, D., Kearns, D., Patton III, S., Elleman, A., Fuchs, L., Steacy, L., & Toste, J. (n.d.) Nashville Early Reading Project: Tutor manual: Decoding and fluency. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.

Fuchs, D., McMaster, K., & Kearns, D. M. (in press). Evidence-based interventions for reading disabilities in children and adolescents. In L. A. Theodore (Ed.), Handbook of applied interventions for children and adolescents. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Kearns, D. M., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., McMaster, K. L., & Saenz, L. (2015). How to use Reading PALS: Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies to improve students’ word recognition and reading comprehension. In K. R. Harris & L. Meltzer (Eds.), The power of peers: Enhancing learning, development, and social skills. New York, NY: Guilford.

Kearns, D. M., Lemons, C. J., Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. S. (2014). Essentials of a tiered intervention system to support unique learners: Recommendations from research and practice. In J. Mascolo, D. Flanagan, & V. Alfonso (Eds.), Essentials of planning, selecting, and tailoring interventions for the unique learner (pp. 56–91)Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

 Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Svenson, E., Yen, L., Thompson, A., McMaster, K., Al Otaiba, S., & Kearns, D. M. (2011). Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies: First-Grade Reading PALS. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.

Kearns, D. M. (2009). Grade four reading case study: Comprehension. Retrieved from

Kearns, D. M. (2008). Grade one reading case study: Decoding. Retrieved from




Kearns, D. M. (2017, May).  Dyslexia: What it is, how it is identified, and what instruction should include. Presented to the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Annual Conference.  Virginia Beach, VA: VCASE.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, September). We can help children at-risk for reading difficulty: Here’s how. Presented to the Bridging the Gap: Supporting EL/Bilingual Learners Professional Development Workshop. Farmington, CT: McGraw-Hill Education.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, May). Three ways to sail smoothly toward literacy success. Presented to the Southern Connecticut State University Literacy Conference. New Haven, CT: Southern Connecticut State University.

Kearns, D. M. (2015, December). Everyday practices that make all the difference. Presented to the Conference of the Connecticut Council for Exceptional Children. New Britain, CT: Central Connecticut State University.

Kearns, D. M. (2015, May). Effective practices for intensifying scientific research-based interventions. Meriden, CT: State Education Resource Center.


 Ciullo, S., Kearns, D. M., Lemons, C. J., & Zumeta Edmonds, R. (2016, April). “Do this, not that!” Part 2: Differentiating tier 2 and tier 3 interventions. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Council for Exceptional Children. St Louis, MO.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, April). How I do research that reflects the needs of real schools. In Lembke, E., McMaster, K. L., Powell, S. R., & Kearns, D. M., CEC-DR Showcase: Real school problems and research-based solutions: Lessons from the field. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Council for Exceptional Children. St Louis, MO.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, March). Introduction to Intensive Intervention: The Intensive Intervention Course Sequence Module 1. Presented to the Bristol-Warren Regional School District as part of the National Center for Intensive Intervention-funded project. Warren, RI.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, March). Teaching basic reading skills effectively and efficiently with research-supported practices. Presented to Haskins Training Institute. New Haven, CT.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, January). Tiered instructional models. Presented at the Leadership Training of the Connecticut K-3 Literacy Initiative. New Britain, CT.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, January). Your everyday practices make all the difference. Presented to the Connecticut Teaching as Leadership Conference. New Haven, CT.


Kearns, D. M., Borges, J., Anderson, L., Benstraum, S., Sackris, B., & Nivens, W. (2018, April).  Paper to be presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Tampa, FL.

Kearns, D. M., & Whaley, V. M. (2018, April). Unwinding the rope model: A closer look at contributions to reading comprehension.  Paper to be presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Tampa, FL.

Axelson, N., & Kearns, D. M. (2017, April). Reading long words: A comprehensive evaluation of explicit phonics instruction. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Boston, MA.

Kearns, D. M., Wexler, J., & Lemons, C. J. (2017, April). What happens in co-taught classrooms? An observation study. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Boston, MA.

Bray, L. E., Sinclair, A. C., Clancy, E., Wei, Y., Wexler, J., Lemons, C. & Kearns, D. (2017, April). “Go teach”: Lessons from middle school co-teachers on their provision of content-area literacy instruction. Presentation at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting. San Antonio, TX.

Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., & Lemons, C. J. (2017, February). An investigation of literacy and co-teaching practices in middle school content-area classrooms. In J. Wexler (Chair), Observation studies: Challenges and lessons learned. Paper presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference. Coronado, CA.

Kearns, D. M., & Ghanem, R. A. (2016, October). What sound does this vowel make? How do children with reading difficulties pronounce vowels in unfamiliar words? Poster presented at the International Dyslexia Association Annual International Conference. Orlando, FL.

Gadacy, M. & Kearns, D. M. (2016, October). Polysyllabic word spelling: Does word type influence perceived length of words? Poster presented at the biannual Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition. Storrs, CT.

Fuchs, D. Fuchs, L. S., Peng, P., Miller, A., Gilbert, J., Compton, D. L., Kearns, D. M., Patton III, S., & Elleman, A. (2016, July). First grade reading and math study. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. Porto, Portugal.

Kearns, D. M. (2016, July). Morphological awareness, decoding, and polysyllabic word reading: Relation with reading comprehension in Grade 2 students. In M. A. Wilson & S. H. Deacon (Chairs), The role of morphology in language acquisition and literacy development across languages. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. Porto, Portugal.

Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., Lemons, C. J., Mitchell, M. A., Clancy, E., Williams, M., & Hayes, J. (2016, February). What Project CALI has taught us so far: Year 1 preliminary observations. Poster presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference. Coronado, CA.

Contact Information
Phone860 486 3985
Mailing AddressDepartment of Educational Psychology, Neag School of Education, 249 Glenbrook Road, Unit 3064, Storrs, CT 06269
Office LocationCharles B. Gentry Building, Room 002D (in suite 003), 249 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, CT 06269