Ask A Researcher #2 – Dr. Kripa Sundar

There is a gap between those researching practices in education and those implementing that research (teachers). This gap doesn’t really serve anyone and only adds to the disconnect between researchers and classroom teachers. Both ‘sides’ would greatly benefit from listening to the other. A teacher is a veritable treasure trove of expertise. Why would those conducting experiments to better education not want that important experience to drive and shape their research? A researcher’s knowledge of proper experimentation and understanding of outcomes could only stand to benefit the classroom teacher. 

This series (Ask A Researcher) is my attempt to close that gap a bit. By providing an opportunity to know a little more about those conducting the research, I hope teachers may feel a little more at ease with reading research articles and writing to those conducting the research…asking questions, seeking clarification, providing assistance. This obvious partnership could really improve both research/experimentation, classroom instruction, and education, overall. 

Dr. Kripa Sundar has very graciously joined in to be the second in this series. Dr. Kripa Sundar (NarayanKripa Sundararajan) is an independent consultant, researcher and parent working to spread the love of learning grounded in the science of learning. Her motivation is to be the swiss-army-knife of learning and share her learning to benefit people. She is currently most excited about launching a resource hub for adults to support their kids’ learning called Learning Incognito and her forthcoming book How can I learn? for young kids to learn and explore how they learn, every day.

Without further ado, let’s ask a researcher:

1. What was the focus of your past research?

My experimental research focuses on concept mapping and multimedia design (seductive details). My methodological sweet spot are meta-analyses and my most cited paper is a summary of the testing effect (aka impact of retrieval practice). I also dabble a bit in program evaluation research and practice to keep my skills in that area sharp.

2. What projects are you currently working on?

Working is one of my most favorite things to do, mostly because I love what I do. Academically, this year I’ve been focused on wrapping up open projects. I’ve got three journal papers published and three more in the pipeline for this year. Right now, I’m working on a chapter on concept mapping for the upcoming edition of Handbook of Multimedia Learning; a study describing  capstone projects in program evaluation degrees, with emphasis on professional competencies; and a case study of using evidence based strategies in an undergraduate animal science class. Professionally, I advise clients on developing their edtech and learning products to be aligned with or integrate findings from cognitive science. Oh, and I’m working with a fab edtech coach to write a ‘choose your adventure’ style guide on how to integrate science of learning and using edtech. Personally, I’m working towards launching my first ever kid’s book on how we can learn and a parent resource community hub called Learning Incognito. Yeah, I like working. 

3. What work have you done that you believe most applies to the classroom?

Ah. Trick question. I only do work that I think can be/is applied to the classroom. Sometimes that means I don’t get the perfect clean data set to work with and I don’t get to publish some of the work. I still learn from it though. In terms of work that I think most applies to the classroom is my work on seductive details. Teachers are asked to DO so much. I wanted to let them know what NOT to do. Basically, the bells and whistles have their time and space but its not for efficient learning. 

4. What do teachers need to know about being a researcher as it relates to education?

Researchers are human, really. They can and do make mistakes as well. Training varies. Not all published research is perfect. Being a researcher becomes a way of life; well at least for my partner and I. 

5. What can teachers do to work with the research community?

  Be critical by asking question: does what you read make logical sense? Reach out to researchers whose work you like. Own your teaching expertise and knowledge of your classroom. Be open to what is and could be. 

Bonus question time: How did you come to train in educational research?

One of my favorite stories to tell. I started my formal career in business – worked with Deloitte and a (then) young management consulting and investment banking boutique firm. One of my clients was in the education sector and I could see that despite best efforts, the business wasn’t taking off –> not because the need wasn’t there but because their service did not solve the problem meaningfully. I could tell them that was the issue but I didn’t have the solution. That took me towards wanting to learn how to do it right. This experience happened to happen when my partner was looking for a change and we both ended up enrolling in PhD programs (in VERY different fields). From there, I haven’t looked back.

I first met Dr. Sundar working on a project in the learning sciences arena. She is truly lovely to work with and interact with. Although she may be on the ‘researcher’ side of the researcher-teacher gap, she genuinely is a friend of the classroom teacher. She is an extremely knowledgeable professional and a fantastic human being.

So, what can you do? If you’re a teacher, simply write an email of gratitude or inquiry to an author. It’s that easy. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised how appreciative they are. If you’re a researcher, find classroom teachers on twitter or just email a local school. I assure you, we’d love to be included in the process.

Create the relationship. Close the gap. Improve education.

Are you a researcher interested in being featured in this series? Please feel free to contact me.

One thought on “Ask A Researcher #2 – Dr. Kripa Sundar

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  1. I think this is a really worthwhile series, but its intro reminds me of an educational research course I took long, long ago from a prof who wanted to know why teachers didn’t apply educational research. He went to a school parking lot and asked teachers who were leaving about their day, and what they wished they knew more about. Almost all the answers he got had to do, not with teaching, but with classroom discipline.

    I teach college, where this isn’t a big issue. But on the few occasions when I’ve had a class of children, it became obvious that I could have every teaching trick in the book but if I had no discipline tricks, no learning would occur. I wonder if you might feature some researchers who focus on that area.

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