about provider

  • My Background
  • My Research Interests
  • Resume'

Research Goals is independently owned and operated by Austen Research Goals, LLC

I, Caryn Austen, PhD, am the sole proprietor and perform the work contracted through this website. I earned my PhD in Educational Psychology and Research, specializing in Qualitative Methodology. The field of Educational Psychology, within the School of Education, focuses on human development and theories of learning, as well as their applications in teaching and parenting. Also studied are assessment and evaluation of learning and programs or interventions to improve learning. Within the field, there is heavy emphasis on theory and research approaches to test those theories in practice.

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Information & New Media Technology: Prior to entering my doctoral program, I earned a Master's in Library and Information Sciences, with the addition of School Media Specialist. This degree prepared me to be an expert in researching sources and utilizing computer technology in all forms of media interpretation and creation. I continue to learn and apply new software programs useful to integrating research and the dissemination of ideas.

Graduate Assistant & TA: While attending graduate school, I gained a wide variety of different experiences working for the university that still serve me to this day. I worked for many years as a Graduate Assistant serving a large lecture hall classroom that enrolled 120 undergraduate students each semester. Organizational skills were paramount, as were quick assessment and analysis of student learning as the primary grader of students' written assignments, projects, and exams.

Learning Assessment: My interests in non-traditional, authentic assessment of student learning was furthered by an opportunity to work for the inaugural team of the Center for Excellence in the Assessment of Student Learning, where my literature research skills were employed to explore that burgeoning new field, and to promote new assessment methods through conferences and publications. I also incorporated my own assessment methods in the courses I taught, both at the university and high school level.

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Teaching, Learning, & Research: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes in Educational Psychology for several years which helped me understand teaching from an emic perspective. No longer just a graduate student, it forced me to consider how I could help my students construct new knowledge about the concepts I taught. One of the learning tools I employed was writing in depth journal entries and essays that asked students to relate the new concept in some way to their own personal experiences. On course evaluations, they repeatedly claimed the writing activity was the most helpful in their learning, which in turn led me to pursue that topic in my dissertation research. Already a qualitative research enthusiast, it seemed only natural to explore students claims through a Phenomenological perspective of what students experienced while writing their assignments.

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Work Experiences: Since earning my degree, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of different research, evaluation, and consulting efforts. Besides small personal research projects and providing support services to other researchers, I have spent significant time providing consulting and mentoring service to doctoral students focused on their dissertation research. At times, the simple pleasure of discussing and exploring the possibilities of using qualitative research methods was compensation enough. Honestly speaking — I really do enjoy doing this work and hope to share my enthusiasm with my new clients.

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"You ask too many questions," I was told once by a professor.

And I have yet to stop. I see this personality characteristic as a benefit that keeps my life interesting and full of curiosity. I have so many professional and personal experiences that spark questions and interests in many different areas and on a large number of diverse topics. Below are descriptions or definitions, just to name a few, that I have either researched and/or read about widely, or personally experienced.

Qualitative Research Methods: Going beyond the more traditional methods of data collection and analysis to new collection tools, especially using technology to capture qualitative information in authentic settings.

Research Perspectives or Paradigms: The idea that phenomena can be viewed and information can be collected differently depending on the lens through which you view it or the beliefs you hold about viewing it.

Authentic Assessment & Evaluation Techniques: How non-traditional assessments are created and employed to capture learning and provide insight into how new knowledge is constructed. The use of authentic assessment to gather evidence of progress in evaluating intervention programs.

Higher Education Teaching & Learning: Explore new techniques in teaching at the college level and changes in the effectiveness of student learning, especially through the use of instructional technology. Interested in the development and use of career e-portfolios.

Graduate Studies & Doctoral Research: The struggles and obstacles students must overcome to complete their studies and integrate their knowledge into a cohesive preparation for terminal exams, proposals, and dissertation research.

Writing to Learn: The topic of my own dissertation, exploring what students experience when they write extensively on new concepts. Different ways to use writing as a learning tool.

