In one line of inquiry, I examine the role of the early home environment on children’s later educational outcomes. Specifically, I examine whether parents’ and children’s use of spontaneous decontextualized speech between 14-58 months, including personal narrative and pretend, encourages them to bridge representations together using higher-order thinking (through the use of inferences, comparisons, abstractions, and hierarchies). I further examine whether use of higher-order thinking in these different speech contexts has downstream impacts on children’s formal higher-order thinking skills in grade school, including analogical reasoning and text-based inferencing ability. This project is conducted using data from the longitudinal Language Development Project at the University of Chicago, under the direction of Principal Investigators Susan Goldin-Meadow, Susan Levine, Lindsey Richland, and Stephen Raudenbush. Catherine Haden at Loyola University Chicago served as the outside reader for my dissertation. You may download my dissertation about this project here.
I also conduct research with the nonprofit organization Narrative 4, where I evaluate the effects of a storytelling intervention on high school students’ feelings of empathy and perceptions of their classroom climate. In the Story Exchange, students from the same classroom are randomly paired together, and share brief, true stories of personal experience with each other. After returning to the group, students take turns sharing these stories with the class, but students share their partner‘s story, in the first person. Thus, this activity uniquely combines two strategies that have been shown to impact empathetic feelings: opportunities to share stories of personal experience and encouragement to take on another’s perspective (Davis & Begovic, 2014). This project is conducted in collaboration with Comparative Human Development Ph.D. candidates Gabriel Velez and Tasneem Mandviwala, under the guidance of Professor Jennifer Kubota in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. This project has been supported by the Social Sciences Division Long-Term Research Grant, the Rynerson Research Fund from the Department of Comparative Human Development, the Emerging Leaders Summer Internship Program from the Social Sciences Division, and the Association for Psychological Science Student Research Award. More recently, in Fall 2018, we won a $10,000 research grant from the Hymen-Milgrom Supporting Organization’s initiative on Successful Pathways from School to Work. You can read more about our work with this organization here.
Finally, I examine how caregivers support their children’s attention to analogies and complex relations, by looking at how parents scaffold their children’s attention to relational information in a semi-structured book-reading task. This project is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Nina Simms at Northwestern University and Professor Lindsey Richland. Read our most recent paper on this work here, which examines relations between executive functions and analogical reasoning.