Michelle Drefs

Director of Training

Associate Professor, PhD, RPsyc

PhD - Human Development and Learning

University of Calgary

MSc - School Psychology

University of Calgary

BA/BEd - Early Childhood Education Specialization

University of Lethbridge

Contact information


Office: 403.220.3675


Main Campus : EDT534

Research and Scholarly Activity

Research areas

  • Early childhood education
  • Intergenerational studies
  • Bereavement
  • Interprofessional practice
  • Early mathematics development
  • Spatial cognition


Dr. Drefs has a particular passion for research focused on early childhood populations.  Her current research interests include: (a) improving student early math achievement through targeting number sense and spatial cognition, and (b) improving interdisciplinary practices.  Her current research projects involving collaborations with professionals in the fields of education, social work, and medicine.

Beginning in fall 2020, Dr. Drefs' research program will be transitioning to: (a) improving outcomes for early childhood and elderly populations through intergenerational programming, and (b) thanatology (i.e, the study of death, dying, and bereavement) with young children.

Current Projects:

Conformity in diagnostic decision-making (Principle Investigator). Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant.  

Exploring the spatial component of mathematics difficulties: Linking specific cognitive characteristics to intervention approaches (Principle Investigator). University of Calgary Research Grant (URGC).

Theoretical Orientations:

  • developmental
  • biopsychosocial 


Dr. Michelle Drefs earned her PhD in Human Development and Learning and MSc in School Psychology from the University of Calgary. She also holds a specialization in Early Childhood Education from the University of Lethbridge. Michelle has 8 years of field experience as a school psychologist, serving as an Educational Consultant with Golden Hills School Division from 1999 to 2006. From 2006 to 2012, Dr. Drefs served the as the Academic Coordinator for the online MEd in School and Applied Child Psychology program and was instrumental in its initial development; and, she also served as the Director of Training for the School and Applied Child Psychology program from 2014-2020. 

In addition to her background in school psychology, Michelle is an experienced educator with 6 years teaching experience at the kindergarten and elementary levels—with the majority of her teaching career working primarily with First Nation students. Dr. Drefs is a Registered Psychologist in Alberta.

Dr. Drefs is currently on sabbatical for the 2020-21 academic year, but will be accepting new students for the 2021-22 academic year.

Professional & Community Affiliations

Dr. Drefs is a member of the Standards Review Committee with the Canadian Psychological Association and on the editorial board for the Canadian Journal of School Psychology.  Additionally, she has served as a Board Member with the Psychologists Association of Alberta (2013- 2017), PACE Kids (2007-2009), and the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing-Alberta (2007-2008).


(Select) Articles:


