The Team


Val Shute (NSF & IES)
I’m the PI of this research team.  I care deeply about educational reform and can imagine a future in education with no tests, but with good support of valuable outcomes (e.g., creativity, problem-solving, and empathy), for all. Some of my other passions include being a good mom and grandma, playing games (Portal 2 and Little Big Planet are among my favorites), swimming, reading (I recently read 1984; Seveneves, and Devil in the White City), belly laughing, and traveling. Academically speaking, I am the Mack & Effie Campbell Tyner Endowed Professor in Education in the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at Florida State University. Before coming to FSU in 2007, I was a principal research scientist at Educational Testing Service. My general research interests hover around the design, development, and evaluation of advanced systems to support learning–particularly related to 21st-century competencies. Current research involves using games with stealth assessment to support learning—of cognitive and noncognitive knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Happily, my research has resulted in numerous grants, journal articles, books, chapters in edited books, a patent, and a couple of recent books (e.g., Shute & Ventura, 2013, Measuring and supporting learning in games: Stealth assessment, The MIT Press; and Shute & Becker, 2010, Innovative assessment for the 21st century: Supporting educational needs, Springer-Verlag).  For more info, see


Russell Almond (NSF)

I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Design, College of Education, Florida State University. I received my undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1983 and Ph.D. in Statistics from Harvard University in 1990. Before coming to FSU, I spent 14 years as a Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service. My main research interests focus around of the question of how to gather, track and monitor evidence of student growth using both traditional sources (e.g., assessments and homework) and non-traditional sources (e.g., simulations and games), especially in situations where multiple dimensions of student proficiency are considered. Together with R. Mislevy and L. Steinberg, I created Evidence Centered Design (ECD)—a process for designing assessments based on explicating the underlying evidentiary arguments that support their claims. So I’m a statistician with extensive training in computer science, particularly artificial intelligence. My research interests include representations of uncertainty in artificial intelligence (in particular, Bayesian networks and partially observed Markov decision processes, POMDPs), use of artificial intelligence techniques in data analysis, human factor design for data analysis and education, Bayesian computation, and statistical model engineering. I’ve been the lead designer and programmer on a number of software systems including: StatShop, RNetica, CPTtool, and BELIEF.


Fengfeng Ke (NSF)

I’m also an Associate Professor of the Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at Florida State University. My current research focuses on digital game-based learning systems, inclusive design of computer-supported collaborative learning, and mixed-reality-integrated immersive learning. My research has been funded by National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. More information on my research and publication can be found at:


Sidney D’Mello (IES)
Sidney D’Mello (Ph.D. in Computer Science) is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science and Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is interested in the dynamic interplay between cognition and emotion while individuals and groups engage in complex real-world tasks. He applies insights gleaned from this basic research program to develop intelligent technologies that help people achieve to their fullest potential by coordinating what they think and feel with what they know and do. D’Mello has co-edited six books and published over 220 journal papers, book chapters, and conference proceedings (13 of these have received awards). His work has been funded by numerous grants and he serves(d) as associate editor for four journals, on the editorial boards for six others, and has played leadership roles in several professional organizations.


Ryan Backer (IES)
I am tenured Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. I direct the Penn Center for Learning Analytics. My research is at the intersection of Educational Data Mining and Human-Computer Interaction. I develop and use methods for mining the data that comes out of the interactions between students and educational software, in order to better understand how students respond to educational software, and how these responses impact their learning. I study these issues within intelligent tutors, simulations, MOOCs/online courses, and educational games. I study these issues in the context of K-12 formal and informal learning, higher education, the military, and lifelong learning.

Adam Lamee (NSF)

I’m one of the physics content experts on the project. Improving education for all students is a driving force in my life. I think the best way to do that is by helping classroom teachers learn from each other. I taught high school Physics in Tallahassee for 12 years before becoming the PhysTEC Teacher-in-Residence at the University of Central Florida. Along the way, I’ve been a Quarknet Teaching and Learning Fellow, contributed to Florida’s science standards and teacher certification exams, worked on the CERN’s CMS experiment, and has researched game-based assessment and performance assessment alternatives to large-scale testing. I recently co-authored Argument-Driven Inquiry in Physics, vol 1 from NSTA Press. You can learn more about my work at

Seyed Ahmad Rahimi (NSF & IES)

I am from Iran. I am a Doctoral Candidate at Florida State University in the Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies program.I am also getting my second MS degree in Measurement & Statistics at Florida State University. I am working with Dr. Shute (who is also my academic advisor and one of the greatest mentors I have had in my life) on several research projects. I became the primary developer of  Physics Playground since December 2017. I moved to the U.S. in Spring 2014 with my wife–Maedeh. I love research, teaching, photography, walking in nature, playing fun video games, exercising, and I really like to read things related to self-enrichment and success. I hold a BS degree in Computer Software Engineering from Islamic Azad University in Iran as well as a Master’s degree in e-learning technologies from Multimedia University in Malaysia. My Master’s thesis was about the perception of college-level students on immersive learning environments like Second Life. My general research interests include assessing and fostering 21st-century competencies (e.g., creativity) in learning games and virtual reality environments equip with game-based Stealth Assessment and adaptivity. My goal is to go back to my country (after I get graduated) and help improve the educational system there in any capacity. You can read/know more about me here: 

