Swiss Graduate School for Cognition, Learning, and Memory

Swiss Graduate School for Cognition, Learning, and Memory

Interview Natalie Guggisberg

Interview with Natalie Guggisberg, a PhD student on the project “Metacognitive development in elementary school children and its connection to teachers’ metacognition and instructional practices” 

Could you describe your research topic?

Our project focuses on elementary school childrens' self-evaluations. We investigate in how well pupils from both the 2nd and 4th grade assess themselves in relation to learning progress and performance during a specific task and we further examine how the childrens’ self-evaluation accuracy develops over a one-year period. Moreover, we are interested in whether there is a connection between the development of childrens' self-evaluation accuracy and the way a teacher instructs (i.e. how he or she explains a task to the pupils). Within one year we visit each class three times. There are nine 2nd grade classes and twelve 4th grade classes.

What motivates you to work on a PhD project?

I was always drawn to research and I am very fond of statistics. During my studies I realised that I would love to acquire a doctor's degree because my interest in research grew over the years. However I decided to acquire some practical knowledge first. For two years I worked in educational counselling and as an educational psychologist before returning to University for my PhD. My decision was always about personal interests: Of course a doctor's degree might come in handy in certain situations, but I gave priority to my personal interest in research.

What are your plans after the completion of your PhD? Are you pursuing a big dream?

I would love to combine both researching and teaching at University as well as working as a therapist. It goes without saying that it would be demanding and it is not easy to achieve. I can see myself going back to practice or staying within the area of research – time will show; I have not made up my mind yet.

What does a normal day of yours look like?

I spend most days at University; sometimes I can also work from home. There is not a normal day of work for me, the workload always depends on what stage of research I am in. During data collection I am always on the move, I am testing pupils and teachers, prepare tasks, et cetera. After the data collection I start editing the data: I enter and analyse the data and I am also working on a paper, plus I read papers that are significant for my area of research. As of now, I am supervising two master students and next semester I will be teaching a seminar.

As a lot of other PhD students I am writing a cumulative dissertation. That means that during my PhD I write and publish several papers, all of which I then summarise to a cumulative paper – my dissertation. After writing a paper the author hands it in to a journal. Reviewers then read the paper; they can either reject it or agree that it can be published (after some further revisions). I personally have not published a paper yet since I am in the middle of the data analyses process.

Do you have any advice for future PhD students?

I recommend a PhD to everyone who’s interested in research and who feels capable of it (not everybody likes analysing data for weeks on end and writing papers). One needs to be passionate about research and one has to know that one is also required to go abroad for congresses, poster presentations, et cetera. Furthermore, many literature sources are written in English and lectures and meetings are also often in English. I personally like it even more than I could have imagined!

How do you unwind after a day at university?

There are, like everywhere else, more and less stressful days. However I can say that I do have enough time for myself and I live a life beside my PhD. When I find myself in a very stressful stage I go for a run after work, enjoy the fresh air and unwind. Fortunately I am really happy as a PhD student, I am comfortable in this environment and I love being a PhD student.