Devin M. Kearns

Associate 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

Associate 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



Devin Kearns, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Special Education in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut (UConn). He is a research scientist for the Center for Behavioral Education & Research and Haskins Laboratories. Dr. Kearns has a Master’s degree in Elementary Literacy from Loyola Marymount University and a Ph.D. in Special Education from Vanderbilt University. He is an affiliated faculty member for the UConn Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences (IBACS) and the UConn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.


Dr. Kearns researches reading disabilities including dyslexia. His projects address four aspects of this topic. He and his colleagues

  • develop novel interventions and professional development like Project CALI to improve reading instruction (with Jade Wexler),
  • explore the cognitive mechanisms that predict individual differences in reading (with Jay Rueckl),
  • examine the effects of reading instruction on neurobiological processing during reading in the CARING Project (with Ken Pugh at Haskins Laboratories), and
  • design tests to understand and screen for dyslexia in the APPRISE Project (led by Dr. Fumiko Hoeft, Director of the UConn Brain Imaging Research Center).

He and his colleagues are supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, and national and local organizations and foundations. He has published research related to reading disabilities in Exceptional Children, the Journal of Educational Psychology, Reading Research Quarterly, and Scientific Studies of Reading. He has also published papers for teachers in TEACHING Exceptional Children and The Reading Teacher.

Service to the Field

Dr. Kearns is on the editorial board of Journal of Educational Psychology, Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, and several other journals. He is a member of the board of directors for the Connecticut Chapter of the International Dyslexia Association.

Teaching Experience

Dr. Kearns has extensive experience as an educator and professional development provider. He has seven years of classroom experience as a general-education teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist for students with dyslexia. He has provided professional development for schools and other organizations across the U.S. and internationally. He also speaks to the public about reading, reading difficulty, and dyslexia based on his school experience and research. He frequently does demonstration lessons using effective literacy instructional practices and supports educators to use those practices.

Dr. Kearns was a Learning Sciences Institute and Institute of Education Sciences fellow and recipient of Vanderbilt University’s Robert Gaylord-Ross Award for Writing Excellence and the Neag School of Education’s Early-Career Researcher of the Year.

More Information

View his complete CV.

Visit his website.

Visit the Phinder Word Search program.



In Press

Kearns, D. M. (in press). Does English have useful syllable division patterns? Reading Research Quarterly.


Kearns, D. M., Hancock, R. Hoeft, F., Pugh, K., Frost, S. (2019). Neurobiology of dyslexia. Teaching Exceptional Children, 51, 175–188.


Kearns, D. M., & Whaley, V. M. (2019).  Helping students with dyslexia read long words: Flexible strategies using syllables and morphemes. Teaching Exceptional Children, 51, 212–225.


Kearns, D. M., & Al Ghanem, R. (2019). The role of semantic information in children’s word reading: Does meaning affect ability to say polysyllabic words aloud? Journal of Educational Psychology, 111, 933-956.


Peng, P., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., Elleman, A. M., Kearns, D. M., Gilbert, J., Compton, D. L., Cho, E., & Patton, S. (2019). A longitudinal analysis of the trajectories and predictors of word reading and reading comprehension development among at-risk readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 52, 195–208.



Fuchs, D., Kearns, D. M., Fuchs, L. S., Elleman, A. M., Gilbert, J. K., Patton, S., Peng, P., & Compton, D. L. (2018).  Using moderator analysis to identify the first-grade children who benefit most and least from a reading comprehension program: A step towards aptitude-by-treatment interaction. Exceptional Children, 85, 229–247.


Hebert, M., Kearns, D. M., Hayes, J. B., Bazis, P., & Cooper, S. (2018). Why children with dyslexia struggle with writing and how to help them. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 843–863.


Lemons, C. J., Vaughn, S. R., Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., & Sinclair, A. C. (2018). Envisioning an improved continuum of special education services for students with learning disabilities: Considering intervention intensity. Learning Disabilities: Research & Practice, 33, 131–143.


Sinclair, A. C., Bray, L. E., Wei, Y., Clancy, E., Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., & Lemons, C. J. (2018). Co-teaching in content area classrooms: Lessons and guiding questions for administrators. NASSP Bulletin, 102, 303–322.


Wexler, J., Kearns, D. M., Lemons, Christopher J., Mitchell, M., Clancy, E., … , Wei, Y. (2018). Literacy and co-teaching practices in middle school content-area classrooms: An observation study. Exceptional Children, 84, 384–402.



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.


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.


Wei, Y., Lombardi, A., Simonsen, B., Coyne, M., Faggella-Luby, M., Freeman, J., & Kearns, D. M. (2017). A revised embedded planning tool for tier three reading instruction. Learning Disabilities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 22, 50–63.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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



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.


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.


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


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.


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



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.


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.



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.


Books and Chapters

Kearns, D. M., Powell, S. R., Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. S. (in press). Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies. In T. A. Collins & R. O. Hawkins (Eds.), Peers as change agents: A guide to implementing peer-mediated interventions in schools. Oxford, England: Cambridge University Press.


