• Ph.D. 1996 – University of California at Berkeley. Educational Psychology and Human Development, emphasis in School Psychology
  • M.A. 1987 – University of San Francisco, Counseling (School, and Marriage and Family)
  • B.A. 1981 – San Francisco State University, Geography

Areas of Expertise

  • Coaching, Consultation and Professional Development
  • Implementation Science
  • Social Innovation Research Focusing on Promoting Children and Youth’s Wellness, Flourishing, and High Performance
  • Education in Informal Settings (e.g., Sports, Outward Bound, Parent Groups)
  • Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Steve Knotek is a psychologist trained as a practitioner and as a researcher in the areas of prevention, thriving and social innovation. His interests have been heavily influenced by his professional experience working with children, youth and families in formal and informal educational settings. Prior to becoming a professor he worked in a children’s museum, as a therapist for seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents in an inner-city community, and then finally as a psychologist serving minority students in underserved rural counties. This work highlighted for him the resilience and competence inherent in children and youth, their families, and their caregivers. As a museum educator he was privileged to see children learn to love the pursuit of knowledge by actively using the tools and methods of science to solve problems and understand nature. Working as a therapist highlighted the community and cultural wealth families possess and how they can use this wealth to navigate and succeed in demanding urban settings. Finally, as a school psychologist he was able to collaborate with professionals and parents who shared the same overarching goals for promoting the success of their students’ academic and social-emotional functioning in and outside of school settings.


Knotek’s research interests focus on the design and implementation of social innovations that promote child and youth’s development by enhancing the capacity of care providers (e.g., teachers, coaches, parents, school counselors and psychologists) to understand and meet students’ mental health and/or educational needs in school and community settings. He engages in social innovation research in two basic ways: (a) creating social emotional learning programs with content that targets high impact and malleable psychological (e.g., sense of self) and social (e.g., creating and maintaining positive relationships) factors to promote students’ thriving in school and community settings, and (b) developing an implementation coaching model to bridge the “science to service gap” and allow innovation adopter’s (e.g., teachers, coaches) to effectively use a newly acquired evidence-based program in their actual work setting. The following three examples of his work highlights these interests.

The Developing Collaboration and Consultation Skills (DCCS) program provides a collaboration framework and literacy curriculum in which ESL and classroom teachers use high-impact literacy strategies to support Latino kindergarten through second grade students’ literacy development in regular education classes (Babinski, Amendum, Knotek, Sánchez, & Malone, 2018). Knotek and his colleagues were awarded an IES Goal 3 efficacy grant to study the program’s outcomes.

SELF CARE is a Career and College Readiness (CCR) program being developed to support underserved first and second year college students. The goal is to increase the retention and graduation of students by providing a targeted thriving, resiliency, and cultural wealth skill-building curriculum that is facilitated in groups and led by community directors within students’ residence hall living communities. The innovation leverages residence hall’s underutilized capacity to serve as a developmental setting to support college students’ retention and graduation rates (Knotek et al, 2018).

Finally, he is developing a coaching model to support care providers’ effective implementation of evidence-based innovations. The coaching framework serves as a “competency driver” which is defined as the actions needed “to develop, improve, and sustain educator and administrator ability to put programs and innovations into practice, so students benefit” (Fixsen, Blase, Metz, & Van Dyke, 2013). This coaching process is driving the implementation and adoption of both the DCCS and SELF CARE programs.