Sara Rimm-Kaufman

Commonwealth Professor of Education

  • Ph.D., Harvard University, 1996
  • M.A., Harvard University, 1993
  • B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990

Rimm-Kaufman conducts research on elementary and middle school classrooms with the goal of using evidence to improve the quality of schooling experiences for teachers and students. There is no simple formula for creating excellent schools. Yet, the majority of efforts focus on curriculum, content knowledge and accountability, not the psychological experience and social interactions of students and teachers within them. Over the past twenty years, Rimm-Kaufman has led a dynamic team of researchers, project managers, post-docs, students, and staff toward improved understanding of the systematic ways that classroom social and psychological experiences are productive (or not productive) environments for child and youth development. In doing so, her research considers the diversity present in schools, respects the challenges that teachers face every day, and recognizes the complexity of school improvement. In all of her work, she has a steadfast commitment to educational equity.

Dr. Rimm-Kaufman has studied a wide range of programs and approaches including Connect Science, EL Education, Leading Together, Responsive Classroom, RULER, Valor Collegiate & Compass and beyond. She and her team have received numerous grants from National Science Foundation, Institute of Education Sciences, and private foundations (e.g., Carnegie, Templeton) and have authored more than 100 chapters, articles, blogs, and websites. One persistent challenge in education is that researchers have extensive knowledge about social and emotional learning but rarely share it with teachers in an accessible format. This concern led her to prepare, SEL from the Start, a new book for teachers published by Norton Publishing in November 2020. Rimm-Kaufman also serves in a research advisory capacity for the World Bank Group, EL Education, New Schools Venture Fund and other organizations. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 15) and American Psychological Science.

Rimm-Kaufman co-directs the IES-funded Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) doctoral training program since 2004 and has directed the IES-funded VEST post-doctoral training program since 2008. She coordinated the graduate programs in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science for 11 years and advises masters and doctoral students in this program. Rimm-Kaufman teaches undergraduate courses in Learning and Development, Educational Psychology, and Social Development. See for information about research conducted by Sara Rimm-Kaufman and her team in the UVA Social Development Laboratory based at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning.

Professor Rimm-Kaufman may be accepting a new doctoral student for the 2023 academic year. Applications are due Dec 1. Interested applicants may find program information on the EP-ADS doctoral program site and fellowship information on the VEST fellowship site

Professor Rimm-Kaufman will be taking on one post-doctoral fellow pursuing research on English Learners to begin in January or Summer 2023. For information about the posting, please see this link and search posting number R0030894.

Sample recent publications:

Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Merritt, E. G., Lapan, C., DeCoster, J., Hunt, A. & Bowers, N. (2021). Can service-learning boost science achievement, civic engagement, and social skills?: A randomized controlled trial of Connect Science. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,

Merritt, E. G., Harkins, T. & Rimm-Kaufman, S. E. (2021). Empowering elementary students through environmental service-learning. CLEARING: The Journal of Community-Based Environmental Literacy Education, 8-11.

Rimm-Kaufman, S. E. & Jodl, J. (2020). Educating the whole learner: Mobilizing whole child advocates behind the neuroscience of learning and development. Educational Leadership, 77(8), 28-34.

Rimm-Kaufman, S. E. & Merritt, E. G. (2019). Let’s power our future: Integrating science and social and emotional learning to improve collaborative discourse and science understanding. Science and Children, 57(1), 52-60.

Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Donnan, M. F., Garcia, D., Snead-Johnson, M., Kotulka, E. & Sandilos, L. (2018). A partnered approach to school change in a rural community: Reflections and recommendations. Foundation Review, 10(4), 103-118. 10.9707/1944-5660.1446

Molina, E., Pushparatnam, A. Rimm-Kaufman, S. E. & Wong, K. K. (2018). Evidence-based teaching: Effective teaching practices in primary school classrooms. World Bank Group: Policy Research Working Papers.

Sandilos, L. E., Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Cohen, J. J. (2017). Warmth and demand: The relation between students’ perceptions of the classroom environment and achievement growth. Child Development, 88(4), 1321-1337. 

Research Interests

  • Development of Self-Regulation
  • Children's Self-Control
  • Teacher Interactions with Students
  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Teacher Development
  • Mathematics Education
  • Elementary School Classrooms