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Teacher Education and Learning Sciences Ph.D. Student Shares Her Experiences


Carrie Wilkerson Lee is a current Ph.D. student in the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences (TELS) department.

She first began her career as a fifth grade teacher, where she taught for for six years. During the last year and a half of teaching, Carrie also pursued her Master of Education from NC State in the Curriculum and Developmental Supervision program.  

As a long-time student at the College of Education, we’ve asked Carrie to share her experiences in the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences doctoral program and the College of Education as a whole.

Why did you choose to pursue a doctoral degree in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences (TELS) at NC State?

I chose the TELS department at NC State because of the caliber of advising and experiences I knew I would be afforded through the department.

During my master’s program I was able to participate in research with Dr. John Nietfeld that examined students’ motivation and creativity. Through these experiences I realized my interest in research and exploring facets of learning. Also, I was interested in pursuing my passion to improve teaching and learning of elementary mathematics.

With a strong elementary teacher preparation program and a commitment to research, I knew NC State was the best fit for me. The wealth of opportunities that were available directly aligned with my interests and made this program the top on my list.

What do you think is innovative about College of Education’s Ph.D programs?

I think the College of Education’s Ph.D. programs are innovative in the way they allow for your research interests to guide your course of study. It is very personalized.

With the restructuring of the Ph.D. programs, the goal is to build scholars that are knowledgeable and prepared to pursue a variety of interests while remaining true to the goal of bettering education for all students.

What has been your number one experience in the program thus far?

The most beneficial experience I have had in my program is joining a research team as a graduate research assistant. I have been a member of a grant team, Project ATOMS, for going on four years now, and this experience is invaluable.

Through this experience I have been able to apply my knowledge, skills, and lens from educational psychology to the study of teacher development. The hands-on experiences and opportunities to engage with faculty have taught me how to execute all aspects of a successful research process. Through my experiences with the grant team I have been able to blend my interests in teacher development, educational psychology, and standards-based elementary mathematics.

How have your experiences been working with the faculty? Please elaborate on how you personally work with faculty in the classroom and beyond.

The faculty was the main reason I chose my program. Dr. John Nietfeld and Dr. Temple Walkowiak are my co-advisors and provide endless support and guidance. They have modeled for me what quality research looks like, and have included me on research, presentations, and publications. Their expressed value of my ideas and criticisms have motivated me and pushed me to challenge myself.

Dr. Valerie Faulkner and Dr. Temple Walkowiak have provided me with superior examples of quality teaching at the collegiate level. They have provided me with opportunities to teach and have provided me with constructive feedback to improve my pedagogy. Also, through my work on Project ATOMS I have been able to reach out to various faculty members in the elementary education program.

The reimagined Ph.D. programs focus on experiential education. Can you please explain some of the experiential education opportunities you’ve been a part of during your time in the program?

Experiential education is the foundation of my experiences here at the College of Education. Most of my class assignments contributed to my line of research from writing IRBs to designing a professional development sequence. My quantitative and qualitative methods courses allowed me to use my own data and pushed me to apply my learning to my own work.

My experiences as a graduate research assistant have put me in the thick of research from design and data collection to analysis and implications. I have been able to observe high quality teaching and research and also have been able to DO high quality teaching and research. My experiences have exemplified NC State’s motto to THINK and DO!

What would you tell a student who is planning to apply to one of College of Education’s Ph.D. programs?
I would tell a student who is planning to apply, “What are you waiting for?” NC State’s College of Education will prepare you to be a skilled researcher who never loses sight of the goal-quality learning for all students.

Learn more about our reimagined doctoral programs and apply now