Tiffany Foster, a graduate student in Developmental Psychology, is the recipient of a 2021 Baughman Dissertation Research Award.
The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC offers the Earl and Barbara Baughman Dissertation Research Award annually to 2-3 top researchers within the department. The purpose of this award is to promote and support innovative dissertation research in our department and to support award recipients in their completion of their dissertation projects.
Tiffany won for her dissertation titled “Peer Effects in the Preschool Classroom: Examining the Role of Child and Peer Characteristics.” Exposure to more highly skilled classmates has been related to positive development for preschoolers. However, less is known about the role child and peer characteristics play in this relation. Examination of for whom peer skill matters most and which peers may be most influential for specific groups of children can help inform classroom practices and policies that aim to capitalize on positive peer influences. I will conduct three studies to expand current understanding in this area. Study 1 examines whether children who enter pre-kindergarten with lower skills benefit more from their peers than children entering pre-kindergarten with higher skills. Study 2 considers whether dual language learners benefit similarly from their peers as compared to English-only children. Finally, Study 3 explores whether the relation between peer skill and child outcomes depends on peer age cohort and gender. Tiffany will receive a Baughman Dissertation Award of $6,000 to support her innovative research and dissertation project. Congratulations, Tiffany!