Interview Martina Steiner

Interview with Martina Steiner, a SGS-CLM member working on her PhD project “Development of metacognition in primary school children”

What is your research topic about?

In our project we are examining the development of metacognition in primary school children. The term “metacognition” refers to the ability of evaluating one’s own knowledge; that means knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know. This is a crucial skill that promotes successful learning and is therefore also connected to achievement. Previous research has shown that during early school years, important developmental steps are taking place in this area. We are therefore testing the participating children in our study three times within a year to see in which way these changes occur.

Why did you choose to pursue a PhD?

Shortly before finishing my master thesis I coincidentally saw the job advertisement for this PhD position. I was very enthusiastic about the idea of staying at university and continuing my studies. I enjoy the diversity of the work as a PhD student. It contains working in the office during analysing data, writing papers, organising data collection, et cetera, as well as working outside the office when collecting data in schools, going to conferences or the summer school. I also appreciate the exchange with the other members of our project team, which include my supervisors, my co-PhD student and our assistants.  During my PhD I also get the chance to supervise BA and MA students, and I think it’s highly motivating to pass on knowledge. 

What are your plans after the completion of your PhD?

In the past I’ve experienced that being open for different opportunities is a good attitude. Therefore, I have no fixed ideas for my life after finishing my PhD. I can imagine to continue researching for a while, working abroad sounds appealing, too; but working in the practical field as a therapist would also be an option.

What kind of courses did you take and what courses do you plan to take in the future?

I already had the chance to attend several courses from the graduate school. In June, I took part in the Summer School, which definitely was a highlight. We spent four days in Weggis, where we had the opportunity to meet experts in the field of cognitive control and consciouseness, and also had exchanges with other PhD students from all over the globe. Further, I recently attended the course “Monitoring and Cognitive Control of Learning and Memory”, which covers exactly my field of research. Important experts from this field were invited, this presented me with the opportunity to receive interesting feedback concerning my research. 

What were you working on today?

Last week we were at a colloquium in Holland, so I wasn’t in the office. Therefore, I was busy with checking and answering my emails in the morning. Now, there are several pending matters I’m working on. On the one hand, my colleague and I are preparing and organising our last data collection that takes place next month. On the other hand, I’m in the middle of analysing my data and getting ready to start writing my first paper.

Do you have any advice you would like to give to future PhD students?

Especially in the beginning of a PhD it is really helpful to approach more advanced PhD students and ask them for advice, e.g. ask for help concerning an experiment, where to find specific information, or how to deal with certain difficulties. I would also recommend building up a good social network within the university and with other PhD students. It’s nice to share good moments and also support each other when struggling!