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Photo of Thorkildsen, Theresa A.

Theresa A. Thorkildsen, PhD

Professor of Education and Psychology

Educational Psychology and Psychology


Building & Room:

3549 ETMSW


1040 W. Harrison St. (MC 147), Chicago, IL 60607

Office Phone:

(312) 996-8138


Related Sites:


Theresa (Terri) Thorkildsen is a professor of Education and Psychology. Thorkildsen’s current research focuses on moral motivation, highlighting how individuals learn to participate in society.  Guided by Intentional Systems Theory, Thorkildsen explores how children and adults participate in civil discourse, and how this type of engagement differs from personal and civic engagement. Thorkildsen's programmatic attempts to study moral motivation illustrate why some individuals become highly committed to education and others avoid such commitments. The interdisciplinary nature of this work has led Thorkildsen to publish in a wide range of outlets.  She has authored or edited five books as well as a range of journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews. A fellow of the American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, and the American Educational Research Association, Thorkildsen is also an active citizen in a number of professional organizations as well as in the UIC community.

Selected Publications

Refereed Books
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2017). Adolescents’ self-discovery in groups. New York, NY: Routledge.
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2005). Fundamentals of measurement in applied research. Boston, MA: Allyn
& Bacon.
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Walberg, H. J. (Eds.). (2004). Nurturing morality. New York, NY: Kluwer.
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Nicholls, J. G. (with Bates, A., Brankis, N., & DeBolt, T.). (2002). Motivation
and the struggle to learn: Responding to fractured experience. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Nicholls J. G., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (Eds.). (1995). Reasons for learning: Expanding the conversation on
student-teacher collaboration. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sample Refereed Journal Articles
Jaigarun, P., Corte, C., McCreary, L. L., Finnegan, L., Hughes, T. L., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (2018).
Attributes of the drinker prototype among Thai adolescents. Cogent Psychology, 5, pp-pp.
doi: 10.1080/23311908.2018.1502501
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Driver, P. (2017). Helping adolescents respond with integrity to defensive
teaching. Theory into Practice, 56, 136-143. doi: 10.1080/00405841.2017.1283572
Ata, D., Nguyen, H., Driver, P., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (2015). Preserving autonomy and interest
mediates adolescents’ academic performance. Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research
Journal, 1, 14-21.
Reed, N., Bailey, A., Laws, S., Driver, P., Xing, K., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (2015). Autonomy and
competence drive high school seniors’ academic intentions. Interdisciplinary
Undergraduate Research Journal, 1(1), 33–42.
Basu, S., Salisbury, C., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (2010). Measuring collaborative consultation
practices in natural environments. Journal of Early Intervention, 32, 127-150. doi:
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2007). Adolescents’ moral engagement in urban settings. Theory into
Practice, 46, 113-120. doi: 10.1080/00405840701232976
Thorkildsen, T. A., Sodonis, A., & White-McNulty, L. (2004). Epistemology and adolescents’
conceptions of procedural justice in school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 347-
359. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.96.2.347
Thorkildsen, T. A., & White-McNulty, L. (2002). Developing conceptions of fair contest
procedures and the differentiation of skill and luck. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94,
316-326. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.94.2.316
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2002). Literacy as a lifestyle: Learning to respect the voices of urban students.
Reading and Writing Quarterly, 18, 321-341. doi: 10.1080/07487630290061863
Thorkildsen, T. A., Reese, D., & Corsino, A. (2002). School ecologies and attitudes about
exclusionary behavior among adolescents and young adults. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 48,
25-51. doi: 10.1353/mpq.2002.0004
Lau, S., Nicholls, J. G., Thorkildsen, T. A., & Patashnick, M. (2000). Chinese and American
adolescents’ perceptions of the purposes of education and beliefs about the world of
work. Social Behavior and Personality, 28, 73-90. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2000.28.1.73
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Nicholls, J. G. (1998). Fifth graders’ achievement orientations and beliefs:
Individual and classroom difference. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 179-201. doi:

