Dr. Connie K. Varnhagen
Overview of Research Interests
I study a wide range of development and learning issues, all centered around how children, adolescents, and adults develop and use cognitive strategies. I mostly study strategies that relate to written communication skills and using and making sense of the Web.
Spelling? Writing? The Web?; These seem like very different tasks but they all require effective and efficient use of cognitive strategies. A cognitive strategy is a conscious attempt to solve a problem. A child who sounds out the word, dog, as "duh," "ah, " "guh," and writes, dog, is using a phonological strategy. An adolescent who checks out several Web sites on acne to decide on what over-the-counter medication to buy is using a critical appraisal strategy.
Check out the Applied Development and Instructional Technology Lab Web site for more information.
I'm also interested in how instructors integrate teaching and research in undergraduate instruction. If our teaching mission is to train highly qualified personnel, how to we help them develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to be informed and active citizens?
Finally, I am branching out to explore a wide range of topics related to the human animal bond.
Children and the Web
The Web is a vast repository for information, entertainment, and communication, including the latest information of gold standard treatment of devastating diseases, wonderful resources on music and entertainment, and tools for communication with people all over the world. The Web is also unorganized and unregulated. Children can access pornography and hate, and can be bullied, stalked, and lured. The goals of this programme of research are to better understand how people (fail to) critically appraise resources on the Web and develop ways to support children, adolescents, and adults as they access these resources.
I am very interested in instruction and improving teaching and learning. Computer technology has the potential to expand learning opportunities but it must be matched with pedagogical goals. In this research programme, I am working on understanding how people learn with technology. My long-term goals are to advance theories of instruction and develop appropriate instructional materials and technology.
I am generally interested in literacy development. I began my research in reading comprehension and have gradually shifted to basic processes in spelling. My current research programme considers cognitive development as it relates to children's spelling. My long-term goals are to understand spelling development, help advance theories of cognitive development, and design instruction, materials, and technology that maximize the acquisition of this important literacy skill.
People often make important decisions without empirical data. Given my empirical training and interests, I enjoy assisting in applied research into societal issues and practical decision-making. The current applied research I am working on has to do with the integration of teaching and research in post secondary education.
The Human Animal Bond
This is a brand new area for me. The human animal bond is pervasive throughout society and throughout the ages. How can we support this bond? I am beginning to apply my skills as a researcher to assisting with statistical analysis of research into alternative forms of sterilization, exploring the bond as it relates to different animal health practices. Iím very excited about this transition but I certainly am not abandoning my work on applied developmental science as described below.
Department of Psychology – University of Alberta