Ariana Vasquez

Educational Psychologist and Researcher

About me

I am currently a sixth year doctoral candidate in the Educational Psychology: Human Development, Culture, and Learning Sciences program at The University of Texas at Austin, working in the Motivation and Education Research Group (MERG) with Dr. Erika Patall. I also received my master’s in Program Evaluation from The University of Texas at Austin.

Before enrolling at UT, I completed my BA in Psychology and my MA in Elementary Education from Austin College. I began my career by teaching for five years before returning to school to pursue my PhD. I taught 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts at KIPP: TRUTH Academy in south Dallas.




Download CV:



  • 2016
  • PhD Educational Psychology
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • 2014
  • MA Program Evaluation
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • 2006
  • MA Elementary Education
  • Austin College
  • 2004
  • BA Psychology
  • Austin College


Research Interests

The research I have conducted and been a part of has been driven by an overall desire to help guide educational theory and policy. With this predominant goal in mind I have developed three lines of research under the mentorship of Dr. Erika Patall. Two of these lines relate to factors that influence academic achievement and motivation, such as 1) parent and teacher autonomy support and its relationship with academic achievement, motivation, and psychosocial functioning, and 2) the relationship between psychological health and physical health and its impact on motivation and achievement. In addition, my third line of research includes the powerful tools of systematic research synthesis, particularly meta-analysis, to help guide theory and practice.

What Motivates Students?

Coming from the middle school classroom I was often surprised by the different levels of motivation among my students. I had students who would work hard, despite setbacks, and seemed to have a general love of reading and writing. Then I had students who refused to work, saw no value in the assignments, and had a general a motivation toward learning. This was one of the driving forces for me to come back to school, to find solutions for motivational problems facing teachers, parents, and students.

What motivates healthy habits?

My dissertation work is extending my motivational training and understanding. I am exploring the relationship between daily psychological need fulfillment and daily health habits. To explore motivational drives I use brief longitudinal designs (daily diary studies) and meta-analysis.


Meta-analysis is an excellent research tool that can be applied across various domains. It uses statistical methods to contrast and combine results among many studies simultaneously. The goal of this analysis is to synthesize large bodies of research by identifying patterns among study results, sources of disagreement among these results, and other interesting relationships that may come to light in the context of multiple studies.
I have been the lead researcher on two meta-analysis projects, taken several courses in meta-analysis technique and research, and also contributed to several different implementing the method. I feel meta-analysis is an extremely valuable research methodology and I plan to continue to use it throughout my career.


I have experience teaching across multiple age groups and developmental levels, from early elementary to college students. To me teaching is an art, not a science. I have spent many years studying and practicing this art, but I believe I will never stop learning and gaining skills related to this art. I believe my identity as a teacher is constantly being challenged and evolving, and it is an ongoing process that I readily embrace. Learning the art of teaching never stops. However, there are some fundamentals that have remained the same and guide my life as a teacher; 1) everyone can learn, 2) my teaching is student centered, and 3) I strive to instill a love of learning in my students.


I work as a mentor for EdPsyched. As a mentor I offer academic support for middle school and high school students. I provide one-on-one mentoring to teach my mentees skills for academic success.
Mentorship is very important in our Motivation and Education Research Group at UT. We employ a mentorship model, where graduate students in their third or fourth year are matched with a first year doctoral student. This pairing allows for an exchange of institutional knowledge, program information, and general support.


I believe community service is an important part of being a member of society. I belong to a service group called the Karma Badgers, where Austin friends and neighbors volunteer in community projects. Our motto is, “Honey badger don’t care, karma badgers do!”
I also believe professional service is important and I am an active member of national and university wide organizations. From 2012 – 2014 I was the Graduate Student Co-Chair for Division C: Learning and Instruction Graduate Student Council, American Educational Research Association. From 2012 – 2013 I was the University of Texas at Austin’s Graduate Student Assembly Programs Director.