Sterett Mercer

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Literacy Training
Learning Disabilities

Research Interests

curriculum-based measurement
academic intervention

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Research Methodology

quantitative

Recruitment

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Requirements" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to peek someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.

 

Master's students
Doctoral students
2019
2020
2021

Development and evaluation of curriculum-based measurement tools in basic academic skill areas. Evaluation of academic interventions for students with learning difficulties.

I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
The effects of a reading fluency and multisyllabic decoding strategy on reading skills (2017)

As students enter the upper-elementary grades, the instructional focus shifts from learning to read to reading to learn (Chall, 1983). Much of the meaning in upper-elementary science texts is carried by previously unseen multisyllabic words. Students are expected to demonstrate proficient reading and decoding skills so they are able to access the curriculum and extract meaning from print. However, this is problematic for a cohort of students who demonstrate proficiency with the alphabetic principle, but lack flexible strategies and processes to employ when encountering a multisyllabic word. A delayed multiple baseline design was employed to determine if a multicomponent intervention combining three flexibly applied ‘think aloud’ multisyllabic word-decoding strategies with evidence-based fluency strategies was effective in improving the expository text reading skills of upper-elementary struggling readers. Gains in generalized reading fluency were observed on both expository and standardized reading passages. Minimal gains of multisyllabic word reading accuracy were observed on researcher-created word-lists and on within-passage measures. Gains in broad reading skills were not consistently observed. Students viewed the intervention favourably and perceived gains in their reading skills. Implications and future directions for research are discussed.

View record

Using risk ratios as a method of calculating substantial racial and ethnic disproportionality rates in school discipline (2017)

The discipline gap – a phenomenon by which students of colour (e.g., Black students) are disproportionately affected by school exclusionary discipline compared to their White peers – has been reliably documented for more than 50 years. Researchers have relied on different metrics, analysis methods, and data sources to measure the discipline gap. Regulators have proposed the standard use of risk ratios as a metric to measure disproportionality. Risk ratios require that the target group (e.g., Black students) be compared to another group (e.g., White students), however, there is a paucity of studies on the differential impact of using White students versus all other students as comparison groups. I analyzed data from 5,422 schools from the 2012 – 2014 academic school years across the United States by fitting two series of mixed models to account for the nested structure of the data. I evaluated the effect of using different comparison groups on risk ratio values as well as school disproportionate status. Results indicate that the use of all other students as a comparison group yields significantly higher mean risk ratio values over three years for Black students to receive at least one out-of-school suspension (OSS) by a factor of 2.621. The predicted odds of a school’s risk ratio value being significantly disproportionate (i.e., compared to a threshold value) increases by a factor of 1.790 when using all other students as a comparison group. The mean risk ratio values for Black students to receive at least one OSS were significantly higher in 2014 – 2015 than in 2012 – 2013, regardless of which comparison group is used. Implications for both policy makers and researchers are discussed in light of the findings and proposed legislation.

View record

Component analysis of self-regulated strategy development : effects of self-statements on student writing (2015)

The Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model of writing instruction, which has been successfully used to improve student writing, is a multi-component, instructional model that combines explicit writing task strategy instruction with implicit instruction on self-regulation. One component of self-regulation identified in the model is self-instruction (i.e., students’ use of self-statements to regulate their emotions and behavior during the writing process). Recent research is unclear regarding the effectiveness of explicit instruction on self-statement use. The current study used a between groups design across six instructional pairs of students in grades 5 to 7 to determine if self-instruction is a critical component of the SRSD model. Three pairs of students received explicit instruction on the use of self-statements (SRSD+ group), the other three pairs did not (SRSD- group). Between groups differences in change were examined using a mixed effects, repeated measures ANOVA with a random intercept at the pair level. Results indicated that all groups showed significant improvements across most measures over time; however, there were no statistically significant differences in change between the SRSD+ and SRSD- groups. When effect sizes were examined, students in the SRSD- group showed large improvements relative to the SRSD+ group in self-efficacy, and small improvements in writing duration, Correct Writing Sequences (CWS), Percent Correct Writing Sequences (PCWS) and scores from British Columbia Performance Standards in Written Expression (BCPS-W) when compared to the SRSD+ group.

View record

Learning through action with embodied education : a multisensory component analysis in an early literacy skills intervention (2015)

Multisensory components have been used across various educational approaches for many decades; however, the specific contribution of multisensory components is not well documented or explained, especially from an embodied education approach. Thus, an investigation of the effectiveness of adding a multisensory component (i.e., sandpaper letters) to an early literacy skills intervention (i.e., modified Road to the Code program; Blachman, Ball, Black, & Tangle, 2000) was conducted. To accomplish this, a multiple-baseline multiple-sequence design was used with six kindergarten students identified as needing remediating instruction, comparing instruction with and without the multisensory component while keeping instructional time constant. It was hypothesized that participants would show greater gains in early literacy skills (i.e., naming letters, segmenting words into phonemes, and decoding phonetically regular words) following the intervention with the multisensory component, compared to the intervention without. The addition of a multisensory component (i.e., sandpaper letters) was time efficient and simple to implement, and appeared to result in differential growth for at least some students. Given that the addition of a modest multisensory component appeared to assist some students in improving their early literacy skills, results were consistent with theories of embodied cognition and suggested that a more robust multisensory intervention could be worth developing and researching further.

