Zuchao "William" Shen


I earned my Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a focus on Quantitative and Mixed Methods from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to that, I completed my M.S. degree in Economics of Education at Peking University in Beijing, China, and obtained my B.A. in Educational Administration from Henan Normal University in Henan, China.

My primary research interest lies in developing innovative research methods and enhancing education systems for greater equality and efficiency. In the realm of quantitative methods, my research is dedicated to refining the design and analysis of causal studies through the development of frameworks and tools. This line of inquiry aims to facilitate the development of effective and efficient experimental studies in education and psychology, exploring intervention effectiveness, mechanisms, and conditions, particularly focusing on populations and contexts where intervention effects are most significant. My applied research focuses on evaluating the impact of educational systems on individuals across the lifespan, seeking to enhance equity and quality of life through systematic reforms.

In my teaching and mentoring roles, my objective is to inspire positive change in student learning and career development. I achieve this by employing active and experimental learning methods in my courses and engaging in collaborative research projects with students who share similar interests.

Beyond academia, I find joy in running, playing basketball, cooking, and engaging in carpentry work.

Areas of Expertise

  • Experimental Design
  • Statistics
  • Multilevel Modeling
  • Causal Inference
  • Moderation and Mediation


  • Educational Policy
  • School Psychology
  • Economics of Education
  • Artificial Intelligence



  •  Ph.D. in Quantitative and Mixed Methods, 2019
    University of Cincinnati


 Aderhold Hall, Remote (2023-2024). Meet for 30 minutes? Please schedule at https://doodle.com/bp/zuchaoshen/30min

Research Summary

Zuchao “William” Shen’s research centers on experimental design and causal inference to develop frameworks and tools for study design and analysis (in multilevel settings). This line of research develops the optimal sampling strategies for experimental studies investigating whether interventions work through main effect analyses, their mechanisms through mediation analyses, and for whom, where, and under what conditions intervention effects are most salient through moderation analyses. Zuchao “William” Shen’s research also includes statistical power, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, latent variable modeling, and their application in education, psychology, and health.


Optimal Design of Experimental Studies Investigating Moderation and Main Effects
8/1/2023– 7/31/2026
Experimental studies investigating moderation and main effects provide the source material for improving the quality of and equity in education by delineating the impact of an intervention, and the contexts, conditions, and sub-populations for which it is most effective. Despite sustained interest in experimental studies, the literature has not developed accessible optimal sampling strategies to help plan powerful and efficient designs to detect these effects. This project, sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, aims to develop a flexible optimal design framework so that we can design well-powered studies with minimal financial resources. Preliminary results show that the proposed framework can identify much more efficient or powerful designs when contrasted with conventional design frameworks. This project has the potential for broad impacts because it facilitates a fundamental shift in the principles and strategies of study design.


Representative Publications

Using ant colony optimization to identify optimal sample allocations in cluster-randomized trials
  • Shen, Z., Leite, W., Zhang, H., Quan, J., & Kuang, H. (2024)
  • The Journal of Experimental Education
Intraclass correlations for evaluating the effects of teacher empowerment programs on student educational outcomes
  • Shen, Z., Curran, C., You, Y., Splett, J., & Zhang, H. (2023)
  • Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 45(1), 134-156
Optimal sample allocation for three-level multisite cluster-randomized trials
  • Shen, Z., & Kelcey, B. (2022b)
  • Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 15(1), 130-150
Optimal sample allocation in multisite randomized trials
  • Shen, Z., & Kelcey, B. (2022a)
  • The Journal of Experimental Education, 90(3), 693-711
Optimal sample allocation under unequal costs in cluster-randomized trials
  • Shen, Z., & Kelcey, B. (2020)
  • Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 45(4), 446–474

Awards and Accolades

Early Career Award

Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), 2023

Early Career Award

American Educational Research Association (AERA), Division D, 2023

Outstanding Dissertation Award

American Educational Research Association (AERA), Division D, 2021

Researchers of Color Mentored Travel Award

Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE), 2021

NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

National Academy of Education (NAEd), 2018