Cognitive Mapping & Infographics: The use of visual representations of knowledge, problems, solutions, and innovations. Methods of compressing large chunks of information into small representative and connected units that demonstrate relationships.

Cultural Responsiveness in Needs Assessment & Evaluation: Taking the time to orient oneself to the cultural aspects of the field or environment being studied or addressed, and understand how using those important cultural clues and realities impact questions asked, answers received, and interpretations of results found.

Workforce Development & Income Inequality: Efforts to educate and train a modern relevant workforce to meet regional and national employment demands for qualified workers. Looking into the urgency to make sure workers are fairly paid what they are worth instead of being exploited for increased wealth of a privileged few.

Technology & Information Literacy: The use of technology to make access to information more readily available and facilitate the understanding, filtering, and use of information.

Technology Applications & Utility: The use of technological advances in computer software and other technological engineering to advance and benefit efforts to improve lives, living, and social equality and justice.

Domestic Violence & Financial Abuse: Efforts to prevent, intervene in, and provide recovery in situations where violence and abuse occurs and perpetuates. Helping victims trapped by financial restrictions to achieve freedom from an abuser.

Mental Illness Stigma & Treatment: Efforts to combat the stigma associated with recognition of mental illness diagnosis and seeking treatment for that illness. Also, the limit or restriction of funds to appropriately address diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.

Healthy Living, Weight Control, & Aging: The struggle to achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles, lose weight, and manage the effects of aging. The existence of food deserts, food insecurity and hunger, health impacts of income inequality and restrictions on social welfare solutions.

Parenting & Eldercare: Attention to the needs of children and elder adults by those who provide care. The physical, psychological, and financial demands involved in raising children and/or caring for elder adults.

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Caryn Austen, Ph.D.






Professional Goal:    Educational Research, Program Development and Evaluation


Education:                  Ph.D. Educational Psychology and Research

                                    College of Education, University of South Carolina: May 1999

Dissertation: Exploring The Academic Writing Experiences of Undergraduate Education Students: A Phenomenological Inquiry


MLIS – School Library Media Specialist: May 1990

Davis College, University of South Carolina


B.A. – Major: Educational Psychology

St. John’s University, New York


Professional Capabilities:


Research and Evaluation: Conduct research and evaluations in all areas of program and policy research, curriculum development, instruction and learning, program development, needs assessment, educational reform, and improvements in social conditions. I specialize in qualitative methodology, analysis and reporting of qualitative data.


Teaching and Professional Development: Provide instruction in a variety of content areas at the postsecondary level. Provide instructional assistance and guidance to teachers, professors, instructors and graduate assistants through educational programs and continuing professional development opportunities addressing: curricular integration of instructional technology applications and information technology resources, authentic/alternative assessments, evaluation research methods, teaching strategies, curriculum development, theories of learning and social development.


Instructional Multimedia Design and Development: Plan, design, and create multimedia presentations and programs using a variety of software programs and Internet production tools, for integration into curriculum, to meet instructional and learning needs, or to serve as research tools.


Information and Library Resource Management and Instruction: Provide patron-oriented services and instruction in access and use of library media and electronic educational/informational resources. Develop and implement appropriate curricular/instructional integration approaches of library, information, and educational technology resources for development of critical information literacy skills.


Professional Experiences:


Primary Consultant and Website Developer of Research Goals - Qualitative Research Support Services


May 2004 – Present

  • Entrepreneurial effort to meet the support service needs of professional and novice researchers.
  • Receive inquiries and maintain communication via email or by phone appointments.
  • Provide personalized guidance to clients and use interview skills to identify areas of difficulty.
  • Receive client raw data and documents via remote electronic transfers and store securely.
  • Provide complete review and analysis of research problems and questions, literature review and justification for research, methodological considerations and choices.
  • Perform data collection through instruments, interviews, or observations.
  • Provide complete review and analysis of data collection methods and analysis procedures.
  • Provide guidance and recommendations for data analysis and interpretation practices.
  • Process and analyze data through transcriptions, coding, editing, and audio/video reviews.
  • Review and analyze results and conclusions according to proposal and intent of research.
  • Edit final documents for completeness, cohesion, meaning, and language appropriate to the discipline and documents’ purpose.


