Motivation, Emotion, Disability, Inclusion, and Learning (MEDIL) Lab

Our research group focuses on social-emotional and motivational aspects of human development and learning, with a particular focus on young people with disabilities. Located at at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development, some students and projects focus primarily on motivation or emotion, and some focus primarily on disability or inclusion. Many bridge these areas to investigate and promote positive motivational and emotional experiences for all learners.


Dr. Samantha Daley

Sami is an associate professor of education at the Warner School of Education & Human Development at the University of Rochester.

Aaliyah El-Amin-Turner

Aaliyah is a doctoral student in Human Development. Her research interests focus on students with learning disabilities and post-secondary transition.

Beilei Guo

Beilei is a doctoral student in Teaching and Curriculum. She is interested in self-determination theory and its application in English as a Foreign Language classrooms.

Michelle Heckman
Michelle Heckman

Michelle is a second year Ph.D. student. Her research interests include additional language acquisition, social-emotional learning, and mindfulness. She works as a research assistant for Dr. Daley on a project investigating motivation among adolescent students with learning disabilities in the sciences.

Yaofang Liang

Yaofang is a doctoral student in Human Development. Her research interest is the relationship between family structure, parenting style and child development, with a particular focus on the child’s motivation and academic success.

Shuo Ma
Shuo Ma

Shuo is a doctoral student in Human Development. Her research interests are in special education, especially focusing on children with autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities.

Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy

Michael is a doctoral student in Teaching and Curriculum. His research interests focus on the mental health and coping strategies of family members of children with significant intellectual disabilities.

Kaitlyn Jackson
Kate Jackson

Kate is a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership Program. She also works at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities. Her research interests include transition for people with developmental disabilities.

Becca Rosen

Becca Rosen is a Ph.D. student in Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner School. Her research interests include museum education, social studies education, and teachers’ instructional and curricular decision making practices.

Pamela Zeidan

Pamela is a doctoral student in Human Development. Her research interests focus on the role of parents and schools in promoting second-generation children’s social integration into American society.

Current Projects

Motivation in Science among Students with Learning Disabilities

Through funding from the National Science Foundation’s CAREER program (2018-2023), we are investigating the role of motivational beliefs in predicting and supporting participation, persistence, and success of students with learning disabilities in science coursework and careers. We are partnering with middle school and high school science and special education teachers to identify and implement approaches to support positive motivational beliefs for all learners.

Visitors with Learning Disabilities in Science Centers and Museums

In partnership with the Museum of Science, Boston; the Rochester Museum & Science Center; and, EdTogether, and with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal Science Learning program (2020-2023), this project focuses on understanding and supporting the experience of young people with learning disabilities in informal science learning settings.

photo of colorful lockers
Social-Emotional Learning for Students with Disabilities

Social-emotional learning programs and curricula are increasingly common in schools throughout the country. Through an extensive systematic review, we are examining attention to students with disabilities and inclusive practices in such curricula for middle and high school students.

Developmental Experiences of Undergraduates with Learning Disabilities

This project focuses on successful undergraduates with learning challenges who serve as mentors to young people similarly identified. In a qualitative study using interviews, we learn about the motivational dynamics associated with choosing to pursue and persist in 4-year colleges.

colorful interlocking toys
Productive Struggle in Science Learning

The current phase of an extended line of research looking at designing learning environments with emotion and engagement in mind, this project focuses on how science museum exhibits can be designed to promote the experience of “productive struggle” – learning experiences that are challenging and fruitful. Funded by the National Science Foundation and in partnership with the Museum of Science, Boston, EdTogether, and CAST, we are developing both a theoretical model of productive struggle and a set of design guidelines for informal learning spaces.


Sami Daley

470 LeChase Hall
Warner School of Education and Human Development
University of Rochester
Box 270425
Rochester, NY 14627