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.