Creator, Writer. & Website Developer of Graduate Comprehensive & Doctoral Qualifying Exam Preparation


Austen Research Goals LLC

September 2010 to Present

  • Entrepreneurial effort to meet the needs of graduate students preparing to take terminal exams
  • Researched and explored the need for a comprehensive set of tools to assist graduate students prepare for their comprehensive and doctoral qualifying exams.
  • Gathered data from graduate student clients, forums and social network postings.
  • Conceptualized fulfillment of that need through a full featured website that is challenging, motivational, and encouraging.
  • Used knowledge of learning theories and assessment to design a unique, comprehensive, generic study plan for graduate students.
  • Planned all content, storyboards, and design cycles.
  • Wrote all instructional content and designed appropriate graphics using Fireworks, Illustrator, Photoshop and editable downloaded clip art.
  • Designed, coded and debugged all site pages and functions using Dreamweaver for multiple web browsers.
  • Currently engaging in variety of marketing endeavors using Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media platforms.

Personal Break from Professional Activity:  July 2002 – August 2004

Provided CNA level care to elderly parents.



Educational Research Associate

Lynn Bailey Associates

July 1999 – April 2001

Occupational Needs Assessment for the Pee Dee Tech Prep Consortia and Workforce Investment Board.

  • Analyzed curriculum of Tech Prep and School-to-Work programs.
  • Related educational policies and programs to workforce development needs.
  • Conducted, analyzed, and interpreted focus group and key informant interviews with school and district personnel, county business leaders and corporate CEO’s.
  • Researched information and issues related to project components.
  • Wrote educational component of final report – Ch.3.
  • Designed and produced electronic presentations for public dissemination.
  • Final Report: Employment Outlook 2000 – 2006: The Occupational Needs Assessment of the Pee Dee.


May 2000 – April 2002

Program Evaluation Consultant: Community Technology Center: Hand Middle School

  • Designed and wrote evaluation component for federal technology innovation grant.
  • Designed evaluation methods and procedures for center programs.
  • Used both quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods.
  • Evaluated program components and implementations.
  • Analyzed written evaluations submitted by program participants.
  • Conducted on-site observations of program implementation.
  • Conducted focus groups and gathered data to analyze effectiveness of center programs.
  • Designed Access database for evaluating quantitative data on center participation.
  • Wrote quarterly and year end evaluation reports included in executive director’s report.
  • Attended Community Technology Center National conference.


Additional Professional Experiences:

Instruction/Information Technology & Media Specialist:

Dreher High School

Columbia, South Carolina

August 1997 – February 1998

  • Coordinated and implemented library programs and services in a fully automated networked school media center.
  • Instructed students in use of computer software and access to Internet resources for academic classes, college admissions and scholarship research.
  • Collaborated, planned and implemented technology integration into instructional approaches and class research projects.
  • Trained teachers in use of computer software and curricular inclusion of information resources.
  • Evaluated, selected and purchased hardware, software, audio visual equipment, print, and electronic educational resources for collection development.
  • Maintained functional operations of all computer technology and audiovisual equipment in a media center environment that included over 40 networked computer stations.

Teacher – High School and Middle School

Cardinal Newman High School

Columbia, South Carolina

August 1995 – June 1996

  • Taught High School Computer Science/Literacy
  • Taught 9th Grade Algebra and Pre-Algebra
  • Taught Middle School Computer Science/Literacy
  • Served as Educational Technology Consultant to faculty and staff.