Xi Lu (NSF)

I am originally from Taizhou, China. My interests include designing fun learning support for digital games and assess their effects on learning from an instructional design perspective. Before coming to FSU in 2015, I spent six great years teaching Chinese at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) in Monterey, California. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, rewatching old movies (Sissi and The Shawshank Redemption are among my favorite), savoring all kinds of chocolate, and playing Escape games (I am currently playing Can You Escape series) on my phone. My favorite dish is fish-flavored eggplant.

Chen Sun (NSF)

I am currently a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology and Learning Systems Program at Florida State University. I am interested in research related to engaging students in learning using games. I’m also interested in designing assessments to measure students’ knowledge and skills, especially relative to hard-to-measure constructs. I have been working on a number of fun research projects with my advisor, Dr. Shute. Besides research, I love Formula 1. I love to stare at the statistics about the racing, enjoying the engine sound and the tension of the competition. I also love traveling and dream of traveling around the world. To relax, I listen to music, exercise, and play Rubik’s cube. I was a middle school teacher in China for three years. Then I came here, hoping that I will make some difference in education, especially in assessment. Learning and assessment are integral. A fair and comprehensive assessment should open up opportunities for all children.

Ginny Smith (NSF)

I am a research assistant and Ph.D. student in Instructional Systems and Learning Technology at Florida State University. Before embarking on my Ph.D., I developed the secondary math program at a nationally recognized charter school and was the lead secondary math teacher for the school. I believe that math is power and desire to encourage learners to discover for themselves the wonder and excitement I have found in the STEM fields. My research interests center around the design, development, and evaluation of interactive learning technologies in secondary education. Spending time with my family is what I enjoy most. As the mom of a toddler, there is never a dull moment. I also enjoy games of all sorts, from board games to digital games to a newly found love of escape/breakout games. I have played sports (basketball, volleyball, and softball) most of my life and enjoy keeping up with the women’s collegiate and professional basketball leagues. I love most foods, but I often joke that I could not survive without my coffee and dark chocolate.


Lukas Liu (IES)

I am Zhichun “Lukas” Liu and I am originally from China. I am a doctoral candidate in ISLT program. Before I coming to FSU in 2014, I earned my bachelor degree in Educational Technology in South China Normal University. My research interest focuses on learning analytics in the online learning environment and learning transfer in game-based learning. I am also interested in the social networks. I Asides from being a doctoral student, I also have a great passion for cooking, traveling, Chinese calligraphy, Aikido (a Japanese martial art), and science fiction/ fantasy novels (Songs of Ice and Fire is my favorite).


Seyfullah Tingir (NSF)

I am a doctoral candidate in the Measurement and Statistics Program.  Originally from Samsun, Turkey; I received my B.S. from Cumhuriyet University. Soon after, I began working as Teaching Assistant at Ondokuzmayis University, before being awarded a scholarship to continue graduate studies in the United States. In 2013 I received my masters’ degree in Research and Evaluation Methodology from the University of Florida, before coming to Tallahassee. Currently, my research focuses on the use of Bayesian Networks to depict and further understand the multifaceted relationship between proficiency variables and student mastery. Currently, I am working with Dr. Shute on this project, and serve as a data analyst.  Upon graduating, I hope to become a university faculty member so that I can continue pursuing my research interests and fulfill my passion for teaching. Outside the realm of academia, I enjoy gardening and visiting the beach.

Catherine Spann (IES)

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado. I received my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington. Working in the Emotive Computing Laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Sidney D’Mello, I explore what people think and how they feel when they exert self-regulation. Using mixed methodologies (e.g., physiological sensing, self-report), I work to advance understanding of how mental and emotional states arise and influence outcomes across a range of contexts (e.g., educational gameplay, attentional tasks) from data collected in the lab, online, and in the field. I also investigate interventions for strengthening self-regulation, particularly how mind-body practices like deep breathing and meditation impact self-regulation and concomitant mental and emotional states.

Stefan Slater (IES)
I’m a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, working with Dr. Baker at the Penn Center for Learning Analytics. Before my PhD at Penn, I obtained a Masters in Learning Analytics from Columbia University – Teachers College and a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. While in Madison, I also worked as a research supervisor and outreach coordinator at the Games+Learning+Society Center, with Drs. Kurt Squire, Constance Steinkuehler, and Matthew Berland. I have a deep interest in data of all shapes and sizes, and am continually trying to find ways to weave together my interests in video games and academics. You can find some of my published works at, or find me on Twitter @datarefinery.

At Work

At Play