Research experience opens doors for graduate student
Alex Allmond recently secured an internship in Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school district in the state of Georgia, to complete the requirements for an Ed.S. in school psychology from Georgia Southern University. While her exceptional academic performance no doubt helped Allmond become a candidate of consideration, she says it was her research experience that made her stand out from other candidates.
In 2018-2019, Allmond served as an editorial assistant for the College of Education (COE) professor Sally Brown, Ph.D., to help edit the journal Talking Points. Allmond continued her work with Brown the following year, serving in a graduate assistant position funded by a COE seed grant, “Extending the Knowledge Base of 21st Century Multilingual Young Writers: A Holistic Writing Scale.” As a result, Allmond assisted with Brown’s research on emergent bilingual learners.
“This work stood out on my resume and in my interview,” said Allmond. “It made them take a second look and want to take a chance on me.”
Brown’s research is based on field experiences conducted in Savannah-Chatham County elementary schools observing literacy classroom instruction for diverse students including many who are learning English as a new language. At the heart of the case study, Brown reiterated that the traditional classroom approach emphasizes tested skills whereas emergent bilingual students acknowledge their diverse background knowledge and experiences.
“If you had to break down this research into the simplest of terms it is about giving credit to bilingual students for the work they have done and accomplishments they make,” said Allmond. “There can be a bias for working with these students that hinders their literacy and does not accurately depict their ability. The hope is to reframe educators’ perspectives when working with bilingual students.”
While Brown collected data in the classroom with students, Allmond said she was able to contribute through background research to complete the literature review and utilize her knowledge in assessment to organize and analyze the data.
“I enjoy the mentorship relationship,” said Allmond. “It was a positive experience for me and has helped me in my classes and with students.”
Brown and Allmond were recently informed that their co-authored article, “Constructing My Word: A Case Study Examining Emergent Bilingual Multimodal Composing Practices,” was published in the Early Childhood Education Journal.
While this is Allmond’s first peer-reviewed, published article, she is no stranger to research. Attending Georgia Southern for her undergraduate degree in child and family development, Allmond was in the University’s Honors Program where she completed a thesis project on measuring goals for adults with developmental disabilities utilizing photo technology.
“When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to major in child and family development because I wanted to work with children,” explained Allmond. “I had experience with summer camps and nannied, and I loved it.”
During her undergraduate studies, Allmond said access to service-learning at the University helped to open her eyes to many opportunities. It was, however, assessment and helping children with disabilities that intrigued her most.
“A school psychology graduate student visited one of my classes and told us about the field,” she said. “And during one of my service-learning opportunities working with adults with disabilities, I realized that I truly enjoyed working with them and completing assessments that could help them get the services they need. Everything fell into place, and I was able to be a part of the Ed.S. in school psychology program at Georgia Southern.”
Allmond’s dream job is to work with preschool evaluations for special education.
“It’s like a puzzle,” she said. “I want to help identify what a student needs and help them to succeed. At a young age, it is important that students are getting the development support they need. I want to be one of the first to help influence the view of special education and help form positive relationships for that student and their parents and supporters.”
As a part of the completion of the specialist program for school psychology, Allmond will also execute an action research project. In efforts to continue to consider the diverse needs of students she will serve, Allmond has chosen to complete research on the preparedness and practices of working with transgender students.
“I know I will work with transgender students in my career, and I want to know how other school psychologists were prepared for this specific population and what they are doing to work with them that they feel is successful. I want to be informed to work with all students.”
Allmond feels that she is on the right path.
“My ultimate goal is to work in a school system,” she said. “That’s where I want to be. I love what I do.”
Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 26,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.