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Individual Differences in Skill Development: Toward a Causal Explanation

Quintana, Rafael (2020) Individual Differences in Skill Development: Toward a Causal Explanation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Describing and explaining individual differences in skill development is a fundamental component of educational research. However, given the highly interdisciplinary nature of the field and the various theoretical and methodological approaches involved, studies on skill development often fail to provide a coherent and cumulative body of research. In this three-study dissertation, I discuss foundational conceptual and methodological issues in skill development, and show how different approaches can be integrated in a principled and cumulative fashion. The first study presents a general framework, referred to under the label of “academic mobility”, for describing the development of educational inequalities using student learning outcomes. In this study, I discuss ways of operationalizing the concept of educational inequality, and measure academic mobility at a national level using five mobility metrics. While the first study is descriptive in nature, the second and third study intend to shed some light into why individual differences might arise. The second study presents an approach for establishing the explanatory relevance of different predictors based on distal and proximal considerations. For this purpose, I implement several causal search algorithms and find that, consistent with my research hypotheses, previous achievement and executive functions are proximal mechanisms of both reading and math achievement. Finally, in the third paper I describe the relationship between executive functions and academic achievement by implementing several within-person methodological strategies.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Quintana, Rafaelraq5@pitt.eduraq50000-0003-4776-9362
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCorrenti, Richard
Committee MemberFinkel, Steven
Committee MemberVotruba-Drzal, Elizabeth
Committee MemberPage, Lindsay
Date: 2 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 April 2020
Approval Date: 2 September 2020
Submission Date: 11 June 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 208
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Learning Sciences and Policy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Academic mobility, Educational inequality, Achievement gap, Causal inference, Causal discovery, Academic achievement, Contextual factors, Proximal mechanisms, Executive functions, Longitudinal analysis, Fixed-effects models
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2020 15:36
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2020 15:36


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