Assessment & Measurement and Psyc Sciences travel to the NERA conference

College of Health and Behavioral Studies

by Graduate Psychology

JMU students, faculty and alumni gather at the NERA Conference.

Students and faculty from the Quantitative Concentration of the Psychological Sciences MA program and the Assessment and Measurement PhD program recently traveled to the Annual Conference of the Northeastern Educational Research Association in Trumbull, Connecticut. Taking a JMU bus up to the conference, the group spent three full days presenting research, attending engaging workshops and sessions, meeting alumni of the two programs, and speaking with many professionals about internship and employment opportunities. Although there were many spirited experiences for the students and faculty, we highlight a few:

Mara McFadden (first year, Assessment and Measurement PhD) was awarded the GSIC Best Paper Award for her paper “Will You Give Good Effort During the Test?” Simply Asking increases Examinee’s Test-Taking Motivation, which was co-authored by Kate Schaefer (second year, Assessment and Measurement PhD) and Sara Finney (faculty, Assessment and Measurement). 

NERA 2023
First-year Assessment and Measurement doctoral student Mara McFadden (center) after receiving her award for GSIC paper, pictured with co-authors Assessment and Measurement faculty member Sara Finney (left) and second-year Assessment and Measurement doctoral student Kate Schaefer (right)

Students presented their research:

  • “What’s the DIFference: Evaluating the Validity Claims of a General Education Program” by Josiah Hunsberger (1st year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
  • “Context Matters: The Impact of External Events on Low-Stakes Assessment” by Kelsey Nason (2nd Year, Assessment and Measurement PhD) and Christine DeMars (Faculty, Assessment and Measurement)
  • “The Influence of Disengagement on the Factor Structure of a Non-Cognitive Measure: Practical Solutions” by Kate Schaefer (2nd year, Assessment and Measurement PhD) and Sara Finney (Faculty, Assessment and Measurement)
  • “Do Multiple Doses of the Question-Behavior Effect Provide a Solution to Issues with Low Effort Later in a Testing Session?” by Mara McFadden (1st year, Assessment and Measurement) and Sara Finney (Faculty, Assessment and Measurement)
  • “Real or Fake? Connecting Student Learning and Graduation Rates Across Time” by Autumn Wild (1st year, Assessment and Measurement) and Joseph Kush (Faculty, Assessment and Measurement)
  •  “Learning Improvement in STEM: Responding to Faculty Situational Factors” by Laura Lambert (2nd year, Assessment and Measurement) and Megan Good (faculty, Assessment and Measurement)
  • “Finding Latent Profiles of Student Success Skills to Predict Retention” by Chris Patterson (Alumni, Assessment and Measurement, 2023) and Riley Herr (2nd Year, MA/PHD, Assessment and Measurement)
NERA 2023
Josiah Hunsberger (1st year, A&M) presenting his research

Students and faculty attended free professional workshops, such as “Technical Foundations of Generative Artificial Intelligence: Applications to Measurement” offered by Sue Lottridge (Alumni, Assessment and Measurement PhD, 2006), “Theory of Action: guiding Assessment Design and Validity Research” offered by Andrea Pope (Alumni, Assessment and Measurement PhD, 2020) and Ross Markle (Alumni, Assessment and Measurement PhD, 2010), and “An introduction to Key components of Bayesian Inference” offered by Brian Leventhal (Director, Assessment and Measurement PhD)

NERA 2023
(L-R): Kate Schaefer (2nd year, A&M), Riley Herr (2nd Year, MA/PHD, A&M), Jack Gilmore (1st year, Quant MA), Jonathan Henriques (1st year, MA/PhD, A&M), Autumn Wild (1st year, A&M), Mara McFadden (1st year, A&M) and Laura Lambert (2nd year, A&M)

The group traveling from JMU was able to learn from and support NERA president Bo Bashkov (Alumni, Quant Concentration MA, 2012, Assessment and Measurement PhD, 2015), who’s presidential address was titled “Together We Can! Shaping the Future of Education Using Effective and Equitable Technology”. 

NERA 2023
(L-R): Dena Pastor (faculty, Assessment and Measurement), Mara McFadden (1st Year, A&M), Kate Schaefer (2nd year, A&M), Kelsey Nason (2nd year, A&M) and Kelly Rewley (’17) (A&M)

The students also had a lot to say about their experience at the conference:

Kate Schaefer (2nd year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“I attended my fourth NERA conference. I presented my first-year project from the PhD program which focuses on the importance of identifying disengagement in non-cognitive measures. I received helpful feedback that I will incorporate into my paper as I pursue publication. I attended a variety of sessions at NERA, covering a range of topics such as competency-based learning and Bayesian methods. I loved getting to catch up with alumni and meeting new experts in the field. I serve on the Infrastructure Committee at NERA and will serve as chair of this committee following the conference."

