Mistie Potts placed third in the 2022 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Her project was titled “Unlocking the Preservice Teacher Self-Efficacy Mystery.”   Mistie earned a PhD in Elementary Education in May 2022 and a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology in May of 2013 from Ball State.

Her advisor, Dr. Lisa K. Hawkins, said this about Mistie, “Mistie Potts is a dedicated scholar and teacher educator.  She thinks deeply about issues, and brings with her refreshing perspectives that carry great potential for advancing teacher education scholarship and practice.  Her dissertation work, which examined the sources of information that teacher candidates draw on as they develop teacher self-efficacy during clinical experiences, validates the need for strong (and early) field experiences and greater collaboration between mentor teachers, field instructors, and the university in order to align expectations for all involved.  Her research also highlights the role that other job stresses, such as EdTPA and the pandemic, play in teacher self-efficacy development.  Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of watching Mistie grow and flourish.  With her strong work ethic, big heart, and ability to power through any challenge, I have no doubt that she will surpass any goal she sets for herself.”

Here is a Q and A with Mistie

What made you select your research topic? I want to improve the educational experience for our K-12 students. I believe that improvement begins with our preservice teachers in teacher education programs. Research supports the effects of improved teacher self-efficacy on K-12 student outcomes. It is vital our teacher education programs understand the psychological processes underlying teacher self-efficacy to be able to foster positive teacher self-efficacy development for preservice teachers. Therefore, I chose to research the sources of influence on preservice teacher self-efficacy during clinical experiences for the topic of my dissertation.

Please tell us a little about your research: My research involved interviewing and surveying a cohort of preservice teachers who had just graduated from a private university. Through phenomenological design, I collected and analyzed data to determine the sources influencing their teacher self-efficacy development during student teaching and the meanings they ascribed to those sources. I used the participants’ words and preserved their perspectives in my study of this topic. My analysis showed that preservice teachers were selecting specific nuanced sources of information to influence their teacher self-efficacy that differed from Bandura’s (1977) sources of self-efficacy. Four profiles of preservice teachers emerged from the analysis to suggest patterns among their demographic/backgrounds, self-efficacy levels, and the sources of information and tendencies for interpretation among the preservice teachers developing their teacher self-efficacy. I used these findings to inform three implications for teacher preparation programs moving forward.

How did the 3MT Competition experience benefit you?: The experience helped me view my research from a different perspective and convey the vital nature of my findings to nonexperts in an intriguing and comprehensible manner. It forced me to focus on the most important aspects of the work and think critically about the message that needed to be delivered. I also gained confidence and polished my oral presentation skills in the process.

What would you tell another student to encourage them to sign-up for the next 3MT competition? You have likely been ruminating in research and articles for months, maybe even a year or more. But can you tell any person outside of your committee about what you are writing without them losing interest or becoming confused? This was my problem. Participating in the competition helped me to translate my written dissertation into a comprehensible subject for all types of people to understand.

What brought you to Ball State? I originally came to Ball State to complete my gifted education certification when I was a K-12 teacher. I continued at Ball State for my master’s degree in Educational Psychology. The rigor and reputation of Ball State programs paired with the availability of hybrid/online courses for working adults have always been positive factors for my attendance at Ball State. I have also enjoyed opportunities to teach as a graduate student at Ball State, and this helped me to be prepared for my current job in higher education. Overall, I was blessed with wonderful professors who provided opportunities for me to pair with them in research projects and who have nurtured me through professional writing and this PhD journey.

What are your future goals/career goals? In the short-term, I am most excited to defend my dissertation and graduate in May with my PhD! Looking forward, I hope to expand my research by developing a longitudinal study and involving some of my undergraduate students in a research lab at my current workplace. I aim to earn tenure as a professor, provide meaningful research contributions on preservice teacher education, and facilitate the development of more amazing novice teachers in the field that will improve outcomes for K-12 students.

Anything else you’d like us to know? This year has been one of the hardest, but also most rewarding years of my life. Starting in 2021, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, and I underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction, with a total of four surgeries, and still accomplished my comprehensive exams and the bulk of my dissertation research while working full-time and being a wife and mother. These accomplishments were made possible by my extra-supportive family, my faith, and the outstanding guidance and extra time sacrificed by my dissertation committee and the faculty within the elementary education department at Ball State. Their encouragement and flexibility helped me to be successful and to persist through these challenging moments. I am eternally grateful.

Watch the 2022 Ball State University Graduate School’s 3MT Competition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D-Fm9EnaMo.

Dean Adam Beach and Mistie Potts at the 2022 Graduate School Recognition Ceremony.