College of Education faculty, staff, and students have a profound impact on communities and schools locally, nationally, and abroad.  We partner with communities on a number of research, outreach, and engagement projects and initiatives that make our world a better one in which to live, learn, work, serve, and play.

At the University of Iowa, we define outreach and engagement as collaboration between faculty, staff, and students and diverse external groups in mutually beneficial partnerships that are grounded in scholarship and consistent with our role and missions of teaching, research, and service.

The list below describes some of our current work, ranging from programs that inspire gifted learners to nurturing the next generation of innovators and leaders in STEM, the arts, and many more areas.

Acceleration Institute

The Acceleration Institute website informs parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers of the research and practices concerning academic acceleration. Our discussions of academic acceleration include grade skipping, early entrance to kindergarten or college, moving ahead in just one subject, and other ways of moving a student ahead to more challenging coursework.

Aditya Birla World Academy Partnership with the Belin-Blank Center

Aditya Birla World Academy, an international school in Mumbai, Maharashtra State, India, is collaborating with the Belin-Blank Center on a comprehensive program that will allow their teachers to earn a Professional Diploma in Talent Development and Gifted Education.  All of the courses are offered online, providing their educators with the tools essential to promote the talent development of every student and the well-being of their gifted students.  This program will correspond to the required credits for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Gifted Education.  Coursework will begin in August 2018.

Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute

The AP Summer Institute (APSI) provides the teacher interested in the Advanced Placement® Program comprehensive preparation for developing and teaching an AP course. In addition to discussing questions about AP subject-area content, teachers receive an overview of the Advanced Placement® Program. Iowa teachers can apply for grants to attend the institute, which is offered over a four-day period each summer at the University of Iowa. Pre-service teachers may also participate. For more information, see or contact

Advocacy, Capacity, and Collaboration for English Language Learners (ACCEL) in Iowa

The University of Iowa, in collaboration with Iowa school districts and the Title III Department at the Iowa Department of Education, is conducting a five-year project entitled Advocacy, Capacity, and Collaboration for English Learners (ACCEL) in Iowa. The goal is to increase effectiveness of English language instruction while building teacher capacity, advocacy, and leadership. The project will provide professional development (PD) opportunities to significantly improve instruction and support for English learners in K-12 schools.

For more information, contact David Cassels Johnson at or 319-335-6175 or Lia Plakans at or 319-335-5565. Read a feature story here.

Argument-based Strategies for STEM Infused Science Teaching (ASSIST) Project

The ASSIST professional development program has grown out of a three year Teacher Quality Grant funded project aimed at helping teachers in K – 12 classrooms improve their understanding and implementation of the instructional framework.  Based on the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) framework, the ASSIST approach attempts to provide planning tools to help teachers develop, carry out, and evaluate learning environments that not only includes aspects of argument-based instruction, but also purposefully integrates all STEM disciplines and emphasizes the use of multimodal communication practices.  Contact Mark McDermott at 319-335-5591 or for resources.

Assessment and Counseling Clinic

The Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic (ACC) specializes in providing psychoeducational assessment, counseling, and consultation services to gifted and twice-exceptional students, from preschool through college. The Center serves clients from the Iowa City community, as well as more broadly from the state of Iowa and across the United States. Clinic staff is involved in research, training, and outreach on the topics of giftedness and twice-exceptionality. Specific training is provided to doctoral students in Counseling Psychology and School Psychology who complete clinical practicum placements at the center.

Baker Teacher Leader Center

The Baker Teacher Leader Center (TLC) is a teacher professional development center designed for both pre - and in-service teachers. The TLC manages the Teacher Leader Certificate, a value-added, pre-service, professional development certificate developed to deliver additional opportunities for our students to learn about, and engage with a variety of education related topics, practices, and theories. The goal of the certificate is to enable students in the Teacher Education Program (TEP) to better innovate, improve, develop and discover their identity as emerging teacher leaders. In addition, the TLC operates a teacher licensure renewal credit program, offering relevant, research – and evidence-based professional development to practicing teachers on the topics that are most important to Iowa’s schools and students. The professional development offered through the Baker TLC is aligned with the needs identified by our Teacher Education Advisory; survey responses from school administrators; policy leaders; faculty; information and data received from professional education organizations such as IACTE and AACTE; and community partners. For more information, contact Will Coghill-Behrends at or 319-335-5349 or Kari Vogelgesang at or at 319-335-5348.

Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search

The Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search provides academically talented 4th-9th grade students the opportunity to take a test that was developed for older students. The goal is to discover, via above-level testing, students who need further educational challenge to fully realize their academic talent. BESTS was initiated in 1992 to identify talented students and provide parents and educators with more specific information about their academic needs. Students may take I-Excel (for 4th-6th graders) or the ACT (for 7th-9th graders). High-scoring students are invited to participate in the Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony, weekend and summer classes, and other educational opportunities offered by the Belin-Blank Center.

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy

The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy at the Belin-Blank Center is designed for those special students who are ready for college one or two years earlier than their peers.  The academy does the following: provides top students with a high-level curriculum and research opportunities; supports students through the transition from high school to a research intensive university; integrates STEM and the Arts/Humanities; collaborates with UI Honors, and capitalizes on the Belin-Blank Center’s expertise in student programming and acceleration. Visit the Bucksbaum Academy website online for more information.

Families and Schools Together (FAST)

This is a collaboration with the Neighborhood Agencies of Johnson County and the Iowa City School District that trains a group of professionals and volunteers in the FAST program. This is a school-based multifamily group intervention with families of at-risk elementary school children. The goal is to make the local program self-sufficient, improve emotional wellbeing and school performance of children, get the parents more involved with the schools, and help parents self-organize.

Filial Therapy with Pre-School and Elementary School Children

This project trains community agency (e.g., Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids) play therapists in the approach and provides supervision during the implementation phase.

Grace Cochran Fund for Elementary Language Education

This initiative is designed to encourage and promote educational programs for early acquisition of a second language in Eastern Iowa and other parts of Iowa. The efforts associated with this initiative include providing and hosting training for elementary language teachers in the area, collecting data about current elementary programs in the state, and supporting and promoting extracurricular programs at the elementary level where language is not offered in the regular curriculum.

Integrated Acceleration System

The Integrated Acceleration System, an online tool developed by the Belin-Blank Center, guides educators and families through the decision-making process around academic acceleration. Informed by decades of research and clinical experience, the Integrated Acceleration System integrates objective information and produces a report about readiness for one of the many forms of acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten, subject acceleration, and early entrance to college.

Integrating Behavioral Health into Rural Medicine

The “Integrating Behavioral Health into Rural Medicine” grant is a collaboration between the UI Counseling Psychology Program in the College of Education, the UI Mobile Clinic, and Grinnell College. Over the course of four years, the grant will train and fund the placement of 28 counseling psychology Ph.D. students in a dozen different locations across the state. Though the focus of the grant is on veterans and the Latino community, it will benefit everyone in rural communities. The funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program. For more information, contact Saba Ali, grant project director, at, or learn more by reading this story.

Invent IOWA

Invent Iowa is a comprehensive, statewide program developed to promote the invention process. Students are invited to submit their invention to the Belin-Blank Center to be considered for the Invent Iowa State Invention Convention. All inventions at a convention must be a completely new product or significantly new application of an existing product. Additionally, students who win at the state level are given the opportunity to go to the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. For more information, contact

Iowa Governor’s STEM Council Real World Externship Program
Formerly the Iowa Mathematics & Science Education Partnership Real World Externship Program

Secondary STEM teachers engage in a six-week summer STEM industry Externship. Teachers incorporate STEM content and 21st Century skills into classroom curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices. Over 200 teacher participants across the State of Iowa. This is a partnership between the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Iowa.

Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy

The Belin-Blank Center partners with Apex Learning and ProjectSTEM to provide free, online above-level and Advanced Placement (AP) courses to Iowa middle and high school students who do not have access to traditional, brick-and-mortar advanced courses, such as students from Iowa’s many small, rural schools. We also provide above-level testing for fourth through sixth graders, and grants for Iowa teachers to attend our Advanced Placement Summer Institute at the University of Iowa each summer. For more information, see or contact

Iowa Reading Research Center

The Iowa Reading Research Center’s (IRRC) activities have involved tens of thousands of students and thousands of educators in recent years. The center partners with schools and districts across Iowa to provide comprehensive literacy research and evaluation services. It also offers free assistive technology consultation for families of children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities. Thousands of teachers, preservice teachers at colleges and universities, and other citizens receive literacy professional development from IRRC eLearning. Iowa Reading Research Center faculty give presentations on literacy research, instruction, and information for families at state, national, and international conferences and other events. Additionally, the center offers a collection of resources on reading and writing for teachers and families, and shares other literacy resources and information via Facebook and Twitter. For more information, email

Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) Student Program

In this student-led program for students in the Teacher Education Program, student members plan and host programs for the college, coordinate community service initiatives, and participate in state ISEA conferences and workshops.

