Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin Madison (2014)
Calculated avoidance: Math anxiety predicts math avoidance in effort-based decision-making
2019; 5 (11): eaay1062
Math anxiety-negative feelings toward math-is hypothesized to be associated with the avoidance of math-related activities such as taking math courses and pursuing STEM careers. However, there is little experimental evidence for the math anxiety-avoidance link. Such evidence is important for formulating how to break this relationship. We hypothesize that math avoidance emerges when one perceives the costs of effortful math engagement to outweigh its benefits and that this perception depends on individual differences in math anxiety. To test this hypothesis, we developed an effort-based decision-making task in which participants chose between solving easy, low-reward problems and hard, high-reward problems in both math and nonmath contexts. Higher levels of math anxiety were associated with a tendency to select easier, low-reward problems over harder, high-reward math (but not word) problems. Addressing this robust math anxiety-avoidance link has the potential to increase interest and success in STEM fields.
View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aay1062
View details for Web of Science ID 000499736100092
View details for PubMedID 31799398
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6867883
Reappraising academic and social adversity improves middle school students' academic achievement, behavior, and well-being
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2019; 116 (33): 16286–91
The period of early adolescence is characterized by dramatic changes, simultaneously affecting physiological, psychological, social, and cognitive development. The physical transition from elementary to middle school can exacerbate the stress and adversity experienced during this critical life stage. Middle school students often struggle to find social and emotional support, and many students experience a decreased sense of belonging in school, diverting students from promising academic and career trajectories. Drawing on psychological insights for promoting belonging, we fielded a brief intervention designed to help students reappraise concerns about fitting in at the start of middle school as both temporary and normal. We conducted a district-wide double-blind experimental study of this approach with middle school students (n = 1,304). Compared with the control condition activities, the intervention reduced sixth-grade disciplinary incidents across the district by 34%, increased attendance by 12%, and reduced the number of failing grades by 18%. Differences in benefits across demographic groups were not statistically significant, but some impacts were descriptively larger for historically underserved minority students and boys. A mediational analysis suggested 80% of long-term intervention effects on students' grade point averages were accounted for by changes in students' attitudes and behaviors. These results demonstrate the long-term benefits of psychologically reappraising stressful experiences during critical transitions and the psychological and behavioral mechanisms that support them. Furthermore, this brief intervention is a highly cost-effective and scalable approach that schools may use to help address the troubling decline in positive attitudes and academic outcomes typically accompanying adolescence and the middle school transition.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1820317116
View details for Web of Science ID 000481404300028
View details for PubMedID 31358624
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6697885
Reducing socioeconomic disparities in the STEM pipeline through student emotion regulation.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Educational attainment is one lever that can increase opportunity for economically disadvantaged families-especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Unfortunately, students from lower-income backgrounds often perform poorly and fail high school STEM courses, which are a necessary step in pursuing fast-growing and lucrative STEM careers, graduating high school, and matriculating to college. We reasoned that, because high school STEM courses often use high-stakes tests to gauge performance, and such tests can be especially stressful for lower-income students, interventions that help students regulate their negative emotions during tests should reduce the achievement gap between higher- and lower-income students. In a large-scale (n = 1,175) field experiment conducted in ninth grade science classrooms, students were asked to complete a control exercise, or they were given the opportunity to complete an exercise to help them regulate their worries and reinterpret their anxious arousal before their tests. We found significant benefits of emotion regulation activities for lower-income students in terms of their science examination scores, science course passing rate, and students' attitudes toward examination stress, suggesting that students' emotions are one factor that impacts performance. For example, 39% of lower-income students failed the course in the control group compared with only 18% of students failing the course if they participated in the emotion regulation interventions-a reduction in course failure rate by half. Our work underscores the crucial importance of targeting students' emotions during impactful points in their academic trajectories for improving STEM preparedness and enhancing overall academic success.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1808589116
View details for PubMedID 30642965
Utility-value intervention with parents increases students' STEM preparation and career pursuit
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2017; 114 (5): 909–14
During high school, developing competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critically important as preparation to pursue STEM careers, yet students in the United States lag behind other countries, ranking 35th in mathematics and 27th in science achievement internationally. Given the importance of STEM careers as drivers of modern economies, this deficiency in preparation for STEM careers threatens the United States' continued economic progress. In the present study, we evaluated the long-term effects of a theory-based intervention designed to help parents convey the importance of mathematics and science courses to their high-school-aged children. A prior report on this intervention showed that it promoted STEM course-taking in high school; in the current follow-up study, we found that the intervention improved mathematics and science standardized test scores on a college preparatory examination (ACT) for adolescents by 12 percentile points. Greater high-school STEM preparation (STEM course-taking and ACT scores) was associated with increased STEM career pursuit (i.e., STEM career interest, the number of college STEM courses, and students' attitudes toward STEM) 5 y after the intervention. These results suggest that the intervention can affect STEM career pursuit indirectly by increasing high-school STEM preparation. This finding underscores the importance of targeting high-school STEM preparation to increase STEM career pursuit. Overall, these findings demonstrate that a motivational intervention with parents can have important effects on STEM preparation in high school, as well as downstream effects on STEM career pursuit 5 y later.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1607386114
View details for Web of Science ID 000393196300054
View details for PubMedID 28096393
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5293025
