Projects

With collaboration being a key element of any successful team venture, it seems fitting to highlight the exciting interdisciplinary projects currently happening at the Motivation Center. Each research study is led by one or more of the center’s core faculty members, many even involving researchers outside of the center itself. Additionally, each collaborative study ties in directly with the center’s mission and focus areas touching on topics like psychosocial intervention, culturally responsive teaching practices, STEM engagement and learning for African Americans, school discipline, motivation, and mindfulness strategies. Not only do these projects reflect the center’s greatest strength—its diversity—, but also the contributions that the work of the center will make to the field of educational research.”

Research has found the relationship between family involvement and academic achievement in the middle school years to be non-significant or even negative and some developmental research has demonstrated that the level and effectiveness of family involvement declines between elementary and middle school. These discrepant and counter intuitive findings, however, likely result from inconsistent measurement, and an accompanying lack of understanding of developmentally appropriate strategies for family involvement.
Motivation for math classes and/or activities is important because it is vital to educational success, and students’ selection of college majors and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM careers are growing and offer excellent opportunities for youth. Currently, however, the number of students choosing STEM careers does not meet our nation’s demand for success in the global marketplace.  Understanding best practices to support student motivation for math is a pressing need.
Dr. Wang works to develop scales measuring Math Engagement, Science Engagement, and School Engagement and continued research to promote secondary students' STEM learning and engagement and School engagement. Enhancing student engagement has been identified as key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student boredom, alienation, and high dropout rates. Every school day, about 7,000 high school students decide to drop out, resulting in a total of 1.2 million dropouts each year. This research works to develop reliable measures of student engagement and to examine factors that lead to increased student engagement in Math, Science, and School contexts.
Dr. Nokes-Malach will serve as a faculty mentor for graduate student Cristina Zepeda’s proposed study in which they will examine the roles achievement goal motivation and metacognitive monitoring play in students’ development of understanding and transfer
Dr. Galla and his research team plan to carry out a two-year research program to study mindfulness-based strategies for fostering academic diligence in high school students. 
Drs. Huguley and Wang are collaborating on a two-phase research project to address the rising problem of racial disproportionality in school discipline. Across the country, many students--a high number of them students of color--are experiencing a phenomena called the "School-to-Prison Pipeline" wherein zero-tolerance discipline policies bring adolescents into close contact with the criminal justice system early on.
Dr. Page has proposed a project to help improve school attendance for young students. Dr. Page's project will involve a two-way text messaging system to improve communication between schools and families and encourage school attendance.
Drs. Wang, Huguley, and Binning are collaborating on a pilot project to promote secondary African American students' STEM learning and engagement. Nationally, our country is experiencing a shortage of workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and this is especially true for African Americans.
The project proposed by Drs. Wanless, Huguley, and Wang aims to examine how early childhood educators can create psychologically safe spaces for learning by explicitly acknowledging and valuing race in the earliest years of school.
Dr. Binning is collaborating with Dr. Nancy Kauffman, an instructor in the Department of Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, on a research project that aims to improve undergraduate students' performance in Biology.