Directory Page Title

Thomas W. Farmer

Professor and Associate Dean for Research

Office: 2121
Phone: (757) 221-1810
Email: [[twfarmer]]
Areas of Expertise: Rural Education, Professional Development Support in Low Resource Schools, Special Education Services, School Social Dynamics, Aggressive and Disruptive Behavior, Bullying Prevention


Tom Farmer is associate dean for research in the School of Education and director of the Rural School-Community Partnership Research Consortium. A former special education teacher-counselor and treatment foster-parent for children with emotional and behavioral disorders, he was trained as an applied developmental scientist. His research focuses on the interplay between the classroom social ecology and students' school adjustment and achievement. Building on a person-in-context theoretical framework and using social network and person-oriented analytic approaches, he has examined a range of topics including: adolescents’ aspirations and adaptation in rural schools and communities; professional development programs to support data driven practices in low resource schools; developmental pathways and prevention of bullying and school violence; the heterogeneity of aggression and popularity in childhood and adolescence; the management of classroom social dynamics; and the social inclusion of students with disabilities.

Dr. Farmer has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator of over 15 federally funded studies (Institute for Education Sciences, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Mental Health, Office of Special Education Programs) that focus on social processes, school adjustment, and patterns of behavioral adaptation. He directed the National Research Center on Rural Education Support, a research and development center funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. He also served as the Associate Director of the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he also supervised the Carolina Consortium on Human Development pre- and post-doctoral training program in developmental science. In addition, along with Karen Bierman, he founded and directed the Training Interdisciplinary Educational Scientists Program at Penn State.


Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with a focus in Special Education and Developmental Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1993
M.A. in Special Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1989
B.A. in Philosophy, College of William & Mary, 1983

Activities and Honors

Co-Editor, Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 2012 – present
Vice President, Division of Research, Council for Exceptional Children (2017-2018)

Selected Publications

Farmer, T. W., Dawes, M., Hamm, J. V., Lee, D., Mehtaji, M., Hoffman, A. S., & Brooks, D. S. (2017).  Classroom social dynamics management: Why the invisible hand of the teacher matters for special education.  Remedial & Special Education

Farmer T. W., Hamm J. V. (2016). Promoting supportive contexts for minority youth in low-resource rural communities: The SEALS model, directed consultation, and the scouting report approach. In Crockett L. J., Carlo G. (Eds.), Rural ethnic minority youth and families in the United States (pp. 247–265). Switzerland: Springer.

Farmer, T.W., Sutherland, K.S., Talbott, E., Brooks, D., Norwalk, K., & Huneke, M. (2016). Special educators as intervention specialists: Dynamic systems and the complexity of intensifying intervention for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 24, 173-186.

Irvin, M.J., Byun, S-Y., Meece, J. L., Reed, K. S., & Farmer, T. W. (2016). School characteristics and experiences of African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American youth in rural communities: Relation to educational aspirations. Peabody Journal of Education, 91, 176-202.  

Berry, A., Petrin, R., Graville, M., & Farmer, T., (2011). Issues in special education teacher recruitment, retention, and professional development: Considerations in supporting rural teachers. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30, 3-11. 

Farmer, T.W., Hamm, J.V., Leung, M-C., Lambert, K., & Gravelle, M. (2011). Early adolescent peer ecologies in rural communities: Bullying in schools that do and do not have a transition during the middle grades. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 1106-1117.

Farmer, T.W., Leung, M-C., Weiss, M.P., Irvin, M.J., Meece, J.L., & Hutchins, B.C. (2011).  The social network placement of rural high school students with disabilities: Centrality and peer affiliations. Exceptional Children, 78, 24-38.    

Petrin, R.A., Farmer, T.W., Meece, J.L., & Byun, S-Y. (2011). Interpersonal competence configurations, attachment to community, and residential aspirations of rural adolescents.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 1091-1105.

Farmer, T. W., Dadisman, K., Latendresse, S. J., Thompson, J., Irvin, M. J., & Zhang, L. (2006). Educating out and giving back: Adults’ conceptions of successful outcomes of African American high school students from impoverished rural communities. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 21(10).

Farmer, T. W., Estell, D. B., Bishop, J. L., O'Neal, K., & Cairns, B. D. (2003). Rejected bullies or popular leaders? The social relations of aggressive subtypes of rural African-American early adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 39, 992-1004.