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Tia Barnes - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Tia Barnes

Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences | University of Delaware


Professor Barnes is a leading researcher on social-emotional learning and minoritized populations.






The 2021 SELLYs Awards, honoring Dr. Tia Barnes




Dr. Tia N. Barnes is an associate professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. She teaches courses related to special education, guidance and behavior, disability and families, and social-emotional learning at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research focuses on the social-emotional well-being of minoritized populations. To study this she focuses on the areas of social-emotional learning, culturally responsive pedagogy, and special education.

Her previous projects include serving as the principal investigator for a Delaware Department of Health and Social Services -funded grant to examine the physical and mental health, social media use, and discrimination experiences of black girls ages 10-19 in the state of Delaware. In addition, she served as a co-PI of a National Science Foundation-funded grant to develop cybersecurity education for upper elementary-aged students by using storytelling and social robots. Currently, Dr. Barnes is the principal investigator for an Delaware CTR Accelerating Clinical and Translational Research funded project that aims to develop a coaching program to support teachers and paraeducators in building effective collaborative relationships through improvements in social and emotional competence.

Her research has been published in Prevention Science, International Journal of Educational Research, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Infant and Child Development, Journal of School Violence, and Developmental Review. . She is the creator of the Scholarly Self-Care podcast and is the 2021 recipient of the Joseph E. Zins Award for SEL Research from the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (4)

Special Education

Social-Emotional Learning

Guidance and Behavior

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Media Appearances (2)

Social robots teach cybersafety to elementary students

Tech Xplore  online


Barnes said she hopes Zenbo can be leveraged to augment social emotional classroom instruction for children with disabilities. For example, a teacher might employ Zenbo to help children with autism or emotional learning difficulties practice social skills and explicitly experience social situations that they might encounter in real life. "Having a robot work one-on-one with a child can deliver important support outside of what a teacher or paraprofessional can provide in the classroom," said Barnes, who also is a senior researcher with the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy. "This can help children learn and practice appropriate behaviors and responses."

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Bullying based on stigma has especially damaging effects

EurekAlert!  online


Barnes, who focuses more on race-based bullying, said the team could only find two types of interventions used at schools that addressed race. But she said she wonders if the recent shift in political climate, where students are targeted because they are Muslim or even appear that way to perpetrators, could boost that number. "We talked a lot about what future research directions should be," said Barnes, whose PhD is in special education. "It would definitely be that we do need more research on race-based bullying and more interventions at the school level."

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Articles (6)

A scoping review of school-based sexuality education for children with disabilities

The Journal of Special Education

2023 Individuals with disabilities often have limited access to school-based sexuality education (SE). This scoping review identified the characteristics of school-based SE intervention programs implemented for students with disabilities. Six electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed articles: 30 articles published between 1969 and 2020 met inclusion criteria. Some interventions included children from multiple disability categories (n = 6) or were unclear about disability diagnoses (n = 3). Other interventions focused on specific disabilities, including intellectual and developmental disability (n = 8), learning disability (n = 4), autism (n = 3), physical disability (n = 3), emotional disturbance (n = 2), and hearing impairment (n = 1).

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Unpacking the social‐emotional health of education support professionals during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Psychology in the Schools

2023 This study sought to understand education support professionals' (ESPs) experiences early in the COVID‐19 pandemic, including how they were feeling about their roles in education, strategies they were using to cope with unprecedented times, barriers they encountered toward maintaining SE health at work, and opportunities they identified as critical for creating safe and supportive school environments. This study employed a convergent parallel (QUAN + QUAL) mixed methods research design to capture ESPs' affective experiences and use of social and emotional learning (SEL). Data were collected in partnership with the National Education Association across 4 weeks through a survey including open and closed‐ended questions.

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Delaware Journal of Public HealthActions Against Racism:: Bringing Together Trauma-Informed Practices, Social-Emotional Learning, and Racial Socialization to Combat Racism in Schools

Delaware Journal of Public Health

2022 Racism is a social determinant of health with dire consequences for the health, education, and mental health of students of color. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop and test evidence-based strategies to combat racism in schools. In response to this need, our team has developed a multi-tiered school-based intervention to build capacity for combatting racism in educators, students, and families. The “Actions Against Racism” intervention synthesizes three evidence-based practices: trauma-informed practices, social-emotional learning (SEL), and racial socialization. The multiple tiers of intervention aim to cultivate skills for combatting individual and structural racism in educators, families, and students across the school ecology.

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The observation of special education classrooms by school personnel

Learning Environments Research

2022 Classroom observation is an accountability practice which promotes the evaluation of teachers’ capacity to meet standards, improve teaching practices, and enhance student learning outcomes. Prior research has revealed that these practices are not without bias: the reliability of observation can be challenged because of classroom or observer characteristics. Unlike general education learning environments, much less is known about the reliability of observing classrooms that service students with disabilities. In this study, we evaluated the reliability of special-education classroom observation by school personnel. Using a systematic scorer design modeled after the MET Project, we examined different combinations of observers (special educator, school leader, paraprofessional, and researcher) and lessons to test the impact of prior exposure to a teacher on scoring the RELATE Tool for Special Education Classroom Observation (RELATE).

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Cultivating effective teacher–paraprofessional collaboration in the self-contained classroom

Beyond Behavior

2021 Teacher–paraprofessional collaboration plays an important part in the daily functioning of self-contained classrooms serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Unfortunately, few training opportunities are provided to teachers on how to supervise and collaborate with paraprofessionals in the classroom setting. In this article, we present best practices for developing effective teacher–paraprofessional collaboration.

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Teacher views on storytelling-based cybersecurity education with social robots

Interaction Design and Children

2021 With children spending more time online, personal data are stored on their devices making them susceptible to online risks. Exposing students to cybersecurity education at an early age is critical for raising awareness and knowledge. Yet access to cybersecurity education curricular materials that are engaging for young students is limited. In this work, we present interactive cybersecurity stories for students in grades 3-5 delivered through a commercial social robot.

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Accomplishments (3)

Nomination for CEC-DR Early Career Publication Award


2022 College of Education and Human Development’s Dean Research Award (professional)

Awarded to a University of Delaware College of Education and Human Development assistant or associate professor who has developed a strong program of research, received external funding to support that research, published in top research journals and/or published a book with a leading academic press.

2021 Joseph E. Zins Award for Social and Emotional Learning Action Research (professional)

Awarded to a early career researcher who has made significant contributions to the field of social and emotional learning.

Education (5)

University of Florida: PhD, Special Education: Emotional/Behavioral Disorders 2013

University of Florida: MEd, Special Education: Reading Disabilities 2009

University of Florida: BS, Psychology: Family, Youth and Community Sciences 2007

Yale University: Postdoctoral Training, Emotional Intelligence, Disability, Teacher-Paraeducator Relationships 2016

University of Florida: Postdoctoral Training, Early Childhood Social Emotional Learning 2014

Affiliations (5)

  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • American Educational Research Association: Social Emotional Learning SIG
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Sisters of the Academy
  • Text and Academic Authors Association