Undergraduate Research Scholar Examines Preservice Teacher Knowledge

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: December 17, 2009

Lauren Williams, a senior special education major, is one of approximately 100 juniors and seniors to participate in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

Working with Kimberly Vannest, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Williams is looking at preservice teacher knowledge of data-based decision-making.

"If our future teachers are to engage in data-driven decision-making, teacher education classes need to be disposed toward, model and teach the strategies and technologies necessary to make this happen," Williams says.

Teachers increasingly are being asked to utilize evidence-based educational practices. This means they need to collect, manage and analyze data in order to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of their instruction and contribute to the knowledge base of best practices.

Williams' project "Making Weighty Decisions: Do Preservice Teachers Understand the Impact of Data-Driven Decisions?" involves a survey of junior and senior general and special education students on self-reported knowledge and skill for collecting and using data to inform instructional decision-making.

"All too many times, in special education especially, students are not given the correct placement or services because of inability to make decisions on actual data pertaining to each student," she says. "If preservice teachers were better able to comprehend and understand decision-making, the kids in our schools would be greatly affected for the betterment of themselves."

Williams is also working on Project Data to Knowledge, assisting Vannest and other project researchers in the development and implementation of a Web-based system designed to help teachers track student academic progress and behavior.

"She is super excited to participate and very energetic," Vannest says. "I love working with undergraduates. Their enthusiasm and passion for working with children with exceptional needs is contagious. Texas A&M undergraduates make you feel like the world is a better place."

Williams is prepared to make her own positive contributions. Her research experience will serve her well when she attends graduate school in the fall. She plans to earn a master's degree in special education and later teach.