A Summer RCT Institute for Established Researchers

Project: Research project

Project Details


The purpose of this researcher training program is to increase the number of researchers with the training in the planning, design, execution, and interpretation of randomized trials in education sciences necessary to carry out trials and increase the number who actually carry out randomized trials in education. By focusing on practicing researchers, it is designed to compliment other IES training activities focusing on pre- and postdoctoral fellows.
The proposed mechanism is a two week residential summer training Institute to be held at Northwestern University. This Institute is intended for researchers with some background in statistics and computing, who are interested in developing skills in randomized trials, and who employed in setting that might conduct randomized trials. The institute is intensive and demanding, involving at least 8 hours of participation on each of 9 days, which includes 22 units of group instruction and an additional 13 units of group project work. Typically there are three units of in-class instruction each day, followed by one unit of group work.
The in-class sessions are designed to provide an overview of aspects of the design, planning, analysis, and interpretation of randomized trials in education. Each unit focuses on a particular topic, and the topics build on one another throughout the workshop. The in-class units are a combination of lecture, discussion, and in class exercises. Each unit is linked to references covering the same material to provide alternative presentations and additional reading. Some of the material covered is familiar to participants, but the fact that the material is all focused on application to randomized trials is novel for essentially all of the participants. For example, many participants have some familiarity with multilevel models, but few of them have familiarity with
applications to randomized trials, particularly applications to unbalanced randomized block designs or three level experiments. The group work units are addressed in groups of approximately six participants selected because they have complementary substantive interests or experience. The overall task of the groups work is to develop a functioning research team that produces a proposal for a randomized trial similar to an IES Efficacy Study application. Each team presents their proposal in an hour long presentation at the end of the Institute, which is thoroughly critiqued during a one hour session by the instructors and other participants. The group work is a concrete application of the material that is addressed in the in-class sessions. Each group works independently, but they are provided with monitors (part of the instructional staff) that facilitate when necessary and with a floating group of consultants that they can approach for specific assistance on a particular issue (e.g., power analysis for a particular design).
The objective of the group work is to produce a realistic experience of planning a trial that incorporates realistic constraints of budget, human capital limitations within the research team, and limited time to prepare the proposal. This Institute would be a continuation of the summer Institutes on randomized trials that IES funded from 2007 – 2020, which have received very positive immediate and long term responses from participants.
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/23


  • Institute of Education Sciences (R305B200029)

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