Thinking like a Survey Researcher The Experience of Inservice Educators


Janet Penner-Williams, Ed.D.
Rebecca Carpenter de Cortina, M. A.
Trish A. Lopez, M. A. T.


This phenomenological study presents the lived experience of six inservice educators participating in an online graduate-level research methods course as they learned about survey methodology and applied the knowledge and skills they acquired to their professional careers. Uniquely situated, the course employed an existing survey that was originally designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a professional development workshop for inservice educators as a main teaching tool. Semi-structured interviews and secondary data sources such as VoiceThreads©, discussion boards, assignments, and post course evaluations were used to explore the essence of the novice educator-researchers’ experience and perceptions. Through the four overarching themes, participants described the course as eminently applicable to their professional lives and shared how it transformed them from amateur to novice survey researchers. They also annotated how the course would benefit fellow practitioners when they too find themselves collaborating with or becoming educator-researchers. 


Author Biographies

Janet Penner-Williams, Ed.D., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Janet Penner-Williams is an associate professor and program chair for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the Curriculum & Instruction Department at the University of Arkansas. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston in 1999. Her research focuses on professional development (PD) of in-service teachers with a focus on PD for teachers of English Learners (ELs). She currently is primary investigator for two U. S. Department of Education PD grants aimed at providing online English Second Language (ESL) PD for preservice and inservice teachers. She is also project director for the U of A cohorts of the Arkansas English to Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) Institute aimed at providing PD to state in-service teachers of ELs. Dr. Penner-Williams spent 35 years in PK-12 public education including serving as principal of a bilingual school prior to joining the U of A faculty.

Rebecca Carpenter de Cortina, M. A., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Rebecca Carpenter de Cortina is Research Associate for Project SOAR at the University of Arkansas. In this capacity she provides program support for various grant activities, including online coursework and professional development for teachers of EL and CLD students. Her areas of research and mixed-method program evaluation include bilingual education, experiential learning, professional development and school-parent/family engagement. Rebecca began her journey in international education and English language learning over 15 years ago while working at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Mexico and New York. At IIE she was responsible for managing and evaluating multiple U.S. Department of State and IIE-sponsored student, scholar and teacher exchange programs. Rebecca holds a bachelor’s in international business, marketing and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a master’s in international educational development from Columbia University, Teachers College. While living in Switzerland, Rebecca also earned certifications in TESOL and global mobility.

Trish A. Lopez, M. A. T., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Trish A. Lopez is the Research Associate for Project CONNECT, a national professional development grant funded by the Office of English Language Acquisition. She works to support and report on the various activities of the project, including online coursework and professional development for educators who work with English learners, school-family-community engagement activities, and a summer school.  Prior to her current role, she taught at various elementary grades for 7 years. Trish has master’s degrees in teaching and in teaching English to speakers of other languages, and is currently working towards her doctorate degree in public policy with an education specialization. Her research interests include English learners, support for pre-service and in-service teachers, professional development, coaching, online coursework, culturally and linguistically diverse students, family engagement, and equity in school systems.