IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Making the Most of a Quarantine Year: Meet the IES Virtual Interns!

April is National Internship Awareness Month, and we want to take this opportunity to highlight the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship program that IES has been involved in this year and thank our wonderful interns for their contributions to the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

The two IES Centers hired four interns to work on communication and two interns to work on data science. We asked each of them to tell us a little about themselves, their future plans, and what interested them or surprised them about the internship with IES. Here’s what they said.

 

Alice Bravo is pursuing a PhD in special education in the College of Education at the University of Washington.

My research interests keep evolving but are rooted in early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using applied behavior analysis and developmental science. Specifically, I am interested in the teaching of imitation and communication skills. In 5 years, I hope to be working as an applied researcher and practitioner, conducting research related to early intervention and ASD while providing training and coaching to caregivers and early intervention/early childhood special education professionals. During my internship with IES, I was really interested in and excited by the breadth of research supported by IES. Reading project abstracts related to virtual reality to support student learning was fascinating! 

Fun fact: I love road trips – I have driven up and down the West Coast and across the country twice! 

 

Bonnie Chan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in statistics and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon.

I am interested in data science and modeling of data. I am interested in applying these approaches to research in the field of medicine or psychology because it has the most potential to help people and one of the most applicable uses of these approaches. As part of my virtual internship, I have learned how to use PANDAs Python package when cleaning data to prepare to create a visualization of grants funded by NCSER on a U.S. map. In addition, I learned a lot about how grants are funded by the department and the types of projects that are funded. In the future, I would like to pursue a master’s degree in machine learning or other statistical approaches for data science and modeling of data. I think working in the federal government would be a great experience and more rewarding in terms of outcomes than in the public sector or at an institution.

Fun Fact: I really like to dance. I have been dancing since I was 3, so that is 17 years. Right now, I mostly do contemporary dance, but I have done ballet, tap, jazz and other types of dance including competitive dancing in high school. 

 

Chandra Keerthi is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in data science at the Wilfrid Laurier University.

I’m interested in applying statistical models of previous credit ratings to future ones in order to help model human behavior in the area of financial data analysis. I am also really interested in sports analytics, specifically basketball, and in understanding how analytics can help make or sometimes, unintentionally, break teams. In 5 years, I hope to use my skills to help create or innovate a product that will have a positive impact on the world.

Fun fact: I enjoy playing and watching basketball and am a huge fan of sci-fi movies and books (I’m currently reading the first book in the Dune series). In addition, I recently made a program that uses a photo taken from your phone and turns it into 'art' using another art piece (like van Gogh’s The Starry Night) as a reference.

 

Thomas Leonard is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business at Georgetown University.

 

My research interest is in the area of finance. As a virtual intern, I had the opportunity to work on editing and examining abstracts across many different fields of education research, and this has sharpened my technical and analytical skills. In addition, it was interesting to see some of my experiences as a student actually being studied in schools across the country as part of the research that IES funds.

Fun fact: I’m an avid poker player. 

 

 

 

Yuri Lin is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

I am most interested in cancer genomics, immunology, and psychology. The most surprising detail that I had never thought about before this internship was how government entities like the Department of Education change and are influenced by different presidential administrations. In one of our monthly gatherings, we talked about how each administration has differing visions and values for education, and it struck me that while I saw myself as just a tired college student plinking away at blogs and abstracts in my bedroom, I was actually helping in small ways to fulfill a larger vision for education that sustains across administrations. That was a surprising and rewarding realization to have.

Fun fact: I love music, especially pop music and Russian classical music. There’s so much great music out there, but my favorite would have to be Shostakovich Symphony 5, Movement 4. Nothing feels quite like playing that piece in a huge orchestra with the cymbals crashing, and I hope everyone who hasn’t heard it before can go give it a listen.

 

Shirley Liu is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a double minor in philosophy and data science at Lafayette College.

My research interests are in the areas of communication and data and information science. During this internship, I learned a lot about the human and community aspect of research. I have always viewed research and academia as very solitary fields. They are, but after talking to researchers about the friendships they’ve made in the field, I’ve learned that research is a lot more fruitful (and fun) when you’re doing it with someone whose company you enjoy. I really loved learning about Plain Language Principles! I have already started applying that to my own writing. For example, I am probably the only person in my friend group who knows what nominalization is and why it should be avoided.

Fun fact: My favorite hobby is writing! I have won an undergraduate-level prize for my poetry.

 


In addition to working on abstracts, entering data, creating data visualizations, and helping to update compendia of IES-funded research, our interns have also been busy writing blogs. Here are some recent blogs written by our interns: Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month; What Does This Mean for Me? A Conversation about College and ADHD; and Gender Stereotypes in STEM: Emergence and Prevention.

