Thomas Farmer, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Foundations of Education; Interim Department Chair, Teaching and Learning

Thomas Farmer, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D. in Special Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • M.A. in Special Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • B.A. in Philosophy, College of William & Mary

Research interests

Social inclusion of diverse learners, supporting teachers in the management of classroom social dynamics, and creating research-practice partnerships to promote teachers’ adaptation of strategies to align with the dynamic developmental needs of individual students and the multi-level social-cultural ecologies in which they are embedded

Career highlights

  • Principal Investigator and Director of the National Research Center on Rural Education Support (NRCRES: 2004-2011), the first R&D center funded by the Institute of Education Sciences that focused on rural education
  • Served in the presidential line of the Council for Exceptional Children-Division for Research (CEC-DR) from 2018 - 2022
  • Served as Co-Editor of the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders from 2012 to present

Recent publications


  • Farmer T. W., Talbott, E., Lee, D., McMaster, K., & Aceves, T. (2022). Handbook of special education research: Theory, methods, & developmental processes. Routledge. 
  • Farmer, T. W., Conroy, M., Farmer, E. M. Z., & Sutherland, K. S. (2020). Handbook of research on emotional & behavioral disorders: Interdisciplinary developmental perspectives on children and youth. Routledge.

Journal Articles

  • Dawes, M., Starrett, B., Norwalk, K., Hamm, J. V., & Farmer, T. W. (2023). Student, classroom, and teacher factors associated with teachers’ attunement to bullies and victims.  Social Development.
  • Weiss, M. P., Rowe, D. A., Mims, P. J., & Farmer, T. W. (2023).  There’s no place like us: Beyond fidelity of implementation in rural contexts. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 31, 154-167.  DOI10.1177/10634266231155856
  • Farmer, T.W., Serpell, Z., Scott, L., DeVlieger, S. E., & Brooks, D. S. (2022).  The developmental dynamics of emotional and behavioral difficulties of youth of color: Systemic oppression, correlated constraints, and the need for targeted universalism.  Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 30, 71-85.
  • Farmer, T. W., Bierman, K. L., Hall, C. M., Brooks, D. S., & Lee, D. L. (2021).  Tiered systems of adaptive supports and the individualization of intervention: Merging developmental cascades and correlated constraints perspectives.  Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 29, 3-13.       
  • Marraccini, M., Hamm, J. V., & Farmer, T. W. (2021). Changes in African American and Latinx students’ perceived ethnic-racial discrimination during the middle school transition year.  Journal of Early Adolescence, 42, 327-358.  
  • Farmer, T. W. (2020). Reforming research to support culturally and ecologically responsive and developmentally meaningful practice in schools. Educational Psychologist, 55, 32-39. 
  • Farmer, T. W., Hamm, J. V., Dawes, M., Barko-Alva, K., & Cross, J. R. (2019).  Promoting inclusive communities in diverse classrooms: Teacher attunement and social dynamics management.  Educational Psychologist, 54, 286-305.   
  • Farmer, T.W., Hamm, J. V., Lee, D. L., Sterrett, B., Rizzo, K., & Hoffman, A. (2018). Directed consultation and supported professionalism: Promoting adaptive evidence-based practices in rural schools. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 37, 164-175.  
  • Farmer, T. W., Dawes, M., Hamm, J. V., Lee, D., Mehtaji, M., Hoffman, A. S., & Brooks, D. S. (2018).  Classroom social dynamics management: Why the invisible hand of the teacher matters for special education.  Remedial & Special Education, 39, 177-192.


Farmer works at the intersection of educational psychology, developmental science, and special education to help teachers create classroom contexts that are responsive to the individual learning needs of diverse students and the multiple contexts in which they live and grow. This line of inquiry has four related aims: (1) establishing a professional development and research-practice partnership structure to create real time data driven strategies to help teachers adapt supports for individual students; (2) assessing, adapting, and monitoring classroom ecological factors that contribute to or constrain students’ school adjustment; (3) using natural peer group processes and classroom social dynamics to support students’ engagement and success in the classroom; and (4) creating analytic approaches and data use approaches to foster teachers’ expertise to adapt complementary academic, behavioral, emotional, and social interventions to support the whole student in developmental context.

Curriculum Vitae

(804) 827-2627