New UW College of Education faculty member Min Sun is already winning recognition for her scholarship as a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award. The five-year award is given to a select number of early career scholars who have demonstrated exceptional promise as researchers and teachers. The award will provide more than $620,000 in support of the assistant professor's research in education policy.
Sun recently answered questions about her research agenda, what attracted her to UW and her interests beyond education.
What drew you to education?
My own professional development has been greatly shaped by teachers who taught me in elementary and secondary schools, college, and graduate schools. I majored in pre-school education in college and subsequently enrolled in graduate school to study the economics of education and educational policy, which offered opportunities to make a large impact.
Describe your research and service agenda.
My research focuses on policy research related to educator quality. My work originates in economics of education and goes beyond traditional economic frameworks for employee incentives and motivation by incorporating a broader range of factors discussed in sociology and psychology. My current work involves using quantitative methods to understand the impact of federal and state policies on teaching and learning outcomes, and on the quality and distribution of the teaching workforce. An example of this line of inquiry is the newly awarded project exploring beginning mathematics teachers' career patterns. My interest is also in understanding the diffusion of policy interventions in schools and the heterogeneous effects of these interventions across subgroups of schools, teachers and students.
What makes your research meaningful to you and why is it important for teachers, parents, etc.?
Research has suggested that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor that influences student achievement and that principal leadership is the second most important school-based factor. Current educational policymaking has been preoccupied with teacher/principal evaluation and performance accountability, pre-service preparation, and in-service professional development, as well as the equitable distribution of educator quality. My work aims to contribute to these policy agenda.
What attracted you to UW's College of Education?
I am hungry for the opportunity to be mentored by senior colleagues who have been leading scholarly innovations in education policy and learning, as well as the opportunity to work with junior scholars who are doing inspirational work. I am also hungry for the opportunity to work with talented students here. Moreover, I am attracted to UW College of Education because I anticipate that my academic interests and future research agenda will contribute to the College’s mission to engage in federal, state and local policy debates on developing a high-quality teaching workforce; I certainly believe that the intellectual riches in the College and across the University will provide a propitious environment for advancing my research, teaching and outreach agenda.
What courses will you be teaching and what current/future courses are you most excited about?
I will teach a set of courses in educational policy and quantitative methods. For example, “Educational Policy and The Improvement of Teaching and Learning," “Applied Quasi-experimental Research in Education,” “Basic Education Statistics” and “Educator Quality Policy.”
What's your favorite education-related book?
My favorite education-related book is Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research. It articulates high-quality studies that have evaluated the causal impacts of important educational interventions in simple language. It is a wonderful book for both advanced and beginning researchers in the education field.
Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?
I am passionate about fashion. Reading fashion magazines occupies most of my spare time. I also enjoy hiking and walking on the beach.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications