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Professor to Study Gender Differences in Cognitive Ability Influences on Writing Achievement

Image Daniel Hajovsky Daniel Hajovsky, assistant professor of school psychology in the USD School of Education, will lead a research project that may help identify learning disabilities in students.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- A University of South Dakota School of Education assistant professor will lead a team from USD and elsewhere that will research how student cognitive abilities impact writing achievement and how it’s different for boys and girls across school-age development.

Daniel Hajovsky, Ph.D., assistant professor of school psychology in the counseling and psychology in education division, will use a $10,000 research grant from the Woodcock Institute for the Advancement of Neurocognitive Research and Applied Practice.

Joining Hajovsky are USD school psychology doctoral students Ethan Villeneuve and Brittany Lewno and researchers from the University of Kansas and the University of Texas-Austin. They will study which specific aspects of cognitive abilities, such as processing speed, working memory and visual-spatial ability, influence writing achievement, and whether those influences show a developmental pattern over time between males and females or both.

Girls have typically demonstrated an advantage in writing compared to boys, with that advantage increasing over time. The study will investigate which cognitive abilities contribute to that advantage using a popular set of intelligence and achievement batteries.

The findings offer a unique contribution to school psychologists as schools grapple with how to identify learning disabilities.

Download a photo of Hajovsky.


USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, kinesiology and sport management, and teacher residency and education.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News