5,400 Minutes in 10 Minutes
Besides having the opportunity to attend a variety of the sessions at the conference, we also had the privilege to present the research we have been working on all summer. While we have worked collaboratively on all of our projects, we presented our four research projects individually, which gave us the opportunity to be the experts on that subject at the conference. I presented our research on the use of student surveys as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Did you know that student surveys are a better predictor of a teacher’s effectiveness (as measured by test scores) than principal observations in North Carolina? Nobody else did either until we researched it. This is one of the reasons why I love the work that we’re doing at DPI this summer. We’re given the opportunity to tap into pressing issues in education that nobody has really looked at yet and we have a massive amount of state educational data at our disposal. This is all, of course, in the hopes of producing research that will be used to help improve public education in North Carolina.
While conducting this research can be extremely challenging at times, presenting it proved to be one of the biggest challenges yet. How do you present something in 10 minutes (our imposed time limit for each research project) when you have been working on it for nine weeks? If you do the math, we have been working on our research for about nine weeks at 40 hours per week. Dividing this time up between our four projects, this means that we spend about 10 hours per week on each project. Over nine weeks, that means that we have spent approximately 5,400 minutes on each project so far! How do you condense 5,400 minutes of research down into a 10 minute presentation?
Fortunately, presenting your work is a big part of the MPA program and we are often tasked with presenting very complex ideas and research in an accessible manner in a short period of time. A lot of our work in Professor Berner and Professor O’Brien’s classes helped prepare me for this. My experience as a teacher trained me well to communicate ideas in a way that helped my students grasp and understand them, but I typically had about an hour to do so. In our classes, we never have that long to present, which, while frustrating at times, is paying dividends now. I remember last semester in Professor Berner’s class when we had to present almost a year’s worth of independent research in about 15 minutes and how difficult it was not only to boil it down time wise, but to present it in a way that is accessible to people who haven’t been working on the project. I am so glad that I got that experience through our coursework because it made me better able to manage it in my professional work.
That about wraps it up from DPI offices. We’re finishing up our research by heading into the final stage of writing everything out in the form of reports to be published by DPI. I’ll be updating soon on some of our other research projects. I’m really excited about our findings and can’t wait for them to be shared.