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Educational psychology doctoral student awarded prestigious internship

Thao Vo standing on WSU campus
Thao Vo

An educational psychology doctoral student in Washington State University’s College of Education has been awarded a prestigious summer internship at the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (NCIEA).

It’s not the first time one of the college’s doctoral students has been selected for this internship. That’s why Thao Vo decided to apply. Associate Dean for Research and External Funding Brian French, also one of Vo’s mentors, said that, just like Vo’s predecessors, she was uniquely suited for this opportunity.

“Thao approaches her research with passion, creativity, and perhaps most importantly, intellectual curiosity, all which allow for progressive engagement with research projects,” French said.

Chad Gotch, an associate professor in the Educational Psychology department is another one of Vo’s mentors, and completed an internship with NCIEA when he was a doctoral student.

“I am really excited for Thao’s internship. I think it is a great match between a unique opportunity and a bright student who is ready to make real contributions,” Gotch said.

Her current research was one additional reason Vo said the internship is a good fit. A specific project being conducted by the NCIEA’s Center for Assessment that directly related to her own research.

The internship will allow her to work alongside Scott Marion, the president and executive director of the center. The work will be focused on the Opportunity to Learn (OTL) concept. Vo will get to further develop and enhance the OTL concept.

“This is a concept that has evolved from whether students have had sufficient access to instruction or content linked to particular concepts, to a more robust conception regarding the conditions and resources provided to schools to enable students to succeed,” Vo said.

While Vo’s interest and research in measurement is broad, there is one concept that informs all of her research: equity.

“I am interested in building validity arguments for measures used across diverse populations, languages, and cultures to inform accurate and fair decisions about individuals and evaluating and improving the methods that allow us to make such decision,” Vo said.

The work Vo will participate in through this internship not only aligns with her personal research interests, but also has timely applications of OTL with the pandemic.

“I believe that the OTL project is needed now more than ever because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on educational outcomes,” she said. “Schools have been switching back and forth between remote and in-person learning, and students are feeling dramatic changes in their learning environments, ultimately impacting their test scores.”

Vo said she is especially excited at the opportunity to apply her research even more.

“I have spent the past 2-3 years focusing on coursework and (some) application studies but this internship is a chance for me to engage with a measurement system in practice and see how theory operates ‘in the wild,’ so to speak.”

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