Site Navigation

Detail Mentor Profile: LIZ SIMPSON

Graduate Institute for Transformative Learning


Liz Simpson 

Auburn University, Ph.D. 2000

Liz is a veteran educator who started her career over thirty years ago as a special education teacher. That experience taught her that all children are learning all the time. Perhaps not the same things and not at the same time, but all are learning all the time. Her experiences have taught her to study children while they are learning and you will learn how to help them when they are struggling. She returned to school 15 years ago to complete a doctorate in Educational Psychology. Her research is centered on how students learn using technology and video games and the nature of the student-teacher relationship in environments where the student is leading the learning. She is particularly interested in how teachers define their role and how to best prepare teachers to learn with the child. Her strength is in teaching human development, learning theory and pedagogy.


  • University of Wyoming, B.A. 1984


Main Interests/Focus Areas

Special Education/Support Education and Empowerment
Developmental Stages of Becoming a Teacher
Self Determination and Empowerment for all students
Equine Facilitated Learning
Learning in Technology-based environments

Dubois, Wyoming


SDGI Mentorships

PM 532 Exploring The Deep Structure of Pedagogy (3 credits)

Learners in this course engage in an introspective journey of our understanding of the notion of pedagogy and how pedagogy informs the teacher-student/learner relationship. Pedagogy is defined in various ways from the Greek origin of the word, which translates “to walk beside the child” to the more recent Webster’s definition, “the art of teaching.” Most of us come to this work as educators because we have a disposition to teach. But what do we mean by “teach” and how do we define ourselves as “teachers?” We examine the notion of pedagogy from the perspective of several foundational education pioneers, including Locke, Rousseau, Dewey, Kohlberg, Vygotsky, and Gagne. We identify our personal definition of pedagogy and how our understanding defines our relationship with our learners. We examine common archetypes of teachers as well as the spiritual component to teaching.

PM 533 Disability and Self-Determination (3 credits)

Learners in this course explore the construction of the concept of disability in relation to education in their own society, drawing from the literature which defines disability as being constructed personally, medically and/or socioculturally. For example, McDermott and Varenne explain that Learning Disability is not something we would recognize on our own; rather “it takes institutional collusion to validate our flaws against cultural norms.” We examine the research on the success of learning environments (home, school, community) that support self-determination and self-empowerment in contrast to learning environments that create learned helplessness. We examine the work of Agran, Wehmeyer, Deci and Ryan and others who have done extensive research in disability and self-determination to determine and identify best practices for learner autonomy and support for teachers and mentors working with students labeled as disabled.

Personal Statement

  • Horses are masters of attunement. Attunement means “to be in harmony with the other.” Find the place of harmony in your relationships and spend as much time there as possible.
  • You cannot make a 1500lb horse do anything! You can only ask and encourage. The same is true in all of your relationships.
  • Always be confident, compassionate, accepting, forgiving of yourself and others.
  • Be clear in your intentions. Most of your communication to your horse is non-verbal. Incongruence between what you are saying and what you are transmitting is unsettling.
  • Energy affects relationships. Your energy, both positive and negative, transfers to others affecting their behavioral, physical, social emotional and cognitive responses to you.
  • Each member of the herd has something to contribute to the welfare of the herd.
  • You are not automatically the herd leader. Leadership is mutually negotiated and agreed upon.
  • Practice negotiation. Negotiation is critical in order to create trust, respect and win-win outcomes.
  • Always collaborate. Collaboration is necessary for reaching mutual goals, for the horse it is survival. Collaboration means we are in this together and working together, we will emerge and transform, together.
  • Seek and create nourishing environments. Horses are situationally aware and are constantly reading the environment for clues to their safety and security. We do the same.
  • Enter relationships in peace and wonder. A horse will respond to a perceived threat with running away, aggression, avoidance or by shutting down, so will people.


  • What Horses Teach Us about Attunement and Intention- Webinar Nov. 2015
  • Webinar for Wyoming Parent Information Center “Self Determination: Help your Child be the Hero of Their Own Life Story” for Parents of Students with Disabilities. February and March 2016.


Publications/Presentations/Professional Projects

  • Simpson, E. (2014). Teaching Styles and Academic Achievement. National Association for Alternative Education. Atlanta, GA. March 2014.
  • Simpson, E., Scull, R. (2013). Curb Cuts for Online Courses: Accessibility by Design. WCET, Denver CO, Oct. 2013.
  • Simpson, E. (2013). How to use a video game in the classroom for learning. AERO, Long Island, NY. May 2013.
  • Simpson, E., Stansberry, S. (2008). Video games and teacher development: Bridging the gap in the classroom. In C. Miller (Ed.), Games: Purpose and Potential in Education, pp. 162-18 New York, Springer.
  • Simpson, E. Clem, F. (2008). Enriched learning with simulation video games. Connect: Technology Innovations in K-8 Science, Math & Technology, March/April 21(4).