COE students dive into summer research

Mary Beth Henning and Sadie Filipski
Mary Beth Henning and Sadie Filipski

When Sadie Filipski heard an offer to assist in research that she knew would impact her eventual career as an elementary school teacher, she volunteered immediately.

“Going into something so relatable to what I’m going to be doing was so exciting,” says Filipski, a senior Elementary Education major. “I wanted to jump at the opportunity to have knowledge about something so applicable to where I’m going in my future, and I was so happy to have this opportunity to be a part of something so new in my field.”

The topic: new financial literacy standards in Illinois mandated in 2016. The professor: Mary Beth Henning, a member of the faculty of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the state task force members who wrote the social science standards.

Henning and colleague Tom Lucey, a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University, had collected survey data over the last 18 months from 126 pre-service licensure candidates on their perceptions of the new standards.

“Sadie had the chance to help me analyze all of those surveys,” Henning says. “She’s an amazing student. She was so enthusiastic about financial literacy and about helping elementary students to better understand money management.”

Filipski was one of three College of Education students who participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program, which gives NIU undergraduates the opportunity to conduct paid, faculty-mentored, research during the summer months.

Jack King, Myiesha Hunt and Carol Walther
Jack King, Myiesha Hunt and Carol Walther

Myiesha Hunt (Early Childhood Education) and Marvin Payton Jr. (Kinesiology) joined her Aug. 10 in presenting their work at the Summer Research Symposium, held in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center.

NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning sponsored the event, which showcased undergraduates who have participated in faculty-mentored research, artistry or other engaged learning projects.

Hunt worked with NIU Sociology faculty Carol Walther and Jack King on a community project involving law enforcement and mental health services.

Payton, meanwhile, conducted water tests of the Kishwaukee River throughout DeKalb County with Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences graduate student Surya Freeman.

“I tested the quality of DeKalb water in the East Lagoon, other streams and rivers on campus and around DeKalb County,” says Payton, a sophomore.

“We tested onsite for temperature, pH and electric connectivity, and we brought back samples to the lab to test for nitrogen, phosphates and other things,” he adds. “We found out that some sites are very high in nitrates and phosphates that come from farming.”

Marvin Payton
Marvin Payton

Learning the standards of research should boost his career potential, he says. “This is nowhere near my field,” he says, “but I’ve been always been interested in research, and this gives me a lab presence.”

Filipski also is walking away with a deeper understanding of the research process.

“I learned about how you have to complete training to conduct human subjects research; I took an online training course with questions that involved the history of people and the ethical situations involving research,” she says. “It really opened my eyes to the fact that research is important, and it really made my research experience real: I’m working with this thing that is happening now.”

Her analysis of the survey data showed that “the majority of pre-service teachers agree with concepts regarding buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; and making informed spending choices.”

Survey respondents also indicated an interest in “how people have trouble saving enough for financial emergencies.”

“If they agree with concepts like these, it could show that teachers value teaching financial literacy,” Filipski says, “and it could mean including innovative teachings strategies in their classrooms.”

One of those innovations is teaching the financial literacy standards through the arts.

Mary Beth Henning
Mary Beth Henning

“Exposing my students to pictures of poverty, consumerism, marketing and bartering involves experience-based learning,” she says. “It helps them develop socially, encourages critical thinking and meets the needs of diverse learning styles.”

Henning loved that.

“Sadie went the extra mile, looking for more multicultural artwork to share with elementary students that would help them better understand financial literacy,” says the professor, who formerly served as a co-director of the NIU Center for Economic Education.

“The artwork she found was amazing. Kyrssi Staikidis, as associate professor in the NIU School of Art and Design, gave her some recommendations of websites to look at for multicultural artists,” Henning adds, “so I learned a lot from Sadie, too. It was a fabulous summer.”

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