National Center for Learning Disabilities

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Mary Brownell, Ph.D.



Professor, Special Education
College of Education, University of Florida

Mary Brownell is the Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professor of Education and Director of the National Center to Inform Policy and Practice in Special Education Professional Development. Over the course of her career, Dr. Brownell has focused her work on special education teacher quality and retention, teacher development through collaboration and Reading First coaching, teacher education for teachers working with students with disabilities and other high risk learners, and professional development in literacy for high risk learners. Specifically, Dr. Brownell has secured over 13 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education to support her work.

Examples of her work include two large-scale survey efforts, one involving 1,500 special education teachers across the state of Florida and another involving 1,000 teachers in Florida's Reading First Initiative. Additionally, she has developed and validated measures for assessing the quality of special and general education teachers providing literacy instruction to students with learning disabilities and other high-risk learners. Dr. Brownell has also devoted time to improving what general and special education teachers do in inclusive classrooms and special education settings. She has spent more than 6 years in a large urban school district fostering the learning of general and special education teachers through professional collaboration efforts. Much of this work has focused on improving teachers’ instructional practice in literacy instruction. In her current center, she is directing a research project designed to evaluate and disseminate effective practices for mentoring and inducting beginning special education teachers.

As a result of her research experience, Dr. Brownell has developed expertise in research requiring extensive data collection, including designs involving quantitative analysis of nested data, qualitative interview and observation methodology, and survey research methodology. Dr. Brownell is also a devoted teacher educator; previously, she has won two awards for teaching undergraduate students.