Ming-Te Wang, Associate Professor

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Contact

412-624-6945 mtwang@pitt.edu
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Biography

Dr. Ming-Te Wang received his doctorate in developmental psychology from Harvard University. Prior to entering graduate school, he was a school counselor in a rural middle school. A majority of the students were indigenous people, who often coped with alcohol-influenced homes and the crippling effects of poverty and discrimination. Promoting their motivation to learn and helping them to establish healthy self-identities and visions for the future were his priority and counseling code for them. This professional experience provided him with an insight into the complex web of psychological and contextual processes at play in child development. Since his graduate studies, his research interests have centered in the development and testing of broader theoretical models of the relationship between contextual and psychological factors and child development and using mixed methods designed to evaluate complex developmental pathways from childhood to adolescence.

Currently, his research focuses on three domains:

  1. The independent and conjoint effects of multiple ecological systems on children’s achievement motivation and engagement
  2. The impact of school climate, peer network, and family socialization on the behavioral, social, and emotional development of youth from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds
  3. The impact of school-based interventions targeting children’s academic skills and developmental problems

Dr. Wang’s work is noteworthy in that it emphasizes the interplay of developmental processes across both academic and social domains in children, and situates these processes within school, family, and community ecological contexts. In his free time Dr. Wang enjoys spending time with his family, running, camping, fishing, and hiking. Running has been on his daily agenda for more than 20 years, and he has developed into quite the running junkie because of it.

Dr. Ming-Te Wang believes it’s fun to work with people from different backgrounds. Bringing together economists, sociologists, and psychologists for the Motivation Center allows everybody to learn new things making it a platform for different people to come together, study a similar topic of interest, and collaborate on new projects. With a background in developmental psychology, Dr. Wang believes he has much to bring to the center. “I try to look at the motivation topic from a developmental perspective, but also from a cultural perspective.” He clarifies that the nature of motivation varies according to age, and this is where the developmental perspective comes in. For younger kids, Dr. Wang points out, “the focus should be to create a safe and enriching environment for them to explore things.” For older kids, on the other hand, Dr. Wang continues, the key is to “better engage them” and “help them have a more positive mindset when they experience failure.” Looking at motivation the same way for different kids is futile; it won’t work. Dr. Wang explains that kids have different needs. Older kids may need autonomy support, while younger kids may need a more structured environment to truly feel comfortable. The other focus of Dr. Wang’s research is culture and motivation. He explains that there are some universal principals that motivate kids, like making learning materials real-world. However, there are also certain learning theories that apply uniquely to different groups of people. For African American kids, for example, Dr. Wang states that “we want to account for the historical context that they’ve been experiencing, especially the racial stigma, which plays a huge role in their learning.” Currently, Dr. Wang is working on a project with Drs. Binning and Huguley using psychosocial approaches to develop an intervention for promoting African American kids’ persistence, engagement, and achievement in STEM learning. In addition to this, Dr. Wang is involved in a project with a local school district to help bridge the school to prison pipeline effect that is present due to a high rate of school suspensions. The unique bottom-up approach of the project is a means to change the school climate, look for alternative, positive disciplinary practices, and help the kids be better engaged and reduce suspensions. Dr. Wang’s vision for the center is simple: “to produce high quality research to advance the field of motivation.” For Dr. Wang, any good practice or intervention should build upon strong research evidence just as only good practice shapes high-quality research. “To bridge the gap between research and practice is never easy work,” Dr. Wang states, but the formation of the Motivation Center is a sure step in the right direction.

Accepting New Students: Yes

Grants:

  • September 2015: “Stigma, Identity, Motivation, and Achievement for African American Adolescents” Grant
  • July 2015 – June 2017: “Using Psychosocial Approaches to Promote African American Adolescents’ STEM Identities and Persistence” Grant
  • January 2015 – December 2015: “The Pathways to Educational Equality for Disadvantaged Groups in Pittsburgh” Grant
  • September 2014 – August 2015: “Black High-Achieving Adolescents in STEM fields: Developing the STEM Star Initiative.”
  • September 2013 – August 2016: “Assessing Student Engagement in Math and Science in Middle School: Classroom, Family, and Peer Effects on Engagement” Grant
  • March 2013 – August 2015: “Parent Socialization and School Engagement as a Mechanism of Resilience for Adolescent Development” Grant
  • January 2013 – December 2014: “Understanding Individual and Ethnic Differences in Educational and Developmental Pathways” Grant
  • September 2012 – August 2014: “Beyond Achievement: Understanding Female Interest in Science and Mathematics” Grant

Selected Publications

Wang, M. T., & Degol, J. (forthcoming). A Review of the Definition, Measurement, and Impact on Student Outcomes. Educational Psychology Review. Educational Psychology Review.
Hill, N. E., & Wang, M. T. (early view online). From middle school to college: Developing aspirations, promoting engagement, and indirect pathways from parenting to post high school enrollment. Developmental Psychology.
Wang, M. T., Degol, J., & Ye, F. (2015). Math achievement is important, but task values are critical, too: Examining the intellectual and motivational factors leading to gender disparities in STEM careers. Frontiers in Psychology.
Wang, M. T., & Eccles, J. S. (early view online). Multilevel predictors of math classroom climate: A comparison study of student and teacher perceptions. Journal of Research on Adolescence
Wang, M. T., Hill, N., & Hofkens, T (early view online). Parental involvement and African American and European American adolescents' academic, behavioral, and emotional development in secondary school. Child Development
Wang, M. T., Chow, A., *Hofkens, T., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2015). The trajectories of student emotional engagement and school burnout with academic and psychological development: Findings from Finnish adolescents. Learning and Instruction, 36, 57-65.
Wang, M. T., & Degol, J. (2014). Staying engaged: Knowledge and research needs in student engagement. Child Development Perspectives, 8, 137-143.
Wang, M. T., & Kenny, S. (2014). Longitudinal links between fathers' and mothers' harsh verbal discipline and adolescents' conduct problems and depressive symptoms. Child Development, 85, 908-923.