Improving Evaluations of R&D in STEM Education

Project: Research project

Description

This 5-day institute provides STEM education researchers with a broad introduction to methods for evaluation that can be applied directly to their R&D studies. The Institute will be held at Northwestern University each summer and will include five instructors as well as 5-6 graduate student assistants. The workshop will be attended each year by 30 STEM education researchers. In addition to attending lectures, participants will take part in group projects, individual homework assignments, and a virtual online community. This online community will continue after the workshop and will provide participants with ongoing resources for implementing these new methods into their research.

Intellectual Merit
STEM education R&D studies often focus on the development and iterative refinement of interventions meant to increase STEM participation and skills. Since large-scale randomized experiments are not often possible, researchers typically use correlational methods instead to explore the effects of interventions. Over the past several years, however, statisticians have developed a broad array of methods for understanding causality that do not require these large-scale randomized trials. While these causal inference methods are now common in fields like medicine and education policy, they are much less commonly found in STEM education fields.
The purpose of this workshop is to introduce STEM education researchers to these methods and how they relate to three research designs they already use: (1) matching on a single variable (e.g., age, gender), (2) pre-test post-test comparisons, and (3) lab experiments. In addition to introducing these new developments, broader discussions of confounding, validity types and trade-offs, design sensitivity, effect size reporting, and questionable research practices (e.g., p-hacking) will also be included.

Broader Impacts
The primary goal of this workshop is to provide STEM education researchers with the framework, skills, and community they need to implement new developments in causal inference methods into their research. These methods will be immediately implementable in their current (or near future) studies and will result in stronger causal findings, providing higher-quality evidence regarding the potential of new innovations to improve STEM education broadly.
Additionally, a secondary goal is to provide the graduate assistants at the workshop (students in statistics) with a strong foundation in the real-world problems facing researchers in STEM education today. By being immersed in this community, the goal is to improve their communication skills, while also providing them with opportunities to develop new methods that address problems facing the STEM education community today.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/1/198/31/22

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1937719)

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evaluation
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internet community
assistant
graduate
community
statistician
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homework
experiment
research practice
communication skills
causality
research planning
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statistics
medicine
innovation
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