Katie Silva

Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Santa Cruz 
Department of Developmental Psychology

Research Focus

My research interests focus on culture and children’s development. I use a sociocultural approach to study teaching, learning, and communicative practices that are emphasized in underrepresented communities, especially in immigrant populations from México. Through my research I hope to inform educational practices to increase cultural sensitivity to the valued modes of teaching and learning in school. My research framework assumes that ethnicity does not necessarily confer particular experiences or characteristics but that it is essential to focus on participation in cultural practices as a way to study culture.

My dissertation study explores Mexican heritage and European American mothers’ and children’s conceptualizations and use of a mode of teaching that I have termed instructional ribbing. Instructional ribbing is a form of teasing that may be used to teach children by arousing their curiosity and communicating to them indirectly about their roles within the community. Although ethnographic work has suggested that teasing may be used in ways that benefit the development of children, there is a lack of psychological and comparative research that has studied this phenomenon and mainstream psychological theory often treats teasing in negative ways.