Kearns, D. M. (in press). On the value of theory-driven research on dyslexia. In J. Washington, D. L. Compton, & P. McCardle (Eds.), Dyslexia: Revisiting etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and policy. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.


Allor, J. H., Kearns, D. M., Ortiz, M., & Conner, C. (invited book chapter; accepted). An examination of the text characteristics of an early reading book series: Providing intensive practice with connected text. In M. Tankersley, B. G. Cook, & T. J. Landrum (Eds.), Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (Vol. 31), Bingley, UK: Emerald.


Kearns, D. M., Pollack, M. S., & Whaley, V. M. (2018).  Systematic implementation of intensive intervention: A high-leverage practice for improving academic outcomes in students with disabilities. In J. McLeskey, L. Maheady, B. Billingsley, M. T. Brownell, & T. J. Lewis (Eds.), High leverage practices for inclusive classrooms. New York, NY: Routledge.


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.


Fuchs, D., McMaster, K., & Kearns, D. M. (2017). 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 (pp. 143-187). 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.




Kearns, D. M. (2019, July). Six causes of reading difficulty. Presented to the Literate Brain Institute at Haskins Laboratories. New Haven, CT.

Kearns, D. M. (2019, May). Intensive intervention. Presented to LEARN Regional Educational Service Center. Old Lyme, CT.

Kearns, D. M. (2019, February). Introduction to intensive intervention and DBI in reading. Presented to EASTCONN Professional Development Series. Hampton, CT.

Kearns, D. M. (2018, August). Data-based individualization: Master series for instructional coaches. Presented to the Educational Resource Center—Region 20. San Antonio, TX.

Kearns, D. M. (2017, December). What is dyslexia? How do we help students with dyslexia? Presented to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education. Richmond, VA.

Kearns, D. M. (2017, October). Data-based individualization in reading: An introduction.  Presented to the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE), Special Education Office.  New York, NY.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


Other Recent Presentations

Borges, J., Kearns, D. M., Duffy, M., & Fuchs, D. (2019, July). Data-based individualization to increase literacy achievement for students in need of intensive intervention in reading. Paper presented at the First Annual NYCDOE Forum on Connecting Research, Policy & Practice. New York, NY.

Kearns, D. M., & Al Ghanem, R. (2019, July). The role of the contextual and morphological semantic information in the orthographic learning of English polysyllabic words. In K. P. Miles (Chair), Orthographic learning. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. Toronto, Canada.

Miles, K. P., & Kearns, D. M. (2019, July). A computer vs. human analysis of the orthographic regularity of high frequency words. In K. P. Miles (Chair), Orthographic learning. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. Toronto, Canada.

Allor, J., Kearns, D. M., Conner, C., & Al Otaiba, S. (2019, July). Improving the “text-diet” for early and struggling readers: Selecting and adapting text. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse, New York, NY.

Kearns, D., Conner, C., Whaley, V., Stewart, J., & Bresina, B. (July 2019). Morphological instruction in programs used in schools: A (Mostly) comprehensive survey. Annual Meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse, New York City, NY.

Kelley, S., Lyon, C., Kearns, D. M. (2019, May). Mapping reading intervention elements to neurocognitive changes in developing readers. Poster presented at the University of Connecticut Center for Behavioral Education and Research (CBER) Graduate Research Symposium. Storrs, CT.

Miles, K. P., & Kearns, D. M. (2019, March). An analysis of the regularity of “sight words.” Paper presented at the Annual Everyone Reading Conference. New York, NY.

Allor, J., Kearns, D. M., Al Otaiba, S., Conner, C., & Ortiz, M. (2019, January). Improving the “text diet” for early and struggling readers: Selecting and adapting text. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children. Indianapolis, IN.

Kearns, D. M., Anderson, L., Axelson, N., Borges, J., & Duffy, M. (2019, January). Lessons from the field: Practical implementation of data-based individualization. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children. Indianapolis, IN.

Kearns, D. M., Clancy, E. E., Lyon, C., Pollack, M. S., & Wexler, J. (2019, January). Coteaching `and content-area literacy. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children. Indianapolis, IN.

Whaley, V. M., & Kearns, D. M. (2019, January). Creating and implementing a word reading intervention with morphemes. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children. Indianapolis, IN.

Wexler J., Kearns, D. M., Lemons, C. J., Clancy, E. E., Shelton, A., Pollack, M. S., Lyon, C., & Hogan, E. (January 2019). Project CALI (Content Area Literacy Instruction): An overview, initial findings, and challenges of bridging research to practice in a professional development study for middle school co-teachers. Paper presented at the IES Annual Principal Investigator Meeting. Alexandria, VA.

Contact Information
Phone860 486 3985
Mailing AddressDepartment of Educational Psychology, Neag School of Education, 249 Glenbrook Road, Unit 3064, Storrs, CT 06269
Office LocationGentry 005