Trying to remember back to my first day at WISERD is harder than I expected – probably because of the sheer variety of experiences I’ve had here from that day to now! When I started as a Research Associate back in September 2012, I was fresh from studying for a PhD at Bangor University where I looked at the impact of bilingual education on children’s linguistic and cognitive skills. This formed the backbone of my knowledge about the education system in Wales, and was enhanced and developed by working on the Evaluation of the Foundation Phase alongside an experienced and highly respected team of researchers from a variety of world renowned universities. At times the enormity of this project was overwhelming for both Sam (a fellow research associate on the evaluation team) and I as there were so many issues and elements to explore and so many ways of collecting data to develop. But being a part of a £1million educational evaluation was something to relish and the opportunity to truly make a difference to the world of education in Wales through working with Welsh Government and others always eradicated these worries for me.
Working as a Research Associate has, undoubtedly, opened my eyes in relation to a variety of research methods, as well as the utilisation of a sound evidence base, and the importance networking and liaising – the wealth of knowledge that exists at 46 Park Place alone is astonishing, and certainly played a part in my attraction to the position at WISERD.
For me the most interesting part of conducting research at WISERD is the variety – no single day is the same. Although getting to grips with the ins and outs of a new project, topic or policy document is interesting in its’ own right, going out into schools or settings to speak to the individuals living these policies is what I love! Working at WISERD has given me the opportunity to explore the world of education from a range of different viewpoints – initially by being a part of the team evaluating the early years Foundation Phase curriculum, to taking a closer look at how the Pupil Deprivation Grant helps children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve through a variety of interventions, and then exploring the childcare needs of parents by evaluating the Foundation Phase Flexibility Pilots. There is no greater feeling than seeing, with your own eyes, the difference being made to children’s lives through these policies, and how our evaluations can enhance this. It’s why I came into research in the first place, and what I’m itching to come back to after a brief hiatus!
Education research, in its entirety, is a fascinating field, and its navigation has been difficult at times. However continuous encouragement from individuals within WISERD, most notably Professor Chris Taylor, to develop as an individual researcher, and not just to fulfil project aims, set the course for me.
I hope the future will bring opportunities to further explore the world of education in Wales (and beyond!). I also hope to explore work from my PhD further (e.g. language transmission and use), as well as topics from projects I’ve worked on over the past few years (e.g. practitioner training, support and guidance, children’s wellbeing and attainment and the school-family-community context).
Until then, I wish everyone at WISERD the best of luck as you transition into a successful Civil Society Research Centre.
About the author: Dr Mirain Rhys was a Research Associate at WISERD. She recently conducted research for WISERD’s independent evaluation of the Welsh Government’s early years education policy – the Foundation Phase, as well as evaluations of the Pupil Deprivation Grant and Foundation Phase Flexibility Pilots.