Sample Refereed Journal Articles

Thorkildsen, T. A. & Schmahl, C. (1997). Conceptions of fair learning practices among low-income
African American and Latin American Children: Acknowledging diversity. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 89, 719-727. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.89.4.719
Thorkildsen, T. A., Nolen, S. B., & Fournier, J. (1994). What’s fair? Children’s critiques of practices
that influence motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 475-486. doi:
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1994). Toward a fair community of scholars: Moral education as the negotiation
of classroom practices. Journal of Moral Education, 23, 371-385. (Reprinted in Journal of
Learning and Evaluation, published in Japan by the Center for the Study of Learning.)
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1994). Some ethical implications of communal and competitive approaches
to gifted education. Roeper Review, 17, 54-57. doi: 10.1080/02783199409553620
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1993). Those who can, tutor: High ability students’ conceptions of fair ways to
organize learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 182-190. doi: 10.1037/0022-
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Nicholls, J. G. (1991). Students’ critiques as motivation. Educational
Psychologist, 26, 347-368. doi: 10.1207/s15326985ep2603&4_7
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1991). Defining social goods and distributing them fairly: The development of
conceptions of fair testing practices. Child Development, 62, 852-862. doi:
Nicholls, J. G., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (1989). Intellectual conventions verses matters of substance:
Elementary school students as curriculum theorists. American Educational Research
Journal, 26, 533-544. doi: 10.2307/1162863
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1989). Pluralism in children’s reasoning about social justice. Child
Development, 60, 965-972. doi: 10.2307/1131036
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1989). Justice in the classroom: The student’s view. Child Development, 60,
323-334. doi: 10.2307/1130979
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1988). Theories of education among academically able adolescents.
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 13, 323-330. doi: 10.1016/0361-476X(88)90031-8
Nicholls, J. G., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (1988). Children’s distinctions among matters of intellectual
conventions, logic, fact, and personal preferences. Child Development, 59, 939-949. doi:

Sample Book Chapters
Thorkildsen, T. A., & Xing, K. (2016). Facebook as a tool for enhancing communication and selfexpression.
In Tettegah, S. Y. (Ed.), Emotions, technology, and social media (pp. 117 – 138).
San Diego: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801857-6.00007-5
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2013). Motivation as the readiness to act on moral commitments. In K.
Heinrichs, F. Oser, & T. Lovat (Eds.), Handbook on moral motivation: Theories, models,
applications (pp. 85-99). Boston, MA: Sense Publishers. doi: 10.1007/978-94-6209-275-4_6
Thorkildsen, T. A., Golant, C. J., & Cambray-Engstrom, E. (2008). Essential solidarities for
understanding Latino adolescents’ moral and academic engagement. In C. Hudley, & A. E.
Gottfried (Eds.), Academic motivation and the culture of schooling in childhood and
adolescence (pp. 73-98). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1016/b978-012372541-
Thorkildsen, T. A., Golant, C. J., & Richesin, L.D. (2007). Reaping what we sow: Cheating as a
mechanism of moral engagement. In E.M. Anderman, & T. B. Murdock (Eds.), The
psychology of academic cheating (pp. 171-202). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (2004). Moral functioning in school. In T. A. Thorkildsen, & H. J. Walberg
(Eds.), Nurturing morality (pp. 137-155). New York, NY: Kluwer.
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2000). Children’s coordination of procedural and commutative justice in
school. In W. van Haaften, T. Wren, & A. Tellings (Eds.), Moral sensibilities and education II:
The schoolchild (pp. 61-88). Bemmel, Netherlands: Concorde Publishing House. (Reprinted
in Spanish.)
Thorkildsen, T. A. (2000). The way tests teach: Children’s theories of how much testing is fair in
school. In M. Leicester, C. Modgil, & S. Modgil (Eds.), Education, culture, and values, Vol. III:
Classroom issues: practice, pedagogy, and curriculum (pp. 61-79). London: Falmer Press.
Nicholls, J. G., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (with Bates, A.). (1997). Experience through the eyes of Quiet Bird:
Reconnecting personal life and school life. In A. Pollard, A. Flier, & D. Thiessen (Eds.), Children and
the curriculum: The perspectives of primary and elementary school pupils (pp. 122-140). London,
Ontario: Falmer Press.
Nicholls, J. G., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (1995). Beyond what works. In J. G. Nicholls, & T. A.
Thorkildsen (Eds.), Reasons for learning: Expanding the conversation on student-teacher
collaboration (pp. 1-4). New York: Teachers College Press.
Pergande, K., & Thorkildsen, T. A. (1995). From teachers as experimental researchers to
teaching as moral inquiry. In J. G. Nicholls, & T. A. Thorkildsen (Eds.), Reasons for learning:
Expanding the conversation on student-teacher collaboration (pp. 21-35). New York:
Teachers College Press.
Thorkildsen, T. A. & Jordan, C. (1995). Is there a right way to collaborate? When the experts speak
can the customers be right? In J. G. Nicholls, & T. A. Thorkildsen (Eds.), Reasons for learning:
Expanding the conversation on student-teacher collaboration (pp. 137-161). New York:
Teachers College Press.
Thorkildsen, T. A. (1995). Conceptions of social justice. In W. M. Kurtines, & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.),
Moral development: An introduction (pp. 511-533). New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Nicholls, J. G., Patashnick, M., Cheung, P. C., Thorkildsen, T. A., & Lauer, J. (1989). Can theories
of achievement motivation succeed with only one conception of success? In F. Halish, & J.
van den Bercken (Eds.), International perspectives on achievement and task motivation (pp.
187-208). Lisse, Holland: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Publication Aggregators

