PhD Student in Policy Studies

Shannon Hillman

"There has been a wonderful amount of support from the COE staff and organizations such as COEDSA."


Newcastle, Australia


Educational Foundations

Related Degrees

  • PhD, Education: Policy Studies

What is your current position?
I have been an educational researcher at the Hawaiʻi Educational Policy Center since 2013.

How were you selected to participate in the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Institute on Statistical Analysis last month?
The first important thing was that I applied! Most students don’t realize how many amazing opportunities large organizations such as AERA give out each year. This particular workshop was hidden in the most remote corner of their website, and I came across it by accident on my usual daily ‘snoop’ for potential conferences. Once I found it, I made sure it was clear in my statement of intent how beneficial this workshop would be for me as a researcher and doctoral student. I’m sure it read like they had made this workshop for me!

On the usefulness of international data…
This workshop focused on two sets in particular, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) data. While there is much this data can be used for, one new thing I learned is that they can provide a wealth of information on the socio-economic status of a country. Researchers can then use causal inference to show the link between such things as educational attainment and, for instance, how many books students have in their home. I encourage those interested to look at the student surveys that PISA provides on their website. I guarantee you will be surprised by what data is overlooked in lieu of the ‘big’ math scores that often define policy. You can also check out a more extensive look at the test on the HEPC website and why 2015 is going to be a researcher’s dream.

Describe your road to education.
My career began as an English and drama teacher in rural Australia. From there, my interest in traveling led me to Asia, and I was fortunate to teach in a variety of education systems within the continent. The COE here was the perfect location due a combination of our locality to the Asia- Pacific and the policy studies program. Plus, you know…Hawaiʻi.

How has the COE helped you along the way?
There has been a wonderful amount of support from the COE staff and organizations such as COEDSA. The COE has been overwhelmingly supportive academically and emotionally, but also in helping finance things like tuition, flights for my internship, etc. Workshops run by COEDSA have been an irreplaceable source of insider knowledge and staff support. I wouldn’t have done half of the things I have without these two groups of wonderful people.

What are your future plans?
Once I finish with my doctorate, I hope to work for an international nongovernmental organization, such as UNESCO, and learn more about international education systems and their influence on developing markets.

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