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Jennifer Watling Neal | Social Networks in Schools

About me:

I'm an Associate Professor at Michigan State University with interests that span the fields of Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Community Psychology, Sociology, and Education. My research focuses on understanding social networks in K-12 educational contexts. I've studied the role of children's classroom peer networks in shaping prosocial and aggressive behaviors and the role of educator networks in facilitating the adoption and use of new programs and practices. When I'm not studying kids and schools, I enjoy traveling to new places, learning about wine, and hanging out with my husband (Zachary Neal) and two cats (Pomodoro & Cece).

Education and Work

2015 - Present 

Associate Professor, Psychology

Michigan State University

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2009 - 2015

Assistant Professor, Psychology

Michigan State University

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2008 - 2009

NIMH F32 Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Illinois at Chicago

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Ph.D. in Psychology, 2008

Minor: Statistics, Methods, & Measurement

University of Illinois at Chicago

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M.A. in Psychology, 2004

Minor: Statistics, Methods, & Measurement

University of Illinois at Chicago

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B.S. in Psychology, 2001

Minor: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

University of Arizona

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B.A. in Sociology, 2001

Minor: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

University of Arizona

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Awards

Early Career Award, 2016

Society for Community Research & Action

APA Division 27

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Best Dissertation Award, 2010

Society for Community Research & Action

APA Division 27

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Leonard D. Eron Award, 2008

University of Illinois at Chicago

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Editorships

2016 - Present

Editorial Board,

American Journal of Community Psychology

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2015 - Present

Associate Editor,

Social Development

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Research

Understanding the Research-Practice Gap in K-12 Education. Public schools are an important venue for delivering high quality instructional, health, and social skills programs and practices to kids.  However, a research-practice gap persists.  I'm interested in exploring how we can leverage educators' social networks to narrow this research-practice gap.  See more at the Michigan School Program Information Project website.

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Children's Networks and Social Behaviors.  Kids spend a great deal of their daily lives in classrooms.  I'm interested in understanding how their classroom relationships shape their  aggression, prosociality, and personalities and vice versa.  My work in this area has involved kids ranging in age from preschool to early adolescence.

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Child & Teacher Perceptions of Networks.  How do kids and teachers perceive classroom relationships and how "accurate" are they in these perceptions?  What drives the accuracy of these perceptions?  I've used a method called cognitive social structures to look at some of these questions.

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Social Network Theory & Methods.  I've applied key concepts related to social networks to refine several theories such as ecological systems theory and empowerment.  I'm also interested in improving methods for network data collection and analysis in schools and in community psychology.

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Teaching

Research Methods.  I enjoy teaching courses on research methods at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  I've taught courses that focus on aspects of epistemology, research design and sampling.  I've also taught courses that focus on quantitative (e.g., survey design, experiments) and qualitative (e.g., semi-structured interviewing) field-based methods.

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Social Network Analysis.  I love teaching courses on social network analysis.  In the past, I've focused my classes on understanding the theoretical concepts behind network analysis, data collection, and common analyses.

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Community Psychology.  I taught graduate level courses on the history and theory of community psychology for several years.  These courses focus on exposing students to some of the core theories in the discipline including ecological theories, prevention and promotion, empowerment, dissemination and implementation, and social networks. 

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© 2018 by Jennifer Watling Neal

 

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