Ingrid Anderson, a new member of the Curriculum and Instruction Department, has learned that her doctoral thesis was selected as the Outstanding Dissertation of the Year by the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE). She is an assistant professor of practice working with the Early Childhood Council on several early childhood projects and grants. She previously served for four years as program coordinator for the Oregon Childcare Registry in the Oregon Center for Career Development (OCCD) at PSU.
Anderson earned her EdD in curriculum and instruction from PSU in 2014. Her dissertation is entitled Early Childhood Educators’ Perception of Oregon’s Professional Development System: A Hermeneutic Phenomenology Study. In working with the more than 25,000 Oregon early childhood educators, she consistently heard the same complaint: navigating the bureaucratic forms and websites required by the state system was too difficult and unwieldy. Anderson wanted to resolve this but knew that just the research would take a massive effort. It seemed perfect for a dissertation topic.
What Anderson did next was truly unique. She knew she needed to collect data from early childhood educators about Oregon’s early childhood professional development system, but how could she gather rich data on a topic from many early childhood educators in a way that made it easy for them to organize and collect their thoughts? She turned to collages as a tool to collect information about their career paths.
“Ingrid utilized collage making as an ‘a/r/tography’ tool during in-depth interviews, so she could more deeply understand the nature of her participants’ experiences in Oregon’s professional development registry,” said Professor Will Parnell, who chaired her dissertation. “This unique approach is sometimes called ‘cross-hatching’ and allows for thoughts to surface through images and metaphors.” It also helped participants construct their unique stories in a completely focused way.
Parnell said, “Her findings really stood out in language side by side with pictures so we could understand what educators go through as they navigate elaborate and sometimes bureaucratic government systems. Ingrid’s work offers social scientists and educators new, compelling, and innovative research practices, as well as strengthens the voice of teachers in their own professional growth experiences.”
Anderson’s research with early childhood educators identified three dominant themes:
- Personal and professional identities are intertwined, making teachers emotionally vulnerable to changes in the early childhood professional development system
- Early childhood educators’ experiences are nonlinear; participants described their journeys as winding rivers, roads, and paths
- Early childhood professional development systems are linear, while individual experiences are not; thus, early childhood educators only find the system relevant at the point where their experiences are aligned with the state structures
“Early childhood educators in the study often sacrifice themselves in unhealthy ways to fit into the professional development system,” said Anderson. “In society, they are both praised and punished for their professional choice to work with young children.” She shared her experience as a way to create a space in early childhood policy decisions for voices of early childhood educators.
Anderson will be honored at the national NAECTE convention held in November in Florida. The award includes a one-year honorary membership in NAECTE, the opportunity to present her work, and a $750 honorarium.