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Looking Back, Looking Forward: Reflections and Next Steps of a Recent Educational Psychology Graduate

Teresa and committee

Teresa Ober recently completed her degree in the Educational Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY, specializing in Learning, Development, and Instruction. In the process of completing her doctoral education, Teresa also completed a certificate in Instructional Technology and Pedagogy. Prior to studying at the Graduate Center, she received a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University and an M.A. in Cognitive Studies in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Since completing her degree, Teresa is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame working in the Psychological and Educational Measurement Lab, directed by Dr. Alison Cheng. Teresa is currently contributing to a project studying factors that influence high school students’ achievement in statistics courses, and whether an adaptive assessment of statistics knowledge can more accurately predict students’ knowledge of the subject matter.

Teresa Ober recently completed her degree in the Educational Psychology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY, specializing in Learning, Development, and Instruction. In the process of completing her doctoral education, Teresa also completed a certificate in Instructional Technology and Pedagogy. Prior to studying at the Graduate Center, she received a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University and an M.A. in Cognitive Studies in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Since completing her degree, Teresa is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame working in the Psychological and Educational Measurement Lab, directed by Dr. Alison Cheng. Teresa is currently contributing to a project studying factors that influence high school students’ achievement in statistics courses, and whether an adaptive assessment of statistics knowledge can more accurately predict students’ knowledge of the subject matter.

Teresa’s research interests include cognitive development and the emergence of language and literacy skills. Her dissertation involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of the associations between executive functions and the requisite literacy skill of decoding. Executive functions refer to a set of general cognitive skills which are involved in planning, initiating, and monitoring everyday cognitively demanding tasks. Decoding refers to the ability to associate speech sounds with parts of written language to read fluently. The findings from this study suggest that the associations between components of executive functions and decoding are robust, but vary depending on the aspect measured, as well as several key moderators (e.g., task stimuli, language background). Leading up to her dissertation work, Teresa conducted research examining associations between executive functions and literacy in adolescent students, many of whom were from inner-city middle and high schools. The findings from this study, recently published in Reading Psychology, indicated that certain executive function skills were both directly and indirectly associated with reading comprehension. This research led Teresa to become interested in exploring the associations between children’s attentional control and executive functions with respect to the development of communicative skills, and how factors of the child’s context influence this association. Such interest led to an interest in examining the role of sustained attention (a precursor of executive functions) in relation to children’s vocabulary knowledge development. Under the supervision of Dr. Patricia Brooks, this work looking at infant sustained attention has appeared in proceedings for the Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD) and a continuation of this work examining infant attention within the context of development risk factors will be presented at BUCLD in November 2019.

In addition to Teresa’s research on executive functions and academic skills, particularly literacy, she is also deeply interested in research that examines the effects of digital cognitive training interventions on the development of executive functions. Teresa has had the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary design and research team that develops and studies game-based cognitive skills interventions under the supervision of Dr. Bruce Homer, Dr. Jan Plass, as well as members of the ChILD Lab at the Graduate Center and the CREATE Lab of New York University. Some of this work has appeared in Mind, Brain, & Education, Computers & Education, Learning & Instruction, and Cognitive Development. Through this line of work, Teresa developed an interest in studying the impact of engagement within the context of these games.

While pursuing a course of research as a doctoral student, Teresa also gained experience in college teaching. Over the course of teaching multiple semesters at CUNY, Teresa gained a new-found appreciation for psychological content knowledge, This ultimately motivated her to be involved in organizations that aim to support the preparation new instructors for college teaching. Teresa previously served as the Chair of the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA), an entity of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP, Division 2 of the American Psychological Association). As member and Chair, Teresa helped organize workshops on teaching psychology and was an editor for the GSTA Blog, contributed to a handbook on the teaching of psychology, and is currently serving as a co-editor for a second volume of the handbook which is currently underway. Teresa also served as a peer mentor for the 2018 and 2019 Teach@CUNY Summer Institute, which consisted of an approximately week-long series of seminars and workshops designed to facilitate a dialogue around best practices for college teaching, and to prepare graduate students who were assigned to serve as instructors or teaching assistants for the first time. These opportunities provided a chance to reflect on and develop better and more effective approaches to teaching.

While pursuing a doctoral degree, Teresa also took part in service activities. Teresa has served as a Representative to the Doctoral and Graduate Students’ Council (DSC), fulfilling multiple leadership roles, including as the DSC Liaison to the University Faculty Senate and DSC Co-Chair for Communications, positions which required involvement in the community and and oversight of council affairs. Teresa has also been involvement in service extends beyond the college and university, as well. Teresa served as the administrative intern to the American Psychological Association United Nations Non-government Organization (APA at the UN/NGO), during which time, Teresa was involved in planning the annual Psychology Day at the UN conference. The APA at the UN/NGO has special affiliative status with the United Nations as a civil society NGO and is affiliated with the Office of International Affairs at the APA. These experiences offered opportunities to connect and share ideas to advance the impact of the field of psychology within a community of scholars and practitioners.

As far as future areas of research, Teresa would like to continue conducting research that touches on any of the following topics and themes that identify how: (1) the emergence of individual differences in language and literacy are related to associations between executive functions and reading skills; (2) factors of the home and school contexts impact children’s language and literacy development; (3) educational technologies and games can promote student engagement and learning; and (4) the scholarship of teaching and learning can inform better approaches to teaching. Having gained many insights about psychology and learning through past research, teaching, and service, Teresa hopes to continue conducting interdisciplinary research that combines concepts and methodologies from these four general strands of inquiry. 

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