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Donald Deshler, PhD

Founder, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning

Donald Deshler, PhD, is a professor in the school of education and (former) director of the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning (KUCRL). A former junior high school teacher, Deshler’s firsthand experience with at-risk students inspired him to pursue better methods for teaching and helping these students succeed in school and beyond.

Deshler and his colleagues at KUCRL have designed and validated the Strategic Instruction ModelTM (SIM), a comprehensive approach to adolescent literacy that addresses the needs of students to be able to read and understand large volumes of complex reading materials as well as to be able to express themselves effectively in writing. SIM encompasses an array of academic and social strategies to help students accomplish these goals.

Through KUCRL’s International Professional Development Network, more than 400,000 educators have learned how to use different components of SIM. Several states have implemented SIM in their classrooms statewide. Deshler and his colleagues have also developed a schoolwide reform framework for secondary schools called the Content Literacy Continuum. This framework outlines important, but unique, roles for every teacher in middle and high schools to play in raising the literacy levels of all students. It also indicates that instruction needs to take into account the fact that some struggling adolescent learners require more intensive instruction of content, strategies, and skills.

Deshler’s most recent text, Teaching Content to All: Evidence-Based Inclusive Practices in Middle and Secondary Schools, details several of the instructional practices validated through KUCRL research. He has served as editor of several top journals in the field, and is currently the member of several journal publication boards and serves on a number of policy and advisory boards and boards of directors related to adolescent literacy and learning disabilities.

Deshler is the recipient of the J.E. Wallace Wallin Award from the Council for Exceptional Children and the Learning Disabilities Association Award from the Learning Disabilities Association of America for outstanding research and service for at-risk populations. He has been named a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the National Institute on Leadership, Disability, and Students Placed at Risk, University of Vermont.

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