James Madison University

Assessment & Measurement PhD and Psychological Sciences MA Students and Faculty Present and Receive Awards at NERA Conference

A total of 35 JMU graduate students, faculty, and alumni traveled to the Northeastern Educational Research Association’s (NERA) annual conference in October 2011. Of these, 6 current Assessment & Measurement PhD students, 5 Psychological Sciences MA students, and 7 faculty presented their research at NERA. Moreover, 12 alumni from the Assessment & Measurement PhD program (6 of whom are also alumni from the Psychological Sciences MA program) contributed to NERA as presenters, discussants, session chairs, and board members. Two of these alumni, Carol Barry, PhD, and Abby Lau, PhD, were the program chairs of the NERA conference this year.

NERA is an organization whose mission is to encourage and promote quality educational research and to create a venue for experienced and new researchers. http://www.nera-education.org/index.php

PHOTO: Group attending conference

Student Research Presentations


Barnes, S.5, Burchard, M., Peery, K., & Thelk, A.5 (2011, Oct).  Assessment practices: From teacher education to the classroom.Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Bashkov, B. M. 4, & Finney, S. J. 1 (2011, Oct). Is psychological entitlement really stable over time? An empirical investigation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Casto, K. 4, & Anderson, R. 1 (2011, Oct).  The use of generalizability theory in an investigation of engineering student's identification with their major. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Coleman, C.3, & Bandalos, D.1 (2011, Oct).  A (cautionary) tale of two testing sessions: Administration effects in educational research. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Fisher, R. Horst, M., Miller, B.J.5, & Horst, S. J.5  (2011, Oct). To serve and lead: Operationally defining servant leadership . Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Gerstner, J. J. 4, & Pastor, D. A. 1 (2011, Oct). A second look at the structural validity of the Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy: A replication. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Jurich, D. P. 2 & DeMars, C. E. 1 (2011, Oct). Classification accuracy of IRT models at small sample sizes: Exploring the role of model selection. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Koepfler, J. R. 2 & Jurich, D. P. 2 (2011, Oct). The effect of missing data on latent growth model parameter estimates. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Kopp, J. P. 2, & Finney, S. J.1 (2011, Oct). Building the nomological net of academic entitlement: Metacognition, help-seeking, and GPA. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Markle, R.5 & Roberts, R (2011, Oct).  Determinants of success in community college developmental education. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Marsh, K. R. 2, & Pastor, D. A. 1 (2011, Oct). Apathy or indecision: An examination of characteristics that influence endorsement of a midpoint response. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Ralws, A. & Barry, C. L.5 (2011, Oct).  An examination of PSAT/NMSQT and SAT trends and implications for policy makers.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association

Reshetar, R., Kaliski, P.5, & Chajewski, M. (2011, Oct). A Performance Level Descriptor (PLD) validation study for the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) Environmental Science Examination. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Samonte, K. M. 4, & Pastor D. A. 1 (2011, Oct). Continuous and categorical exploratory factor analyses of the Sense of Identity Scale. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Smiley, W.6 & Anderson, R.1 (2011, Oct). Assessment in higher education: The importance of cognitive engagement. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Waugh, T.4, & Anderson, R. 1 (2011, Oct).  Measuring learning in service learning: Examining the functionality of the Alternative Break Questionnaire. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Zilberberg, A. 2, Swerdzewski, P.5, Anderson, R. 1, Finney, S.J.1, & Marsh, K. 2 (2011, Oct).  Growing up with No Child Left Behind: Creating a measure of college students' knowledge of accountability testing in K-12. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

  • 1 Assessment and Measurement PhD and/or Psychological Sciences MA Faculty
  • 2 Psychological Sciences alum and current student in Assessment and Measurement PhD
  • 3 Current Assessment and Measurement PhD student
  • 4Current Psychological Sciences MA student
  • 5 Assessment & Measurement PhD Alum
  • 6 Psychological Sciences Alum

Invited Panels and Workshops:


Several faculty and alumni presented invited workshops and panels during the conference.

Fulcher, K.1 , Lau, A. 5 Miller. B. J. 5, Siegert, K. 5, Moore, D. & Sundre, D. L1 .  (2011, Oct). Assessment in higher education: For the good of society. Invited panel at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Pastor, D. A.1 & Finney, S. J.1 (2011, Oct.). Longitudinal modeling from two perspectives: SEM & HLM. Invited workshop presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Swerdzewski, P. 5, Lau, A. 5, Sukin, T., & Karpinski, A. (2011, Oct). Early careers in educational research.  Invited panel at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association.

Awards and Recognitions from NERA:


Jason Kopp, first-year doctoral student in the Assessment & Measurement PhD program, received The Best Paper by a Graduate Student Award for his paper:  "I can't believe she gave me a C!": Measuring entitlement in higher education (co-authors: Tracy E. Zinn. Sara J. Finney, and Daniel P. Jurich).

PHOTO: Jason Kopp

Sara J. Finney, Assessment & Measurement PhD faculty and Coordinator of the Quantitative Psychology Concentration of the Psychological Sciences MA program, received the Thomas F. Donlon Memorial Award for Distinguished Mentoring.

PHOTO: Group receiving award

Dena A. Pastor, Assessment & Measurement PhD and Psychological Sciences MA faculty member, was elected to the Board of Directors for NERA.

PHOTO: Dena Pastor

Several students offer their perspective of NERA.


