Whether their focus is counseling, curriculum or college leadership, students in the William & Mary School of Education have a new way to share their work and learn about the efforts of fellow students thanks to a new peer-reviewed journal.
Graduate students from the school published the first issue of the William & Mary Educational Review this spring and are working throughout the summer on the fall issue, expected Nov. 1.
The journal was born out of a grassroots effort to create a better sense of community among students at the School of Education (SOE). Last year, the SOE’s Graduate Education Association began working to foster that sense of community with a number of efforts, including the organization of a research symposium and the creation of a professional journal.
Tasked with leading the latter, Kerrigan Mahoney, a doctoral student and the review’s editor-in-chief, considered the unique challenges that they might face.
“Our peers are doc students here. A lot of them are part-time; a lot of them have full-time jobs. They have families,” she said. “So, to ask people to do anything above and beyond schoolwork really has to be something that’s meaningful and relevant and authentic to their career progression, to their schooling.”
She also considered the structure of the SOE, which includes undergraduates through doctoral students studying in three programs: educational planning, policy and leadership (EPPL); school psychology and counselor education (SPACE); and curriculum and instruction (C&I).
“I didn’t want this journal to be exclusive to just doc students and just those in EPPL,” said Mahoney. “I really wanted it to be for everybody, but we’re not all doing the same kind of coursework. We’re not all having the same kind of experiences or doing the same kind of research. So, from that came the idea of having two sections in the journal.”
The editorial board decided that one section would include full-length pieces showcasing original research. The manuscripts in this section would go through a blind, peer-review process.
The second section, entitled “Wren’s Nest,” would be more informal and include essays, opinion pieces and even art. This section would be intended for students who are doing student teaching or practicum work and would like to share their experiences.
“I thought that would be a good way for it to be more inclusive for everybody at the School of Education,” said Mahoney.
The journal formed an editorial board and an executive committee and sought the help of two faculty advisors, Jamel Donnor and Jim Barber. Doctoral students at the SOE take a class in which they learn how journals are put together, and that experience helped the 15-person editorial board as they set out to create their first issue.
Mahoney and doctoral student Julie Marsh, director of public relations for the journal, developed a video training module for students to learn how to do peer reviews using a rubric developed by the editorial board.
“It’s only about 20 minutes long,” she said. “We know you know how to edit a paper, but we want you to edit it through the same lens because we need to be fair to each other. … It’s really helpful, I think. It gets everybody on the same page.”
Mahoney used her background as a high school English teacher to create a long-term plan for the review and publication process, a plan that proved to be nearly exact.
“I think it took three weeks longer than I imagined, which isn’t bad. We really managed to stick to the schedule,” she said.
Everyone who submitted a manuscript received two letters from peer reviewers with detailed feedback and another letter from the executive board.
“It’s all about education. It’s got to be reciprocal,” said Mahoney. “In order to ask people to submit with no guarantee that they’ll be published, we need to give something back to them regardless, so we want them to learn and grow and, in a year, we want them to submit again. If you turn people off from the process, they won’t. I think this has been an important way for us to make people feel like it is worth being a part of.”
The first issue was published online in April with a limited number of print copies following soon thereafter. The inaugural journal offered three pieces in the Wren’s Nest section. In the more formal section, three manuscripts were published on topics including psychoeducational groups for veterans in higher education and self-efficacy in prospective first-generation students.
Although putting the journal together was time-consuming, the review’s organizers say it was well worth it. It has even helped them in their own pursuits.
“I think I’m a better writer,” said Marsh. “I really like knowing what other people are researching. I think it pushes me to the next level in my research, as well. My research is not necessarily directly connected to theirs, but it really impacts the feeling of community, I think, because everyone is able to share with one another.”
As the students involved with the journal work on the next issue, they have increased the number of people on their two boards and have formed a new group of people to serve just as peer reviewers.
“It’s good experience,” said Mahoney. “If you are maybe an undergrad or first year master’s student, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door, to get some experience, put it on your resume and think about going forward.”
As the journal continues to grow and evolve over the next year, its founders hope that it not only helps to build the sense of community at the SOE, but also shows students there that their work is important.
“Whether you’re going to be a teacher or school psychologist or higher ed administrator, I guess the point is that your stories and your research matter in the field,” said Mahoney. “Nobody’s experiences are quite like yours. We all have something to give back to our greater community of educators, and this is an important way to do it.”