2013 Awards


Brian Beaton, PhD & Rosta Farzan, PhD

  • Assistant Professors
  • School of Information Sciences

“Information Needs in the Local Nonprofit Sector: The Challenge of Measuring and Reporting Impact”

This proposal seeks funding to carry out pilot research for designing and implementing systems to meet the information needs of the Pittsburgh nonprofit sector and will focus on the difficulties and challenges that community organizations and agencies experience in trying to manage and present data that captures their positive impact on Pittsburgh´s neighborhoods.  The impetus for our proposal is a series of remarks and comments made at the 3rd Annual PNCIS User Conference, held on June 8, 2012.  A recurring theme across the presentations was a culture of assessment called for by funding agencies, many of which now regularly tie continued funding to measurable impact.  According to the user conference participants, documenting impact has become a key responsibility and challenge facing community organizations.  Our proposed research approaches this issue as a unique but solvable problem at the intersection of the social and information sciences.  The Steven Manners Faculty Development Award will be used to conduct one year of pilot research that focuses on how local nonprofits currently manage and present data related to their impact.  The pilot study will build on preliminary studies currently underway at the School of Information Sciences.  It will lead to the development and implementation of new tools and systems that will enable community organizations to more effectively document their success at mission-related initiatives.


Kathryn Monahan, PhD

  • Assistant Professor
  • Department of Psychology

“Risks that Reward: Positive Risk-Taking in Adolescence”

Adolescence is marked by increases in the prevalence of risk-taking compared to earlier and later developmental periods.  While substantial research has focused on negative types of risk-taking, such as delinquency, substance use, risky driving behavior, and risky sexual behavior, no research has examined positive types of risk-taking, such as asking somebody out on a date, trying out for a team, or sharing personal information.  The present application proposes a pilot data collection of 100 adolescents to provide validation for a newly developed measure of positive risk-taking, to test the association between positive and negative risk-taking, to examine how adolescent´s evaluate the benefits and costs of positive and negative risk-taking, and to illuminate how risk and protective factors for negative risk-taking are associated with positive risk-taking.  Using a combination of behavioral tasks and self-report assessments, the present proposal extends current theoretical explanations of adolescent risk-taking to positive forms of risk-taking.  Moreover, the results of the present study will have implications for prevention and intervention efforts that seek to promote positive risk-taking and prevent negative risk-taking.

 


 

Ming-Te Wang, PhD

  • Applied Developmental Psychology
  • School of Education

“School Engagement and Positive Youth Development”

Enhancing student engagement is the key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student boredom, alienation, and high dropout rates in urban schools.  The extent to which adolescents are involved in schooling creates a motivational context that shapes how youth deal with difficulties and obstacles in school, bounce back from setbacks and failures, and constructively re-engage with challenging academic tasks.  Failure to engage in school learning and difficulty coping with school problems may lead adolescents to seek solace in problem behaviors and associate with delinquent friends.

This project will develop easily-administered diagnostic instruments for assessing student engagement in school and the school engagement measures will be helpful for researchers and teachers in identifying students at risk for academic failures and problem behaviors.  The preliminary findings generated from this study will serve as the foundation for a NICHD R01 application of a larger longitudinal study that will use the school engagement measures to investigate the trajectory of student engagement from 9th to 12th grade and identify what school and family characteristics can support student engagement in school over time.

Specifically, this project will: (Aim 1) develop reliable and valid measures of school engagement and (Aim 2) pilot test and validate the measures of school engagement and examine whether school engagement is associated with adolescent educational and behavioral outcomes and whether these associations differ by demographic characteristics.