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Researcher Spotlight: Avery Castellani

The Researcher Spotlight series is designed to introduce the public to the many fabulous members of the Busload of Books research team. Washington College student researcher Avery Castellani designed this set of questions for the student research team- here are her responses!

What was it about the Busload of Books project that made you decide to accept the offer to join the research team?

I had only been a part of the Education/Human Development department at Washington College for around two months when Dr. CD reached out to me about the project. Because of that, I was both incredibly shocked and incredibly intrigued by the offer. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to further immerse myself in my new major, work closely with my professors, and make a difference in the community. The magnitude of the research didn’t fully hit me until I sat in on a Zoom call with the team where I met Matthew and Robbi and watched them all work their project-planning magic. I’ve never been involved in something so big, and since the project grows each day, I’m constantly pinching myself that I’m a part of it.

What specific jobs have you taken on as a student researcher? What have they taught you?

I’ve had a whole bunch of jobs since joining as a student researcher! In the beginning, I did a lot of survey sorting, box packing, and thank you note-writing. Tedious, maybe, but quite relaxing once I got into the groove of it. Aside from teaching me how to stuff upwards of a hundred surveys in one small envelope, this first stage of the project taught me about allllll the amazing behind-the-scenes work that goes into something like this- especially where paper surveys are involved.

Since we started getting surveys back, I’ve been doing a bit of data entry and a lot of blogging about the experience. The former is exhilarating because I’ve never done data entry before, and the latter is fun because it allows me to go back to my writing-centered comfort zone.

How does the Busload of Books project relate to your studies at Washington College?

As an aspiring Elementary educator, the data we’re collecting from middle and elementary school students all across the country regarding literacy attitudes is priceless to me. Every student that I encounter in my field work has their own opinion surrounding writing, reading, and drawing that I have to keep in the forefront of my mind while teaching them. How we teach is just one of the many factors that can influence a student’s attitude toward the aspects of literacy we’re researching.

Aside from learning how to teach at WAC, I’m also learning how to be a researcher! Being a part of the BoB team gives me a leg-up that helps me draw connections between a real-life, ongoing study and the smaller-scale analyses we conduct in my classes. All of this and more helps me prepare for my SCE and my full-time teaching internship through the Human Development major.

What are some of your long-term goals surrounding the Busload of Books project?

Honestly, I just want to soak up as much knowledge as I can. The great thing about our team is that we each bring different strengths and specialties to the table, and I learn from them just by spending time with them. Some of my more specific long-term goals include acquainting myself further with Zotero, a resource that helps our team manage bibliographic data, and learning how to properly analyze our data once we’re in that phase.

I also hope to stay involved with the project in some capacity well into the future as well so that I can see how our findings are implemented in the world of education. By then, I’ll be shaping up to be a teacher myself, so it will likely impact the way I do things in my classroom!

What are you most excited to learn about through this research?

One of the things I’m most excited to (hopefully) learn about through this research is the general point in a child’s educative career that their attitudes towards literacy (particularly reading and writing) go from positive to negative. A phenomenon I’ve seen talked about a lot by people in my age range is how we used to be able to “devour books,” but soon lost our energy and love for reading that allowed us to do so. I have a few theories as to why this is but being able to watch that decrease (or not watch that decrease, depending on whether it exists in our dataset or not) is super intriguing to me. I think it’s important that we preserve and protect a young student’s love of literacy, and that kind of data will help make that process more calculable.



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