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ETSU forum gives students chance to practice presenting work in formal setting

Rex Barber • Apr 5, 2013 at 9:19 AM

From homelessness in Kingsport to ancient ceramic pottery to empathy in toddlers, East Tennessee State University students have a wide range of research interests.

ETSU Vice Provost for Research Bill Duncan said more than 200 ETSU students participated in the annual Appalachian Student Research Forum held at the Millennium Centre on Thursday. That number represents an increase of about 30 percent from two years ago.

Duncan said this annual event allows undergraduate, graduate and medical students, post-doctoral fellows and medical residents to present their research in a formal setting.

“It’s a good example for them of when they go (present research) to a national meeting, the kind of experiences they will need to be ready for,” he said. “They get a chance to interact with faculty from across the colleges in the university, to answer questions and give an understanding of what they’re doing.”

One of those students was Allison Hawkins, a senior majoring in early childhood education. Her research was on the effects of music and synchrony on the development of empathy and helping behaviors in young children.

That’s rather technical, but it boils down to Hawkins testing how small children behaved after being bounced to the beat of music. One group of children was bounced in rhythm to the music; another group was bounced without rhythm.

After, she invited the children to draw a picture with her. Hawkins would drop her crayon and act as though it was out of her reach.

“And 75 percent of the time in the synchronous group, the children would take the crayon and hand it to me,” she said. “And in the asynchronous group only 25 percent of the children did that.”

Her age group was 24-36 months. The study was short and the sample size was small, so she would like to do a larger study.

Hawkins said she thought that humans appreciate things that fall in place, line up correctly and have balance, even if that simply means having access to a crayon you need. Her research could have far-reaching implications for the classroom behavior of six million children in day care, she said.

“And so if we can make those child care classrooms have more synchronous music in it and children to be involved in it, I think it could have great implications for the future,” she said.

Jacob Wall, a senior studying anthropology, analyzed ceramic artifacts from the Upper Cumberland Plateau for his research.

His work was an offshoot of work by Jay Franklin, an ETSU associate professor in sociology who has worked on the Plateau for years.

Wall said his work was important because it helps people understand the region’s history.

“It’s like a puzzle: Every little piece helps us complete the picture,” he said, adding there is no written record of the story of the people who lived on the Plateau 1,000 years ago.

“It’s a story of human triumph, if nothing else,” Wall said. “It’s people making an existence out of situations that, nowadays, people wouldn’t be able to do it.”

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