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Educational psychology alumna wins national education award

Zhang standing in front of large paintings.
Zhang, a 2012 Ph.D. graduate, now serves as a research scientist for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey.

By C. Brandon Chapman, College of Education

A Washington State University alumna has been awarded by the National Council on Measurement in Education for her contributions to educational measurement.

Mo Zhang, who earned her Ph.D. in 2012 from the College of Education’s educational psychology program, was given — along with the rest of her team — the Bradley Hanson Award, named for a well‑known figure in the field.

According to the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) website, the Bradley Hanson Award is given to those who “make a substantive contribution to the field of educational measurement or the development, instruction or mentoring of new professionals in the field.”

Zhang is a research scientist for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey. The team she works with extensively focuses on the validity and measurement issues related to automated scoring of open‑ended questions.

“Since the beginning of writing assessment, the focus has been upon grading the end result, the essay produced by the examinee,” Zhang said. “With the advent of computer‑based testing, it is possible to go beyond evaluating the quality of that end result to analyzing the process used by the student to get there.”

The NCME said the award judging committee made its selection because the group has succeeded in identifying writing, skills and learning needs through online process data. That data could include things like key strokes, mouse clicks or response time.

“Our field has been discussing the promise of process data for a range of uses for many years,” the committee wrote. “Although this study is somewhat preliminary, it is one of the first in educational testing and shows promise for extension in writing and application in other areas.

Educational psychology professor Brian French, who also runs WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center, said it was no surprise to him that Zhang earned this national award.

“When Mo was a student working with me, she was always a self‑starter and driven to produce high‑quality work,” he said. “She has always possessed the personality traits, tenacity, and desire needed to make contributions to our field and I am confident she will continue to do so in the years to come.”

Award recipients receive $1,250 and a commemorative plaque from NCME, to be presented at the organization’s annual meeting in April in Toronto.

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