Three College of Education doctoral students receive outstanding thesis award

Three NC State College of Education graduates were recognized for their research efforts when they were selected to receive the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Awards at the college’s graduation ceremony in May 2022.

Vance Kite ’21PHD won for the Department of STEM Education, Samira Syal ’22PHD for the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences and Sarah Hammond ’22PHD for the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Development. Human Development.

You can read more about these students and their award-winning theses in the articles below.

Vance Kite

Thesis title: Unplugging Computational Thinking: Preparing In-Service Science Educators to Integrate CT Scanning into Their Classrooms

As the husband of a woman who spent her career in IT, Vance Kite ’21PHD, a Ph.D. graduate in learning and teaching in the STEM science education program field of study, witnessed the value of the skill set required for this career. Through his experiences, he also saw the difficulties of being part of a marginalized group on the ground.

His wife’s experiences, combined with his own as a science teacher, helped him understand that students need computational thinking skills to prepare for the jobs of the future. However, too many students do not have the opportunity to take these courses.

“Historically, we’ve seen that there’s quite inequitable access to opportunities for K-12 students to develop computational thinking skills because they don’t take computer science classes or the classes computer science are not offered in their school,” he said. “One of the ways we can ensure that we provide this access to all students is to integrate it into their science lessons.”

Most computational thinking embedded in science curricula, Kite said, involves the use of technology such as coding apps or game-based learning. For his dissertation, he conducted three studies that focused on integrating computational thinking without using technology.

The first study involved a statewide survey of middle and high school science teachers to better understand what they know about computational thinking, the barriers they face in integrating computational thinking into their classrooms and what they would like to see in a computational thinking professional development program. .

Using information from this survey, Kite then designed a week-long professional development session and focused its second study on its design and implementation. The third study followed teachers three months after participating in the professional development program to understand how they used what they learned and to observe some teachers implementing the lessons they had developed as a result of professional development. .

“My advisor, Dr. Soonhye Park, had said it was a very strong study, but he’s my advisor, so I took it with a grain of salt. So, winning the College Outstanding Dissertation Award of Education is a seal of validation. It feels good,” Kite said.

Kite, who graduated in December 2021, said Park was instrumental in helping him immerse himself in the research process in his first semester as a graduate student. It allowed him to learn research by doing it, which allowed him to both gain valuable experience and graduate with a significant number of academic publications and presentations.

“She got me started and then helped me through various lines of work,” he said. “I can’t say enough about my time with the College of Education.”

Samira Syal

Thesis title: Examining the effects of a game-based learning environment on the motivation and reading comprehension of fifth-grade students

As an ESL teacher in India, Samira Syal ’22PHD taught 80 fifth-grade students who did not speak English but were required to read and understand science and social studies textbooks in that language.

As she used exercises and lessons to help students learn to read and write in English, she noticed that students often struggled to engage.

“The more engaged children are, the more willing they are to understand difficult texts. This piece is kind of overlooked in a lot of reading comprehension interventions,” she said. “I’m very interested in how to bring this piece to help kids engage, and I feel like play-based learning methods that use self-regulated approaches help with engagement because that you’re giving kids a choice and giving them opportunities for agency and maybe that could help with reading more complex texts.

To learn more about how to engage children in reading comprehension, Syal enrolled in the College of Education’s Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in the study area of ​​the Psychology of Education program. learning science education, where her thesis focused on how self-regulated processes for reading comprehension in authentic learning environments, such as that of game-based learning environments and teaching in class.

As she prepares to continue working with early literacy efforts and applying research to practice in her new role in research and evaluation, Syal is honored to have her research recognized with the dissertation award. exceptional.

“There are so many PhD students doing innovative work, looking at so many issues that need to be talked about. It’s very gratifying to have been chosen for this award, and I look forward to continuing to work in this space,” she said. “I want to continue working in this area to see how we can look at motivation and self-regulated learning as a bridge to more equitable educational outcomes.”

Learning more about issues of equity and inclusion in education, Syal said, was one of the most eye-opening experiences of her doctoral journey. As an international student, the College of Education’s focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion has given her a deeper understanding of the educational landscape in the United States and the inequality issues that exist.

“I looked at inclusion in special education in my master’s program, but I hadn’t looked at equity at the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said- she declared. “The way the PhD program examined issues of equity at the intersection of DEI was eye-opening. It’s something I’ve learned a lot about, and I hope to practice a lot more.

Sarah Hammond

Thesis title: Pushing for diversity: a randomized controlled trial involving candidates for veterinary school

Sarah Hammond ’22PHD knows that many young students dream of one day becoming a doctor or veterinarian, but she also knows that the path to becoming a veterinarian is more difficult for some students than others.

During one of the College of Education’s academic leadership courses, taught by Professor Marc Grimmett, Hammond was tasked with creating a documentary that focused on equity issues. Because she was also employed at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, she chose to examine the experiences of underrepresented students in the field, where more than 90% of practicing veterinarians are white.

“This experience has changed the way I approach diversity issues. It has reinforced my commitment to equity and supporting positive outcomes for all students,” she said. “I also wanted to find a way to give back to the vet community here at NC State for all the years of support and encouragement they have provided me throughout my career.”

As she obtained her doctorate. in the study area of ​​the Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development Policy Evaluation and Analysis program, Hammond decided to focus his dissertation research on the nudging effect based on the application completion text for students wishing to apply to veterinary colleges across the country. Specifically, she reviewed the 2021 admissions cycle with the goal of increasing the number of historically underrepresented students considered for admission.

The study was the first of its kind to examine candidate behavior within the healthcare profession and one of the few to examine nudging techniques as a tool to increase diversity among candidates.

Hammond’s study assessed both the effect of basic textual nudges, such as timely reminders to complete application tasks, as well as the effect of nudges that included messages designed to create a sense of belonging and highlight the profession’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The results showed that nudges had no effect on job completion, indicating that more needs to be done to successfully diversify the profession.

“The findings of this study suggest that advancing diversity will take more than just a nudge. This study has important implications for strategic diversity initiatives in veterinary medicine education, drawing attention to increased barriers for underrepresented people,” she said. “The results of this study may help us better understand the contexts in which the nudge is unlikely to be effective.”

As she prepares to take on her next role as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this summer, Hammond said she believes her time at the College of Education has provided her with the necessary skills. to continue to conduct a thoughtful and rigorous conduct. research, and she feels honored to know that her work is already having an impact.

“I am honored to have my thesis recognized with the Outstanding Dissertation Award. I am so proud of this work and the community involved,” she said. “They say, ‘it takes a village’ and in this case two colleges came together to help me make a difference. I know firsthand the value this university places on working on diversity, equity and inclusion.

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