The Enduring Friendship of the MOCCA Team: How Camaraderie Benefits Research

This blog is a part of our Spotlight on IES Training Programs series and was written by Shirley Liu, a virtual intern for NCER.

One of the important—though sometimes overlooked—benefits of the IES training programs is friendship. When you think of what makes a good research team, friendship is probably not your first answer. However, the researchers behind the Multiple-Choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment (MOCCA) demonstrate just how crucial strong bonds are. This blog shares how three long-time friends and members of the MOCCA team–Drs. Gina Biancarosa, Sarah Carlson, and Ben Seipel–have benefited from friendship.

 

(From top left: Sarah, Gina; Ben, Sarah; Gina, Ben)

 

How they met

Sarah and Ben first met during their IES predoctoral program at the University of Minnesota. During a grant-writing course, they developed a proposal for what would eventually become MOCCA. When Sarah attended the University of Oregon for her IES postdoctoral program, she met Gina, who ultimately joined in the MOCCA research.

The three scholars shared a passion for reading comprehension and assessment and a love for trading jokes. The team’s love of cute animal stories, especially otters, as another reason they get along well. “Every otter story that was in the news got shared multiple times,” Ben said as others laughed in agreement. Over the years, they have continued to invest in their shared interests and in one another.

How their friendship benefits their work

The three credit their friendship as contributing to their personal and professional growth in three key ways.

Combatting loneliness. According to Gina, “[Socialization] just gets you out of your head. That is not only good for your emotional health and mental health, but also for stimulating new ideas and improving the rigor of old ideas.” Whether it is visiting cool restaurants, taking pictures of each other with funny filters after long conferences, or going on retreats, the MOCCA team makes sure to create time for non-research related activities. Even during the pandemic, MOCCA still prioritizes the socialization aspect of their research by meeting online instead.

Creating a supportive atmosphere that encourages taking risks. The MOCCA team has found that their friendship creates an open-minded and supportive atmosphere for their research. This environment encourages risk taking and helps researchers voice their opinions. In turn, this stimulates innovation and intellectual diversity. “It makes it easier to float ideas that you think might not be all there and not have to risk rejection. They’ll tell you if it’s not all there, but you’re not going to feel crushed,” explained Gina. “It makes you take more risks.”

Fostering growth and personal development. The MOCCA team has also found that friendship leads them to see one another as more than just experts. Instead, they acknowledge their individual strengths while encouraging one another to grow intellectually as complex and constantly learning individuals. As a result, each member of the MOCCA team contributes to the research in unique and equally appreciated ways. “We all have that creative energy, but we have different types of creative energy,” said Ben. “Sarah is really the dreamer: What can this look like? What can it do for teachers? And I really am an innovator: I take things that are different, make them new, and get at things that we have not been able to get at in the past. But Gina really brings that maker aspect: How can we actually make this work? What are the things that function in our toolbox to make it happen?”

The value of friendship

Although the MOCCA team’s bond seems like a uniquely serendipitous union of like-minded people, all of us can reap the benefits of friendship in research and in everyday life. This past year has taught us the value of community and personal relationships in times of isolation. Researchers like the MOCCA team have known this for years.


Dr. Carlson and Dr. Seipel were predoctoral fellows in the Minnesota Interdisciplinary Training in Education Research program, Dr. Biancarosa was a postdoctoral fellow in Stanford University’s Postdoctoral Research Training in the Education Sciences program, and Dr. Carlson was a postdoctoral fellow in the Preparing Education Scientist training program. For more information about MOCCA, please visit the MOCCA webpages (here and here). 

The MOCCA team has been awarded three IES grants to support their measurement work: Multiple-choice Online Cloze Comprehension Assessment (MOCCA) (R305A140185); Multiple-choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment for Postsecondary Students (MOCCA-College) (R305A180417); Multiple-choice Online Causal Comprehension Assessment Refinement (R305A190393).

By Shirley Liu, virtual intern for NCER and an English/Anthropology & Sociology double major at Lafayette College.

From Fellow to Funded: Former IES Postdoctoral Fellows Funded as Principal Investigators

As part of our Spotlight on IES Training Programs series, IES is proud to showcase five former IES postdoctoral fellows who are now principal investigators for grants funded in FY 2020. The goal of the NCER and NCSER postdoctoral training programs is to prepare scholars to conduct rigorous, relevant education and special education research. As the following examples demonstrate, IES fellows are contributing to evidence-based education in a wide range of academic domains and are addressing the needs of students, teachers, and families through their innovative measurement, exploratory, development, and evaluation work.

