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COVID-19 Update

The applied cognition and development program is still actively accepting applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. We are particularly interested in applications for our campus-based MEd and EdS programs, as well as our online MEd program.

In applied cognition and development, faculty and students explore the effects of human cognitive and developmental processes on education. They also determine how that knowledge can be applied to teaching and learning. Our programs prepare graduates to improve education through research, to implement programs and projects in schools, and to apply research and methods to various settings.

Students study with faculty experts in topics including motivation and engagement in STEM fields, technology-enhanced learning, social-emotional learning, and early intervention.

Our faculty have received outstanding early career awards, teaching awards, and research awards and are the recipients of funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Spencer Foundation. They are also active in state and national organizations and have held esteemed positions including editor of the Journal of Research in Childhood Education and member of the developmental sciences advisory panel for the NSF.

Research Labs

Faculty study interdisciplinary applications of cognitive, social, and developmental psychology to learning and education. Topics include:

  • STEM motivation
  • Motivational beliefs
  • Learning strategies
  • Multimedia math/science
  • Elementary education
  • Executive functioning
  • Social-emotional learning
  • Assessment

Our Graduate Students

Portrait of Xiao-Yin Chen

Xiao-Yin Chen

Xiao-Yin Chen is a first-year doctoral student in the applied cognition and development program. She earned her master’s degree in educational psychology and bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on the social influences of motivation, but her greater purpose for this work is to examine ways to reduce achievement gaps for students who are minoritized in educational settings. This interest stems from her experiences growing up in Appalachia as a first-generation Chinese American. Aside from this research, she lives a minimal-waste lifestyle and can often be found on hiking trails in Athens with her two pugs, Henry and Harriet.

Portrait of Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark is a first-year doctoral student in the applied cognition and development program. She is passionate about STEM education and the factors that motivate all students to persist in the sciences. She holds a bachelor's degree in both biology and chemistry from Valdosta State University and a master's degree in neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh. She has taught science at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. One of her most prized possessions is a blanket of the periodic table of elements.

Portrait of Leaha Eidman

Leaha Eidman

Leaha Eidman is a first-year master's student in the applied cognition and development program with plans to continue on to the doctoral program. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from St. John Fisher College in New York in the spring of 2020. A fun fact about her is that she studied abroad in Australia as an undergraduate student.

Portrait of Aileen Taylor Grant

Aileen Taylor Grant

Aileen Taylor Grant is a fourth-year doctoral student in educational psychology with a concentration in applied cognition and development. She received her bachelor's degree from Ohio University, master's degree from Mercer University, and another master's degree in sport administration from Georgia State University. Her research focuses on student learning and success of college students. She is currently reviewing accounts of students' retrospective self-perceptions of learning, academic skills, and abilities at the end of their undergraduate academic career. She is seeking to investigate further the relationship between a student's self-efficacy, engagement, perceived learning growth, and time to degree.

Portrait of Sofia Hirt

Sofia Hirt

Sofia Hirt is a first-year doctoral student in the school psychology program with interests in applied cognition and development. Her interests include social-emotional and learning outcomes in young children with experiences of trauma and/or experiences with health concerns. Her work currently revolves around trauma-informed care in early education settings and the implications of COVID-19 on early childhood education experiences. In her free time, she likes to walk and play with her rescue dog.

Portrait of Will Riley

Will Riley

Will Riley is a third-year doctoral student in applied cognition and development. He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Reed College and a master's degree in digital media from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He researches the relationship between mind perception and moral motivation. Currently, he's researching how beliefs about the minds of animals influence moral concern about valued human behaviors that harm animals. He hopes his research will inform the design of animal welfare advocacy curricula so that it more effectively leads people to adopt lifestyles that reduce animal suffering. He plans to teach and research moral psychology from an interdisciplinary perspective at a liberal arts college, design school, or folk high school. In his spare time, he writes bad poetry as a spiritual practice.

Portrait of Smyth Sexton

Smyth Sexton

Smyth Sexton is a first-year doctoral student in the applied cognition and development program. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from UGA, as well as an educational specialist degree in educational psychology. She hopes to become a professor and teach both graduate and undergraduate students, along with conducting research. She spends most of her free time outside and loves to go skydiving. She is also an avid UGA football fan. Go Dawgs!

Portrait of Erica Smolinski

Erica Smolinski

Erica Smolinski received her bachelor's degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2017. She is a third-year doctoral student in school psychology, but much of her work is done in the applied cognition and development program. Her research focuses on the impact of prenatal stress on child development and family functioning, specifically parenting practices. In her free time, she enjoys trying out new recipes and watching movies.

Portrait of Yuchen Song

Yuchen Song

Yuchen Song is a first-year doctoral student in the applied cognition and development program. He received his bachelor's degree in experimental psychology from the University of Michigan in 2016 and his master's degree in experimental psychology from Brandeis University in 2018. He spent two years working with students before attending a doctoral program to understand how psychology can empower education. His primary research interest is to explore the psychological processes that hinder students from unleashing their full academic potentials. In his free time, Song enjoys driving on scenic backroads and appreciating the beautiful Georgia landscape!

Portrait of Qian Zhang

Qian Zhang

Qian Zhang is a fourth-year graduate student in the applied cognition and development program. Her research focuses on how to use multiple representations to improve students’ self-regulated learning. She is currently examining the unique benefits and boundary conditions in learning by drawing. Her dissertation research involves using multiple representations in self-explanation to help students learn from errors.

Contact Us

323 Aderhold Hall 110 Carlton St. Athens, GA 30602