Job Title: Senior Research Associate
Type of Company: I work for a non-profit organization that does curriculum development and research on education and health.
Education: BA in Chemistry, New York University MA in Curriculum and Instruction, University of Colorado, Denver EdD in Education Administration, Training and Policy Studies, Boston University
Previous Experience: I worked for five years as a middle school science teacher, then was a doctoral student, holding graduate teaching positions at the university. I also worked as part of a research team for an education research and development organization
Job Tasks: My day to day work varies and my focus changes over long periods of time. Currently I am working on six projects related to improving the quality of science education. On four of them I am an external evaluator of either science curricula or school programs. This means that another organization directs the project and we determine whether they have met their goals, whether students have learned what they were supposed to, or whether teachers were able to implement the program as anticipated.
We are continually gathering data, by interviewing teachers or creating surveys or tests for students. For example, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has an after school program for high school students. We are working with the museum to document students' growth over time and get participants' feedback on the structure of the program. We currently have a survey where students respond to questions about what they are learning and their motivation to pursue a career in science.
The other two projects involve developing a tool for observing science instruction. Through reading, examining other similar tools, observing classroom instruction, and meeting with other members of our team, we are continually revising this tool, referred to as an observation protocol. The intent is that others who evaluate science curricula and eventually school administrators will be able to use it in order to judge the effectiveness of science curricula and instruction.
Other work that I do on a regular basis involves finding funding for my work and writing reports to funders and those in charge of the projects. We are mostly funded through the National Science Foundation, so I am continually thinking about what to propose for our next project, and looking for other funding sources. I also regularly respond to calls from other organizations who are looking for evaluators for their projects.
The last part of my work involves presenting what I do to others in the same field. Last month I travelled to Orlando, FL to present to school administrators who are interested in observing classroom science teaching. I also recently traveled to San Diego for a national conference to present the results of previous work.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The job varies every day, which I enjoy. No two days are the same. I also enjoy my co-workers and am continually meeting new people. I like the idea that I am working to improve science education, and ultimately, improve students understanding of science and motivation to become scientists.
1. Learn statistics and do what you can to get real research experience where you work with real data and perform real analyses. 2. Have experience as a classroom teacher first. This will ground you in the area you are studying. It provides a way for you to look at what you are doing where you can understand the demands of the profession, but be able to look at it with a critical eye. 3. Take on a leadership role wherever you are.
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