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Applied Cognition and Development


The Applied Cognition and Development Program is now accepting applications for the online program for the 2024-2025 academic year.

The Applied Cognition and Development application deadline for the M.A., Ph.D., and Ed.S. is December 1, 2023.

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.

Degree Programs

Master of Education (MEd)

Master of Arts (MA)

Educational Specialist (EdS)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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

Alexis Capobianco (She/Her)

Alexis Capobianco is a first-year doctoral student in the applied cognition and development program. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with minors in education and neuroscience from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on instructional design and ways to improve learning materials for college courses. In her spare time, you can find her at the gym, walking nature trails, or playing with her dog. She enjoys baking, exploring new places, and making way too many music playlists.

Xiao-Yin Chen (She/Her)

Xiao-Yin Chen is a doctoral candidate in the Applied Cognition and Development program at the University of Georgia. She obtained both her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and Master’s Degree in educational psychology at the University of Kentucky. Her research primarily focuses on the social influences of motivation in educational settings (e.g., the influence of social models and messengers) and the ways in which educators can support students’ motivation through interventions.

Shannon Clark (She/Her)

Shannon Clark is a PhD student in the Applied Cognition and Development program. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in biology and chemistry at Valdosta State University and her Master’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on factors that influence motivation for STEM learning and teaching in rural areas. She likes spending time with her dog and will always be amused by corny jokes. For example, what do you call a dog that can do magic? A labracadabrador!

Kelsey Forester (She/Her)

Kelsey Forester is a first-year doctoral student in the Applied Cognition and Development program. She earned a Master of Science in Information with concentrations in School Library Media and Library & Information Science, and teacher certifications from the University of Michigan. She also received a Master of Education in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Cognition and Development from the University of Georgia. Her research focus is on play and imagination in early childhood education and care settings. When she was in preschool she wanted her occupation to be a Dalmatian (yes, a dog). Being an EduDawg is an excellent compromise.

Smyth Sexton (She/Her)

Smyth Sexton is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Applied Cognition and Development program. She earned her BA in Psychology and EdS in Educational Psychology from The University of Georgia. She also has a MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that she received from the University of Mississippi. Her research interests are focused on social media and its influence on multiple areas, but specifically on mental health concerns, such as body image. She is also interested in the utilization of social media in the classroom, looking at the challenges and benefits from an educator’s perspective. When she is not working on her dissertation and research, Smyth enjoys hanging out with her husband, Matt, and two cats, Taco and Archie. She loves to do anything outside, including scuba diving and skydiving, hiking, kayaking, and anything else that is outdoors. She is an avid UGA fan and loves football. GO DAWGS!

Andrea Wikle

Andrea Wikle is a first year PhD student in Applied Cognition and Development. She has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri and spent four years teaching at the elementary level. She has broad research interests in both motivation and creativity, particularly with how those constructs interact within a classroom setting. She loves to be outside, creating something delicious in the kitchen, or watching a good movie/TV show!

Kudos to Our Graduate Students

Congratulations to our current and recent Applied Cognition and Development graduate students for their outstanding accomplishments this past year!


  • Yuchen Song won the ACD Outstanding Doctoral Student Award in Spring 2022.
  • Erica Smolinski won the Anti-racism Coalition (ARC) Recognition of Allyship Award in Spring 2022 and the Owen Scott Research Award in 2022.

Papers, Presentations & Research

  • Yin Chen gave a first-authored paper presentation at AERA in Spring 2022.
  • Yuchen Song gave a first-authored poster presentation at AERA in Spring 2022.
  • Erica Smolinski gave a first-authored paper presentation at AERA in Spring 2022.
  • Yuchen Song and Shannon Clark co-authored a paper with Dr. Emily Rosenzweig that was published in Learning and Instruction .
  • Yuchen Song was the lead author on a paper published with Dr. Michael Barger and Dr. Kristen Bub that came out in Frontiers in Education .
  • Congratulations to online M.Ed. students Sam Barilla and Justin Lee for their work with research faculty.


  • Aileen Taylor Grant, Ph.D. (2021) is now the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at San Diego State University.
  • Qian Zhang, Ph.D. (2022) is currently a Data Scientist at the ETS AI Labs.

Faculty and Staff

Anna Abraham Professor
Kadir Bahar Assistant Professor
Michael M. Barger Assistant Professor
Kristen Bub Professor
Amanda E. Ferster Senior Lecturer
Logan Fiorella Associate Professor
Shawn M. Glynn Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emeritus
Erin E. Hamel Assistant Professor
Stacey M Neuharth-Pritchett Senior Associate Dean
Emily Q. Rosenzweig Assistant Professor

Contact Info

323 Aderhold Hall 110 Carlton St. Athens, GA 30602
© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602