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Matthew L. Bernacki

Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology and Higher Education

Expertise: Data Analytics, Learning Technologies, Motivation, Personalization


Matthew Bernacki is an educational researcher who studies how people learn and design interventions to improve students’ motivation, learning behaviors, and achievement. He conducts experiments to test the impact that instructional interventions — such as teaching undergraduates learning strategies that apply to their science courses, and personalizing algebra problems to students’ interests — have on learning and achievement. He also uses logs of learner behavior and educational data mining approaches to predict achievement and customize support for UNLV undergraduates so they can avoid poor performances in challenging STEM courses. Before arriving to UNLV in 2013, Bernacki completed his doctoral work at Temple University and conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center and Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute.

Since coming to UNLV, Bernacki has pursued an agenda focused on improving STEM education in Nevada. He has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation to use “Learning Theory and Analytics as Guides to Improve Undergraduate STEM Education." With that support, he now collaborates with UNLV information technology experts and faculty in life sciences, engineering, math, and education to develop and deliver interventions to STEM undergraduate students in need of learning support. His interventions have improved achievement for students who aim to enter the Nevada STEM workforce, and with particularly strong effects for those least well-represented in STEM: first generation students and students from under-represented ethnic groups.

His “Science of Learning to Learn” intervention was awarded Provost’s Distinguished Contributor status at the 2017 UNLV Best Teaching and Learning Practices Expo, and his intervention that provides data-driven early alert messages to struggling STEM learners was selected for the 2016 Mission Award for Higher Education at the Government Summit of Splunk Inc., a  software platform used across industries for monitoring and securing data systems.

Bernacki’s other line of research, the personalization of math learning to K-12 students’ out-of-school interests, has earned scholarly and popular recognition. The theory paper he co-authored with Candace Walkington (Southern Methodist University, Texas) earned the Outstanding Author Contribution from the Emerald Literati Network in 2015 and early research findings from this program were featured in Education Week. References to the Bernacki’s methodological work assessing students’ motivation when learning with technology appear in Science. Bernacki has published 18 scholarly works to date, and in 2016 he received the College of Education’s Distinguished Research Award.


  • Ph.D., Educational Psychology, Temple University
  • M.S.W., Management & Planning, Temple University
  • M.S., Experimental Psychology, Saint Joseph's University

Matthew L. Bernacki In The News

Feb 27, 2018

College campuses are often a hotbed for innovation aimed at promoting student success. However, sometimes a simple text message is all it takes to point a struggling student in the right direction.

Dec 7, 2017

Higher education institutions aren’t shying away from revamping their IT and embracing new technology. A Unit4 survey found that 73 percent of universities have changed their organizational IT structure to support student success in the last two years.

Aug 22, 2017

As more states adopt funding formulas based on student performance — such as graduation rates and degrees awarded — higher education institutions are ­laser-focused on improving retention. Regardless of state policy, however, such strategies make fiscal sense: Enrolling a new student is more expensive than retaining a current one. To both control those costs and serve students more effectively, many institutions leverage data analytics.

Articles Featuring Matthew L. Bernacki

student Alexis Hilts and assistant professor Matt Bernacki
May 5, 2017

Undergrad Alexis Hilts will present her honors thesis at the American Psychological Association's national conference.

A high school student explores a project
May 2, 2017
Campus News

UNLV mines its own grade books to ensure students aren’t weeded out of STEM classes.

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