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From SILC RA to Vanderbilt PhD

Many annual conferences have pivoted from in-person conferences to an online platform this year. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference is no exception. Yet, this conference was meant to be a final farewell to Camille Msall, a member of the SILC team who will be leaving Northwestern this summer. The project Msall is taking part in for ASEE focuses on building a spatial skills curriculum for teachers based on the work of researchers Sheryl Sorby and Uttal.  Msall presented a paper on this research at the ASEE virtual conference on June 23rd, titled “Implementation of a Spatial Skills Curriculum in Grade 7: Analysis of the Teachers’ Concerns (Evaluation).” 

Camille Msall, Northwestern Master’s of Data Science student and SILC research employee

The spatial skills curriculum includes 9 spatial modules. Teachers were asked to comment on their use of each module. These comments were coded utilizing the Concerns Based Adoption Model, which categorizes “any thought or feeling that affects evaluation or planning of curricular materials” (A.A. et al., 2006). Teachers reported most about the impact of the curriculum on the students. The researchers were also interested in the task concern which focuses on the management of the curriculum. The purpose of our paper is to better understand the concerns of teachers who implemented the spatial skills curriculum. The teachers’ concerns can help by providing insight into what was apparent to teachers in their classrooms. Specifically, as researchers we can change the curriculum for future iterations based on these comments” describes Msall  

Msall joined SILC in the summer of 2017 as a research assistant and lab coordinator for David Uttal before SILC officially transitioned into a Northwestern research center. “David really pushed for me to refine and define my interests. One summer he wanted us to learn R” a data analysis software, “to manage all the analysis we were running.” Msall worked closely with the post doctoral researcher on the GSS project and learned first hand how statistical training is a powerful tool for a researcher. Msall took this new insight from her experience with R and applied to Northwestern’s Data Science Master’s program. “One thing I also really liked was the interaction with participants. First during my time at the Chicago Children’s Museum and then when we ran studies within SILC. It’s one thing to see a conclusion come out of data and another to see it unfold in front of you while doing data collection.” Msall learned first hand how some of the theories she learned play out in real life and how research impacts education. 

After three years with SILC, Msall will be moving on to pursue her PhD in developmental psychology at Vanderbilt University this August. “My work with SILC has been a major source of growth in my personal and professional development. The different research projects I worked on facilitated my personal exploration into my research interests and what drew me to psychology” commented Msall. Through various projects, such as GSS, Spatial Curriculum project and a project on children’s understanding of scale models, informally known as the Duck study, Msall rediscovered her passion to link math with psychology which led to the next step in her academic journey with Bethany Rittle-Johnson’s Children’s Learning Lab  where a key focus is on mathematics and learning.

“I also greatly appreciated the SILC community where I was able to interact with lab members at different stages of their academic journey, and ask questions about their own academic journey to clarify my own dreams.” Msall’s research interests include cognitive development, mathematics learning, spatial visualization, and developing interventions to implement in STEM classrooms. 


Works Cited:

A.A. George, G.E. Hall and S.M. Stiegelbauer, “Measuring Implementation in Schools: The Stages of Concern Questionnaire,” Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2006.