Pacific alumna will present research on remote learning at national convention

Carmen Huang

Carmen Huang ’20 will present her research at the American Psychological Association Convention.

When COVID-19 hit last year, many research projects were delayed or put on hold.

But recent alumna Carmen Huang ’20 found an opportunity to not only assist her faculty advisor with a research project, but to develop a study on how students of lower socioeconomic status were affected by remote learning during the pandemic.

Her work will be presented this month at the American Psychological Association Convention, the largest gathering of psychologists including some of the pre-eminent psychological scientists and clinicians in the world.

“I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to share my research and hear from professionals about my work,” said Huang. “It's a wonderful chance to network and learn from experts.”

Huang was assisting Psychology Assistant Professor Carla M. Strickland-Hughes with a study on how younger, middle-aged, and older adults were coping with isolation during the pandemic, funded by a $132,000 National Science Foundation grant.

Strickland-Hughes' research, a collaboration with Dr. Rachel Wu at the University of California-Riverside, focused on what might help people get through COVID-19 social distancing restrictions without negative outcomes such as increased depression, social isolation and loneliness. The study also examined whether learning new skills or engaging in cognitively-demanding activities relates to better outcomes.

Huang also helped Strickland-Hughes conduct a separate survey of Pacific students that provided insight into the impact of reading COVID-19 news.

“Being able to be involved in research directly with Dr. Strickland-Hughes made a huge impact in my educational experience,” explained Huang. “I got to learn some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of research you don’t always think about as a student. I had better technique in my lab classes, I had a new perspective and better understanding of in-class projects, and it helped me improve my scientific writing and presentation skills.”

Inspired by her work with Strickland-Hughes, Huang began her own research where she looked at the relationship between COVID-19 and student self-efficacy, which is one’s confidence in their ability to do well.

Huang studied how the transition from in-person instruction to remote learning may have exacerbated pre-existing disparities, such as lower confidence, for underrepresented student minority groups.

“For my research I had three questions. The first was looking at self-efficacy during remote instruction and the second was to see whether people from different social groups responded differently,” explained Huang. “Last, was to see if their social class and their stress would explain the differences in their confidence to do well.”

Based on her research, Huang found a positive correlation between higher social class and confidence. She also found that those in the upper class were more confident in both learning online and managing their time in online classes.

Huang shared her work during Pacific's Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference and also at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which gathers student scholars and presenters from a variety of universities and academic areas.

“There have been a lot of challenges over the last year, but a silver lining has been working with students like Carmen on research and providing them the kind of hands-on experiences that enhance their skills,” said Strickland-Hughes. “The lessons Carmen and all of our student researchers have learned through this experience will help them succeed in their careers and adapt under adverse circumstances.”

Huang is scheduled to present her research virtually at the American Psychological Association Convention Aug. 12-14.