Elaina Rollins

Elaina Rollins

Major: Educational Studies

CLI Courses:

CLIC400: Community Learning Research Fellows Colloquium

EDUC305: Immigrants and Education

  1. Tell us a little about the Community Learning Research Fellows Program.

I enrolled in the CLI Research Colloquium during the fall of 2015 to supplement my senior research project in educational studies.

  1. What attracted you to this program and how did the research colloquium fit in with your academic interests?

I was attracted to the colloquium particularly because of the feedback from professors and fellow peers I knew I would be able to receive. As as senior educational studies major completing a research project, I wanted to produce my best possible work. Meeting with professors and other students also conducting research helped me improve my own research design, particularly because I was able to interact with people outside of my own major.

  1. Can you tell me a little about the work you did in the colloquium?  Did it involve any community engagement and, if so, could you talk a little about those experiences?

While enrolled in the colloquium, I conducted a senior research project on local teachers’ use of the Common Core State Standards in a Hartford Public School. The Common Core State Standards are a set of academic benchmarks in English Language Arts and Math that Connecticut schools began using a few years ago. In order to understand how Hartford teachers were using the standards on a daily basis, I volunteered as a classroom assistant in a Hartford public school and interviewed a variety of teachers. Throughout the course of the semester, I visited the school three times per week to observe classes, provide instructional support, and interview teachers about their use of the Common Core.

  1. Can you talk about what you learned from this experience?

The results of my project ultimately showed that while the Common Core State Standards may be a uniform set of academic benchmarks, the Hartford teachers I worked with took a very active approach to interpreting these standards. I saw these educators revise and refine their teaching methods in order to use the standards as a tool for teaching important life skills. For example, the teachers I spoke with chose to view student academic struggle as an opportunity for growth, and by adopting this mindset, they were able to use the Common Core to teach ambition, self-sufficiency, and resiliency. Additionally, I saw a greater shift in controversy that has taken place since the initial release of the Common Core. While many people still remain critical of the policy today, it was surprising to see that the teachers involved in my study generally accepted key elements of the standards that were once highly controversial.

  1. How did the community engagement part of your project fit in with your overall research?  Do you see a connection between your thesis and your engagement with the Hartford community?

My senior thesis investigated teacher use of the Common Core State Standards in a local Hartford public school. My study sought to understand how a group of educators interpret and act on the Common Core State Standards and in what ways these educators use creative teaching strategies to move beyond the expectations of the Common Core. My thesis was directly connected to my engagement with the Hartford community, because I could have never answered my research question without the help and input of local Hartford teachers. Their willingness to welcome me into their school allowed me to deepen my understanding of this educational policy in a way that would have never been possible if I had simply read secondhand accounts or studies on this topic.

  1. What advice do you have for other students who may be interested in taking a CLI course?

I would push other students interested in a CLI course to really develop a relationship with their community partner. The teachers I worked with were an incredible asset to me throughout my research experience, so I would encourage other students to view their partner within the Hartford community in this same light.

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