Congratulations to Lola Gaius for receiving the Master-Level Outstanding Presentation/Publication award!
Question and Answer with Lola
What does receiving the award mean to you?
This award means a lot to me. When I started my program here at UBCO, I was full of self-doubt. I constantly second-guessed myself and did not feel I knew enough about anything to have an opinion. Being able to publish my thoughts in a peer-reviewed journal and now, to receive this award, is so validating. I feel more confident about myself as a scholar and a thinker, and I know that my ideas and thoughts are worth sharing.
What has your experience been like with the Okanagan School of Education?
My experience here has been nothing short of amazing. Even though the entire taught part of my M.A has been online due to the pandemic, I have felt supported. I have met Faculty members who have served as mentors and who have patiently guided me as I figured out who I am as an educator and helped me find my Voice. The classes I have taken were all safe, caring spaces in which everyone felt at liberty to wonder and explore without fear of censure. My course mates are awesome educators who come from diverse backgrounds, bringing with them a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints. I feel constantly inspired and challenged.
What is your research project?
My research is in change leadership. There is a huge gap between knowledge and practice in the field of education. We know so much about best practices and how to provide quality education, but somehow a large percentage of this knowledge sometimes does not translate into actual classrooms. I am exploring the factors that support, and the challenges that may limit, the implementation of innovative teaching practices in the classroom. I am focusing especially on transferability across contexts. Much of the available research is domiciled in Western/European contexts. What factors may hinder the transferability of these ‘best practices’ into contexts with different world views, cultural practices and social and economic circumstances?
Why did you choose that topic?
I chose this topic because of my experience as a classroom teacher attempting to put into practice evidence-based practices in my own classroom. Due to the pandemic, I started my program online while I was still in my home country — Nigeria. I became immediately enamoured of constructivist approaches to learning because it lined up with what I instinctively felt was the best way to keep young learners engaged in school. I was therefore very eager to immediately begin practicing what I was learning.
I started to face challenges right from the start. There were cultural differences in the way classrooms are expected to be run in my context and what would be obtainable in a constructivist, inquiry-focused learning environment. There were social and economic realities that affected the availability of support and resources. There was resistance from colleagues who had a general belief that my ideas looked very good in theory, but would not work in our own contexts.
I still feel that a constructivist approach to learning is a very effective one which creates engaged learners and motivated teachers. By isolating and understanding factors that affect transferability of innovative teaching practices across contexts, I am hoping to become more effective as a change-leader.
What advice do you have for future graduate students?
Be open to new ideas, experiences and practices. The graduate program at UBC offers incredible diversity of thought and experience which you can harness to enrich your learning experience.