Step Experience – Undergraduate Research
During my sophomore year at Ohio State, I was taking Psychology 2367.01, a writing course on social psychology. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and partway through the semester, my instructor approached me and asked if I would perhaps be interested in joining her on a research project. As I had always been curious about starting psychology research, I eagerly agreed.
I came to find out that the research project was on the very class I had been taking, Psychology 2367.01. The university asked the Psychology Department to assess the course and see if it was meeting its general education learning objectives. During spring of 2014, as I was participating in STEP, I got heavily involved with the project. The research team and I worked to analyze all the course materials and create a rubric that could be used to grade student papers. I then spent the rest of the semester grading and coding 300 student papers. Over the summer, I analyzed the data we had collected in order to determine whether students were actually meeting the learning objectives of the course, and what might be affecting their performance.
This process leaked into autumn 2014, which is when my STEP funding kicked in. Because this research position is not paid and I was dedicating a considerable amount of time to it, I was struggling balancing a part-time job as well my academics and extra-curriculars. By using my STEP stipend to make my research experience paid, I was able to invest the appropriate time and energy into my research project, which was an invaluable experience.
During the autumn of 2014 and spring of 2015, I composed a university report that described all of our findings from the study. Some of the most prominent effects include that instructors will see linear improvement on student papers throughout the semester, while blind-graders will not, and that both instructors and blind-graders see a significant improvement when students are asked to revise a paper after receiving instructor feedback. This information was used to create a presentation for the Writing Across the Curriculum Program here at Ohio State. My research partner, Ruoou, and I gave a talk to the WAC coordinators who help students in various 2367 writing courses. We showed them our findings in hopes of helping them improve their courses and teaching methods. In addition, we will be presenting to a larger group of psychology instructors on April 9th, and on May 1st, we will be giving a poster presentation at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference in Chicago.
Throughout my STEP journey, I had a lot of new, interesting experiences. A lot of tasks required me to take initiative and set my own deadlines, which had a great impact on my work ethic. I learned that I have a tendency to put things off until the last possible second, which results in lower quality work. I never realized how much of a problem this was until I had to ask my research advisor for an extension, and she seemed very disappointed in me. This encouraged me to alter my planning strategy, setting several early deadlines so I had more wiggle room to finish assignments.
I also experienced a lot of stress and frustration with this project. Sometimes the data got complicated and I had a hard time figuring out what statistical tests would get me what I wanted. I know I have always had trouble asking for help, but in this situation, I really did not have a choice. By the end of this experience, I was more comfortable asking for help from fellow research assistants or my advisor. When I made mistakes, I was able to laugh at myself and learn not to take criticism personally.
My participation in the STEP program completely changed my academic career and life goals. Research is incredibly important in the field of psychology, and previously, I had no idea if I enjoyed it. STEP allowed me to explore research with ease and without stress. I ended up falling in love with it, and it has influenced my decisions for after I graduate. I decided to pursue graduate school, and was recently accepted in Ohio State’s doctoral program in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Psychology. This degree will allow me to work with children who have special needs and create assessment materials that can assist them in the diagnostic and treatment processes. Research will be key in grad school and in my future career, so this experience was invaluable.
Overall, I learned a lot about myself and what I like to do during this program. My experiences steered me to my future and have shaped my life for the better. Thank you, STEP!