Iowa Testing Programs (ITP)

Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) is a research, development, and outreach unit in the College of Education at the University of Iowa. ITP’s mission is to pursue research that improves the practice of educational measurement and to deliver services that support the valid use of assessment information to inform teaching and enhance learning. These efforts include the annual administration of the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress to 370,000 Iowa students in grades 3 through 11, the development of adaptive and high-school equivalency assessments for national and international distribution, and the training of specialists in large-scale assessment. ITP provides workshops and other forms of in-service training for Iowa teachers and administrators on the use and interpretation of test results, on best practices in assessment accommodations, and on the measurement of growth and college readiness.

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) promotes and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement in original research and experimentation in STEM at the high school level. By connecting talented students, their teachers, and research professionals, JSHS aims to widen the pool of students prepared to conduct research vital to our nation. Scholarship competition takes place at the state and national levels. The symposium is a partnership between the Belin-Blank Center, the Academy of Applied Science, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa (KRCUI)

The KRCUI provides a physical location to support collaborative and innovative programming supported by partners including Kirkwood Community College, the University of Iowa College of Education, and several local school districts.  While the main activity at the KRCUI is the offering of career academy courses in which high school students can earn college credit in classes that help them explore potential career choices, several other programs, initiatives, and projects are also housed at the KRCUI or supported through partnerships with the KRCUI partners.  UI classroom space that is technologically enhanced and distance capable provides an opportunity for hosting professional development programs, courses, workshops, symposia and other gatherings.  Current courses at the KRCUI are also ideal venues for guest speakers to support the curriculum and help students develop broader perspectives of issues facing education and other career areas.  The venue is also often used to host statewide gatherings or conferences.  Mark McDermott ( serves as the University of Iowa liaison to the KRCUI and can help facilitate use of the space or collaboration with partners engaged in the activities at the KRCUI.  

Lloyd-Jones Residency for Versatile Writing: Master Classes for Iowa’s Young Writers

The Lloyd-Jones Residency for Versatile Writing, funded by Jean Lloyd-Jones and the UI Provost's Office of Outreach and Engagement, is a collaboration with the English Department's Nonfiction Program, the UI College of Education, and seven school systems across Iowa. All of the participating teachers are UI College of Education alumni. The residency links high school students and their English teachers in urban and rural Iowa communities with the resources of the UI’s Nonfiction Writing Program, in collaboration with the English Education Program in the UI College of Education. The goal is to support young Iowa writers and the teachers who help them grow, fostering a broader understanding of nonfiction as a genre and offering a unique college writing experience. For more information, contact Bonnie Sunstein, Director, at

New Horizons Band

The Iowa City New Horizons Band (IC-NHB) partners with the College of Education Music Education Program, the School of Music, West Music, and the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. The mission is to provide the opportunity for all people age 50 and older to learn and make music. In addition to the band itself, the IC-NHB will encourage entry-level group-music opportunities for members and nonmembers alike and facilitate the many current self-formed ensembles and those that will emerge. The band’s atmosphere is one of casual comradery mixed with a passion for making beautiful music. For more information, contact Nolan Hauta at or by phone at 319-335-1635 

Oakdale Prison Community Choir

The goals of the Oakdale Community Choir, founded in 2009, are to create communities of care inside and outside of prison walls. The choir provides choral singing and experience for men in the general population of the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMMC) and for community volunteers who have an interest in learning more about issues in the prison system. Through concerts where people from the community come inside the prison to participate, the choir aims to transform how people think about justice, infusing restorative justice practices that emphasize healing into participants' approaches to conflict. there are many collaborative aspects of the program such as its mutual benefit for both inside and outside singers, the partnership between the University of Iowa and the IMCC, the connections with the Iowa Department of Corrections Victim Services and Restorative Justice Programs, and associations with community organizations through the concerts. The choir performs two concerts each season in the prison gymnasium. One concert is for an incarcerated audience, and the second concert is for about 250 guests from the community, including choir members' friends and family, people interested in learning about the prison system in Iowa, prosecuting attorneys, parole officers, politicians, employers, and other community leaders. Visit the choir website to hear recordings of recent performances and original songs, to read the choir newsletters, and to learn more about the choir. For more information, contact Mary Cohen at

Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI)

Students in grades 8 through10 (academic year 2017–2018) may apply for the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), a two-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center in the UI College of Education. Students will participate in seminars with university faculty, tour their research facilities, and study their publications. While students will spend some of their time learning advanced lab techniques, they will not be conducting original research in this program. Students will develop an understanding of research that extends well beyond bench science through exposure to research in fields such as anthropology, business, education, engineering, medicine, psychology, sustainability, etc. Students will engage in a curriculum that integrates the knowledge construction process across these varied and diverse disciplines. 

Prison Choir's Songwriters' Workshop

The Songwriters’ Workshop at IMCC (Iowa Medical and Classification Center commonly known as Oakdale Prison) grew naturally out of the Oakdale Community Choir’s writing component. University students assist with the leadership of this workshop that meets weekly for 45-60 minutes during academic semesters and 90 minutes during the summer. Inside singers are quite prolific and we regularly perform original songs at our concerts. In the first 13 seasons, the choir has performed 42 original songs composed by choir members at our concerts. One audience member shared these reflections: “I have been to prisons in the system, hundreds of times as part of my work, and I have to say this is the first time in 35 years I have seen anything in the system that inspired me. I was particularly moved by the decision to sing songs composed by the ‘inside’ members of the choir.”

Project HOPE

Project HOPE (Healthcare Occupations Preparation and Exploration) is a STEM-based curricular intervention that integrates academic and vocational opportunities designed to connect minority and low socioeconomic middle school students to the health science professions early in their education. HOPE addresses the critical national need to increase diversity in the American healthcare workforce. For more information, contact Saba Ali at 319-335-5495 or

Saturday Art Workshops

Saturday Art Workshops offered to young artists by the University of Iowa College of Education’s Art Education faculty and students. The workshops, which have been offered for more than three decades, are a win-win community outreach project. The young artists, ages 5 to 12, get to create and aspiring art teachers get to practice their future profession. The Art Education Program also offers workshops to middle and high school students in the spring. For more information, contact Clar Baldus at 319-335-6189 or or Becky Popelka at

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

The Belin-Blank Center serves as the Iowa and Midwest Region-at-Large Affiliate for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program. This program is the nation’s longest-running, largest, and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. Over the past 90 years, the Awards have recognized and encouraged artists and writers such as: Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Tom Otterness, and Zac Posen, among countless others.  The Belin-Blank Center adjudicated almost 10,000 pieces of art and writing from across Iowa and seven additional states last year.

Science Writing Heuristic Approach (SWH)

The SWH approach is about transforming students’ thinking by transforming the science classroom. With the SWH approach, teachers move away from verification labs and memorization to the kinds of activities, conversations, and writing that real scientists do. It has been used in over 700 classrooms across Iowa, in Washington, and across the globe in Korea, Turkey, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, benefiting more than 20,000 students since 2004. For more information, contact Brian Hand at 319-335-5590 or You can also read this story and view a video of Hand and others describing this approach.

Secondary School Art Workshops

The Secondary School Art Workshops are a partnership with Iowa City United Action for Youth and are part of the Art Education Secondary Methods course. Teacher Education Preparation (TEP) Art Education students each teach a 10-week workshop for secondary students. For more information, contact Clar Baldus at 31-335-6189 or

Secondary Student Training Program

Students in grades 10-11 may nominate themselves for the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP), a five-week residential summer research program at The University of Iowa. Students will conduct scientific research in university laboratories under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Students will also produce a research project/paper as a part of the program.

Special Education Leaders Applying Research in Schools (SELARiS)

The SELARiS project is a grant to train scholars in special education to conduct research in and in collaboration with schools and other education agencies. The SELARiS project also trains doctoral scholars to be effective teacher educators and collaborators.

STEM Excellence and Leadership

The STEM Excellence and Leadership program aims to empower academically able students from under-resourced rural schools. The program is implemented in K–12 schools, designed for students in grades 6-8, and provides university-based support for math and science teachers. The goal is to discover students early and provide an intervention of specialized programming to promote their academic and social-emotional development. STEM Excellence and Leadership has two major components: an extracurricular enrichment curriculum in mathematics and science for high-ability middle school students, and professional development for teachers in the enrichment curriculum, math and science content, and gifted education. With funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Belin-Blank Center works jointly with school districts to serve high-potential, low-income students. For more information, contact Lori Ihrig at 319-335-2393 or

Summer Art Residency

The Summer Art Residency is an immersive 3–week residency at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center. Learn from world-class faculty on one of the premier arts campuses in the US. Participate in classes, workshops, evening tours, lectures, and events that will stretch you as an artist. The residency concludes with an art and reading show and a portfolio review.

Summer Writing Residency

The Summer Writing Residency is an immersive 3–week residency at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center. Learn from world-class faculty on one of the premier arts campuses in the US. Participate in classes, workshops, evening tours, lectures, and events that will stretch you as a writer. The residency concludes with an art and reading show and a portfolio review.

Talented and Gifted Endorsement

The Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (B-BC) provides extensive professional learning opportunities throughout the year, supporting educators from around the world who want to better understand how to meet the unique needs of gifted/talented children.  The semester hours offered through the collaboration between the B-BC, the College of Education, and the Division of Continuing Education culminate in the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement, required for Iowa educators who work directly with gifted learners in public schools today, and accepted in many other states.  The current schedule of classes is available at  

Tête à Tête Professional Development Workshops

The UI College of Education offers free practice-focused professional development workshops every spring semester for K-16 world language educators in Iowa. Themes in recent years have included theater, technology integration, students with special needs, and high school-university collaborations.

UI Helping Professionals Workshop (IHELP)

For over three decades, the Annual Summer School for Helping Professionals (ASSHP) consistently offered programs and leadership that has enhanced the personal and professional development of Iowa’s helping professionals. The IHELP workshops offer CEU-credit classes for community, agency, and education practitioners working with or interested in helping individuals, groups, families, and organizations.

UI REACH Program

The University of Iowa REACH Program, (Realizing Education and Career Hopes) offers a two-year transition certificate program for college students with disabilities, such as autism, intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities. Coursework and campus life at a Big Ten college, along with community career experiences, empower students to reach their full potential. The program engages local businesses in offering internships and career learning opportunities for students. Staff from the UI REACH program lead professional development opportunities on campus and in local schools. Partnerships with high schools, community colleges, and Area Education Agencies fosters improvements in transition planning and postsecondary education success for young adults with disabilities. UI REACH also offers alumni events to maintain contact with graduates who have become contributing members of their communities.

University of Iowa International Day for Human Rights

International Day is a hands-on, interactive event for middle-schoolers that focuses on a different theme each year and is coordinated by the UI College of Education and the UI Center for Human Rights. The next International Day will be held Thursday, April 7th, 2022. Although the in-person conference was canceled in 2020 due to the global pandemic, the International Day Planning Committee has compiled a list of resources for teachers to share with their students. All resources align with Iowa Social Studies Standards with an emphasis on Social Justice themes Please visit the International Day website for news, archives, and upcoming events. For more information, contact Elizabeth Decker at 319-335-6115 or

Voices of Experience

The Voices of Experience is a chorus of chronologically gifted adults whose goals are to provide as much joy as possible to their audiences and themselves. The Iowa City Senior Center collaborates with the University of Iowa to identify and support music education students to serve as the choral leaders of this group, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon at the Iowa City Senior Center. For more information, contact the senior center at 319-356-5220.

West Liberty Adult and Family Literacy Program

This literacy program designed to provide literacy instruction to immigrant adults launched in 1993 in partnership with the West Liberty Community School District and community residents.  Under direction of Associate Professor Carolyn Colvin, the program offers literacy instruction to immigrant adults who determine the focus of their instruction.  Preservice teachers often serve as literacy tutors and provide weekly instruction so adults may gain greater fluency in English, help their children with homework, and prepare for U.S. Naturalization test or the GED test.  More recently.  West Liberty teachers have become partners in the Literacy Program so more adults may study to become new citizens. For more information, contact Colvin at

West Liberty Enrichment Program

In partnership with the University of Iowa's Center for Equity and Diversity, the West Liberty Enrichment Program offers mentoring and enrichment programming to recruit and retain First Generation, underrepresented West Liberty students who attend the University of Iowa.  The program began in 2007 and has served more than 200 undergraduate students who participate in monthly support programs including academic mentoring and financial literacy instruction.  Currently enrolled West Liberty students serve as peer tutors to incoming West Liberty students. For more information, contact Nadine Petty, executive director of the Center for Equity and Diversity, at or Carolyn Colvin at

You can learn more about outreach and engagement opportunities across our campus by visiting the UI Office of Outreach and Engagement website