Valerie is a 4th-year Ph.D. Candidate working with Dr. Marianella Casasola in the Play and Learning Lab. She is broadly interested in how children's experiences in the world interact with developing cross-domain systems to support learning, with special emphases on the interplay of perceptual, motor, linguistic, and social processes. In this vein, her work with Dr. Casasola centers on how infants' and young children's acquisition of mental rotation, a fundamental spatial skill, is influenced by non-spatial factors such as play behavior, visual processing biases, and motor development. Valerie also recently completed a multi-session training study examining how spatial language cues and hands-on motor experience promote spatial and STEM skill learning in preschoolers.
In addition to her academic work, Valerie cares deeply about making sure developmental research is accessible to the families and community practitioners who will find it useful. Through her role in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), Valerie has had the opportunity to advise community partners such as NYS 4-H on youth programming and to communicate developmental research findings to a wide audience base.
Of particular importance to Valerie is working on research with direct and relevant applications outside of the lab that can lead to meaningful interventions that are easily applied in schools and other community settings to enhance children’s cognitive development. To this end, her research focuses on finding ways to build upon elements of children’s daily experience that they already partake in and enjoy, such as play, in order to facilitate the acquisition of various spatial and linguistic skills. Her work addresses three main areas:
(1) What aspects of play are helpful to children in developing foundational cognitive skills?
(2) How can play be manipulated to capitalize upon these aspects?
(3) What sorts of cross-domain transfer can occur between specific types of play and specific types of cognitive skills—for instance, can play that focuses on motor skills help children perform better on tasks related to spatial reasoning? How well do children draw across these domains to learn new skills?
HD 1150: Introduction to Infancy & Childhood (Summer 2022)
HD 1155: Playing to Learn (Fall 2022)
Bambha, V.P., Beckner, A.G., Shetty, N., Voss, A.T., Xie, J., Yiu, E., LoBue, V., Oakes, L.M., Casasola, M. (2022). Developmental Changes in Children’s Object Insertions during Play. Journal of Cognition and Development. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/15248372.2022.2025807
Bambha, V. P., & Casasola, M. (2021). From Lab to Zoom: Adapting training study methodologies to remote conditions. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 3075 – 3087. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.694728
- Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) Graduate Research Fellow
2019, B.S., Psychology with Linguistics Minor, William & Mary
2021, M.A., Developmental Psychology, Cornell University