Disassociating the Relation Between Parents' Math Anxiety and Children's Math Achievement: Long-Term Effects of a Math App Intervention
JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL
2018; 147 (12): 1782–90
Although parents' fears and worries about math-termed math anxiety-are negatively associated with their children's math achievement in early elementary school, access to an educational math app that 1st-grade children and parents use together can ameliorate this relation. Here we show that children of higher-math-anxious parents learn less math during 1st-3rd grades, but this is not the case when families are given a math app (even after app use markedly decreases). Reducing the link between parents' math anxiety and their positive attitudes about math for their children helped to explain the sustained benefit of the math app. These findings indicate that interventions involving parents and children together can have powerful lasting effects on children's academic achievement and suggest that changes in parents' expectations for their children's potential for success in math, and the value they place on this success, play a role in these sustained effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
View details for DOI 10.1037/xge0000490
View details for Web of Science ID 000451776000002
View details for PubMedID 30284862
Self-Affirmation Effects Are Produced by School Context, Student Engagement With the Intervention, and Time: Lessons From a District-Wide Implementation
2018; 29 (11): 1773–84
Self-affirmation shows promise for reducing racial academic-achievement gaps; recently, however, mixed results have raised questions about the circumstances under which the self-affirmation intervention produces lasting benefits at scale. In this follow-up to the first district-wide scale-up of a self-affirmation intervention, we examined whether initial academic benefits in middle school carried over into high school, we tested for differential impacts moderated by school context, and we assessed the causal effects of student engagement with the self-affirming writing prompted by the intervention. Longitudinal results indicate that self-affirmation reduces the growth of the racial achievement gap by 50% across the high school transition ( N = 920). Additionally, impacts are greatest within school contexts that cued stronger identity threats for racial minority students, and student engagement is causally associated with benefits. Our results imply the potential for powerful, lasting academic impacts from self-affirmation interventions if implemented broadly; however, these effects will depend on both contextual and individual factors.
View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797618784016
View details for Web of Science ID 000450308600004
View details for PubMedID 30183515
Assessing malleable social-psychological academic attitudes in early adolescence.
Journal of school psychology
2018; 71: 57–71
Although it is important to accurately assess and promote student achievement, it is also critical to accurately assess and promote student social and emotional well-being and positive attitudes about school. Recent research has shown the promise of school-based interventions to improve certain student academic attitudes but has also raised concerns about a lack of reliable measures of these attitudes for early adolescents. We compiled the Malleable Social-Psychological Academic Attitudes (MSPAA) survey to measure school trust, social belonging, evaluation anxiety, self-complexity, locus of control, and identification with school. We adapted MSPAA measures to make them more appropriate for early adolescents in the school context, assessed the measurement properties of the MSPAA survey, and examined how student responses differed based on various demographic factors. We found that this brief survey reliably measured these constructs among early adolescents (N = 2158). Additionally, differences by grade level, school context, gender, and racial group revealed insightful patterns of variation that have implications for social and psychological theory, as well as for practices in schools. We close by suggesting further study of this survey for use among education researchers and within schools.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jsp.2018.10.004
View details for PubMedID 30463670
New Evidence on Self-Affirmation Effects and Theorized Sources of Heterogeneity From Large-Scale Replications
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
2017; 109 (3): 405–24
Brief, targeted self-affirmation writing exercises have recently been offered as a way to reduce racial achievement gaps, but evidence about their effects in educational settings is mixed, leaving ambiguity about the likely benefits of these strategies if implemented broadly. A key limitation in interpreting these mixed results is that they come from studies conducted by different research teams with different procedures in different settings; it is therefore impossible to isolate whether different effects are the result of theorized heterogeneity, unidentified moderators, or idiosyncratic features of the different studies. We addressed this limitation by conducting a well-powered replication of self-affirmation in a setting where a previous large-scale field experiment demonstrated significant positive impacts, using the same procedures. We found no evidence of effects in this replication study and estimates were precise enough to reject benefits larger than an effect size of 0.10. These null effects were significantly different from persistent benefits in the prior study in the same setting, and extensive testing revealed that currently theorized moderators of self-affirmation effects could not explain the difference. These results highlight the potential fragility of self-affirmation in educational settings when implemented widely and the need for new theory, measures, and evidence about the necessary conditions for self-affirmation success.
View details for DOI 10.1037/edu0000141
View details for Web of Science ID 000399094200007
View details for PubMedID 28450753
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5403146
- What if I can't? Success expectancies moderate the effects of utility value information on situational interest and performance MOTIVATION AND EMOTION 2015; 39 (1): 104–18
Helping Parents to Motivate Adolescents in Mathematics and Science: An Experimental Test of a Utility-Value Intervention
2012; 23 (8): 899–906
The pipeline toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) begins to leak in high school, when some students choose not to take advanced mathematics and science courses. We conducted a field experiment testing whether a theory-based intervention that was designed to help parents convey the importance of mathematics and science courses to their high school-aged children would lead them to take more mathematics and science courses in high school. The three-part intervention consisted of two brochures mailed to parents and a Web site, all highlighting the usefulness of STEM courses. This relatively simple intervention led students whose parents were in the experimental group to take, on average, nearly one semester more of science and mathematics in the last 2 years of high school, compared with the control group. Parents are an untapped resource for increasing STEM motivation in adolescents, and the results demonstrate that motivational theory can be applied to this important pipeline problem.
View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797611435530
View details for Web of Science ID 000314467000009
View details for PubMedID 22760887
- Is There a Home Choke in Decisive Playoff Basketball Games? JOURNAL OF APPLIED SPORT PSYCHOLOGY 2009; 21 (2): 148–62