Chris Coleman, a second-year doctoral student, had the following experience to share:

NERA is a terrific all-around conference. It’s relatively small (though growing), which makes it ideal for first-time conference attendees and for those who simply welcome a change from sprawling, urban mega-conferences. Despite its modest size, NERA always offers a multitude of sessions on a variety of topics ranging from the theoretical to the applied. For example, this year I attended sessions on validity theory, the Common Core State Standards (for K-12 assessment), and measurement/practical issues in large-scale testing. In addition to research paper/poster sessions, there are valuable workshops, mentoring sessions, working groups, keynote speeches, and social programming. The quality of the various activities is consistently excellent, and the “feel” of the conference is unusually relaxed, collegial, and supportive. As a result, NERA is a wonderful place to present one’s own work, particularly for less-experienced presenters. Also, you will never find a better venue for networking, even if the idea of practicing that skill intimidates you. Prominent researchers and practitioners abound, and because JMU has such a strong presence at NERA, there is always a faculty member/alum willing (and quite happy) to make introductions and facilitate conversations with the “big names,” who in turn are remarkably cordial and gracious. Finally, as a native New Englander, I have to add that traveling between JMU and NERA in October provides a wonderful opportunity to view some stunning fall foliage while reflecting on research ideas and professional development.

PHOTO: Chris Coleman

James Koepfler, a second-year doctoral student, appreciated the opportunity to present his work to scholars in the domain and interact with leaders in the field:

 The NERA conference provided me with an excellent opportunity to present my research on the effects of missing data on latent growth model estimates to other scholars from around the country. My session discussant Dr. Bruno Zumbo, a leader in the field of measurement and statistics, gave me rich personal feedback on both my presentation and my manuscript. He also challenged me and the other presenters to reflect on the fundamental theories and importance of applied statistical models at the end of our session. In addition, I learned about a wide array of quantitative research methods from the other presenters in my session. Overall, presenting research at NERA allowed me to connect with others in the field who shared similar interests as my own, and helped me obtain new perspectives on my research.

 Meeting leaders in the field of educational assessment and measurement was a unique experience afforded by an intimate conference like NERA. This opportunity was made possible by the strong relationships JMU’s faculty and alumni have made with educational leaders in both academia and private organizations. I had the privilege of meeting and having personal conversations with the conference President Thanos Patelis (Vice President of Analysis, Strategy, and Operations for the College Board’s Research and Development department); Kristen Huff (Senior Advisor for Educational Assessment to the NY State Department of Education; NY representative for the PARCC Common Core Assessment Consortium); and Bruno Zumbo (Professor, University of British Columbia). These conversations allowed me to develop relationships with educational leaders and allowed me to learn from their experiences with education policy and research.

PHOTO: James Koefler

Kelli Samonte, a second-year Psychological Sciences MA student, appreciated the free training sessions and graduate student programming offered as part of the NERA conference:

My experience at NERA was a remarkable time of learning and growth. The three-day conference was packed with sessions that helped to foster my professional development. The relatively small conference allowed for numerous interactions with influential leaders in the field in both formal and informal settings. The conference sessions ranged from introducing technical concepts to ones focused on graduate student development. The free training sessions were a great way to get an introduction to measurement and statistical techniques. That is, the training sessions allowed me to broaden my knowledge about my field of study and helped to perk my interests in new techniques.

The fact that there are several sessions designed to help foster and guide graduate students’ development makes the conference invaluable. One of these sessions had a panel of recent graduates who were willing to share their experiences in their current career and inform us about possible career paths. The field of applied measurement allows for numerous types of careers and it was tremendously helpful to learn how these graduates obtained their position, as well as what their day to day life is like. Ultimately, my experience at the conference is one that helped to foster both my academic and professional development.

PHOTO: Kelli Samonte

Kathleen Casto, a second-year Psychological Sciences MA student, spoke of the importance of NERA as an outlet for her research:

The exchange of knowledge gained from research is a fundamental aspect of the academic experience and a necessary step for the dissemination of science across disciplines.  Academic conferences create the best possible canvas for this type of forward progress.  As graduate students at JMU, we are fortunate enough to be part of a program that understands, supports, and encourages our involvement in these types of experiences that undoubtedly result in a more holistic academic identity.  One such opportunity is the Northeastern Education Research Association (NERA).  The collective attendance of many graduate students and professors from JMU’s Center for Assessment and Research Studies and beyond results in a supported opportunity for graduate students to learn, network, present our research, and gain interdisciplinary exposure.  Furthermore, this communal occasion offers valuable opportunities to engage in intra-department collaborations in which skills acquired through classroom education can be applied and further developed.  As such, one particularly indispensable part of the conference process for me was the chance to work with and learn from experienced professors in utilizing statistical methods in an applied setting, academic writing and interpretation of research findings, and preparation of a visual presentation of the experimental process and implications.  Consequently, this process has provided an essential experience for my continued education in addition to bolstering my self-efficacy to pursue a career in academia.

PHOTO: Kathleen Costo

The Assessment & Measurement and Psychological Sciences students and faculty thank Dean Reid Linn of The Graduate School, Dr. Donna Sundre, Director of the Center for Assessment & Research Studies, Dr. Robin Anderson, Director of the Department of Graduate Psychology, and Dr. Debbi Bandalos, Director of the Assessment & Measurement PhD program, for helping to support our travels to NERA. 

PHOTO: Group in front of bus