Illinois' top-ranked Educational Psychology program offers a stimulating, research-oriented graduate experience. Our faculty members are widely recognized leaders for their innovative, cutting-edge research in a broad spectrum of specialty areas. Here are some of the publications that have come out of our research recently:

Child Development

Napolitano PictureFirst evidence for the backup plan paradox
Chris Napolitano & Alexandra Freund
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (in press)

When achieving a goal is uncertain, people often make backup plans, which we define as alternative means that are developed, but not initially used. Across five correlational and experimental studies, we show that the more people invest in their backup plans, the more likely it is that their “Plan A” fails (or is percieved to fail), and less likely it is that they achieve their goal. Future research tests this effect in the classroom and in other educational settings. 

Counseling Psychology

Photo of Professor Helen NevilleChanges in White college students’ color-blind racial ideology over four years: Do diversity experiences make a difference?
Helen Neville, V. Paul Poteat, Jioni Lewis, & Lisa Spanierman
Journal of Counseling Psychology
Vol. 61, pp. 179-190 

In this longitudinal study, we explored how White students’ (N = 857) color-blind racial ideology (CBRI; i.e., beliefs that serve to deny, minimize, and/or distort the existence of racism) changed over four years and the factors associated with these patterns of change. Findings suggested that close friendships with Black peers and greater diversity education experiences were related to significantly greater decreases in CBRI over time.  

Rounds, JamesThe Nature and Power of Interests
James Rounds and Rong Su
Current Directions in Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science
April 2014 vol. 23 no. 2 pp. 98-103

Despite their significance to both individuals and organizations, interests are often misunderstood, and their predictive power is often overlooked. In this article, we discuss the nature of interests, describe several key features of interests, and, contrary to the received knowledge of many, explain how interests can be used to predict career and educational choice, performance, and success.

Cognitive Science of Teaching & Learning (CSTL)

Christianson, KielLimits on lexical prediction during reading
Steven G. Luke & Kiel Christianson
Cognitive Psychology
2016, Vol. 88, pages 22-60

Efficient language processing may involve generating expectations about upcoming input. To investigate the extent to which prediction might facilitate reading, a large-scale survey provided cloze scores for all 2689 words in 55 different text passages. Highly predictable words were quite rare (5% of content words), and most words had a more-expected competitor. An eyetracking study showed sensitivity to cloze probability but no mis-prediction cost. Instead, the presence of a more-expected competitor was found to be facilitative in several measures. Further, semantic and morphosyntactic information was highly predictable even when word identity was not, and this information facilitated reading above and beyond the predictability of the full word form. The results are consistent with graded prediction but inconsistent with full lexical prediction. Implications for theories of prediction in language comprehension are discussed.

I "hear" what you are "saying": Auditory perceptual simulation reading speed and reading comprehension 
Peiyun Zhou & Kiel Christianson
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
2016, Vol. 69, No. 5, pages 972-995

Auditory perceptual simulation (APS) during silent reading refers to situations in which the reader actively simulates the voice of a character or other person depicted in a text. In three eye-tracking experiments, APS effects were investigated as people read utterances attributed to a native English speaker, a non-native English speaker, or no speaker at all. APS effects were measured via online eye movements and offline comprehension probes. Results demonstrated that inducing APS during silent reading resulted in observable differences in reading speed when readers simulated the speech of faster compared to slower speakers and compared to silent reading without APS. Social attitude survey results indicated that readers' attitudes towards the native and non-native speech did not consistently influence APS-related effects. APS of both native speech and non-native speech increased reading speed, facilitated deeper, less good-enough sentence processing, and improved comprehension compared to normal silent reading.

Photo of Professor Jennifer CromleyCoordinating multiple representations of polynomials: What do patterns in students' solution strategies reveal?
Zahner, Dai, Cromley, Wills, Booth, Shipley, & Stepnowski
Learning and Instruction
2017, Vol. 49, pp. 131-141
We investigate the strategies used by 64 advanced secondary mathematics students to identify whether a given pair of polynomial representations (graphs, tables, or equations) corresponded to the same function on an assessment of coordinating representations. Participants also completed assessments of domain-related knowledge and background skills. Cluster analysis of strategies by representation pair revealed patterns in the participants' strategy use. Two clusters were identifiable on tasks that required matching equations to graphs and graphs to tables. We identified overlap between these two clusters, suggesting that while the representation pair influenced strategy choice, there was also a general distinction between students who used more and less sophisticated strategies. However, students who used more sophisticated coordination strategies were similar to the others on measures of domain-specific knowledge or background skills. We consider implications for future investigations testing interventions to promote coordinating representations.

Relation of Spatial Skills to Calculus Proficiency A Brief Report
Cromley, Booth, Wills, Chang, Tran, Madeja, Shipley, & Zahner
Mathematical Thinking and Learning
2017, Vol. 19(1), pp. 55-68

Spatial skills have been shown in various longitudinal studies to be related to multiple science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) achievement and retention. The specific nature of this relation has been probed in only a few domains, and has rarely been investigated for calculus, a critical topic in preparing students for and in STEM majors and careers. We gathered data on paper-and-pencil measures of spatial skills (mental rotation, paper folding, and hidden figures); calculus proficiency (conceptual knowledge and released Advanced Placement [AP] calculus items); coordinating graph, table, and algebraic representations (coordinating multiple representations); and basic graph/table skills. Regression analyses suggest that mental rotation is the best of the spatial predictors for scores on released AP calculus exam questions (β = 0.21), but that spatial skills are not a significant predictor of calculus conceptual knowledge. Proficiency in coordinating multiple representations is also a significant predictor of both released AP calculus questions (β = 0.37) and calculus conceptual knowledge (β = 0.47). The spatial skills tapped by the measure for mental rotation may be similar to those required to engage in mental animation of typical explanations in AP textbooks and in AP class teaching as tested on the AP exam questions. Our measure for calculus conceptual knowledge, by contrast, did not require coordinating representations.