  • Schroeder, M. A., Drefs, M. A., & Zwiers, M. (2020) Comparing math LD diagnostic rates obtained using LDAC and DSM-5 criteria: Implications for the field. Canadian Journal of School Psychology. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0829573520915366
  • Davis, B., Towers, J., Chapman, O., Drefs, M., & Friesen, S. (2019). Exploring the relationship between mathematics teachers’ implicit associations and their enacted practices. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education.   doi: 10.1007/s10857-019-09430-7
  • Schroeder, M., Drefs, M. A., Cormier, D. (2017). The messiness of LD identification: Contributions of diagnostic criteria and clinical judgement. Canadian Psychology, 58, 218-227.
  • Francis, K., Bruce, C., Davis, B., Drefs, M., Hallowell, D., Hawes, Z., McGarvey, L., Moss, J., Mulligan, J., Okamoto, Y., Sinclair, N., Whiteley, W., & Woolcott, G. (2017).  Multidisciplinary perspectives on a video case of children designing and coding for robotics. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education. doi: 10.1080/14926156.2017.1297510
  • Fior, M., Andrews J., & Drefs, M. (2017) Promoting metacognition with early math learners. Canadian Journal for Teacher Research. Available at: http://www.teacherresearch.ca/blog/article/2017/05/28/323-promoting-metacognition-with-early-math-learners
  • Drefs, M., Crawford, S., & Winters, K. (2016). Math interventions that make sense. Psymposium, 26(2), 12-14.
  • Bruce, C. D., Davis, B., Sinclair, N., McGarvey, L., Hallowell, D., Drefs, M., Francis, K., Hawes, Z., Moss, J., Mulligan, J., Okamoto, Y, Whiteley, W., & Woolcott, G. (2016). Understanding gaps in research networks: Using “spatial reasoning” as a window into the importance of networked educational research. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 95,1-19. doi:10.1007/s10649-016-9743-2
  • Toll, C., Drefs, M., & Locke, J. (2016). Using student engagement to monitor the success of technology use in the inclusive classroom. Canadian Journal for Teacher Research. Available at: http://www.teacherresearch.ca/blog/article/2016/03/07/295-measuring-cognitive-engagement
  • Drefs, M. A., Schroeder, M., Hiebert, B., Panayotidis, E. L., Kerr, J., & Winters, K. (2015). Canadian innovation: A brief history of Canada’s first online school psychology graduate program. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 30(4), 288-303.
  • Schroeder, M., Drefs, M. A., Cairns, S., & Donley, K. (2015). Ethical and legal considerations of teaching psychology online. Education & Law, 24(2)79-94.
  • Beran, T. N., Drefs, M., Kaba, A., Al Baz, N., & Al Harbi, N. (2015). Conformity of responses among graduate student in an online environment. Internet and Higher Education, 25, 63-69.
  • Kubas, H. A., Schmid, A. D., Drefs, M. A., Poole, J. M., Holland, S., & Fiorello, C. (2014). Cognitive and academic profiles associated with math disabilities subtypes. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 20(1), 31-44.
  • Drefs, M., Schroeder, M., Hiebert, B., Panayotidis, L., Winters, K., & Kerr, J. (2015). Canadian Innovation: A brief history of Canada’s first online school psychology graduate program. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 30(4), 288-303.
  • Schroeder, M., Drefs, M. A., Cairns, S., & Donley, K. (2015). Ethical and legal considerations of teaching psychology online. Education & Law, 24(2)79-94.
  • Ryba, K. A., & Drefs, M. A. (2008). Dynamic distributed learning for graduate training in school psychology at the University of Calgary. Trainers’ Forum: Periodical of the Trainers of School Psychologists, 27(1), 19-23.


  • Drefs, M. A., & Wilcox, G. (in press). Cognitive and personality correlates of achievement. In B. J. Carducci (Editor-in-Chief) & A. Di Fabio, D. H. Saklofske, & C. Stough (Vol. Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of personality and individual differences: Vol. III. Personality processes and individual differences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Davis, B., Towers, J., Karpe, R., Drefs, M., Chapman, O., & Friesen, S. (2018). Steps toward a more inclusive math pedagogy.  In Kajander A., Holm J., & Chernoff E. (Eds.), Teaching and Learning Secondary School Mathematics. Advances in Mathematics Education. Springer, Cham.
  • Davis, B., Drefs, M. A., & Francis, K. (2015). Tracing the history of spatial cognition in mathematics. In B. Davis & Spatial Reasoning Group (Eds.). Spatial reasoning in the early years: Assertions, speculations, and principles (pp. 47-62). New York: Routledge.
  • Andrews, J., Drefs, M., Lupart, J., & Loreman, T. (2015). Foundations, principles, and student diversity. In J. Andrews & J. Lupart (Eds.), Diversity education: Understanding and addressing student diversity in Canadian schools (pp. 24-73). Scarborough, ON: Nelson.
  • Drefs, M.A., Beran, T., & Fior, M. (2013). Methods of assessing academic achievement. In D.H. Saklofske, C. R. Reynolds , & V. L. Schwean (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Child Psychological Assessment (pp. 562-585). New York: Oxford University Press.


  • Davis, B. & Spatial Reasoning Group. (2015). Spatial reasoning in the early years: Assertions, speculations, and principles. New York: Routledge.


 2018 University of Calgary GREAT Supervisor Award