Hi everyone! My name is Chelsea Carver and I am a senior at Pitt. I am on track to graduate with a BPhil and Honors in Psychology, as well as a Chemistry Minor and Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Additionally, I am part of the School of Dental Medicine’s Guaranteed Admissions Program and my ultimate career goal is to become a pediatric dentist. One fun fact about myself is that during the pandemic, I biked over 650 miles of rail-trails across three states!
As a Brackenridge Fellow in the summer of 2020, I conducted research in the Kids’ Thinking (KiT) Lab, a cognitive and developmental psychology lab that examines the emergence of cognitive skills in children, particularly children’s early cognitive development of math skills. Under the mentorship of Dr. Melissa Libertus and Shirley Duong, I examined how different forms of parental praise relate to the math and language abilities of four-year-old children. During my senior year, I aim to build upon my prior work through the completion of my BPhil project. The BPhil degree entails the completion of an independent graduate-level research project that culminates in a written thesis and a thesis defense before a committee of prominent researchers in your field from Pitt as well as an external examiner from outside Pitt who is knowledgeable about your specific research focus. I will be examining how different forms of parental praise, affirmation, and corrective feedback directed at four-year-old children in the home relate to their concurrent math and language abilities as well as their longitudinal improvement in these abilities over a one-year period.
I am honored to have been chosen as a CURF recipient and BPhil degree candidate and I am greatly appreciative of the support that I have received from the Honors College, as my research project is important and novel for several reasons. Although prior research has examined how parental praise, affirmation, or corrective feedback relate to older children’s general academic outcomes, research has yet to focus on how these forms of parental feedback in the home environment impact children’s academic abilities before they enter formal schooling. Also, most prior studies did not use observational data to measure the frequency of parental feedback that children are exposed to in the home environment, which is the type of data I have access to in the KiT Lab. In addition, research has yet to examine how domain-specific parental feedback relates to children’s domain-specific academic abilities. I chose to examine the role of math-specific parental feedback on preschool-aged children’s math skills because as someone who is pursuing a STEM career, I understand how important it is to have a strong foundation in fundamental math concepts to succeed academically in school and in the workforce. Unfortunately, many children enter kindergarten with disparities in math knowledge, which negatively influences their ability to learn later material and may even prevent them from entering STEM careers, which are necessary for society to maintain its economic growth and technological advances. It is important that we learn more about the source of these knowledge gaps, since this information can suggest interventions that can be implemented in the school or community setting and even policy changes to oppose societal inequalities and enable the next generation to fulfill their potential and make a positive contribution to society.