Mentored Learning 101

When BYU student Kielee Wiser (BS’ 17) entered the College of Nursing, she set important goals that would lead to her playing a pivotal role in a major research study that not only advanced scientific understanding, but also prepared her for her career as a nurse.

“When I started in the nursing program, I had a couple of goals for myself, one of them being to become involved in some form of research,” she says. As part of achieving this aim, she took a research class taught by assistant professor Dr. Neil Peterson. When the semester ended, she joined Peterson’s research team.

Peterson’s research project centered on testing the accuracy of fitness trackers like the Apple Watch and Fitbit. As part of the team, Wiser found herself taking on responsibilities that helped her expand her research skill-set.

“My role in this project was to collect the data,” she says. “I promoted the study on campus, met with participants, ensured they understood the study and their role, and later processed the data on a statistical software.  This process took a little less than a year and was something I was continually working on with Neil.”

Each student on the research team had a specific device they were in charge of testing. In addition to being responsible for the Apple Watch, Wiser was also responsible for large portions of the project as a whole.

“She really was the project manager,” Peterson explains. ““Anything that she felt like she could do I just let her take on that responsibility. She met with the participants, entered data, and met with other research assistants to help make sure that they had everything that they needed. Some of my research assistants either graduated or went on study abroad during the spring term, so she picked up for them. She really did a lot of work and made it happen.”

Peterson’s research team is a classic example of mentored learning. Peterson set the overall goals of the project and gave important advice while the students, including Wiser, carried out the project.

The students felt like Peterson was constantly available and willing to help.

“Dr. Peterson was very helpful when I, or any of my fellow research assistants, had any questions,” Wiser says. “He provided specific instructions that were easy to follow.  He placed a lot of trust in me, which made me feel like I was an integral role in this study.”

Overall, the study found that the devices were generally accurate, however, there were differences between which aspects of the devices was most valued by each gender. Men tended to like the technological features, while women wanted to make sure the device looked good.

Aside from impressive project results, one of the most important conclusions reached through the research was that the students were capable of achieving great things with a little help.

“I learned more about the process of research and also became more passionate about promoting exercise,” Wiser says, “It was helpful to understand all aspects of the research process, as well as what I could potentially do in my future career.”

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