Penn State DuBois faculty participate in two human development conferences

Side-by-side portraits of two people

Jessica Clontz, left, is an assistant teaching professor and Sarah Pierotti, right, is an assistant professor at Penn State DuBois.

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — During the spring semester, Jessica Clontz, assistant teaching professor, and Sarah Pierotti, assistant professor, both took part in industry conferences. Clontz and Pierotti are faculty members in the human development and family studies program at Penn State DuBois.

Clontz presented on her pedagogical research at the American Association of Colleges and Universities' Conference on General Education, Assessment and Pedagogy in Providence, Rhode Island in April. Her work, which was co-investigated by Pierotti, focused on how teaching modalities and techniques in the classroom impact students’ levels of empathy for and the stigmatization of people living with substance use.

Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, Clontz’s study revealed that the class experience did increase students’ empathy and significantly decreased stigmatizing beliefs. Her findings show support for the use of intentional and experiential pedagogy to enhance the professional development of future human service workers.

Clontz said her work was inspired by research that has shown a positive correlation between empathy levels of clinicians and therapeutic outcomes for clients living with substance use disorder.

For the second consecutive year, Pierotti served as a co-organizer of the annual Moral Development Pre-Conference, this year held as part of the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting, held in Chicago, Illinois, in April. To plan the pre-conference event, Pierotti worked alongside three co-organizers who have been colleagues since their time together in graduate school.

“This was a very memorable and meaningful moment in my career,” Pierotti said. “I got to work once again with colleagues from graduate school. We were all advised by the same adviser, Gustavo Carlo, who we had the pleasure of honoring during the closing remarks.”

Pierotti noted that hosting the pre-conference was almost a year long process. The group of co-organizers applied to host the pre-conference at the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year. Once they received approval, they continued planning the event throughout the academic year. Their hard work paid off in April with the hosting of a successful event that gathered over 30 scholars in the field of moral development to discuss topics of civic engagement and prosocial interventions. The pre-conference also served as a workshop for networking, sharing ideas and learning about future directions in the field.