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.

Holiday Celebrations

The MERG gathered for the 6th annual holiday potluck at Dr. Patall’s house in December.

Wishing everyone a restful and productive winter break!




Congratulations, Dr. Fong on Div 15 Early Career Grant!

Recently, MERG alum Carlton Fong received the APA Division 15 Educational Psychology Early Career Grant for his meta-analytic work on community college students and psychosocial variables. Congratulations!

New article by Patall & Leach in Contemporary Educational Psychology

Erika Patall and MERG alum Jennifer Leach recently published an article entitled “The Role of Choice Provision in Academic Dishonesty” in Contemporary Educational Psychology. Here are the article highlights:

• Two experiments tested the effect of choice provision on cheating outcomes.

• Results confirmed that choice mitigates performance misreporting.

• Choice provided similar psychological benefits to having the opportunity to cheat.

• Choice affects anticipated cheating outcomes through opposing pathways.

• Choice effects operate via perceived competence/control and cheating opportunity.

See the article here.

Erika Patall wins AERA 2015 Division C Early Career Award!!!

At the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association in Chicago, IL, AERA Division C (Learning and Instruction) presented the Early Career Award to our very own Erika Patall! We are thrilled to have our advisor and lab manager win this prestigious award and accomplishment! Well-deserved!


We are so proud! Hook ‘Em!


Ariana wins COE Graduate Student Award

This spring, Ariana Vasquez was awarded a UT College of Education Graduate Student award for her research titled “Parental Control, Academic Achievement and Psychosocial Functioning: A Meta-Analysis of Research.” Read more about the award and her research here. Congratulations!



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