Trude Nilsen

The overarching aim of her research is to contribute to improve learning of, and attitudes to science. She wishes to contribute to increase knowledge about the different dimensions of quality of instruction and how they may impact learning outcome in different ways

Trude Nilsen

What is your current research on?

I am currently investigating how school climate and quality of instruction may influence learning outcome such as students’ self-concept and achievement as well as achievement gains. In relation to this, I am working with the use and developments of methods for analyses of large scale surveys such as TIMSS and PISA.

My current research is an extension of my PhD work where I investigated factors influencing students’ physics competence. These factors were examined across time in a trend-study, and included school climate comprising schools’ priority for school safety and their emphasis on academic success. I also examined the trends and characteristics of students’ physics competence during the last decades with special focus on mathematics in physics and students’ attitudes.

Why is this research important?

We know little about the relation between quality of instruction and achievement, especially in Norway. Yet, researchers agree that quality of instruction is one of the most important factors for students’ learning. School climate is another important factor influencing students learning. However, few have utilized data from large scale studies to investigate these factors in Norway or other countries using trend analysis across levels of the school system, and especially within science education.

Classroom research has contributed with a number of interesting and important qualitative studies. It is important to support this research with quantitative analysis on representative samples in order to generate generalizable inferences and create a basis of information for other in-depth qualitative studies.  Performing analysis of large scale data requires advanced methods since these surveys often have complex designs and large samples. It is hence important to make use of the field of psychometrics.

What motivates you to conduct your research?

The overarching aim of my research is to contribute to improve learning of, and attitudes to, science. More specifically I wish to contribute to increase knowledge about the different dimensions of quality of instruction and how they may impact learning outcome in different ways.  Moreover, research based on large scale surveys may have an impact on educational policy which in turn could have a positive influence on challenges within the STEM field.

In general, I find research stimulating, since it constantly provides new things to learn and new challenges. It is also great fun to collaborate with a heterogeneous group of people from across fields and nations.

How is your research conducted?

Statistical analyses of data from large scale surveys has, and still is, the main part of my research. The methods I use most frequently are Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). Currently I use these methods in combination with propensity score matching and IV estimation.

During my PhD, I also conducted my own survey of 200 students, which included a qualitative analyses based on interviews.

Combining quantitative and qualitative methodology to answer research questions, can be a fruitful way of conducting research since it may provide both an in-depth understanding as well as generalizability.

Where do you get your ideas and approaches to problems from?

I have brought many ideas and questions from my 10 years of teaching in school. Moreover, I am inspired by talking to others about research. Currently, I am working with researchers from CEMO who come from different nations and fields and who bring new ideas and perspectives. I have also participated in doctor schools, such as the EERA spring schools where you meet other PhD students and researchers from a number of nations. Everyone present their research, and the discussions in relation to this, is most inspiring. Discussions in the SISCO group has also been fruitful, and the social network with other colleagues, researchers, PhD students and researchers you meet at conference also play an important role. I also get ideas from research articles and books. Last, but not least, I am engaged in working across fields in order to get new ideas and to be able to see research questions from different perspectives.

In your view, what are the challenges in your field of research in the time ahead?

I believe it is necessary, but challanging, to combine competence and theories across fields and subjects.  If we want to promote students’ learning I believe it is pertinent to approach research questions from different perspectives by combining e.g. fields from pedagogy, science education and other subject oriented fields as well as the qualitative and quantitative fields of methodology. Often ground breaking new knowledge is created in the cross roads between fields. However, these fields follow their own traditions, and interdisciplinary research and mixed methods often require researchers to learn new theories and methods as well as adapting to other traditions with an open mind.

Publisert 10. juni 2014 14:05