2023 Pathways Fellow Irene Ramirez
Since 2016, the Educator Quality Center has partnered with the Sacramento State Pathways Fellowship to provide research experience to students and recent graduates admitted into the program. Sacramento State is one of just seven campuses in the United States that receive federal funding through the Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program. The grant title, “Studying Supports and Barriers to and Through Higher Education,” conveys its intent to increase diversity in the education sciences by supporting participants as they develop their research skills and prepare for future graduate studies. To meet this objective, fellows benefit from three primary supports: faculty mentorship in a collaborative research project, a paid summer research apprenticeship, and advising for graduate school applications. The Educator Quality Center, located on the Sacramento State campus, annually hosts one fellow as a summer research intern who assists with ongoing projects throughout a 10-week apprenticeship.
This year, the EdQ team was joined by Irene Ramirez, a current Pathways Fellow, and a recent graduate from the Sacramento State MA in Language & Literacy program. Through these two programs, Irene began developing her research skills, particularly during the spring semester of this year. As a graduate student, she completed a culminating research project which included learning modules for educators in adult literacy programs, emphasizing the need for greater funding, training, and resources to promote equitable and reparative education beyond the traditional K-12 classroom. As a fellow, Irene collaborated with her faculty mentor and the Sacramento County Office of Education in designing a survey that seeks to identify barriers to teacher participation in the regional National History Day contest. Immediately following these two projects, Irene began her 10-week summer apprenticeship with EdQ, where she has had the opportunity to partake in a variety of tasks, including qualitative data analysis.
Every year, EdQ conducts two systemwide surveys for CSU educator preparation programs: (1) the Teacher Preparation Program Completer Survey, and (2) the Year One Teacher Survey. In collaboration with the EdQ team, Irene completed a qualitative analysis of the 2020-2021 Year One Teacher Survey, which aims to understand perceptions of CSU teacher preparation programs once graduates have completed their first year of teaching. An executive summary of the analysis can be found here. The last two questions of the survey are open-ended, allowing participants to share aspects of their program that were valuable and any improvements they would suggest for the future. After learning about several of the projects that EdQ was managing, Irene selected to evaluate these survey responses to practice qualitative analysis and determine how the resulting themes could be connected to other research and collaborative groups led by EdQ. To conduct a thorough analysis, Irene trained in NVivo, a software program that provides tools for coding, classifying, and visualizing qualitative data. The 1,075 responses were then imported into NVivo, where 77 codes were extracted, and the number of references in each category were totaled. Based on the frequency of the codes and the context in which they were discussed, four prevalent themes were identified:
“Student teaching was the most valuable part of the process. Teachers can tell you what you should do all they want but nothing compares to being face to face with the actual kids that are learning.”
“The classes about teaching functional communication skills and assessing students’ communication; teaching students with multiple and complex disabilities; and creating and teaching instructional plans using [Universal Design for Learning] in an inclusive classroom have been very helpful.”
“From my coaches and mentoring teachers, I learned so much about how to actually run a classroom and respond to students. Had I not taken the initiative to immerse myself in their classrooms, asked questions about everything I saw, and asked for constant feedback, I would have been woefully unprepared for my own classroom.”
“The most valuable class I took during my credential program was working with diverse students. That class prepared me to anticipate students from all different backgrounds and how to build a community in my classroom.”
These themes correlated closely with CSU goals for diversity and student success, the Pathways Fellowship’s mission to remove barriers to higher education, and Irene’s personal research interests in effective and equitable instructional practices. The analysis has benefited both the Pathways Fellow and EdQ substantially, providing the former with continued development of research skills and the latter with information that will impact ongoing projects.