Riley Herr (2nd year, MA/PhD, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“I had a fantastic time attending NERA last week. Admittedly, I was nervous leading up to the event because I have never attended/presented at a conference prior to NERA. However, upon arriving I quickly realized that NERA is a warm, welcoming environment, particularly to graduate students. Although I regret not participating in the mentorship program, I connected with lots of alumni who were eager to meet current students. In addition, certain alumni that I connected with introduced me to other professionals/alumni to further expand my network. I also want to add that the workshops at NERA are free (this is not the case at most conferences). I attended two workshops that covered 1) Bayesian statistics and 2) Theory of Action - both were extremely informative and interesting. I'm excited to go back next year!”

NERA 2023
(L-R): Andrea Pope (’20) (Assessment and Measurement), Madison Holzman (’18) (Assessment and Measurement), Riley Herr (2nd year, MA/PhD, A&M), Caroline Prendergast (’22) (Assessment and Measurement)

Mara McFadden (1st Year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“In attended and presented my Master’s Thesis results at NERA in a presentation titled “Multiple Priming Questions Can Provide a Solution to Issues with Low Examinee Response Time Effort in a Testing Session”. This was my second year attending the conference. I was able to connect with numerous professionals in the field, many including alumni of the Assessment and Measurement program here at JMU. I engaged in the conference’s mentoring experience where I was connected with an educational researcher who works for the department of education in New York City. I attended several workshops and sessions that enhanced my knowledge in the measurement field. I was also awarded with the GSIC (graduate students issues committee) Best Paper by a Graduate Student award for my paper from the previous year at the conference. I look forward to maintaining the connections that I made at NERA and applying what I learned to my work at JMU. “

Autumn Wild (1st Year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present my first-year project at NERA 2023! This conference allowed me to introduce myself to multiple alumni, meet (in-person!) with my alumni mentor, and participate in many engaging workshops. Lastly, I was able to meet with representatives of potential internship sites. Overall, I had a fantastic time and cannot wait for next year!”

Laura Lambert (2nd year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“This past week, I had the opportunity to present my project (Learning Improvement in STEM) at the 2023 NERA conference.  In addition to presenting my work, I was able to attend a number of other workshops, sessions, and round tables during the conference.  Attending these sessions is not only valuable from an informational standpoint, but also a way to see how others in the field communicate their work.  During the evening social times, I was able to network with other attendees, many of them JMU alumni.  This allowed me to gather more information about potential internships, as well as see in what directions alumni of our program go after graduation.”

Josiah Hunsberger (1st Year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“I enjoyed attending NERA this year. It provided me with a space to present my research and have meaningful conversations with professionals regarding that line of research. Attending NERA also provided me with excellent networking opportunities for mentoring and future partnerships, internships, and jobs.”

Jack Gilmore (1st Year, Quantitative Concentration, Psychological Sciences MA)
“As a first-time attendee, NERA surpassed my expectations and was a fantastic conference. Although I did not present, I was able to interact with established members in the field and fellow graduate students. The mentor program in particular was extremely helpful, especially in regard to being introduced to others. Every person I met was warm, welcoming, and willing to introduce me to others. Furthermore, the workshops I attended and sessions I had the pleasure of listening to were nothing short of enlightening. I was exposed to a variety of statistical concepts and research that has given me a starting point along with ideas to pursue in my own work. In summary, NERA is a one-of-a-kind conference that was highly educational while simultaneously making me feel part of a larger community.”

NERA 2023
(L-R): Dan Jurich (’14) (Assessment and Measurement), Jason Kopp (’14) (Assessment and Measurement), Amanda Clauser (National Board of Medical Examiners), Javarro Russell (’11) (Assessment and Measurement), Jonathan Henriques (1st year, MA/Phd, A&M), Jack Gilmore (1st year, Quant MA)

Jon Henriques (1st Year, MA/PhD, Assessment and Measurement PhD Program)
“I had a fantastic experience at my first NERA. I was able to attend two professional workshops that helped develop my knowledge on Bayesian statistics and machine learning. I was fortunate to get to meet my JMU alumni mentor, Dan Jurich, in person. Dan shared his experiences from JMU and introduced me to so many other JMU alumni and professionals in the field. Lastly, I had the opportunity to participate in the NERA mentoring program, where I got to meet Kelly Rewley, who detailed her path to becoming a researcher at the American Board of Internal Medicine and provided great wisdom regarding internships in graduate school.“

Kelsey Nason (2nd Year, Assessment and Measurement PhD)
“NERA is such a unique conference experience where you can have one-on-one conversations with experts in the field. I was able to present my work, meet with professionals (many of which are alumni), gain new mentors that offer continued advice as I go through my program, and zero in on places I would like to apply for internships. I have grown my network and have multiple new contacts reaching out to follow-up about our chats.”

NERA 2023
Photo Caption: Laura Lambert (2nd Year, A&M) presenting her research.

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Published: Thursday, October 26, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 16, 2023

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