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Meet the Researcher - Anna Rutherford

MEET THE RESEARCHER LIVE ON APRIL 28‚Äč
Breakout Room: 29

AnnaRutherford_Headshot_2Researcher Name: Anna Rutherford
Title of Research: Learning in the Time of Pandemic: Engagement in Collaborative Learning during COVID-19
Division Representing: Social Sciences
Institution: Lee University
Institution Location: Tennessee
Home State: Tennessee
District Number: 4
Advisor/Mentor: Arlie Tagayuna
Funding Source: N/A

Research Experience: 
Growing up on the outskirts of Appalachia, I have witnessed/ experienced firsthand the myriad of social inequalities that are present in America's rural communities, many of which are inherently connected to widespread intergenerational poverty and persistent job instability. My experiences here have been formative in developing my current worldview and aspirations, including my passions for education and service as well as my interest in combatting gender, economic, and education inequalities. During my experience as a sociology major at Lee University, I have discovered a personal enthusiasm for research and statistics, particularly as I recognize the powerful implications well-developed social research can have on policy and program development. I have had the privilege of participating in some independent research through my required courses, including a case study analysis of the feminization of poverty in rural Appalachia using demographic data of McDowell County, West Virginia, and I will continue to build upon this research throughout my undergraduate experience. In regards to work experience, I am a caregiver at an assisted living facility in my hometown and have previously worked with the Student Success Center on campus as a Supplemental Instruction Leader. Lastly, during the past six years, I have participated in over eight hundred hours of community service, most of which was with the Christian church and local schools. Collectively, these experiences, alongside my education and training in sociology, have allowed me to contribute toward a future that is more equitable, equal, and sustainable for all, which is my greatest aspiration. 

Presentation Experience: 
As a second-year student in college, my presentation experience has been within classroom settings, most significantly including that which is relevant to the discipline of social sciences. For example, I presented my demographic analysis research of McDowell County, West Virginia as well as a research proposal regarding the topic of on this application among upperclassmen peers in the sociology department last semester. Additionally, during the spring semester of 2021, I am scheduled to present research at multiple symposiums, including Lee University's International Women's Week and Ollie J. Lee symposiums and the Southern Sociological Society's Annual Conference.

Significance of Research: 
The current COVID-19 pandemic has challenged higher education institutions' approach to learning, primarily, in strategies for strengthening student engagement in the classroom. However, collaborative learning, an important indicator for student engagement, is challenged due to health and safety protocols of social distancing and the subsequent transition to remote and hybrid, high-flex learning environments. The purpose of this presentation is to test the theory of collaborative learning by examining the National Survey of Student Engagement using Analysis of Variance. This research compares different dimensions of collaborative learning (asking another student to help one understand course material; explaining course material to one or more students; preparing for exams by discussing or working through course material with other students; working with other students on course projects or assignments) and discussion with diverse others (people from a race or ethnicity other than one's own; people from an economic background other than one's own; people with religious beliefs other than one's own; and people with political views other than one's own) by race, gender, major, class standing, international or local status, year level, type of enrollment, type of residency, athlete or non-athlete status, and disability status among undergraduate students in the Appalachian region. Results of this research show a significant decrease in items in the measure that suggest physical contact but increased engagement in collaborative learning processes using technologies.

Uniqueness of Research: 
This research differs from previous studies in that it provides a theoretical assessment of the student engagement framework on collaborative learning strategies specifically with the context of Appalachia during the coronavirus pandemic. The findings of this research can offer valuable insight on the "best practice" of navigating collaborative learning during times of crisis and disruption.  

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