Anderson, RichardChildren's Productive Use of Academic Vocabulary
Ma, Zhang, Anderson, Morris, Nguyen-Jahiel, Miller, Jadallah, Sun, Lin, Scott, et cl.
Discourse Processes
2017, Volume 54, pp. 40-61

Instructional influences on productive use of academic vocabulary were investigated among 460 mostly African American and Latina/o fifth graders from 36 classrooms in eight public schools serving low-income families. Students received a six-week unit on wolf management involving collaborative group work (CG) or direct instruction (DI). The big question that students tried to answer during the unit was whether a community should be permitted to destroy a pack of wolves. In an individual oral interview about an analogue to the wolf question, whether whaling should be allowed, both CG and DI students used more general and domain-specific academic vocabulary from the Wolf Unit than uninstructed control students. CG students used more general academic vocabulary in the whale interview than DI students, and this was mediated by the CG students’ greater use of general academic vocabulary in classroom dialogue during the Wolf Unit. These results suggest that collaborative group work is an effective instructional approach to promote acquisition and productive use of academic vocabulary for children from underserved communities.

Instructional influences on English language learners’ story telling
Ma, Anderson, Lin, Zhang, Morris, Nguyen-Jahiel, Miller, Jadallah, et. al.
Learning and Instruction
2017, Vol. 49, pp. 64-80

The goal of this study was to evaluate instructional influences on the storytelling of English Language Learners (ELLs). Participants were 210 fifth-grade Spanish-speaking ELLs (mean age = 10.8) from schools serving low-income neighborhoods in the Midwest of the United States. They received a six-week socio-scientific unit involving collaborative group work or direct instruction, or were in control classes that continued regular instruction. In an essay to evaluate mastery of the instructional unit, students from collaborative groups produced significantly longer chains of reasoning (more chains with 5-8 links) than direct instruction students (more chains with 3 or 4 links), while control students were unable to display any extended reasoning. Following the unit, students individually told a story prompted by a wordless picture book to evaluate their oral English proficiency. The stories were coded for several features of basic language production, story completeness, and multi-link causal reasoning. The results indicated that students who received the socio-scientific unit told stories with more complicated syntax than the control students, while no difference in complexity of syntax was observed between students from the two instructional conditions. Stories told by students who had participated in collaborative groups contained significantly more elaboration of essential story elements than the stories produced by direct instruction students or control students. Students who had interacted in collaborative groups also generated significantly longer chains of reasoning (many 5-7 link chains) connecting story events than students in the other two conditions (mostly 1 or 2 link chains). The results suggest collaborative group work may be an effective instructional approach to foster ELLs’ communicative competence and causal reasoning. 

Emergent Leadership in Children s Cooperative Problem Solving Groups
Sun, Anderson, Perry, & Lin
Cognition & Instruction
Online Publication: April 21, 2017

Social skills involved in leadership were examined in a problem solving activity in which children worked in small groups and cooperatively searched for solutions to a spatial reasoning puzzle. Participants were 252 fifth-graders from four classes in a city in Mideast China. Prior to the cooperative problem solving activity, students from two classes had five concurrent, open-format, peer-managed, small-group discussions of stories while two control classes continued regular instruction. Results showed that students who had discussions produced significantly better problem solutions than comparable control peers and had more positive feelings toward the problem solving experience. Analysis of problem solving transcripts indicated that, compared with control students, discussion students initiated significantly more effective leadership moves, and significantly fewer ineffective leadership moves, including allocating tasks, proposing and justifying solutions, planning and organizing, and seeking group consensus. A mediation analysis suggested that it was because of effective leadership that groups who had experienced discussions achieved better problem solving solutions. A qualitative analysis identified attributes of effective leadership that included appropriate timing, open-mindedness, inclusive tone, and respectful attitude. 

Dan MorrowMemory and comprehension for health information among older adults: Distinguishing the effects of domain-general and domain-specific knowledge
Chin, Payne, Gao, Conner-Garcia, Graumlich, Murray, Morrow, & Stine-Morrow
Memory, Vol. 23, pp. 577-589

While there is evidence that knowledge influences understanding of health information, little is known about the processing mechanisms underlying this effect and its impact on memory. We investigated the impact of domain-general and health knowledge on how older adults with hypertension understand and remember the information they need to manage their illness.

Photo of Professor Dorothy Espelage

Social-Emotional Learning Program to Reduce Bullying, Fighting, and Victimization Among Middle School Students With Disabilities
Dorothy Espelage, Chad Rose, & Josh Polanin
Hammill Institute on Disabilities
DOI: 10.1177/0741932514564564

In this randomized clinical trial, students with disabilities who received three years of a social emotional learning (SEL) middle school curriculum demonstrated decreases in bully perpetration in comparison to students with disabilities who did not receive the curriculum.  SEL should be given to all students in middle schools.