PRA Reflections: Video Transcript
Hello everybody. My name is Kelly and I just recently graduated Amherst College, Class of 2019 and a neuroscience major. I was a Pedagogical Research Associate for the Center of Teaching and Learning, specifically as a member of the inclusive pedagogies in STEM group.
Hi, my name is Billy Jang. I am a senior in college and I was part of the project that looked at inclusivity in the STEM classrooms.
The sort of intent and design behind the project was something that's very key. Because the sort of purpose of directly addressing or directly integrating student voice into course feedback from the beginning is something that I thought was a very proactive way of dealing with things as opposed to the more traditional reactive way of responding to student voice.
So I was initially interested because I knew that the PRA program would build on my own educational experiences and my academic interests in education.
Initially, we went to this conference and this was where our team started to get together, bonded a lot and we learned a lot about the skills that we'll be using for, essentially, running focus groups and then taking the information from the focus groups and putting it into something usable. That we got a lot of hands-on experience with that. And so that was really valuable.
Running focus groups for students by students producing valuable data to the project and provided the right environment for our peers to speak honestly about their thoughts on how the classrooms run and what they would prefer to see implemented instead. And I also think that the dynamic between the PRAs and our mentors was very beneficial as well. As a PRA, we had a lot of say.
On this part, honestly, it was just sort of logistical process. Getting people to sign up for the focus groups, finding the right incentive, which is Chipotle, which turned out to be really incentivizing. But at the same time, just sort of a logistical nightmare at times.
I think this project is already impacting the students by holding these focus groups. We're telling people that they have a voice and they can help and make change in our community. The long-term effects are still to be seen by the data we collected has led us to some pretty actionable items that STEM professors can directly implement in the classroom.
Being able to listen to students, being able to conduct the focus groups, I found myself getting more and more engaged and interested in the research and work that was being done. In listening to other students, in understanding where they're coming from and what change they want to see at Amherst College, I found myself personally involved with trying to get that change done.
I really enjoyed it when the entire team got together and we all crammed into this room after we had run all the focus groups and done all the transcriptions. And we just took all the information and put it on a white board. And just took a look at it. And I think that was really rewarding and comforting to see that students had these shared experiences and problems. And we're going to be able to take that information and find some actionable solution.
And I think a lot of that was also rooted in this close collaboration that we had between us, the students, and staff at the Center for Teaching and Learning.
I think it's absolutely amazing that we now have a center like the Center of Teaching and Learning that facilitates an ongoing conversation between the student body and the professors to make sure everybody feels included.
Setting out clear goals I think would have strengthened the arc of this project. And also on communicating more clearly to participants or people that we want to interview or get voice from that because a lot of the times I think they didn't really see the clear benefit of this process.
I truly hope that the work we did creates conversation between students, between students and professors, in office hours, in future focus groups. Just because it feels like the focus groups were conducted with a start of an ongoing conversation.
I think there are two main dimensions to the impact of our project. And the more specific one of course, is the actual tangible effect that the research and focus groups that we've held will have in informing changes to our course feedback system and specifically changes to end of semester course evaluation forms. But the more general one I think is perhaps setting perhaps a trend or a gateway towards more of these students as partners models being used around campus. Integrating essentially student voice and embedding student voice more in these topics that concern students.
I think one of the main things I took away from the experience of being a PRA, was being able to better understand the students around me.
So learning how to run and analyze focus groups was also a key takeaway from the recruitment process learning what didn't work to get people to sign up to phrasing the questions in the most neutral and sensitive way. To the technical aspects of transcribing and coding. All of these were very useful skills and I, I definitely think that I'm still using them now as a research assistant here at the NIH.
Having the opportunity to engage with students as a fellow student to improve this institution was something that was highly beneficial for my own perspectives. And I know highly beneficial for the research being done.
The key value of the students as partners model and that's a sort of lowering of the barriers for students to essentially voice their ideas and voice their feedback on something as critical as education, as the themes that they interact with on a day-to-day basis.