2016 AERA Recap

In 2016 annual meeting of American Educational Research Association in Washington, D.C., MERG had several presentations and talks on motivation and education, including Dr. Patall’s Division C Early Career Award Lecture, The promise and peril of choice provision as a motivational strategy. The talk emphasized the importance of providing choices as an instructional practice with careful consideration of students’ individual differences and contextual background.

Also, here are some short words from MERG members about this year’s AERA:

  • Seo: “During this AERA, I loved being extremely motivated by all the inspiring motivation scholars including Erika’s.
  • Ariana: “This year at AERA I really enjoyed catching up with the other graduate students I have met through the Motivation SIG – all of us have pretty amazing post-docs lined up around the country!”
  • Jen: “I felt energized about research into the impact of teacher talk during classroom interaction, and I also enjoyed seeing the methods people are using to approach questions about emotions and motivation. It was also really fun to hang out with other grad students!”
  • Danika: “At AERA this year I saw several presentations that explored theoretical and conceptual issues using novel quantitative analyses–I enjoyed seeing this approach and learning about some methodologies and statistical techniques that are new to me.”


Seo wins COE Graduate Student Award

EunJin Seo received a research grant from the College of Education this spring for her research titled “Be careful what you wish for: Characteristics of students’ academic goals and their daily effort.” This is the second time in a row that a member of the Motivation and Education Research Group has received the award, with Ariana Vasquez receiving the award last year. For more information about Seo’s research project, visit the UT College of Education website here. Congratulations!

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Patall’s research in APA Monitor

Check out a recent article in the APA Monitor on Psychology, “Is homework a necessary evil?” The article cited Dr. Patall’s meta-analysis research on homework. Read the entire APA monitor article here and Dr. Patall’s original meta-analysis research here.

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AERA 2016 – D.C. Edition

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In AERA’s Centennial Year, the Annual Meeting will celebrate and reinvigorate the progressive aspirations that gave rise to our professional community in 1916: Hope and determination that research can strengthen public education, society’s most democratic institution.

MERG is excited to actively participate (see below) in the 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Hopefully we will see you there in April 8 – 12!

Patall, E. A. (April, 2016). Division C Early Career Award Address: The promise and peril of choice provision as a motivational strategy. Symposium to be conducted at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, D.C.

  • Time: Fri, April 8 – 2:15 to 3:45 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level Two, Room 207A

Steingut, R. R., Patall, E. A., & Vasquez, A. C. (April, 2016). Emotions in science class: Relations to expectancy and value and gender differences In M. Bleig (Chair), How do you feel about STEM? Spotting emotions within the expectancy-value framework. Symposium to be conducted at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, D.C.

  • Time: Sat, April 9 – 10:35 am to 12:05 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level One, Room 152B

Steingut, R. R., Patall, E. A., & Trimble, S. S. (April, 2016). Effects of rationale on motivation and performance: A meta­-analysis. Poster to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, DC.

  • Time: Mon, April 11 – 8:15 to 9:45 am
  • Location: Convention Center, Level Two, Exhibit Hall D

Maddocks, D. L. S. (April, 2016). Identifying gifted students with learning disabilities: Comparing controversial criteria. Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, D.C.

  • Time: Mon, April 11 – 4:05 to 5:35 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level One, Room 149A

Vasquez, A. C., Rohde, L. A., Fong, C. J., & Hatcher, M. (April, 2016) Enhancing teaching efficacy for graduate teaching assistants: Findings from a quasi-experimental evaluation. Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington D. C.

  • Time: Mon, April 11 – 4:05 to 5:35 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level Two, Exhibit Hall D Section B

Seo, E., Patall, E. A., Svinicki, M. (April, 2016). The effects of parental control on adolescents’ motivational outcomes. Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, D.C.

  • Time: Mon, April 11 – 4:05 to 6:05 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level Two, Room 209A

Osman, D. J., Warner, J., Maddocks, D. L. S., Gaines, R. E., & Schallert, D. L. April, 2016). The emotional underbelly of professional development: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives on teachers’ experiences during PD. Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, D.C.

  • Time: Tue, April 12 – 10:35 am to 12:05 pm
  • Location: Convention Center, Level One, Room 159A

MERG Spotlight: Molly

Here’s a spotlight on Molly, one of undergraduate research assistants of MERG!

MollyName: Molly Marek

Hometown: Boerne, TX

Favorite Food: Chips and guacamole

Favorite Movie:  Yikes! There are too many to choose from!

Favorite Show: How to Get Away with Murder


Q. What do you like best about the Motivation and Education Research Group (MERG)?

A. I like that everyone in MERG is so supportive. I feel like I have an entire lab full of mentors because everyone is so willing to answer my questions or give me advice and encouragement.

Q. How did you decide to work as a MERG undergraduate research assistant?

A. I plan on studying Educational Psychology in graduate school and what better way is there to learn more about the field than to dive right in? I also had previously met Erika when I invited her to be a guest speaker for the FIG I mentor and was very interested in her work.

Q. How did you decide on your current research interests?

A. I have always intended to combine my love of teaching with my fascination with psychology to study Educational Psychology but my current research interests in literacy and motivation stem from a combination of my experience with MERG and within my Professional Development Sequence. In addition to exploring motivation with MERG, I am currently studying Elementary Education and specializing in Literacy. In the past I have also dabbled in some areas of arts education including theatre and music.

Q. What do you love about the city of Austin?

A. I love that Austin is such an active city. I am always looking for a fun way to exercise and in Austin I have found everything from beautiful running and hiking trails to rooftop yoga sessions.

