Katherine is a PhD candidate (ABD) in Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She completed an MA at the UW-Madison in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies with an emphasis in Theatre for Youth with Dr. Manon van de Water in 2018, and an MS in Educational Psychology with Dr. Edward M. Hubbard in 2020. She will defend the dissertation in 2023.

Labs: Katherine works with Dr. Edward M. Hubbard in the Educational Neuroscience Lab in the department of Educational Psychology and with Dr. Erica Halverson in the Community Arts Research Collaboratory (an NEA Research Lab) in the department of Curriculum & Instruction.

Recent Projects:

  • “UW Community Arts Collaboratory Research Lab: mixed methods research for understanding how arts education leads to social emotional learning skills and growth for students and teachers” – funded by the NEA
  • “Assessment and Out-of-School Time Arts Learning for Diverse Youth” – funded by the Wallace Foundation
  • “Teaching Artists and Antiracism in Out-of-School Time Theatre Programs” – funded by the UW-Madison Division of the Arts Creative Arts Award
  • Wonderground Evaluation Project – in partnership with the Madison Children’s Museum
  • “Where Does Pretend Play Go? A Lifespan Developmental Perspective” – dissertation research

Upcoming Conferences:

  • How School-Based Arts Programming Supports Social Emotional Learning for Elementary School Students – a symposium presentation at the 2023 meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA), with co-authors Lashley, Y., Halverson, E., Norman, K.E., Jaussi, G., et al.
  • Teaching Artist Perceptions of Anti-Racism in an Out-of-School Time Theatre Program – a panel presented at the 2023 meeting of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS), with co-authors Saplan, K., Mattaini, M., and Norman, K.E.

Recent Publications:

  • Norman, K.E., & Goldstein, T. (2022). The Importance of the ‘Imaginary’ in Theorizing ‘Why Imaginary Worlds?’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 52.
  • Saplan, K., Norman, K.E., Probst, C. & Erica R. Halverson (in-press) A Complex Landscape of Assessment in Out of School Time Arts Learning: Practices, Pitfalls, and Perspectives Journal of the Learning Sciences.

Research interests: I study make-believe! Growing out of practical experiences as an actor and teaching artist, my research revolves around questions regarding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie pretend play/drama and the ways that pretending impacts learning and development. Based primarily within the psychological domains of human development, cognitive neuroscience, and embodied cognition, my work is interested in how applying mixed methods designs can merge the specificity and generalizability of quantitative research with the flexibility and depth of qualitative research to construct nuanced, meaningful understandings of art and development. The bounded pretend space created by make-believe serves as a fruitful research site for questions regarding how people learn and make meaning.

For an introduction to some of my questions, check out my article The Reality of Pretending on the Illuminating Discovery Hub.

(For a full list of projects, conferences, teaching, and publications, please request CV)

The Whoopensocker Show! at Thoreau Elementary School