The past few weeks of my internship at Teachers College have been extraordinarily insightful and enjoyable. Not only have I been able to work with some very interesting data, but I have also gotten the opportunity to conduct the study with human participants. I was able to make the shift from observer to experimenter and I have learned so much in the process. I enjoyed becoming a more active participant in such an interesting study and was able to see more connections between how my internship relates to teaching and STEM education.
I have been learning so much about how to conduct a study in the past few weeks. After imputing all of the old data from the first part of the study into spreadsheets, Professor Corter and Davie decided that I was ready to sit in on some studies. For the first few sessions, I sat and observed the process while taking notes. At first, it seemed incredibly overwhelming because there were so many details that go into the experimentation process. First, Davie would have the participants sign an informed consent form and then give them the instructions for their first task. She then set her stopwatch for 15 minutes and would tell them when they had five minutes remaining. After participants finished their first task, they were given a different map and had to do a similar task. This second task varied between groups. For example, participants in the individual condition worked alone on their second task while participants in the group condition had to work together.
For this second task, the participants’ hands would be videotaped so that we would have data on gestures. While the participants read their instructions, I had to set up the camera on top of the table so that it would be taping the hands of the participants. After they complete their second task, we give the participants an exit survey. Finally, after they have completed their exit survey, participants sign a sheet and get their $10 compensation if they are not doing the study for class credit. After participants leave, the experimenter must photocopy the maps and then fax copies to Professor Corter. The original maps are brought upstairs to the office while the copies remain in the conference room.
I was granted quite a bit of responsibility because for two weeks, both Professor Corter and Davie are away. Hence, I have been scheduling participants and running the study by myself. The majority of our participants see flyers on campus advertising our study. They email the Relief Aid Team and say that they are interested in participating. I regularly check this email and schedule participants. It is very frustrating when I schedule a participant and then they don’t show up to the study. Most of the time, the participant does not even send a cancellation notice. However, when participants do show up, the studies run smoothly. I have to decide what condition we give the participants and make sure that I hand out the correct sheets. I then must do the exact procedure I described earlier.
Both learning how to do this study and the study itself connects to STEM education. It took a while for Professor Corter and Davie to teach me the basics of conducting a study, and I can imagine it would take some time to teach students about the intricacies of research as well. There are so many aspects to conducting a study, including learning about ethical principles and understanding how to collect data. It may be helpful to teach children about the scientific method through experimentation and data collection, and I’m glad that I was able to see a real study so that I can one day convey that information to students. Furthermore, because I have been working so hard to put data in order, I will one day be able to teach students about data organization skills and the importance of keeping clear and thorough records. It is essential to keep data in order so that nothing gets misplaced or forgotten about.
Since I am in my second week of conducting the study alone, one of my goals is to continue having successful sessions. Another goal of mine is to schedule more participants and try to squeeze as many sessions into this week as I possibly can so that we have a lot of data to work with. Finally, once Professor Corter and Davie get back, I will be able to devote more attention to data input. I am very excited for the upcoming weeks because we will probably be analyzing the data soon. This means that we will be able to draw some statistically significant conclusions about collaborative learning.
Overall, my experience at Teachers College so far has been fascinating and enjoyable. It has been an honor to work with such intelligent and creative people on their ongoing study. I am so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to run study sessions on my own almost immediately after getting cleared by the IRB. Finally, I am very excited for the next few weeks because I will get to speak to Professor Corter and Davie about our findings and what they mean.