Professional Spotlight: Sarah Kiefer
B.A., Psychology, Coe College - 1999
M.A., Educational Psychology, University of Illinois - 2003
Ph.D., Educational Psychology, University of Illinois - 2007
Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology, University of South Florida
- Publications in some of the leading journals for educational psychologists, including Developmental Psychology and The Journal of Educational Psychology.
- Program co-chair for AERA Division E (Human Development).
- Associate Editor of the online Teacher’s Corner for the SRA.
- Editorial board member for the Journal of Experimental Education and Research in Middle Level Education, and ad-hoc reviewer for several rigorous journals relevant to adolescent development and motivation.
- Recipient of the New Researcher Grant at the University of South Florida (2010).
- Recipient of the Robert Ferber Dissertation Award and Campus Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, University of Illinois (2007).
- Affiliated member of APA Division 15, AERA, AMLE, SRA, and SRCD.
Special Areas of Interest
“My research involves deepening our understanding of—and improving upon—young adolescents’ motivation, peer relationships, and development. Examining the interplay between social and academic factors in school allows me to test my theories regarding adolescents’ perceptions in three crucial, interrelated developmental arenas: (1) social and academic motivation (e.g., what is the impact of social and academic goals in adolescents’ academic, psychological, and social adjustment over time); (2) peer relationships (e.g., what are the effects and dynamics of adolescent interactions with friends and peer groups, and examining students’ perceptions of peers, help-seeking behaviors, and aggressive behaviors among peers), and (3) developmentally responsive learning environments (e.g., how can educators support students’ transition in and out of middle school, and examining the role of students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the learning environment on student adjustment).
My main research goal is to use the research-based knowledge of adolescent motivation and development in order to positively impact the daily lives of adolescents and educators.”
On Her Draw to the Work:
“Educational psychology provides a platform to ‘open the black box’ of learning, and the immense, exciting developmental and contextual changes that occur during adolescence.
As a researcher and teacher, educational psychology allows me to apply research-based knowledge and theory to solve practical problems in the classroom, community, and family to assist in promoting smooth transitions into adulthood, provide instruction tailored to support a diverse range of learners, and find ways to better meet the dynamic and multifaceted needs of today’s young adolescents.”
On the Importance of Educational Psychology:
“Educational psychology is the study of unlocking the secrets of learning and development, and how instruction can be adapted to support the diverse needs of today’s students. The discipline provides a foundation for understanding effective teaching and learning that can be applied not only to educational settings, but also to situations with children, adolescents, and adults in daily life.
Educational psychology is an exciting, dynamic field which allows us to advance our current understanding through high-quality research and scholarship, and one that contributes to the solution of practical problems in educational, community, and other contexts.”
On Future Research:
“There is a need to apply and translate research-based knowledge in the field of educational psychology so that it can effectively impact educational practice. Likewise, there is a pressing need for research to deepen our knowledge and examine ways teachers, parents, peers, and adolescents themselves can motivate and engage today’s diverse youth, promote positive peer relationships and peer cultures, and foster responsive learning environments in a variety of contexts (e.g., in-school and after-school activities, online environments, etc.).”
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