I conducted Advanced Overseas Research at the Institute for International Studies in Education (IISE) in the University of Pittsburgh for about three and a half months from August 26 to December 14, 2013. During this period, I served as a visiting student scholar and was mainly furthering my dissertation research project on “A Cost-Effective Analysis for Improving the Quality of Primary Education in Uganda.” Dr. John C. Weidman, Professor of Higher and International Development Education in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, was my faculty counterpart.
IISE is the university research and training institute in comparative, international, and development education, and is consisted of affiliated faculty and graduate students from academic departments in the School of Education. Each year IISE welcomes a number of visiting scholars to get involved in research initiatives from different global regions. During my tenure as a student visiting scholar, I worked on four main types of activities: (1) advancing my own dissertation research about an Ugandan primary education policy, (2) participating in the IISE Symposium Series, (3) participating in a joint research project, and (4) enriching my knowledge and analytical skills by auditing courses provided by the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies.
First, for furthering my own research, I audited the course given by Professor Weidman, which is designed for doctoral students to learn about the dissertation process and draft a tentative proposal for the research. Since all the participants are required to present their proposals towards the end of this course, I could get a chance to present my tentative proposal and receive very useful comments from the instructor and the doctoral students in the University of Pittsburgh. It was also very useful to learn a structure of the Ph.D. course and a process of institutional review board (IRB) in the USA, as well as some technical tips including how to utilize the citation software. Access to libraries, computer labs, and other university facilities also greatly helped me to advance my research.
Second, I attended all the IISE Symposium Series and IISE International Education Brown Bags held during my overseas research. Above all, it was great honor for me to make a presentation, titled “Regional Disparities in Learning Achievement among Ugandan Primary Schools” at one of the sessions held on November 19. This experience helped me not only to broaden my view on the field of comparative, international, and development education but also to sharpen my skills of presentation and debate.
Third, I could get involved in a study of free primary education in Kenya which Professor Weidman is being involved in. In addition, since my research is about Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, I took part in the activities of the African Studies Program in University Center for International Studies (UCIS). I attended many academic and social events organized by the African Studies Program.
Forth, I audited a course designed to provide doctoral students with the empirical research skills expected from quantitative researchers in the education studies. This experience was particularly useful for me because I am planning to conduct empirical analyses mainly relying on secondary data in my dissertation. It was also a useful experience to interact with students who specialize in qualitative research methods.
Overall, my Advanced Overseas Research was very rewarding and productive. Through this experience, I could initiate my dissertation research project, setting goals with a standard of American Ph.D. course in mind. Furthermore, I could create a precious network in the University of Pittsburgh and establish a firm foundation for my future research and career.
My deepest gratitude goes to my academic advisor, Professor Keiichi Ogawa, for encouraging me to grab this opportunity, and Professor John C. Weidman, for his continuous support and invaluable advice throughout the whole period of my Advanced Overseas Research. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Professor W. James Jacob, the Director of IISE, for accepting me to serve as a visiting student scholar. My special thanks also go to Ms. Wei Tang, the Program Coordinator of IISE, and all the staffs and my dear colleagues in IISE for offering warm supports for me.