Educational Technology Laboratory Assistant:

Educational Technology Center & Center for Excellence in Special Education Technology

College of Education, University of South Carolina

August 1995 – May 1996

  • Demonstrated a wide variety of current educational multimedia software titles to faculty, pre-service and practicing teachers in whole group and individual workshops.
  • Instructed teacher education students, teachers and university faculty on use of hardware and productivity software on an individual as needed basis.
  • Provided guidance and instruction on use of the Internet for research information, classroom resources, communication needs and special education information needs.
  • Provided guidance and documentation, of educational technology, to parents and other interested persons, including assistive devices for children with special needs.
  • Participated in the design and creation of multimedia presentations for use in educational contexts for instructional and informational purposes.
  • Assisted in selection, evaluation, and maintenance of education multimedia software library for demonstration in the educational technology center.

Graduate Teaching Assistant:

Department of Educational Psychology and Research

College of Education, University of South Carolina

January 1993 – December 1994

  • Taught undergraduate Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Incorporated innovative uses of student writing (i.e. response journals, case studies, inquiry projects).
  • Employed a collaborative class format with emphasis on a guided discussion and inquiry approach.
  • Utilized authentic assessment methods and developed compatible evaluation criteria and scoring rubrics.

Research Associate:

South Carolina Center for Excellence in the Assessment of Student Learning

College of Education, University of South Carolina

August 1992 – August 1993

  • Conducted research on Assessment of Student Learning in Language Arts and Social Studies, and published documents for the center’s distribution.
  • Assisted in coordination and presentation of Center’s first annual conference.
  • Presented research papers at CEASL and SCEPUR annual conferences.

Graduate Research Assistant:

Department of Educational Psychology and Research

College of Education, University of South Carolina

August 1991 – May 1994

  • Conducted research for department faculty.
  • Composed writing prompts for required assignments and evaluated student work.
  • Collaborated on curriculum development of student learning activities.
  • Conducted research on teaching in large college classrooms.
  • Conducted research on student benefits of writing to learn activities.




Lynn Bailey Associates; Austen, C. (2001).

Employment Outlook 2000 – 2006: The Occupational Needs Assessment of the Pee Dee. Ch.3.

Columbia, SC


Austen, C. S. (1999). Exploring The Academic Writing Experiences of Undergraduate Education Students: A Phenomenological Inquiry. Doctoral Dissertation. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina. UMI Number 9928279


Austen, C. K., Kuhns, T,. & Ryan, J. (1993).

Assessment of Student Learning in Language Arts.

Columbia, SC: CEASL; ED 358165


Austen, C. K.. Kuhns, T., & Ryan, J. (1993).

Assessment of Student Learning in Social Studies.

Columbia, SC: CEASL; ED 358164


Austen, C. K. & Hult, R. E. (1994).

How Students Experience Required Academic Writing Assignments. Paper Presented at 1995 EERA Annual Conference. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina.


Austen, C. K. & Hult, R. E. (1994). Experiencing The Large College Classroom.

Paper Presented at 1995 EERA Annual Conference. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina.


Hult, R. E. & Austen, C. K. (1994). Assessment Issues in Large Classes. Paper Presented at the Second Annual Conference of The Center for Excellence in the Assessment of Student Learning, Feb. 23, 1994


Dissertation: Exploring The Academic Writing Experiences of Undergraduate Education Students: A Phenomenological Inquiry (1999).




            This qualitative inquiry explored the writing experiences of mid level undergraduate education students, who wrote eight required assignments during a sixteen-week education course. An eclectic research framework was designed to explore students’ experiences. This design was based primarily on Elliot Eisner’s model of the researcher as Educational Connoisseur and Critic. The design also drew from phenomenological methods to refine access, analysis, and interpretation of students’ writing experiences. These methods included heuristic interviews and hermeneutic readings of student written log entries through which they described what they experienced when they wrote each required assignment.

            Analysis of students’ descriptions partially revealed many complex and dynamic qualitative features or qualities of students’ writing experiences. These qualities formed the content of ten categories, which were further combined into five organizational themes. These themes were illuminated through detailed narrative descriptions supported by students’ own words. Descriptions and analysis also revealed two meta-themes, which illustrated the autobiographical characteristic and highly interactive and constructive nature of students’ writing experiences.