 

Dr. Crystal Bishop (IES Fellow at the University of Florida until 2016) will lead Tools for Families. This project will develop and pilot test a new component for an existing intervention that aims to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities in preschool programs. The existing program is called Evaluating Embedded Instruction for Early Learning (EIEL) and already includes tools to help teachers. In this new study, Dr. Bishop will create an additional component that helps teachers engage students’ families in implementing EIEL strategies.

 

Dr. Joseph Nese (IES Fellow at the University of Oregon until 2011) will lead A Comprehensive Measure of Reading Fluency: Uniting and Scaling Accuracy, Rate, and Prosody. This project aims to develop and validate an automated scoring system of oral reading fluency for students in grades 2 to 4 to better identify students in need of reading interventions and better evaluate reading interventions and builds off a previous grant Dr. Nese received as PI, Measuring Oral Reading Fluency: Computerized Oral Reading Evaluation (CORE) (R305A140203).

 

Dr. David Purpura (IES Fellow at the University of Illinois until 2012) will lead Reading and Playing With Math: Promoting Preschoolers' Math Language Through Picture Books and Play Activities. This program will develop, refine, and evaluate a new math language intervention, Reading and Playing with Math (RP-Math). RP-Math will leverage the language instruction using storybooks and mathematics instruction.

 

Dr. Rachel Rosen (IES Fellow at the University of Michigan until 2014) will lead Choice and Information: The Impact of Technology-Based Career Advising Tools on High School Students' CTE Choices and Academic Performance. This project will evaluate  two widely used technology-based career advising tools for secondary school students, Naviance and YouScience, to see whether and how these tools influence student thinking about career options, career and technical education (CTE) coursework and work-based learning options, and decisions about CTE pathways and programs of study.

 

Dr. Candace Walkington (IES Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison until 2013) will lead Exploring Collaborative Embodiment for Learning (EXCEL): Understanding Geometry Through Multiple Modalities. This program will explore how different types multisensory experiences and modes of collaboration affect students' geometric reasoning. The researchers will leverage augmented reality (AR) technology to see if different ways of engaging with content (such as holograms, tablet-based, or paper-based images) lead to different learning outcomes.

 


This blog was written by Shirley Liu, virtual intern and an English/Anthropology & Sociology double major at Lafayette College, and Dr. Meredith Larson, program officer for NCER postdoctoral training.

 

Spotlight on IES Training Programs: Introduction to a Blog Series

Since 2004, IES has been preparing researchers to conduct high-quality, rigorous education and special education research through training grant programs. This roughly $281 million investment has helped change universities and departments across the nation and supported the training of over 200 students interested in beginning doctoral programs, nearly 1000 doctoral students, over 280 postdoctoral fellows, and hundreds of practicing researchers at universities, research firms, state and local agencies, and other organizations.

Over the months to come, we will be spotlighting these IES training programs and those who have participated in them. This blog series will include interviews, updates, and program descriptions as we learn more about the research, innovations, and careers of IES training program participants.

 

Join us as we celebrate the possibilities created by the following IES training programs:


For more information about the NCER training programs, contact Dr. Katina Stapleton, and for information about NCSER training programs, contact Dr. Katie Taylor.

This blog was written by Dr. Meredith Larson, program officer for NCER Postdoctoral Research Training grants, and is the first in an ongoing series: Spotlight on IES Training Programs.

 

Why I Want to Become an Education Researcher

In 2015, IES launched the Pathways to the Education Sciences research training program in order to help diversify the pipeline of education researchers. Pathways programs provide year-long training to diverse undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and masters students. Pathways fellows receive an introduction to education research and scientific methods, meaningful opportunities to participate in education research studies, and professional development and mentoring. Currently, almost 200 students have participated in Pathways and 91 have completed training. Sixty-three percent of completed fellows are currently enrolled in graduate school (26% doctoral, 35% masters). We reached out to 6 Pathways graduates to ask them what inspired them to become education researchers. Here is what they shared with us.

Photograph of Sydnee Garcia

Sydnee Garcia

Pathways Program, University of Texas, San Antonio

Student Affairs masters student, University of Maryland, College Park

I never thought that I would end up in education. Initially, I saw myself helping others through occupational therapy. It was when I reached the University of Texas at San Antonio, my undergraduate institution, that I gained an understanding of the doors that open when someone receives a formal education. My experiences as a UTSA IES Educational Pathways Fellow also strengthened my belief that co-curricular learning is imperative for modern-day students and that all students should have access to this learning. As a current graduate student at the University of Maryland, my hope for the future is to research inequities in higher education and find effective practices to provide opportunities for students from marginalized backgrounds to find space and growth in a system that wasn't built for them. 

