Dr. Grant Morgan, assistant professor in the Baylor School of Education’s (SOE) Department of Educational Psychology, is a recipient the Bruce Thompson Outstanding Paper Award from the Southwest Educational Research Association (SERA).
This is the second time Morgan has won the award in three years, and he won a similar award in a different region while he was a doctoral student at the University of South Carolina. In 2013, Morgan’s winning paper was co-authored with Aaron R. Baggett, PhD ’14, then a doctoral student at Baylor SOE.
Morgan and Dr. Kara M. Styck of the University of Texas at San Antonio co-authored the 2015 winning paper, titled “Behavioral Outcomes of Early Exposure to Violence.” The paper was automatically accepted for presentation in the Distinguished Paper Awards session at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual convention, and Styck and Morgan received a travel stipend to attend the conference in Chicago on April 16-20.
Morgan and Styck addressed a gap in the scholarly literature by focusing their study on preschool children, because previous research on the effects of violence exposure had studied only older children.
“We used a nationally representative data set from the federal government, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort data set, and we identified those children who had data on whether or not they had been exposed to violence in the home or neighborhood within the last 12 months,” Morgan said. “Then we looked to see if violence exposure predicted membership in one of the behavioral groups that we defined using latent class analysis with 20 behavioral indicators.”
Morgan and Styck’s behavioral groups included children who were developing typically and three maladaptive groups:
- withdrawn (shy, less able to make friends)
- low self-control (inattentive, overly active, impulsive)
- disruptive and rejected (disruptive, difficulty playing independently, not accepted by others)
They found that children were significantly more likely to belong to the Low Self-Control group than the Typically Developing group if they were previously exposed to violence. Morgan said that the behaviors exhibited by children in the “low self-control” group are similar to those commonly associated with ADHD.
“When we presented the paper in San Antonio [at the SERA annual meeting], I actually asked the audience to make predictions as to the results,” Morgan said. “They guessed all of the behavior groups, which I thought was really fascinating.”
Morgan has been at Baylor for three years and focuses his scholarly research on methodological and applied investigations of advanced quantitative methods, particularly the areas of latent variable models, psychometrics and classification.
“It’s not always immediately clear how this relates to education research,” Morgan said. “But decisions are made every day about students based on data collected from cognitive or psychological instruments.” Morgan’s work examines the methods by which educational data are analyzed and whether those methods are providing trustworthy information.
“Not only does this process allow me to evaluate the usefulness of certain methods, but it also enables me to report on the negative consequences of modeling data incorrectly,” he said.
—by Meg Cullar