Secondary Education/English with a Middle School Endorsement, Spring 2013
Recipient of the Anne and Bob DeStefano Fund for Undergraduate Research
Back (left to right): Dr. Desiree Ciambrone, Dr. Deborah Britt, Dr. Spencer Hall (Director of Honors), Dr. Janet Johnson (Advisor to Brittany Richer).
The idea for Brittany's project originated from her experience reading young adult literature in education courses at RIC. Because the courses included teacher candidates from all content areas, and she is concentrating in English, Brittany wondered how teacher candidates from subjects other than English could make connections to their areas of study through reading young adult literature, and what benefits this would offer them. She was also curious about the effects of reading young adult literature on the development of teacher identity.
The study found that reading young adult literature allowed teacher candidates to talk about the "what," "how," and "why" of students, classrooms, and their beliefs about teaching. Brittany feels that it is important to understand the practical and theoretical opportunities that reading young adult literature provides for teacher candidates and teachers, whether specializing in the English content area or not.
"As a member of both the RIC and the larger teacher education community," she said, "completing this project has helped me make important connections between my coursework and the wider, ongoing professional conversation about teacher education."
Brittany found the project rewarding and fun, in part because it provided an immediate connection to her classroom assignments. For example, in her first semester of research she participated in a Literature Circle with classmates, which provided the opportunity to observe other teacher candidates' interactions with the text. The research project made her take a step back from her role as participant to make connections between the material presented and the conversations among students and professors regarding that material. This provided an opportunity to more fully understand what is being learned, how it is being learned, and why it is being taught. The experience will enrich Brittany's future students as she has sharpened her critical reflection skills to hone in on the what, how and why of classroom practices.
Brittany is an exemplary honors student who has received various other awards, including a Foundation Honors Scholarship, the McMahon Rising Junior Honors Scholarship, and a College Student Leadership award, among others. She is one of the first two students (along with Kristina Drocic) to receive a DeStefano Award for an honors project completed for the Department of Educational Studies at RIC. These two students have set an example for other teacher candidates by showing that student research projects can be performed in a variety of academic pursuits, including education. Brittany says of the research experience, "This has certainly affected who I am as a student and a teacher candidate."