Kathy Neesen

Research Scientist; Instructional Technology Director


  • Ph.D, Instructional Technology, University of Virginia, 2008
  • M.Ed., Instructional Technology, University of Virginia, 2004
  • B.A., English and German, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1998

Coming to educational research from a background in web and interface design in the corporate world, the field of instructional technology has allowed me to blend my passion for clean and user-friendly interface design with my interest in how and why people learn best. Over the past decade, I have emphasized my work on the design of online learning and professional development that best supports early childhood educators in working with young children.

During my time at CASTL, I have enjoyed collaborating with faculty members from a range of disciplines to create over 20 online learning courses, focused on early learning topics such as mathematics and executive function, language and literacy, foundations of child development, and effective classroom interactions.  My goal is to create online learning experiences that allow teachers an opportunity to not only learn about effective classroom practice, but see and experience what it looks like in the classroom. My work is guided by both adult learning theory and theories of motivation in learning, such as Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design.

The world of online learning and professional development is constantly evolving as new technologies and instructional methods are paired together. Learning how to use these best so they benefit teachers and young students is something I am passionate about. My motto: Learning should be fun, inspiring and effective, no matter what the topic may be.

Sample Publications


Neesen, K. 2009. Exploring the Online Gaming Preferences of Pre-teen Girls. (Dissertation). University of Virginia, 209 pages.

Neesen, K., Kinzie, M., Whitaker, S., Kelley, M., Matera, M., Hall, A., Funk, G., Pianta, B.C., (2005, October). Collaborative Video Production Creating Web-based Video at Scale for Teacher Professional Development.  Paper presented at the annual E-Learn conference, Vancouver.

Kinzie, M.B., Whitaker, S. D., Neesen, K., Kelley, M., Matera, M. & Pianta, R. C.  (2006).  Innovative web-based professional development for teachers of at-risk preschool children.  Educational Technology & Society, Vol. 9, Issue 4, p. 194-204

Wu, Zhen., Cohoon, Joanne., Neesen, Kathy. (2006). Action and Intention: Considering the Relationship Between Educational Software and Gendered Career Interests. Paper presented at the 36th ASEE/IEEE Frontier in Education Conference. October, San Diego, CA.

    Research Interests


    • Games and learning
    • Educational game design
    • User interface design
    • Online learning
    • Web-based professional development