McConnell's research interests include anthropology and education, the anthropology of development, environmental anthropology, and the dynamics of social and cultural change in rural communities. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Japan, in western Kenya, and in Amish communities in the U.S. His current book project (with Lyn Loveless, Professor Emeritus of Biology) looks behind the popular image of the ecologically-conscious Amish and explores the complex and diverse ways the Amish engage with nature and the environment in their daily lives.
As a member of the faculty since 1992, McConnell is a leading authority on Amish society and education and has conducted extensive fieldwork in the Holmes County Settlement in Ohio and in Amish communities throughout the U.S. He has directed study abroad programs in East Africa since 2007 and is a co-founder and trustee of the Maragoli Community Development Foundation in western Kenya. He also teaches a regular course on Japanese society and has maintained a scholarly interest in East Asia for more than two decades.