Fall 2015 Member Spotlight

Winner of the 2015 NCARE Outstanding Paper AwardJgiersch Photo

Jason Giersch, Assistant Professor

Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

How long have you been a member of NCARE? Since 2012

Why did you join NCARE and how has being a member benefitted you?  I wanted a smaller conference experience that would provide networking opportunities within the state.  NCARE has allowed me to develop my research agenda while interacting with researchers who are familiar with North Carolina’s data sources, stakeholders, and policy context. Every conference brings something new.

Please briefly discuss research you are currently conducting.  My main project right now is an analysis of North Carolina’s school grading formula and whether growth or achievement measures are better assessments of school performance. I’m also working on a civics education project and an experiment concerning the appeal of careers in teaching to college students.  

What is your greatest lesson learned about conducting educational research?  The more I learn, the fewer answers I have. People ask me about which schools are better than others, whether students benefit from charter schools, and how we should evaluate teachers, but with every project I do I find it harder and harder to give concise answers.

What are you most interested in learning about and/or doing next as a researcher?  So many things. How will states respond to the end of NCLB? Do accountability policies make teachers unions more or less relevant? What results have other countries gotten from school choice policies? Could education be an effective tool in the war on terror?

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Winner of the 2015 NCARE Marvin Wynne Outstanding Student Paper Award

Scott Gartlan, Executive Director, Charlotte Teachers Institutescott-gartlan

How long have you been a member of NCARE?  I started presenting at the conference in 2012, and began my membership in 2015.  

Why did you join NCARE and how has being a member benefitted you?  I joined NCARE to become part of an important organization in the field of education research in North Carolina.  I wanted to connect with other students and scholars.  I found the conference, in particular, provide great value to me as a researcher.  I get to see what others – from students to full professors to practitioners – are working on and what kinds of questions they ask.  It’s great to have an opportunity to learn about the important ideas in education research in North Carolina.  

Please briefly discuss research you are currently conducting.  I am embarking on my dissertation research.  I am interested in studying program evaluation and teacher professional development.  I am fascinated by all the discussion around trying to understand what teachers need and want in professional development, and then how to measure “success.”  Should we ask teachers what they think?  How do students fit in?  Should test scores be used to measure gains in teacher professional development?  If not, how do we measure student growth over time?

What is your greatest lesson learned about conducting educational research?  The greatest lesson I learned in education research was to know the data you collect.  If you are collecting student test scores, then know how the questions are asked, what the test is supposed to measure, and who it is given to.  If you are collecting responses to an interview, then know the right way to ask a question, how to transcribe your responses, and the framework you are using to analyze.  The final conclusions are only as strong as the data you use in the first place.  Know your data.  

What are you most interested in learning about and/or doing next as a researcher?  I am curious about the question of measuring teacher quality and the related question having to do with measuring the value of teacher professional development.   To me, researchers (and teachers) are on the front lines of informing the policy discussions around what makes quality teaching and learning for teachers.