View record

The effect of a brief mindful breathing exercise added to a reading fluency intervention for students with significant attentional difficulties (2015)

Cognitive theories of reading acquisition emphasize cognitive processes such as attention and working memory, which could be problematic for students with significant attentional difficulties. Mindfulness interventions have been associated with improvements in executive functioning and positive academic outcomes. An alternating treatment design comparing a reading fluency intervention with and without an exploratory brief mindful breathing exercise was conducted with four elementary-aged students identified by classroom teachers as demonstrating difficulty with reading fluency and attention. It was hypothesized that participants would show greater gains in reading fluency, as measured by number of words correct per minute (WCPM), when they received the brief mindful breathing exercise compared to when they did not. It was also hypothesized that students would show increased attention and decreased feelings of stress, as indicated by self-report ratings, after participating in the brief mindful breathing exercise. The exploratory mindful breathing component was cost-efficient, and simple to implement. It appeared to benefit one student in increasing attention and decreasing feelings of stress. It did not, however, result in significant improvements in students’ rate of accurate oral reading, though the difference in WCPM between the first and third read-through of passages suggested that students benefitted from the reading fluency intervention regardless of condition. Future research examining the dosage of mindful breathing training required to see meaningful changes in cognitive processes, and in the intersection of mindful breathing and academic interventions for students, is recommended.

View record

The effects of a play-based social emotional learning program on problem behaviour and social responsibility (2014)

A growing realization of the importance of addressing social–emotional, in addition to academic, development in schools highlights the importance of establishing an evidence base for SEL initiatives. The current study is an evaluation of one SEL initiative, Play Is The Way™ (McCaskill, 2011) which uses physically interactive games to promote social-emotional competencies and positive school climates. Play Is The Way™ was implemented in 5 classrooms of one elementary school. Five additional classrooms delayed implementation and served as comparison classrooms. Across the 10 Kindergarten through Grade 7 classrooms, 79 students were randomly selected and outcome measures were completed by teachers for those students before and after the intervention was implemented. Outcome measures included the Social Responsibility Quick Scale (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2001), a measure of social responsibility, and the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children – Second Edition (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004), a measure of problem behaviour. A mixed-effects analysis of variance was used to determine if there were increases in social responsibility and decreases in problem behaviour in implementing classrooms. Gender and grade were included as predictors. Significant interactions were found on the externalizing outcome variable, between treatment group and gender, and on both the externalizing and internalizing outcome variables, between treatment group and grade. Results do not clearly support the use of PITW to reduce externalizing and internalizing behaviours, or to increase social responsibility in elementary students. Effect sizes indicated medium reductions in externalizing behaviours for upper elementary students and for male students; medium increases in externalizing behaviours for female and upper elementary students; medium reductions in internalizing behaviours for upper elementary; and large increases in internalizing behaviours for lower elementary students. Effect sizes indicating medium increases in social responsibility in the treatment group.Limitations of the current study include that classrooms were not randomly assigned to conditions, measures were completed by classroom teachers who also implemented the program, fidelity information was not available, and baseline ratings on the BASC-2 indicated a lack significant challenges in the areas measured by outcome variables. Results are discussed in light of these limitations, and the implications for future research and practice.

View record

Cyberpsychology and schools : a feasibility study using virtual reality with school children (2013)

This study evaluates the feasibility and treatment acceptability of Virtual Reality (VR) technology applied universally in a school setting. A total of 105 children, mean age of 14.45, in five classrooms completed a paper and pencil measure of trait anxiety during Session 1. In Session 2, participants were randomly selected to participate in either a neutral environment or an anxiety-provoking environment and completed a measure of state anxiety immediately prior to and following their first VR exposure. Following the exposure participants also completed a Likert-Scaled questionnaire regarding treatment acceptability. In Session 3, participants completed Session 2 procedure in the alternate environment. There was a main effect of condition and time on state anxiety scores, controlling for trait anxiety. Participants in the anxiety provoking condition had lower mean state anxiety scores than being in the neutral condition; participants had lower state anxiety levels following the anxiety condition than they did following the neutral condition. All participants’ mean state anxiety levels were lower post exposure than pre exposure. There was also a borderline significant main effect of condition on treatment acceptability levels, controlling for trait anxiety. Participants in the neutral condition had a higher level of acceptability than when in the anxiety provoking condition. Results reveal that the implementation of VR technology exposure warrants further research.

View record

Publications

 
 

If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.