Why Educational Research can Change the World

I substitute a microscope for a tablet. My lab is a university office. Books and manuscripts replace scientific equipment. Ink is the only chemical I need. There is a certain type of satisfaction that comes with conducting, synthesizing and interpreting educational research. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself in this role, though little did I know it’s the foundation for everything.

I’m a young research analyst, and even when I move on from this role my title may change, but the skill will transition with me wherever I go. Educational research, like most other scientific research domains, focus on three areas: challenging the status quo, policy improvement, and allowing evidence to do the talking. These three areas are functions I acknowledge whenever I do relevant work.

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Challenging the Status Quo

Our world is a robust social construction, meaning all laws, policies and expectations are agreed upon by citizens and society stakeholders. Money, time, rules, educational curriculums, and even sex/gender norms are all examples of status quo standards we oblige and live by. What educational research does in an excellent way is analyze the status quo of many outlets and inquire does the status quo truly benefit all stakeholders? If it does, how so? If it doesn’t, why not? The Satir Change model excellently visualizes this process–with educational research being one facet to get the change/innovation conversation started, challenging the argumentum ad antiquitatem fallacy, which proposes something is good simply because it is the traditional way of doing things. However, the proposed change MUST be beneficial and relevant to stakeholders, or it could end up creating an opposite fallacy argumentum ad novitatem, which means appealing to a new perspective status quo simply because it is new and different.

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Policy Improvement

All corporations, educational entities, and similar business structures rely on an outlined string of policies to dictate, simplify and clarify organizational functions. Rather the research method is qualitative textual data, quantitative statistical data, benchmarking, or evaluation and assessment, reviewing policy frameworks to ensure relevancy to stakeholders is vital. The reason why is because our society uses laws, policies and regulations to justify actions and decisions. However, not all “laws” may be beneficial or applicable to all citizens or areas. This is were educational research is such a vital tool via identifying such policies and providing recommendations for improved laws. This takes a macro (large change) approach to policy development, because mezzo (mid change) and micro (small change) approaches often aren’t strong enough to implement large-scale change.

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Allowing Evidence to do the Talking

What attracts me to educational research most is if conducted ethically and correctly, the results can be indisputable. As a research analyst, I personally make no claims whatsoever. Any concluding results from a research poster, manuscript, or interview is simply synthesizing facts to create a conclusion. My goal is to remain objective while following the evidence wherever it takes me. Only during the evaluation process of an assessment might I provide recommendations based on my expertise–with this entire research process separate from objective educational research. Furthermore, any awards or accolades I receive really shouldn’t be attributed to me; it truly is a win for the researched subject instead.

MLA

“Los Problemas” – El Salvador Day 0/15

I’m an American. I’m a young adult. I like video games, drawing, writing, and research. Then there are El Salvadorians, who have vastly different values and priorities than myself. El Salvador (which mean “The Savior”) is a beautiful country which lives up to its namesake. Rich in Myan and Aztec culture due to their close proximity, El Salvador is a country were it initially was able to embrace its culture without outside influences; this means traditions, customs and languages were rich between the Pipils, the earliest known group that would soon become modern-day El Salvadorians. However, with the rest of the world industrializing and expanding, this culture would soon change in many ways. 1524 brought about the first wave of intrusion by the Spanish, and since then there has been constant clashes regarding El Salvador ownership and identity.

 

Today, El Salvador is classified as a two-thirds world country, and issues such as inequality in work, political corruption, human trafficking, and gang scuffles flood this beautiful area, just to name a few. For myself, this study abroad experience will be a balance between noting the positives of this rich culture with lavish landscapes while simultaneously accepting the negative foundation of current events and historical acts that contributed to its current state. I was told that as an American, many natives will want to take a photo with me, request specific items unobtainable there, and inquire about my views on politics. While here, I can treat this experience in two different ways: I can be passive. I can simply listen to the speakers during sessions and take notes, take photos while touring the country, and buy as many survivors as I can afford. I can also be active. I can do the before-mentioned actions while also inquiring the “whys” and “hows”. I can use my research skills to do strategic planning for organizations with limited resources. I’m no solider fighting for either country. I’m not a millionaire able to contribute greatly, nor do have access to staffing resources to address major issues. However, I do have drive, and even though I cannot positively impact the country, a city, or an organization, I’ll make all efforts to positively impact that one, single, individual or issue. Also, this experience isn’t necessarily about “me”. I’m a guest of this county and to achieve  solidarity this must be remembered. I may not be “The Savior“, but I will be active in the work I do here.

 

Asociación ~

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ACT, SAT & GRE – How I Never Had to Take Them and How to Potentially Avoid Them

The ACT and SAT are two widely accepted test many pre-college students take to assess their competence in math, English (writing), reading and science. However, it is easily possible to graduate college without ever needing to take these exams–if your academic journey is similar to mine. Below are three summarized options I took as an undergraduate to avoid standardized testing, including the GRE for graduate school admission. Also the “End Summaries” in red provide an even briefer summarization.

Home Schooling

I was never accustomed to taking standardized test even as a home schooled student. The majority of my exams were essay-based or project-based to broadly assess what I learned. Every subject had learning outcomes and my essays and projects needed to hit each learning outcome in detail or I would not get full scores. My GPA throughout high school was between 3.8-4.0.

End Summary: Standardized test are not the only way to assess what students know.

Associates Degree

This was ultimately the key in avoiding the ACT and SAT. Many students are now being told an associates degree is worthless.  This is highly inaccurate if it is used in the correct way.  Foremost, many community colleges have open admission policies, meaning they will assess your skills via a placement test instead of relying on the ACT/SAT. That said, I applied to my local community college, did not need ACT/SAT scores, and was easily admitted without them. After obtaining my Associates Degree, I transferred from Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and immediately took classes for my program at half the price since my Associates Degree handled all general education via the MACRAO transfer agreement. My GPA throughout both colleges was 3.5-4.0, I was an honors student at GRCC, and in a national leadership honor society (ΟΔΚ) at GVSU.

