James Madison University

Psychological Sciences Students Present Research at NERA

All six Quantitative Psychology concentration students traveled to the Northeastern Educational Research Association (NERA) in October. In addition to attending professional workshops related to statistics, measurement, and assessment, the students interacted with leaders in the field and presented their own empirical research. These six Quant concentration students were among the over 30 JMU faculty, PhD students and alumni attending NERA (including JMU's President Alger).

PHOTO: JMU students and faculty

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

Quantitate Psychology Concentration Student* Paper Presentations:

*Harris, H. D., Mathers, C. E., Sauder, D. C., & Horst, S. J. An investigation of the dimensionality and measurement properties of the revised interpersonal and problem-solving scale.

PHOTO: Harris presentation

*Pyburn, E.M., Johnston, M., Horst, S.J., & Hathcoat, J. A psychometric evaluation of the Miami University Diversity Awareness Subscales.

*Pyburn, E.M., Horst, S.J., & Erbacher, M. International student success: An application of cluster analysis to predict GPA.

PHOTO: Presentation

*Pinder, K.E. & Bandalos, D. L. The effects of categorized data on coefficient alpha.
Sanders, C., *Miesen, C., & Hathcoat, J. Motivation filtering: A comparison of test-specific versus global measures of student effort.

*Sessoms, J.C. & Finney, S.J. Predicting change in examinee effort on low-stakes tests.

PHOTO: Presentation

Workshops by Quant Students, Faculty and Alumni: 

Erbacher, M. K. & *Swain, M. A hands-on introduction to R.

PHOTO: Matt Swain with Dr. Monica Erbacher
Quant alum Matt Swain with Dr. Monica Erbacher

Erbacher, M. K., *Harris, H. D., & *Pinder, K. E. Creating and maintaining a professional web presence.

Three Quantitative Psychology students provide their perspectives of NERA:

Thai Ong appreciated the opportunity to learn from and interact with leaders in the field:

As a first-time NERA attendee, the conference was ABSOLUTELY amazing. I truly enjoyed being able to talk to prominent researchers, attend multiple free workshops, and listen to presentations from acclaimed and brilliant leaders in the field of measurement and assessment. Not only did the conference provide me with an abundance of opportunities to network and further develop my academic interest, it gave me a new and fresh perspective on educational research and motivated me to a part of the movement. Moreover, it was also very inspiring to meet all of the alumni from the program and hear their success stories. I found all of the sessions at NERA to be greatly beneficial to me as both a student and a young researcher. I mean really… where else can you go to be in the same room with Michael Kane and hear him speak about validity? Only at NERA.

PHOTO: Thai Ong with Dr. Andrew Ho
Thai Ong with Dr. Andrew Ho from Harvard

Liz Pyburn valued the opportunity to present two empirical research papers at NERA:

A major focus of JMU’s quantitative psychology program is to improve students’ written and oral communication skills. One of the best ways to do this is to submit papers to present at professional conferences like NERA, which is extremely friendly to graduate students. I presented two papers at NERA this year, and the experience was invaluable. Not only was I appreciative of the opportunity to practice my oral communication skills in front of a professional audience, but I was also able to get verbal and written feedback from my session discussants that will help me improve my papers. Giving two talks in just a few days was a little stressful; however, I am glad I submitted both papers, as doing so gave me double the experience and double the opportunity to discuss my research with fellow professionals and academics. Such discussion is useful not only by giving me an opportunity to practice summarizing my work in a concise and understandable way, but it often results in suggestions for improvement or future research that I had not even considered.

Besides providing a chance to present research, attending conferences is a great way to gain experience networking and learning what work is being done by other colleagues in the field. The NERA conference provides opportunities to graduate students to do all of this, in addition to meeting and learning from leaders in the quantitative and educational psychology field. I was able to meet and attend talks given by people whose articles I have read many times, providing a rare opportunity to actively learn from research powerhouses like Drs. Michael Kane, Andrew Ho, and Steve Sireci. The NERA conference was a great experience, and I can’t wait to attend other conferences in the future!

PHOTO:Matt Swain, Liz Pyburn and Kelly Foelber
Matt Swain, Liz Pyburn and Kelly Foelber

Carolyn Miesen welcomed the supportive and encouraging atmosphere at NERA:

At first I felt overwhelmed by NERA. The high profile speakers and the impressive paper presentations made me very aware of how little I really knew about the field. I worried that I would not be able to contribute anything as meaningful as others. However, as the conference progressed I was encouraged by professionals who told me about their experience just starting out in grad school and who were happy to answer all of my questions about their research. I also began to feel closer to my colleagues who shared my nerves before presenting and excitement while participating in discussion. I have been to other conferences, but none made me feel as though the field was a community like NERA. By the end of the conference, I felt less intimidated and more inspired by its members and more affirmed in my sense of belonging to the field. Needless to say, I am looking forward to next year’s conference.

PHOTO:Carolyn Miesen, Courtney  Sanders and Thai Ong
Carolyn Miesen, Courtney Sanders and Thai Ong
PHOTO: Students with bus

The Psychological Sciences students and faculty thank Dr. Donna Sundre, Director of the Center for Assessment & Research Studies, for helping to support our travels to NERA.