The invaluable role of highly skilled research assistants

62 research assistants are on their way out in 300 classrooms to test the reading- and writing skills of 5500 Grade 3-students in the Two Teachers project.

PhD student in Two Teachers Kristin Sunde (left) and research assistants Kamilla Kjøstvedt, Rebekka Lindal and Anne Tove Schreuder Enge. PhD student in Two Teachers Kristin Sunde (left) and research assistants Kamilla Kjøstvedt, Rebekka Lindal and Anne Tove Schreuder Enge.

– We have three main criteria when we recruit research assistants for Two Teachers: They need to have commenced or completed a degree in teaching or psychology, they need to be structured and organized, and last, but not least, they have to be fond of children, says Joachim Kolnes Andersen, chief executive officer at the Norwegian Reading Centre.

For the fourth time since 2016, he has been through the elaborate process of recruiting research assistants who will contribute to the data collection in the Two Teachers project.

He can now assume his mission as completed: 62 assistants all across Southern Norway have been successfully employed, trained and certified, and are on their way out to meet 5500 students in the 150 schools and 300 classes participating in the project.

One-to-one meetings with 5500 9-year olds

The students are now in the final weeks of Grade 3, and it’s the fourth time that they will participate in the Two Teachers test of their reading and writing development. During the next weeks, each student will meet a research assistant one-to-one and complete a tablet-based test.

The assistants’ job is to ensure that the students complete the test, and that the data is handled properly and reported to the Two Teachers management in line with project procedures.

Two Teachers is one of the largest research projects in Norwegian education to date. It is imperative for the quality of the data that the research assistants are properly trained and qualified when they visit the schools and test the children.

As well as being selected based upon their educational background, they have all participated in a course run by Two Teachers researchers. The course gives an introduction to testing and the tests used in Two Teachers in particular, and the assistants are taught about the test battery, administration and scoring of results. The course also prepares them to successfully meet and conduct tests on a diverse group of young children. It is followed by a certification, ensuring that they are all adequately prepared for the task.

Impressed by the standard

– We continue to be impressed by our research assistant team. They are highly motivated and dedicated, and we are proud to have them representing the project and UiS in schools and classrooms all over Southern Norway, says Professor Oddny Judith Solheim, project manager in Two Teachers.

According to the assistants themselves, the role gives them important insight into both research and education.

– It’s a great experience for us to be part of this project. We get to meet so many different children and spend time in many classrooms, which is an invaluable asset to our training as teachers, says Rebekka Lindal, who studies teaching at the University of Agder (UiA), and is a third-time research assistant in the project.

Kamilla Kjøstvedt is currently completing her Master’s degree in teaching at UiA, and says she enjoys learning more about the organization and procedures involved in large research projects.

– It is exciting to be on the inside of a research project. I think we gain perspectives that will be very useful in our future as professional educators, she says.

Read more about Two Teachers.

By: Elisabeth Rongved, communications advisor, UiS
Photos: Elisabeth Rongved and Elisabeth Tønnessen

Professor Oddny Judith Solheim

Professor Oddny Judith Solheim is project manager for Two Teachers.