            Explanation of the meaning of students’ experiences was best achieved through the socio-historical perspective of Vygotsky in relation to students’ conscious awareness of inner speech and the use of language as a tool to assist learning. Also, the Vygotskian theory of scientific versus spontaneous concept development provided a way of understanding students’ frequent use of past experiences in their efforts to construct meaning and understanding of new concepts encountered in the course. Using Dewey’s criteria for judging educational worth, the writing activities were found to be worthwhile in contributing to students’ intellectual growth and promoting their future engagements toward becoming new teachers.

            This inquiry employed an approach different from that used in past research in writing and explored students’ lived experiences related to their writing activities. It used phenomenological methods and illustrated the many private qualitative features that could be evoked, through students’ engagement in academic writing activities. These private features of students’ writing experiences had important meanings to the students who participated in this inquiry and may have meaning as well to researchers who might continue to explore students’ writing engagements in the future.

Detailed Experiences specific to professional research and evaluation: Research Consultant for The Occupational Needs Assessment for the Pee Dee Tech Prep Consortia and Workforce Investment Board

            This research spanned approximately 2 years. I worked with a small group of colleagues to research and write a needs assessment proposal in answer to the advertised RFP from the Pee Dee Tech Prep Consortia and Workforce Investment Board. I contributed the proposed research component we would conduct on educational programs in school districts in the Pee Dee region that complied with the Tech Prep and School-to-Work legislation. I did all the research on that legislation and educated my co-workers on the programs districts were required to provide to high school students. I also reviewed and analyzed previous Tech Prep evaluations conducted by the states of Florida and Minnesota.

            As the education expert on the team, I conducted key informant interviews of district superintendents, school principals, and Tech Prep coordinators at the district level. I conducted focus group interviews of high school teachers, who participated in Tech Prep program components. I analyzed and interpreted all the data gathered from those interviews and wrote the educational components of the final report.

            I also participated in other key informant interviews with many major business sources, such as large corporate CEO’s, human resource managers, Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Investment Board members, presidents and program coordinators of the local technical colleges offering training programs tailored to new and existing local businesses, and executive directors of the South Carolina Commission of Technical Colleges. Our group also participated in many production tours of medium and large corporations, such as NUCOR Steel and Sonoco.

            As a group, we conducted several focus group interviews with members of the Chambers of Commerce and Workforce Investment Boards in different counties in the Pee Dee region and presented our findings to these groups using handouts and PowerPoint slides, which I produced. As a member of the team, I created charts and graphs, wrote sections other than those on education and proofread the entire document for publication. I served as the technical manager of recorded interviews, responsible for equipment, setting up microphones, checking volume/voice quality, secure storage and digital transcriptions. This report received mixed reviews, positively by educators who looked for additional support for their programs, and negatively by the business sector because it reflected a region poorly prepared to attract new business prospects due to an unskilled labor pool. Writing Samples Upon Request.

Program Evaluation Consultant for the Community Technology Center: Hand Middle School

            I evaluated this program for 2 years. I originally located this 1.5 million dollar federal grant and recommended it to an acquaintance I knew was looking for such funding for an innovative program she had previously outlined for a local chapter of the United Way, her partner in the program. I worked with her on the original grant application and wrote the evaluation component for the grant. It was funded for two years and renewed for additional years afterwards. The program served as a technology resource to residents of the neighborhood surrounding Hand Middle School, as well as the middle school students in after school programs. The adults attended afternoon and evening classes on learning computer skills, business software, resume writing, using the Internet, and typing skills. Many were able to upgrade their job skills and improve employment prospects. Middle school students also gained computer skills, used educational software, and learned Internet skills. The program was well received.

            I designed a database to collect quantitative data on all participants. I conducted observations, and analyzed participant products and skill assessments. I reviewed and analyzed participant evaluations of classes attended. I conducted participant focus groups and analyzed the data gathered. I wrote quarterly and annual evaluation reports submitted to the federal funding agency, which accompanied reports submitted by the executive director.

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