Susan Golbeck

Susan L. Golbeck

Emeritus Professor
Educational Psychology

Susan Golbeck, Ph.D. (SG) is an applied developmental psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the GSE. Echoing her long standing interest in the application of psychological research to address problems in the education of young children, her current work explores the development of spatial thinking in mathematics and science and the role of peer collaboration in learning processes.

As an undergraduate student at Clark University, SG was first exposed to developmental psychology serving as a research assistant studying children’s perception. Yet it was her coursework unrelated to psychology that ultimately led to an awareness of broaden societal issues and their contextualization in urban settings. This awareness, coupled with the time’s social unrest and the introduction of novel education programs like Head Start, drew SG’s concern to disparities in educational equity and served as a catalyst for her to earn her Ed.M. and later, her Ph.D. in Human Development. As a doctoral candidate, SG worked as an educator in various capacities, serving as lead teacher at Penn State’s Laboratory Preschool and teaching undergraduate students at the university.

SG would go on to become a faculty member at the GSE, teaching Ed.M. and Ed.D. courses while continuing to study children’s cognitive development. At the time, she identified a lack of research surrounding family child care despite a growing need for it amongst working mothers. Accordingly, she conducted pioneering research aimed at better understanding how teachers’ and caregivers’ ideas about children’s learning and development are influenced by their own personal experiences caring for children. Concurrently, her work on children’s thinking evolved to include the role of peer collaboration on cognitive change, and encompassed topics such as gender differences in spatial knowledge, graphic representation, and mathematical thinking.  A common thread across this research was the impact of peers and the social context for the development of thought, in both children and adults.

SG’s work is published in a number of premier journals surrounding child development and early childhood education, and she is actively engaged in several related professional organizations including the Society for Research in Child Development, the American Educational Research Association, National Association for the Education of Young Children, American Psychological Association, and the Jean Piaget Society. She currently teaches graduate courses in educational psychology at the GSE, as well as an undergraduate course exploring school, family, and community relations. SG plans to continue studying cognitive development, specifically peer collaboration and cognitive change through early and middle childhood, with the possibility of introducing video data analysis into her study in the future.

• Ph.D. in Human Development & Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University (1980)
• Ed.M. in Development, Learning, & Instruction, University of Rochester Graduate School of Education (1976)
• B.A. in Psychology, Clark University (1974)
• American Educational Research Association, Divisions C & E
• American Psychological Association, Division 7
• American Psychological Society
• Cognitive Development Society
• International Society for Behavioral Research
• International Society for Instruction and Cognition
• Jean Piaget Society
• National Association for the Education of Young Children
• National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Education
• Society for Research in Child Development
• American Association for the Advancement of Science
• Phi Beta Kappa

  • Expertise & Research Interest

    Developmental Psychology
    Cognitive Development
    Early Childhood Education

  • Research Work With Students

    My research interests focus on children’s cognitive development. I am particularly interested in spatial thinking in early and middle childhood. Currently I am studying the effects of peer collaboration on spatial problem solving and the role of conflict in cognitive change. I am also interested in the applications of developmental theory to problems in early care and education. This includes the role of teachers’ and caregivers’ beliefs about learning and development, the design of developmentally appropriate instruction, and the effects of media-based toys on children’s play.

  • Recent & Selected Publications
    Golbeck, S. (in press). Coordinating reference points: Guided play with peers improves young children’s representations of the world. International Journal of Early Childhood Education.
    Golbeck, S. (2020). Patterns and structures in young children’s ideas about the spatial world?  An exploratory study. Cognitive Development.
    Golbeck, S. & El Moslimany, H. (2015). Developmental perspectives on collaborative learning. In C. Hmelo-Silver, Chinn, Chan & O’Donnell (eds).  International Handbook of collaborative learning. Taylor & Francis, Inc.
    Golbeck, S. (2010). Guided participation. In E. Andeman (ed.) Psychology of classroom learning. An encyclopedia. Cengage Learning.

    Doto, J. & Golbeck, S. (2007). Making “photo” graphs: Incorporating a photo provides a connection between graphs and real data. Science and Children, 45 (2), 33-35).

    Cote, C. & Golbeck, S. (2007).  Preschoolers’ feature placement on own and others’ person drawings. International Journal of the Early Years. 15(3), 231 – 243.

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