Currently there are six main streams of research programs in our lab.

woman standing in front of children

Motivation and Engagement

Elementary, Middle, and High School

The major emphasis of this research theme is to:

  • develop reliable and valid measures of student engagement on both school and subject domain levels (e.g., math and science classes);
  • identify developmental trajectories and patterns of student engagement from elementary to high school;
  • examine which and how classroom climate, parent socialization, and peer motivation promote or undermine student engagement and how student engagement predicts academic and emotional functioning, and;
  • identify the contextual and psychological factors leading to STEM career interests and choices.
three people sitting in front of table laughing together

Social, Emotional, & Behavioral Development

Elementary, Middle, and High School

The main emphasis of this research theme is to investigate:

  • the independent and conjoint effects of multiple ecological systems (e.g., family, school, and peer) on the risky behaviors, developmental competences, and socioemotional wellbeing of children and youth, particularly from low-income and minority backgrounds;
  • the impact of school transitions on child and adolescent behavioral and psychological adjustment, and;
  • the developmental impact of school- and family-based interventions targeting child and adolescent academic skills, as well as developmental problems (e.g., substance use, depression).
boy writing on printer paper near girl

Racial and Gender Stigma Experiences, Identity Development, & Academic and Socioemotional Development

Middle and High School

This project aims to examine:

  • the impact of racial and gender stigma experiences and social agents’ (e.g., parents, teachers, peers) beliefs on the development of racial, gender, and academic identity for minority students;
  • whether racial and gender identities among minority students can serve as protective factors against the effects of stigma experiences on academic and socioemotional development;
  • whether racially distinct parenting practices and the quality of teacher-student relationships moderate the impact of stigma experiences on academic and socioemotional development.
principal door sign

School to Prison Pipeline

Elementary, Middle, and High School

In order to understand the impact and fairness of school disciplinary practices, this project will:

  • review the historical background, current status, and concerns about exclusionary discipline practices in Western countries, with special attention to demographic disparity in these disciplinary practices;
  • examine the evidence on the sociocultural, contextual, and psychological factors that contribute to the demographic discipline gap;
  • identify alternatives to school suspension and assess relevant research to gauge the potential of each for addressing issues of inequity in these disciplinary tools;
  • conclude with implications for future research of this disproportionality, and recommendations for policy and practice to better respond to social and educational inequity.
Student Team Meeting At Table

Using Psychosocial Approaches to Promote African American Adolescents' STEM Identities and Persistence

Middle and High School

Efforts to broaden participation in STEM careers have been hampered by racial disparities in STEM preparation and achievement that arise in middle school. The present study aims to address racial disparities with African American middle school students by synthesizing different promising psychological interventions (e.g., growth mindset, self-affirmation) in both middle school and college settings for promoting STEM identities, motivation, and performance.  Specifically, we will:

  • explore and understand the development of STEM identities and persistence in African American participants of college STEM intervention programs;
  • design and implement psychosocial intervention programs for African American adolescents in middle and high school, and evaluate their additive and interactive impacts on STEM self-efficacy, identities, persistence, and achievement.
Man Standing Beside His Wife Teaching Their Child How to Ride Bicycle

Not Just Developmentally Appropriate But Also Culturally Responsive Parenting for African Americans

Middle and High School

This project seeks to establish a developmentally appropriate, culturally distinctive parenting framework for African American adolescents.  Specifically, we will:

  • identify developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive parenting practices that are particularly effective in advancing the academic performance of African American adolescents;
  • develop an overarching conceptual model for African American parenting in adolescence;
  • develop and validate psychometrically sound instruments that will enable researchers and practitioners to better assess unique dimensions of parenting in African American families;
  • identify trajectories and patterns of parenting in African American families and their long-term effects during the middle and high school years.