Asking Questions

Find out how Lan Chan-Marples, research facilitator, assisted Dr. Maria Cutumisu, Faculty of Education, through her successful SSHRC application.

Sandra Kinash - 01 March 2018

As a newer researcher in the Faculty of Education, Dr. Maria Cutumisu investigates the relation between feedback and memory. For her grant application, Cutumisu relied on assistance from Lan Chan-Marples, research facilitator, to guide her through her first Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) application, awarded in the 2016-2017 competition.

"It really helped that Maria strategically chose the competitions she applied for and if she was unsure of anything she asked me questions and was willing to learn," says Chan-Marples.

Cutumisu, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, was recently awarded the SSHRC Insight Development Grant for her investigation into the relation between feedback and memory to find out if students remember constructive criticism better than praise.

In her research, participants play a video game where they learn about graphic design principles by designing digital posters and receiving feedback. During this time, their gazes are recorded using an eye-tracker to gain an insight into students' feedback processing. Afterwards, they complete a learning and memory recall post-test task.

The participants choose between receiving praise or constructive criticism and are then tested to see if they remember the praise or the criticism.

"The game counts how many times students choose criticism versus praise to determine which one they prefer and how that affects their learning later on," she adds. "Simultaneously, the post-test collects the feedback messages that students remember from the game. My hypothesis is that students would rather remember the criticism because they learn more from it and process it longer."

Cutumisu says most assessments used in education today look only at the learning outcomes. This game assessment also focuses on students' learning processes. She hopes her research shapes instruction on how teachers assign feedback.

"Are we going to change the way we assign feedback so students have the opportunity to ask actively for feedback? What kind of feedback will they ask for and how will it affect their learning?" she questions. When Cutumisu was first hired, Chan-Marples provided her with an orientation to research administration.

"I meet with faculty members as soon as they arrive and walk them through what Research Services Office is about and what we as research facilitators do," she says.

She outlined all the grants Cutumisu could apply for internally and externally and pending deadlines. She introduced her to eTRAC and Researcher Home Page, a self-serve online grant management tool, and answered any questions she had.

Once Cutumisu's applications were ready for review, Chan-Marples carefully reviewed her complete application including the proposal, curriculum vitae (CV), and budget. Cutumisu feels her help was essential, particularly with guidance on budgets.

"She helped me create a budget, advising on inclusion of specific items, such as the cost of student salaries and conference travel. You cannot overestimate or underestimate these costs because SSHRC is very particular about accuracy," she says. Asking questions is the biggest tip Chan-Marples would offer researchers and she wants them to know she is available to help.

"It is easier to come and ask us and we will steer them. If we don't know the answer to their question we will refer them to the appropriate person who knows," she says.

If the researcher needs to change their spending after they are awarded, Chan-Marples advises them to adjust their original budget to avoid any problems that might arise during the post-award period of the grant.

"Certain sponsors will allow you to adjust more freely than others while other sponsors want you to stick by what they fund you for. At the end when you reconcile the money and report back on how you use the funding, you want to make sure the sponsor is happy," she states. Cutumisu is grateful for the all the support Chan-Marples provides her.

"Lan is an asset to our faculty and knows more about my research than most people because she has read it time and time again," she says.

This article comes from RSO's Report to the Community 2017.