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Regular version of the site

A Professional Project Team Knows How to Pose Questions

Oleg Podolskiy is Research Fellow of the Institute of Education and Project Manager of the PIAAC in Russian Federation – this is an international survey implemented by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). More than 20 countries, including Russia, took part in the survey. This project plays a significant role in modern science; it studies the competence of the adult population in mathematical, reading, and ICT literacy, i.e. their ability to solve complex tasks with the help of modern technologies, computer, and the Internet.

The main skill of a researcher is the ability to correctly formulate a hypothesis and the desire to prove it. Enthusiasm is also important, as no professional can pass from the initial idea to analyzing the results without it.

— Oleg, could you tell us about your research work in Russia.

— It’s a large-scale study; 5000 people from Russia aged between 16 and 65 took part in it.

The participants were asked to solve problems that they face in real life, and then we evaluated  how well did they coped. All the participants filled in a complex questionnaire, which included more than 200 different personal characteristics (age, income level, education, professional skills, state of health, and others).

The specific character of the PIAAC is in the fact that it studies the adult population. Educational studies are usually focused on preschool children, pupils, and students.  The PIAAC covers the entire working age — from 16 to 65. This survey allows us to collect new interesting data, and raise new questions relevant for modern society.

— What difficulties did you encounter while conducting such a large-scale research?

— The main difficulty is that there are only few specialists in Russia who are able to conduct a large-scale survey and analyse the results. There is no basis for their tuition, that’s why we have to train them during our work.

Another difficulty is connected to the survey format and scale. Just imagine the organizational process of a survey of five thousand people in Russia… Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to organize it to the level of international standards, and some organizational problems are inevitable.

Both difficulties are typical for any large-scale international research, whether it involves studying the competence of adult population (PIAAC) or students (PISA or TIMSS).

— What competences are needed for an educational researcher?

— First of all, they need a solid basic education, whether a researcher specializes in sociology, psychology or economics. The key competency of an analyst and researcher is his ability to pose suitable research questions and to formulate hypotheses.

An example of a suitable research task is comparing the results of different competence studies of population by the same sampling. We can solve this task, and I hope we can do it promptly. For instance, there is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which studies 15-year old students. They can also be tested in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), when they turn 17-18 years old. The results of the tests can be compared, as both of them are based on similar methodological approaches. Researchers who can think and set tasks in this kind of creative way should take part in educational research.

— What qualities does an educational researcher need in order to succeed?

— I guess he needs enthusiasm. For our projects I choose people who show an interest in the research. It’s important that the researcher has planned his professional development, and thought about what he or she is going to do in 3-5 years time, if they are ready to fulfill their potential and self-actualize in the project. The ability to work in a team and to meet deadlines is also crucial. I suppose that all these characteristics can be thought of as being integral to professionalism.

Ekaterina Rylko

See also:

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