OUR Featured Researcher: Tosheania Phoenix '23

Portrait of Tosh Phoenix
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Tosheania Phoenix (she/her) is a STRONG Scholar planning to major in Neuroscience. She conducted research in the summer of 2019 in Travis Wilson's lab as part of the STRONG Program (Science and Technology Research Opportunities for a New Generation). She plans to continue her research this spring. Her project is titled "Effects of Peer Acceptance and Teacher-Student Relationship Quality on Student Academic Performance".

Please describe your research: 

The developmental psychology research that I conducted examined how teacher-student and peer-to-peer relationships affect the academic performance of predominantly low- income, Black elementary students. Overall, the findings showed that in comparison to peer-to-peer relationships, a stronng teacher-student relationship is a strong indicator of positive academic performance.

Why is your research important?

My research is important because it explores a concept that has not been thoroughly researched. Understanding how these interpersonal factors affect the academic performance of low-income, Black students can potentially allow for more advanced research. Also, educators are better able to serve students from these backgrounds to encourage positive academic performance.

What did the process of doing your research look like?

The goal of my research experience was to explore the factors that contribue to the ethnic minoriy achievement gap. To work towards this goal, my research mentor, Professor Travis Wilson, and I identified a variety of studies for me to read. From there, I formulated my research inquiry and utilized Professor Wilson's previously collected data to identify the findings of the study.

What were your findings?

Overall, the findings were consistent with this notion: a strong teacher-student relationship is a strong indicator of positive academic performance. As previously mentioned, there is insufficient research concerning the impact of teacher-student and peer-to-peer relaltionships on the academic performance of ethnic minorities at specific ages. The findings from my research contribute to this topic that is not completely understood.

In what ways will you showcase your research?

I will be showcasing my research at Oberlin College in the Spring of 2020. And I have also submitted my research to be showcased at the 2020 Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting in San Diego, California.

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to want to seek out research
experiences in college?

I began to consider getting involved in research during the college application process. I had a number of questions that were constantly circling in my mind concerning
systematic, institutional, and internal inquiries, and I knew that conducting research
could potentially answer some of them. So when I was invited to apply for the STRONG,
pre-first year, research program, I did not hesitate to do so.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

My favorite aspect of the research process is gaining knowledge that I did not previously have. Of course, I gain knowledge that is a direct result of my research's findings. But I am also gaining more indirect knowledge concerning broader topics.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?
How has it impacted you as a researcher?

Working with my research mentor, Professor Travis Wilson, has made my research experience worthwhile. He is extremely knowledgeable and easy-going, which positively contributes to my experience.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic
development?

As an aspiring pediatrcian interested in addressing both healthcare/medicine and education disparrities, my research in the Psychology Department has positively contritbuted to my professional, academic, and personal development. My research experience is extremely valuable to me, and I will apply what I learned to my future endeavors.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in
your field?

Though I do not have advice that is specific to developmental psychology research, I would tell a younger student that, in general, research is both great and complex. And therefore it is vital that you are ever aware and grateful of the knowledge that you are obtaining, whilst being patient as you seek answers concerning more difficult research inquiries. So, wake up, show up, and conduct the research; it is worth it!

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