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Students Learn to Become ‘Informed Practitioners’

For students who are studying to become teachers, it's essential to take part in research that explores the latest methods and practices in their field.

To help students get started, Assistant Professor of Education Katelyn Kurkul engages her students in her own research, letting them help collect, analyze and even present findings about human development at national conferences.

“Pedagogy is rooted in research,” she said. “I hope they learn to become informed practitioners and understand the value that research can bring to their jobs.”

Kurkul’s past research includes a two-year study that examined how the socioeconomic differences among children affect the questions they ask, and how parents and teachers answer their questions. Her findings suggest that children from mid-socioeconomic families tend to ask causal questions, while those from lower-socioeconomic families ask more “what” questions that require less elaborative answers.

Kurkul had her research assistant, Christina Lannon ’18, presented the findings at a national conference held in Boston last May.

“I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scene with research,” Lannon said. “In class, we get to see research studies and the end product. But when I got to work with Professor Kurkul, I saw all the little steps in between that you don’t see in class.”

The findings of that research spurred Kurkul’s new study investigating what children do with the answers they receive to their questions. So far, the new research is showing that children from low socioeconomic families learn more when they hear elaborate explanations.

“Even though they aren’t asking the same questions, they still need those types of explanations for learning to occur,” Kurkul said.