A Student’s Report from the Association of Teacher Educators Conference
By Sarah Faulkner ’16
In the summer of 2013 I worked as Dr. Ellen Ballock’s research assistant on a project investigating how preservice teachers grow and develop as elementary writing teachers. The deeper I got involved in this project, the more I realized the work I was doing was a learning experience, not just a summer job. I learned more about the research process and more about the various roles our professors take on outside the classroom.
I have always had easy access to research articles: just type a few words into a search bar, and thousands of research articles appear. What I didn’t realize is that these articles represent the countless hours teams of researchers spend in the research process. For example, my summer work began with mundane tasks, such as coding data. I read through pages and pages of interview transcripts and categorized what participants said. Dr. Ballock and I checked in frequently to make sure that coding was done reliably. Then I counted how many words were assigned to each code and organized this information in spreadsheets. Dr. Ballock then analyzed the codes and word counts looking for meaningful patterns and connections. I also spent a lot of time searching for previous literature relating to this research project. This work gave me a whole new appreciation for the amount of time, energy, effort, and thinking that goes into a single research study.
Dr. Ballock and I travelled to Phoenix, Arizona, in February 2014 to present our research at the Association of Teacher Educators Conference. I was initially very nervous, because I had never been in such a professional setting. However, our audience was extremely encouraging and supportive, and I actually ended up having a lot of fun presenting. I was also able to attend a series of preservice teacher workshops at the conference, including an address by the National Teacher of the Year.
Prior to working as a research assistant, I never thought much about what our professors do in addition to teaching our classes. I had no idea that Dr. Ballock and others in the department are conducting research and presenting at professional conferences. Through my role as a research assistant, I have gained a new appreciation for all the hard work that goes into me being able to get the best education possible while I am here at Gordon.
Sarah Faulkner is an early childhood education and psychology major from Seekonk, Massachusetts.