Notable Honors

2015-2016, UIC's Award for Excellence in Teaching, UIC Campus

2013-2014, President of American Psychological Association's Division 15: Educational Psychology, American Psychological Association

2011-2012, UIC's Silver Circle Award for Excellence in Teaching, UIC's Graduating Seniors

2008-Present, Inaugural Fellow, American Educational Research Association

2019, Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

2019, Member, Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honors Society


1988 - PhD, Purdue University, Humanities, Social Science, & Education
(Specialization: social development, educational psychology, & research methods)

1985 - Master's of Science, Purdue University, Humanities, Social Science, & Education
(Specialization: educational psychology)

1982 - Bachelor of Science, University of Washington, Department of Psychology

Professional Memberships

American Educational Research Association
American Psychological Association
Association for Psychological Science
Social Psychology Network
Society for Research in Child Development
Society for Research on Adolescence
Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Sociey for the Study of Motivation

Selected Presentations

Sample Invited Presentations

Thorkildsen, T. A. (2019, November). Fair uses of criterion- and norm-referenced assessment.  Invited Address for the Educational Research Association of Singapore, Singapore.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (2015, August). Balancing opportunities for personal, civic, and civil discourse in educational settings. Presidential Address presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (2015, March). Teaching adolescents to balance self-care and social participation.  Keynote address at the IX Congreso Internacional de Salud Mental, Guadalajara, Mexico.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (2005, September). The role of personal standards in students’ moral and academic engagement.  Keynote Address of the 10th biennial conference for the Educational Psychology Division of the German Psychological Society (PAEPS10), Halle, Germany.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (1999, April). Developing a fair community of scholars: Students’ reasoning about procedural and commutative justice.  Invited Address for Division E presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, QC.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (1998, June). Negotiating a fair community of scholars: Considering students' conceptions of fair classroom practices. Invited address at a seminar titled, Moral Sensibilities and Education at the University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Thorkildsen, T. A. (1994, May).  Cooperative learning and the facilitation of moral growth.  In M.F. Daniel (Chair), Cooperation in the classroom. Colloquium sponsored by ACFAS and the University of Quebec, Montreal, QC.

Research Currently in Progress

Thorkildsen is currently transitioning from her earlier focus on youth to explore how adults participate in society.  Her current work explores how sport and social media serve as societal institutions, and how individuals remain lifelong learners in these settings.  Thorkildsen teaches courses in human development, motivation, educational psychology, and research design and methods.

Course syllabi and additional details