Q. Do you have any interesting or unusual hobbies?

A. I love to dance and take dance classes. I’ve taken your typical Zumba classes but I also like learning new styles of dance like Waltz, Swing, Salsa and Merengue.

Q. What was your proudest moment or greatest accomplishment?

A.  This past week I was able to present my research on children’s home singing modalities at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention in San Antonio. I was one of only two undergraduates selected to present at the largest music educators conference in the nation.

Welcome Spring Semester 2016!

Welcome back to school UT!

As the spring semester of 2016 begins I am reminded of how difficult it can be to meet new people, especially when walking into a new classroom and seeing no familiar faces. Getting to know new people can seem a little daunting.

Luckily, Lifehack has a popular list of 45 questions to ask to get to know someone that go beyond your basic, “Where are you from?” questions. However, since many of us here at the Motivation and Education Research Group (MERG) are busy students and we might not be in your classes we decided to do a virtual introduction.

Hopefully you enjoy getting to know these 2 MERGers; Ariana and Rebecca, a little better!

Ariana Vasquez: 6th year Doctoral Student

Would you rather . . .

Hike or bike?

Vacation in Hawaii or Alaska? And why?
Hawaii, because I love the warm ocean, the culture, and pineapple

Go to a comedy club or dance club?
Comedy club

Play dodgeball or kickball?

Win the lottery or find your perfect job?
Perfect job

What was your favorite activity in gym class?
This may sound odd, but in high school the gym coach for the girls was a competitive speed walker. We had a whole 6 week unit on speed walking. It was strange and wonderful and actually a lot of fun!

What does your perfect day look like?
A perfect day for me would involve waking up to go for a run outside in the early morning sunshine. Then, cooking a big breakfast with my boyfriend and drinking green tea. The afternoon would include some more outdoor time, such as going for a walk or hike. Just a peaceful and relaxing day sounds pretty perfect to me.

Rebecca Steingut: 5th year Doctoral Student

Would you rather. . .

Watch Star Wars or Start Trek?

Star Wars!

Crash with friends or stay in a hotel?

Crash with friends. I never get to spend enough time with friends. Staying at their house is a great way to spend quality time together. 

Wear jeans or chinos?

Jeans or shorts (it is usually warm enough in Austin)

Have a night out or evening in?

A night out!

If money were no object, what would you do all day?

Read, exercise, cook, teach, study, and collaborate

How would your friends describe you?

My friends would describe me as fun-loving and clumsy.

If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?

My art would address issues of identity, such as race, religion, and gender. 



Dr. Patall, Associate Professor

The Motivation and Education Research Group (MERG) is pleased to announce that Dr. Erika A. Patall has been promoted to Associate Professor at The University of Texas at Austin!



To highlight the occasion we asked Dr. Patall what she is looking forward to in 2016.

As we enter into 2016, what research project or idea are you most excited about?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we know about why students experience a decline in their motivation of all kinds from elementary to high school. Looking at my two young daughters who are both so excited about learning all kinds of knowledge and skills in school or at home, it is sad to think that by high school they will not have that same level of enthusiasm. Scholars have long speculated that the decline we see in students’ intrinsic motivation, engagement, self-efficacy and other motivation constructs is likely related to the instruction they receive at school, but the evidence for this proposition is rather scant. It seems very likely that teachers’ instruction becomes increasingly ill-suited to supporting students’ motivation as they move from elementary to high school. While students increasingly want more support for autonomy, competence, and relatedness as they enter adolescence, teachers may actually be using practices that do a poorer job of supporting those needs in high school relative to the practices used in younger grades. I’ve been wanting to dig into this issue for a couple years now and hopefully I’ll have the chance in 2016! The plan is to see if we can get a sense of whether this is happening through some secondary analysis of pre-existing large datasets and then use what we learn to develop new studies that will help pinpoint who and what to target in motivation-focused interventions. Fingers crossed that we find some grant funding to do this!

What is one of your big goals for 2016?

I can’t say I’ve set any “big goals” for 2016 (which may be all for the best as “big goals” can lead to big disappointment when they are inevitably not accomplished). But, I have a number of modest professional and personal goals I’d like to accomplish. I’d like 2016 to be the year that papers from our extensive autonomy support diary study with high school students and teachers get wrapped up. I’d like to get new funding in 2016 to do some of the projects I’ve been thinking about (like that previously described) but have yet to have a chance to do. I have a number of smaller projects on choosing or academic dishonesty that I’ve let go unfinished far too long – hopefully 2016 is a year I finish up those projects. I always want to see my students excelling with new papers and jobs. Hopefully that continues in 2016. Personally, my husband, Asa, and I have plans in 2016 to expand our tiny house in Austin to something that can accommodate our family of four. Keeping our sanity with that project will be a feat all on its own. Finally, I always have the goal of keeping a good balance between work and fun and family time. So, I look forward to a lot of good times with my family and friends in 2016.

Are there any new hobbies or experiences you are looking forward to this year?

In September 2015, Asa and I had a new baby girl, Cleo. Though Cleo is my second child, my first (Corinne) is already 6 years old and in kindergarten (how time does fly). It’s been a while since we had a baby, so, it feels pretty unfamiliar! Cleo is a little sweetheart and like every mom, I love to see all the new things she learns each day. I’m thrilled (along with Asa and Corinne) that 2016 will be filled with lots of baby smiles, coos, hugs, kicks, crawling, walking, and much more.


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