My name is Dr. Porsha Robinson-Ervin. I am currently the Principal at Weinland Park Elementary School in the Short North Area of Columbus. As an undergraduate student, I majored in Special Education and completed a Senior Honor Thesis. The following school year I completed a research project in the M.Ed. Program. I later returned to OSU to achieve the goal of obtaining my Ph.D. and I received the Dissertation Fellowship Award for the College of Education.
How did you get involved in undergraduate research when you were at OSU? What research were you involved in?
My advisor, Dr. Gwendolyn Cartledge was a major influence on my involvement in undergraduate research when I was at OSU. During my junior year, I started out as a research assistant for one of her doctoral students and from there I was interested in doing my own research study. Therefore, my advisor encouraged me to complete a Senior Honor Thesis. My Senior Honor Thesis focused on the effects of a repeated reading intervention on the reading fluency and comprehension of elementary students in an urban setting. This opportunity prepared me for future research experiences and in my teaching career. It helped me to deeply understand the importance of collecting and analyzing evidence of student learning as a special education teacher.
What are you doing now? What do you like about being a principal or working in education?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. As a child, I would teach my stuffed animals and students in my “imaginary” classroom. It was always my calling. What I have loved the most about being in education, whether as a teacher, professor, or principal is the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of the people that I serve through my profession. As a principal, I have the opportunity to impact the lives of many people on a daily basis: students, parents, and staff members. Furthermore, the impact of the people I serve has impacted me greatly. I learn so much each day from my staff and students. They have helped me to grow professionally and personally.
What do you like about your profession?
I LOVE my daily interactions with my students! I love their energy, their intelligence, their perspectives, and their resiliency. They make me laugh and at times my heart becomes very heavy because of the many challenges they face. However, I would not trade my professional experiences for anything. I also LOVE to see my staff learn and grow from their teaching experiences and data analysis. It is an amazing experience to go into a classroom and to see a teacher teaching a powerful lesson and to see students learn, teachers learning from their students, everyone engaging in and enjoying the teaching and learning process. It is hard to describe in words but each day that I see it, it inspires me to be better!
What are your future career plans? How did your OSU undergrad research experiences help shape your current career and future plans?
My OSU undergrad research experiences help shaped and created the foundation for my graduate studies and my career experiences. My undergraduate research experience greatly prepared me for my dissertation. Also, through the leadership of my advisor, I published the work from my Senior Honor Thesis. This opened the doors for my doctoral studies and future career opportunities, such as my time as Assistant Professor at Northern Kentucky University.
Do you think undergraduate research is beneficial? If so, what have been some of the benefits for you?
I know that undergraduate research is highly beneficial. As I previously stated it prepared me to be a highly effective teacher. I was nominated for Ohio Teacher of the Year and I received the Ohio School Board’s Outstanding Teacher Award. I attribute this success to my undergraduate research because it gave me a different and highly sensitive lens on understanding and analyzing student data. In turn, this made me highly reflective in my professional practices and the changes I needed to make to improve my instruction. Due to my experience, I was able to improve student achievement and I had the evidence to prove my impact!
Furthermore, these benefits have impacted my work as a principal. As a principal, there is plenty of data of analyze. However, as a leader I have to determine what is most important and collaborate with my staff on the data analysis journey to determine what we are learning from the data (student data or teacher observation data) and how we will make the needed changes to make the largest impact on student learning and achievement.
What has been your best research experience to date and why?
For my dissertation, I studied the Effects of Culturally Responsive Computer-Based Social Skills Instruction on the Social Skill Acquisition and Generalization of Urban 6th- Grade Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. For my dissertation, I really wanted to focus on research that would contribute to the field and would impact the outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.
As a former teacher of students identified with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, I knew that work in this area was imperative due to the dismal outcomes of students in this IDEA category. I thoroughly enjoyed my dissertation research experience! However, my dissertation was not without challenges: obtaining parental permission, technological challenges, scheduling challenges, and students being admitted to the hospital due to mental health concerns.
This experience has been my best because it taught me the importance of staying focused and resilient, especially when there are numerous challenges. This lesson has truly helped me as a principal, since there are dozens of priorities at once but to be an effective leader, you have to “Keep your eyed on the prize”!
Any life advice, resources, or opportunities that you would like to share to those who read the post or are just getting started with research.
My biggest advice would be for students to get to know their undergraduate professors and their advisors. My advisor, Dr. Cartledge, has had a tremendous impact on my career and life. You never know what opportunity may be awaiting, if you reach out and express your interests and your willingness to learn.