Prior to coming to Temple, Dr. James P. Byrnes held academic appointments at the University of Michigan and University of Maryland. He is a fellow of Division 15 (Educational Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, has served as vice president of the Jean Piaget Society, and served as associate editor of the Journal of Cognition and Development. Dr. Byrnes has published over 80 articles, books, and chapters on several different areas of cognitive development, but is particularly interested in mathematics learning, academic achievement, adolescent risk-taking, and critical thinking. He has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Education. He has received awards for his teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students. His most recent work has focused on developing and testing a comprehensive model of academic achievement called the opportunity-propensity framework. It is designed to identify the factors responsible for racial and economic achievement gaps in order to provide insight into how to close these gaps using more effective forms of intervention.

Research Interests

  • Cognitive Processes/Development
  • Mathematics Education
  • Problem Solving

Courses Taught




EDUC 0819

Tweens and Teens


EDUC 2109

Adolescent Development for Educators


EDUC 5402

Child and Adol Develop


EDUC 8404

Quantitative Analysis, Part I


Selected Publications


  • Miller-Cotto, D. & Byrnes, J.P. (2020). What's the best way to characterize the relationship between working memory and achievement?: An initial examination of competing theories. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(5), pp. 1074-1084. doi: 10.1037/edu0000395

  • Byrnes, J.P. (2020). The potential utility of an opportunity-propensity framework for understanding individual and group differences in developmental outcomes: A retrospective progress report. Developmental Review, 56. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2020.100911

  • Byrnes, J.P., Wang, A., & Miller-Cotto, D. (2019). Children as mediators of their own cognitive development in kindergarten. Cognitive Development, 50, pp. 80-97. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2019.03.003

  • Byrnes, J.P., Miller-Cotto, D., & Wang, A.H. (2018). Children as mediators of their own cognitive development: The case of learning science in kindergarten and first grade. Journal of Cognition and Development, 19(3), pp. 248-277. doi: 10.1080/15248372.2018.1470975

  • Miller-Cotto, D. & Byrnes, J.P. (2016). Ethnic/racial identity and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review. Developmental Review, 41, pp. 51-70. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2016.06.003

  • Wang, A.H., Firmender, J.M., Power, J.R., & Byrnes, J.P. (2016). Understanding the Program Effectiveness of Early Mathematics Interventions for Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Environments: A Meta-Analytic Review. Early Education and Development, 27(5), pp. 692-713. doi: 10.1080/10409289.2016.1116343

  • Byrnes, J.P. & Miller-Cotto, D. (2016). The growth of mathematics and reading skills in segregated and diverse schools: An opportunity-propensity analysis of a national database. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 46, pp. 34-51. doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2016.04.002

  • Byrnes, J.P. (2016). Piaget’s cognitive-developmental theory. In The Curated Reference Collection in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology (pp. 543-552). doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.23519-0

  • Byrnes, J.P. & Vu, L.T. (2015). Educational neuroscience: Definitional, methodological, and interpretive issues. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 6(3), pp. 221-234. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1345