James Madison University

NERA Reflections from Quant Students

JMU has a large presence at NERA (Northeast Educational Research Association)  – 15 Graduate Psychology students and five faculty members attended. To facilitate travel, the entire group took a JMU coach to the conference together. NERA has a large group of alumni and former faculty members who were involved in the conference, as well as researchers from all over the northeast, resulting in an abundance of networking and professional development activities.

PHOTO: NERA
Psychological Sciences graduate students and alums represent JMU at NERA in Trumbull, CT

PHOTO: NERA
Aaron Myers and Shane Kerr relax after presenting at NERA

Each Psychological Sciences graduate students’ experience at the NERA conference is provided below.

PHOTO: Chi-Hang Au

Chi Au is a first-year student in the Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA program. Chi presented research titled “A Multitrait–Multimethod Analysis of the Construct Validity of Ethical Reasoning.” The study attempted to demonstrate the application of a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) approach to evaluate evidence of convergent and divergent validity for the Ethical Reasoning Writing Rubric (ER-WR). Since ethical reasoning is defined as an applied form of critical thinking, results from the ER-WR are correlated with the Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) and the Dualism scale on the Scale of Intellectual Development (SID). Results from his study shows tentative evidence for construct validity for ER-WR.

As a result of researching this topic, Chi learned the basics of construct validation, theories of ethical reasoning, critical thinking, and intellectual development, and became exposed to new software and measurement techniques Added benefits include improved technical writing and practicing presentation skills.

Working on, and presenting, this research as a first year master’s student built Chi’s self-efficacy. He says, “Presenting a paper at NERA gave me the experience to practice and improve my verbal communication skills; which greatly benefited me and boosted my confidence as a budding researcher. It was satisfying to show the attendants what I know, what I have learned, and what I can do. It was a bit daunting at first but I have learned so much in the process not just about my research topic but also about myself. Had I not come to this conference, I would not have grasped certain strengths and weaknesses necessary for my professional growth.

He continues with more thoughts about the conference: “Saying that NERA is a graduate student-friendly conference is an understatement. There is so much opportunity and dedicated time to network and mingle. I was surprised at how responsive the people are to talk just about anything! The professionals working in the industry were opened to discuss the job market and environment. The faculties asked probing questions and provided different perspectives. The students were more than eager to network. I was also connected with a mentor that shared insights into the testing industry that painted a clear picture on the options and expectations in the field. I am incredibly grateful that this was my first conference in graduate school.


Au, C. B. & Ames, A. J. (2016, October). A Multitrait–Multimethod Analysis of the Construct Validity of Ethical Reasoning. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Northeastern Educational Research Association, Trumbull, CT.



PHOTO: Aaron Myers

Aaron Myers is a second-year student in the Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA program. At NERA, Aaron presented research on the development and evaluation of a test-anxiety scale for use in low-stakes testing contexts. CFA was used to examine the stability of the two-factor structure and reliability of the test anxiety scale across test instructions conditions intended to increase the relevance of a test to examinees.

Aaron states, “Having the opportunity to present this research in front of professionals and scholars in the educational, testing, and quantitative fields was invaluable. It provided me practice in condensing complicated and technical information into a succinct, yet thorough, presentation. Further, I received valuable feedback about my research project from a discussant and session attendees. NERA is a great conference where we have the opportunity to attend workshops, hear great keynote speakers, and attend paper presentations by well-known scholars in the field of educational testing and quantitative methodology. The relatively small conference setting was my favorite aspect about NERA. The small setting enabled me to network with researchers from academic and applied quantitative methodology fields.



Myers, A. J. & Finney, S. J. (2016, October). Investigating the dimensionality of examinee anxiety across test instruction conditions in a low-stakes testing context. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association, Trumbull, CT.



PHOTO: Shane Kerr

Shane Kerr, a first-year student in the Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA program, attended NERA for the exposure to cutting-edge research, professional development, and networking opportunities. He found ample opportunities to expand his knowledge of concepts through workshops and paper presentations. There was such a wide variety of topics being discussed which were relevant and intriguing that he had a difficult time deciding which sessions to go to! In addition to fantastic free workshops and paper sessions, there were multiple opportunities to network and become acquainted with individuals in the field of educational research.

In his own words, Shane describes the key highlights was, “having the opportunity to be paired with a mentor who is a psychometrician. My mentor was able to answer many of my questions about working as a quantitative psychologist and provided me with valuable advice about resumes, and key skills to develop.
The workshops allowed Shane exposure to useful methods and tools like data visualization using the software package R. He also participated in a workshop on writing a curriculum vita (CV) and cover letters.

Shane continues: “As a result of my experience at NERA I feel more connected to the research community. I have a stronger interest in learning about current challenges in both quantitative methods and educational research, as well as in interest in learning about the researchers who are trying to tackle them. I look forward to presenting my own research and being more involved in the research community.  During the conference I also feel like I gained some direction for a future career. Having the opportunity to be around interesting individuals involved in a multitude of different projects provided me with a new sense for the depth of our field. In all I left NERA with a new sense of direction for my career, interesting and applicable knowledge of current research, a better understanding of the challenges of disseminating research and an enhanced interest in being involved in the research community.


PHOTO: Derek Sauder

Derek Sauder is a second-year student in the Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA program. He presented a portion of his Master’s thesis at the Northeastern Educational Research Association (NERA) annual meeting on Friday, October 28. The presented research examines the performance of ten ANOVA post-hoc comparison procedures which are available in SPSS. The study investigated a variety of realistic data conditions to determine which post-hoc procedure performed best. Through a simulation study, initial findings indicate that only the tests created to control Type I error rate when group variances are unequal (e.g., Games-Howell, T3, Tamhane) managed to do so.

Besides presenting at NERA, Derek also had the opportunity to attend one of the pre-conference workshops on propensity score matching (PSM). He had no experience with PSM going into the workshop but left with a basic understanding of both the theory behind PSM and also how to apply it. The workshop was led by Dr. Jeanne Horst, an assistant professor in Graduate Psychology, and Heather Harris, a Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA alum.

The other conference sessions Derek attended covered a wide array of topics, but each was interesting in its own way and provided him with further research questions to ponder. Derek said that, “Overall, NERA was a wonderful conference that coupled stimulating sessions and keynotes with ample time to network and meet new people.”


Sauder, D. C. & DeMars, C. E. (2016, October). Type I Error Rates of Ten Post-hoc Comparison Procedures: A Simulation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Northeastern Educational Research Association, Trumbull, CT.