Photograph of James A. Hernández

James A. Hernández

PURPOSE Program, Florida State University/Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Education Psychology doctoral student, Florida State University

As a 5th grade teacher, I was inspired to learn more about educational research. I was constantly analyzing my students’ learning, and I knew there was a way that I could leverage their data to more effectively educate them. However, I was also aware that I did not have the proper research training to do so nor the confidence to apply to graduate school. So I did the next best thing and became a college advisor. Little did I know my passion for educational research would be further ignited as I employed theories like developmental advising models to support my students. During this experience, I eventually garnered enough courage to apply to an educational research graduate program. Through the support of the IES PURPOSE research training program, I received a research conference poster presentation award and 2nd place in presenting my research in under four minutes. Furthermore, with the IES PURPOSE resources, especially the proseminars and mentorship, I was admitted into a PhD program fully funded by the FEF McKnight fellowship. Upon graduating with my PhD, I intend to bring the educational research skills I have gained from PURPOSE and my doctoral program to the classroom by building a community laboratory school.

Photograph of Troy Kearse

Troy Kearse

RISE Program, University of Maryland, College Park/Bowie State University

Psychology doctoral student, Howard University

In my career, I am determined to become a psychologist and professor, focused on cognitive-behavioral studies, particularly for underrepresented minorities. My interest began after taking an introductory course in psychology at Prince George’s Community College. After transferring to Bowie State University my interest in the diverse field of Psychology was enhanced. My ongoing study on cognitive functioning in student success allows me to appreciate the importance of education as it relates to research. With a minor in tutoring and mentoring, I had the opportunity to work directly with students in introductory psychology courses in order to expand my experience in teaching. As the vice-president of the psychological society at BSU, I began to develop tutoring sessions for students in the form of interactive “jeopardy” games like Kahoot!, or more recently, an on-campus version of Escape Room Live to tackle this problem. Students participating in these programs have enjoyed the extra help. I believe that Project RISE was beneficial to my career goals as it continued to enhance my interest in research, as well as make a difference in academia.

Photograph of Natalie Larez

Natalie Larez

AWARDSS Program, University of Arizona

School Psychology doctoral student, University of California, Santa Barbara

Children spend most of their time within schools, allowing for much of their development to be shaped by this environment. Working with students is something that has always intrigued me. When I started my undergraduate career at the University of Arizona, I searched for opportunities that allowed me to work with students, from kindergarten to college age, especially from underrepresented backgrounds. Through these varied experiences, I quickly realized that many of these students were brilliant but were constrained by the systemic barriers that affect minority communities. Additionally, many had experienced significant trauma that was inhibiting them from moving forward. When I was presented with the opportunity to join a Pathways program, it seemed like the perfect stepping stone to a future that I could only dream of. With the support of my mentor, I was able to investigate the associations between traumatic stress symptoms, resiliency, and school outcomes and identify possible solutions to addressing the educational impact. As a result, I was admitted into a top program that will allow me to build skills to better support students in their academics, mental health, and future aspirations. The AWARDSS program was monumental for my career in research education. The AWARDSS program supported my growth in confidence, research skills, access to knowledge on how to pursue graduate school, and mentors that I will continue to work with throughout my career.

Photograph of India Simone Lenear

India Simone Lenear

RISE Training Program, North Carolina Central University/University of North Carolina Wilmington

Political Science doctoral student, Purdue University

As a child, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer and then ultimately become the first Black woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I shadowed lawyers and judges, and I participated in mentoring training for future lawyers. I even took debate classes because I thought that was my passion. It was not until I took my first political science class that I realized that I really wanted to be a researcher and professor and that my passion lies in higher education. I wanted to be a professor because I loved the relationship and bond that I developed with some of my professors. I wanted to be a researcher because I wanted to be able to conduct research that would broaden and deepen the scope of research within political science. As I began to understand what my passion really was, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the RISE training program, by way of my extracurricular activities on campus. I immediately knew that I needed to take this opportunity. Over the next year, the RISE program helped to train and mold the way I think critically about issues and topics I want to address, while also being able to navigate the requirements and expectations of being a researcher. The skills that RISE taught me have allowed me to become a great student researcher. I am now happy to say that I am enrolled full-time in a political science doctoral program at Purdue University, where I plan to study American politics in education with a focus on race and ethnic politics, identity politics, and Black feminist theory as it impacts students in college.

Tseng Meng Vang

Pathways Program, California State University, Sacramento

Human Development doctoral student, University of California, Davis

My experience as a Hmong American in the United States inspired me to become an education researcher. I still recall the moment my high school teacher telling our class about the college attainment rate of different ethnic groups and being told that Hmong American’s college attainment rate was one of the lowest of all the ethnic groups. This finding made me question why Hmong Americans were performing poorly compared to the general Asian American classification. Since this issue is so close to home for me, I was inspired to understand protective and risk factors of college attainment.

Compiled by Katina Rae Stapleton, National Center for Education Research. This post is the second in an ongoing series of blog posts on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity within education research.