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As the Director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, Dr. Courtney Bell supports the center’s mission to improve educational outcomes for diverse student populations, impact education practice positively, and foster collaborations among academic disciplines and practitioners.

“I am honored to collaborate with teachers, community partners, and scholars around the world to conduct research that informs a more equitable future for all students.”

— Courtney Bell

Director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER)
Professor of Learning Sciences
University of Wisconsin–Madison


Dr. Bell’s research lives at the intersection of education policy and practice. Her work spans issues of parental choice, performance assessments of teaching, international comparisons of teaching, teaching quality, teacher learning, teacher education, and the measurement of teaching. She is currently engaged in both national and international studies of teaching, teacher education, and teacher learning.

Areas of Expertise

  • Performance Assessment
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Educational Policy
  • Teaching Quality
  • Teacher Education

Her newest line of inquiry is the use and study of classroom simulations in teacher learning. To allow deeper investigation and practical application in this area, she has founded the Simulation Lab at UW-Madison. Through a blend of AI and live interaction, the Simulation Lab provides opportunities for pre-professionals (teachers and others) to rehearse high-stakes conversations in supportive, do-no-harm, virtual environments. Such simulations have shown an impact on professional practice and offer the opportunity for focused instructor and/or mentor feedback. Dr. Bell has shaped the Sim Lab by leveraging her expertise in analyzing and measuring teaching quality, especially via video observational measures.

To learn more about Dr. Bell’s research in simulation, read the working paper “Simulating Classroom Interactions at Scale for the Improvement of Practice-Based Teacher Education (PDF).” Visit her Publications and Presentations pages on this site for more about her research.


Dr. Bell is dedicated to working in partnership with other researchers, teachers, and community members to address the complex challenges facing education in the U.S. and internationally. For example, she has collaborated with Quality in Nordic Teaching (QUINT) since its founding in 2018. QUINT unites researchers from the Nordic countries investigating teaching quality via classroom video recordings. Dr. Bell’s expertise in teaching quality evaluation is a natural fit with QUINT’s focus, and their collaboration has been fruitful, yielding publications, conference keynotes, and international information sharing.

From the QUINT annual report:
“Professor Bell’s keynote highlighted two different paths that educational research on teaching quality can take; information directly relevant and useful for practitioners on the one hand, and accumulating high quality research over time on the other hand. Professor Bell used these pathways to illustrate how the use of assessment information presents tradeoffs for key research issues when selecting common tools for measuring teaching quality in K-12 classrooms. The tradeoffs are definitions of teaching quality, measurement mode, data collection burden and validity.”

If you are interested in a research collaboration with Dr. Bell, visit the contact page.

At the National Institute for Education Policy Research (NIER) in Japan (L to R: Senior Researcher Kenji Matsubara, Interim Director of NIER Atsushi Umezawa, Courtney Bell, Jon Nordmeyer)

Group of four people including Courtney

At the UW–Madison School of Education Distinguished Achievement Awards (L to R: WCER Chief Operating Officer Hanna Blazel, School of Education Dean Diana Hess, Courtney Bell, School of Education Associate Dean of Research Dorothy Farrar-Edwards)


Focus Interview with PBS Wisconsin
Murv Seymour with PBS Wisconsin interviews Dr. Bell about work being done at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, the state of education in the United States and abroad, and research on teaching—including simulations that support teacher learning.
Watch the video.
June 17, 2024

Madison School District Pilots Standards-Based Assessment
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that East High School in the Madison Area School District is piloting a standards-based learning approach, replacing letter grades with evaluations of what students know, understand, and are able to do. As an expert in assessment, Dr. Bell shared insights into why many districts are moving in this direction and why it can be challenging for parents and students to adjust. Read the article.
January 4, 2024

A Conversation on Racial Inequalities and Education Outcomes
Dr. Bell joined Dr. Alex Gee, president and founder of the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, and Kaleem Caire, founder and CEO of One City Schools, on the PBS Wisconsin program “Wisconsin in Black & White” to discuss the effects of racial inequality on education.
Watch the video
October 1, 2023

Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER)

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s highly ranked public School of Education is one of the first and most productive education research centers in the world. It has assisted scholars and practitioners in developing, submitting, conducting and sharing grant-funded education research for 60 years. WCER supports research that improves educational outcomes for diverse student populations, advances teaching practice, and fosters mutually beneficial partnerships with schools and communities.
Wisconsin Center for Education Research, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Featured WCER Projects

MLRC works to advance educational outcomes for multilingual learners through innovative and socially just research and research–practice partnerships.

The Field Day Lab designs video-based learning games that bring contemporary education research to the public and uses game data to understand how people learn.

SMHC scholars generate tools, resources, and guidance that help educators, parents, and policymakers promote the mental health of children and adolescents.

WCER Partnerships

Working with community partners is vital to WCER’s mission. We are committed to leveraging our resources and research expertise in alliance with local school districts, government officials, community leaders, nonprofit groups, educators, parents, and concerned citizens to eliminate inequities in education. We are currently collaborating with the organizations below. Please email if you would like to partner with us.

How can I contact Dr. Bell?