End Summary: If you know you want to obtain your Associates Degree first, look into their admission policy. If it is an open admission policy you may not need to take the ACT/SAT, which saves you time and money. However, be cautious if you decide to transfer before obtaining your Associates Degree, because many colleges and universities will still require you to take the ACT/SAT if you transfer with a low amount of credit hours.

Graduate Institution’s Discretion in Utilizing the GRE

The GRE stands for Graduate Records Examination and assesses prospective graduate students on fundamentals (general education) they would have learned as an undergraduate student. How the GRE is used differs significantly. For instance, ‘university A’ may require a set score for admission in any graduate program, ‘university B’  may only take into account the Literature in English section while ‘university C’ does not requite it at all for their programs. My graduate institution only required it if your GPA was below a set standard.

End Summary: Do your research before taking the GRE, depending on the university requirements and their program, you may not need to take it–which saves you time and money.

*Note–this article was not meant to discredit the ACT, SAT or GRE. This article is simply a testament that they are neither required to academically assess a student nor required to reach graduate study.

about_actMario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked

Move-In ✔ List (What NOT to Take to College)

All colleges and universities have a list of recommended items to bring during freshman or transfer move-in. A few of these are allowed appliances, classroom supplies, clothes and bedding items. It’s usually straightforward and easy to follow.  However, the list that is typically ignored is the ‘What NOT to Bring’ list. This list is important because it outlines what isn’t necessary to have the very best college experience and build the best character perception for classmates, professors and dorm mates. Below, in no specific order, is a description of four examples of what should not be taken to college with you.

What The College Does Not Allow

Most colleges have a list of items that are not allowed within the campus residence areas. These items are usually not allowed to prevent fire and electrical hazards, such as candles and  high-watt appliances respectively. Any student can do without these so they should not hinder the new living experience. Additionally, there are usually alternatives to what is not allowed. For example, a low-watt microwave is often acceptable, while plug-in air fresheners can substitute for candles. (That is what the candles are used for, right?)

Rank

In some cases, many students can transfer applicable credentials from high school to college. These range from (Advanced Placement) AP credits, testing out college classes, and Honors recognition based on their transferring GPA .  These are nice additions that boost a new college student’s new resumé and transcript.  However, previous achievements such as valedictorian, class president and other similar merits no longer matter and should not be used to pull rank. This includes that 4.0 high school GPA after it was applied to a scholarship or class placement. College is all about starting over fresh and getting involved within the campus is the key to building up a new resume–a resume that can be used to obtain future employment. This includes academics; a college students’s college GPA is way more relevant than their previous high school equivalent.

Fixed Expectations

The media displays and plays on a specific angle toward many archetypes–and college students are a main one. Expecting the ‘okay’ to skip class whenever (regardless of the attendance policy), disregard studying (regardless of minimum academic expectation) and drink underage and/or drugs use (regardless of the law) only sets students up to fail with short-term contentment and long-term frustration. Damaged transcripts and records never go away and only prevents employment, which defeats the purpose of attend college in the first place. Furthermore, fixed expectations on other college related categories also needed to be dispelled. For example, the fraternities and sororities at Grand Valley State University value service work and community development entirely, meaning if a student followed the media’s label of “sex, drugs and hazing” they could miss out on a great opportunity to get involved, build their resumé and support their community.

Fixed Values

Everyone has developed traits and character that defines them as individuals–that make us who we are. Personal quirks, habits, and knowledge also helps define us. This is how most make friends and maybe avoid others who clash or contradict with our standards. It is perfectly okay to define and develop our inner circle this way. However, without respect it is not. Diversity is a gift reminiscent to treasure–opened with the key we all have and should be valued like diamonds. With that said, it is okay to disagree with another point of view. It isnot okay to highlight that difference and discriminate in a malicious way. Be constructive, not destructive; build others up, don’t tear them down. College is a place where many different ideas come together, so respect and understanding are very important. Extreme cases aside, this could just mean being opening to trying something new, like sushi perhaps. (Spicy Salmon & Yellowtail Rolls)

 

What else shouldn’t you bring to college and why?

 

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

RA 4 West A

If you’re reading this, then you’re either one of my friends or one of my residents.  Though I’ll keep the intros about myself short, it’ll answer the “Who is this guy that’s my college RA” question. I’m Mario, though I go by Ari here at Grand Valley, and I’m one of the three Resident Assistants (aka RAs) for the West A Living Center. I have an identical twin brother who is definitely similar to me and my home town is Detroit, MI. I’ll start this fall in my senior year and I’m psyched to hang out with all the new incoming freshmen assigned to West A (and the surrounding dorms) and help with the transition from high school to college—and I know about that very well myself.

I was home schooled since the 6th grade and it still stands as one of the best experiences of my life. The only ‘negative’ aspect of getting home schooled to me was my twin and I could never switch classes (I mean, the most we could do was switch seats and what fun is that?) Also, I could never skip school, because, well, it was like running away from home… (Again, not something worth doing).  Those aside it was THEE koolest experience. I graduated not knowing my major so I enrolled into Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and graduated from their Honors Program and with an Associates of Arts degree. My time at GRCC helped define my major after transferring to GVSU and this RA position of mine helps it even further. That means if you guys don’t come to me for anything I’m going to be very bored! Heh, well not really but my future master degree program is College Students Affairs Leadership M.Ed, to connect all this together.

All that said, I’m here for any and all new students so keep me posted with any questions and all of us RAs will be sure to provide you guys with all the information you need and relevant programming.

Ari