James Madison University

Three Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA Students Present Research at Three Separate Conferences

PHOTO: 2016 Student Presenters

Three Psychological Sciences Quant Concentration MA students recently presented their methodical and empirical research at three conferences, all with international attendees, showcasing the wide array of skills they possess, as well as the diverse experiences provided by the program. Each unique experience is highlighted below.

Aaron Myers, International Test Commission Conference

Aaron Myers recently traveled to the International Test Commission (ITC) Conference in Vancouver, Canada to present his first-year research project as part of an international symposium on examinee motivation in low-stakes testing contexts. Dr. Sara Finney is Aaron’s advisor and suggested he submit his work to the conference. The study examined the effect of manipulation of test instructions on examinee motivation and test performance. In addition to examining mean differences of importance, effort, and performance, using a structural equation modeling (SEM) moderated-mediation model, he and his coauthors examined if the indirect effect of perceived test importance on test performance via examinee effort was stable across test instruction conditions.
Aaron felt that having the opportunity to present this research in front of professionals and scholars in the educational, testing, and quantitative fields was invaluable. It provided him with practice condensing a wealth of complicated and technical information into a succinct, yet thorough, presentation. This enabled him to get valuable feedback about the research project from top scholars in attendance.
In his own words, he discusses the benefits from attending the ITC Conference:
“As far as the conference itself, aside from being in the wonderful city of Vancouver, it was great to hear keynote and paper presentations from many of the top scholars in the field of psychological and educational testing and quantitative methodology. Hearing about cutting-edge research and professional opportunities from these scholars helped me think of new research ideas and learn about numerous career options for the future. Despite all of the great aspects of the conference, the relatively small conference setting was my favorite. It enabled me to easily network with leading quantitative researchers in a relaxed and intimate setting. In addition, the small conference setting facilitated more chance encounters with the people I had previously met, constantly reminding me of what a welcoming and cohesive field we are part of. Moreover, getting to network at an international conference allowed me to gain new ideas and perspectives from scholars and professionals from around the world.”
Myers, A. J., Finney, S. J., & Mathers, C. E. (2016, July). A moderated mediation model of test importance, examinee effort, and test performance across test instruction conditions. Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the International Test Commission, Vancouver, Canada.

Catherine Mathers, International Meeting of the Psychometric Society

Catie Mathers attended the International Meeting of the Psychometric Society (IMPS) to present her first-year research project during the graduate student poster session. This poster session was attended by nearly all conference attendees, which allowed for considerable feedback and dialogue between professionals in academia, industry positions, government agencies, and graduate students like Catie. Several Assessment and Measurement doctoral students (Madison Holzman, Liz Pyburn, and Jessica Jacovidis) were also in attendance. The students and several faculty (Drs. Sara Finney, Allison Ames, and Jeanne Horst) rode together in a van to the conference, where they met up with Assessment and Measurement Dr. Debbi Bandalos. The trip to be an overwhelmingly positive experience, according to Catie:
 “I was overly nervous at the start of the session. Granted, it’s hard to stay calm when one is presenting on an applied structural equation model and [top in the field] Denny Borsboom is talking to the presenter two posters over.  Fortunately, the experience was both positive and fruitful. Several conference attendees were also doing work on test-anxiety in large-scale assessments and keen to share their findings with me; other scholars were intrigued by the subject due to their experiences as math educators.”
She was able to attend sessions on cutting edge methods (Bayesian SEM, IRT, equating), as well as have a little fun. She was able to talk to the upcoming, and established, minds in the field, but in a casual, welcoming environment. Catie elaborates below:
The first event on the agenda was the graduate student mixer at a downtown brewery. During the evening, the Psyc Science students met colleagues from UNC Greensboro, UMD College Park, Virginia Tech, and the University of Umea. Later in the week, the students had another networking opportunity in the form of a Psychometric Society Trivial Pursuit luncheon (unfortunately for my team, Underpowered was too aptly named). The conference committee also factored in a visit to the historic Biltmore Estate. This was the most amusing moment of the trip, as literal busloads of psychometric researchers wandered about the property with IMPS 2016 selfie sticks in hand!
In sum, IMPS 2016 was a headfirst dive into quantitative methods, but remained both unintimidating for, and relevant to, graduate students. The conference exposed me to new areas of research I expect to one day pursue and enabled me to connect with professionals across the globe.  I recommend that any student interested in quantitative psychology or educational measurement consider attending future IMPS meetings.”
Mathers, C.E., Finney, S.J., & Myers, A.J. (2016, July). How test instructions impact motivation and anxiety in low-stakes settings. Poster presented at the annual international meeting of the Psychometric Society, Asheville, NC.

Derek Sauder, National Council on Measurement in Education

Derek Sauder’s first year research centered on the Metropolis-Hastings Robbins-Monro (MH-RM) algorithm for estimating multidimensional item response theory (MIRT) models. MH-RM has advantages over traditional approaches (i.e. estimates MIRT models much more quickly). His simulation study examined when the traditional method and MH-RM produce different estimates, and which estimates contain less numerical bias.
Derek reflects below on his experiences:
The NCME conference was a wonderful experience. As a first year Master’s student, I hadn’t really been to many conferences yet, and NCME/AERA was by far the biggest one I think I will ever attend. The sheer number of people at the conferences was a bit mind-boggling. Despite that, I felt that my presentation was well-received and people interested in the topic specifically sought me out. There were several researchers that were doing similar (or in one case, pretty much the same) research that I was presenting, and I think that my work was informative for theirs in the future. I received several requests for my paper and lots of advice on how to proceed from where I was at. Overall, the opportunity to present at NCME has helped me to polish my research idea and given me direction for where to go next, in addition to contributing to the literature around my topic. Further, it helped me see the value to my research, connect it with others in the field, and begin networking with outside professionals and students.”
Sauder, D. C. & DeMars, C. (2016, April). Challenging Conditions for MML and MH-RM Estimation of Multidimensional IRT Models. National Council on Measurement in Education, Washington, D.C.