I focus on the quantification of resilience, primarily vis-à-vis academic success. Therefore, my interest is on the presence and operationalization of resilience within a population that has already demonstrated some success and that is not necessarily from a severely disadvantaged background. To study resilience there, I typically ask for students to provide self reports on experiences (e.g., stressful events, deleterious situations) and beliefs (e.g., about themselves); I analyze the relationships between these with measures of academic success. Not surprisingly, the development and proofing of self-report instruments are key to my research here, and so far represent most of my work here. A paper I presented with Dr. Ada Woo at AERA in 2009 summarizes one of the gists of this line of research.
In close collaboration with a New York City-based charter school, Prof. Tournaki, our colleagues, and I are investigating the roles of executive functioning, persistence, and other similar factors that allow disadvantage adolescents to succeed academically. We have recently completed the second wave of data collection, and are currently using these data to advise the school and establish the best investment of our limited resources to most efficiently capitalize on this excellent opportunity to study the long-term interplay between protective factors and various intervention strategies among a large, diverse group of students.
Social Justice, Moral, and Prosocial Development
The investigations here are primarily among adolescents, and therefore focus on the development of morals, etc. in social terms. It is also mostly concerned with understanding the importance of the development of self-efficacy both in the navigation of choice between involvement versus non-involvement in perceived inequalities. To date, I have conducted this research entirely in the field, usually with after-school and community-based organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs and YWCAs/YMCAs.
The work I have done concerning children (roughly those who have not yet graduated to the middle grades) involves the role and influence of relationships with animals (and nature-oriented activities) in the development of empathy and prosocial behavior. It is therefore subsumed under my work related to animal welfare.
This is an exciting series of both clinical and research projects primarily centering around establishing a strong theoretical foundation for Animal-Assisted Interventions so that this diverse and quickly-growing field can develop in an organized way. Most of the work is lead by Drs. Meers and Ödberg. They have done an excellent job of bridging the often-wide gaps between the field’s researchers and practitioners to ensure safety; planful program creation and implementation; and valid, informative inquiry. Not surprisingly then, subsumed under our efforts are also evaluations of programs both in terms of their efficacy and their ability to maintain the welfare of all involved—especially for the animals employed.
Although the primary goal of this series of evaluations is to assess the effect of an integrated humane education lesson module on upper elementary students’ attitudes about animal welfare issues, we are also investigating the effects on students’ psycho-social development.
Modern (IRT) and Traditional Psychometrics
In addition to my work using traditional psychometrics to validate and explore the domains relevant to some of the above areas of research (especially those related to the Academic Resilience Inventory and the NSSQ), I’m working with Prof. Ira Bernstein and Dr. Ada Woo to better estimate the ability (theta) of takers of computer adaptive tests near the lower cut-off scores. This would allow quicker and more accurate judgments to be made about whether a test taker does indeed pass a test or not.