Before coming to Bristol I was first and English language arts teacher in the United States in the Midwest and then I got into the development education scene by joining the United States’ Peace Corps and going to the Republic of Armenia, where I lived for three years. I was working as an English language arts teacher doing teacher training and also working as a freelance consultant helping an organisation to do vocational education development.
During that time of three years of living there, learning the language, working with Armenians I came to be aware of the ways that development practises were affecting the education system there; the practises of large scale organisations and the way they introducing education reforms and I got interested in education development. So I started looking for a way to pursue that avenue. My intention was that when I went to Armenia was that I would go for three years and then return to the US, go back to teaching English language arts but being there put me on a completely different trajectory. Being here at Bristol, at the Graduate School of Education, has helped me to continue on to that different path.
There is a Research Centre for Comparative and International Studies here that does research in different countries about policy development and influences of international organisations upon those. There is the EdQual Project that focussed on educational equality in low income countries and there is also Education in Small States Research Group here that ties in really neatly to my experience in Armenia which is a very small and transitional state. So just those particular aspects were really close to what I was doing in Armenia and I felt that I could relate to, and become part of, the community here.
I am interested in educational assessment, so my own research focuses on the changing nature of assessment policies, testing and the way we evaluate students. There is a strand of work here, an assessment centre for that so it’s that multidisciplinary; it’s the assessment aspect, it’s the development, it’s the comparative studies and it all comes together here at Bristol.
What I would like to do is develop a research profile that looks at transitional small states, so countries like Armenia that are coming out of the post Soviet era but that are also small states. So I have been able to identify a niche area to work in. That’s where I see my future going, in academia but also maintaining those ties and relationships to the development organisations that my experience here as allowed me to pursue.
When I was looking for a Master’s programme, the idea was that my husband was going to stay in Armenia and start a business and I was going to just come to the UK, do my Master’s degree in a year and then return to Armenia. But I ended up getting pregnant with our daughter, just before we left Armenia, so that changed plans dramatically. We had never envisioned staying here and I think that Bristol has just been a good place for us both academically and we have found a community here and it’s been a really good fit for us all around. So that I hope that we can continue on here for quite a long time.