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Postdoctoral Field Based Research Methodology Training

Assessment Intervention Learning Policy Training

Abstract

There are four primary components of the fellowship training model for postdoctoral fellows.  Each is an essential element in preparing a young scholar to move quickly into becoming a competent and successful, independent researcher in the area of educational effectiveness.

1. Apprenticeship. Forehand (2008) terms the mentoring process as "critical" for young scholars, although he considers the activity to be weakly implemented in the social and behavioral sciences. Our postdoctoral program will be characterized by what Levine (2007) calls a "retail" approach to doctoral education where the heart of the program is an apprenticeship in which an accomplished scholar teaches the student how to be a researcher. In this approach, the student is mentored, moving from the more basic research activities to major project responsibility, and the program is highly individualized.  This approach does not characterize most doctoral programs in education, but we intend for our postdoctoral approach to compensate for the lack of this kind of experience for any students who have not received it and to deepen the experience for any who have.

2. Selective courses to fill in gaps in preparation. As discussed before, many doctoral training programs do not provide enough methodological preparation; a common omission in most doctoral programs is course work related to field based experiments and measurement.  In collaboration with their mentors, fellows will identify any gaps in their prior training in statistics, measurement, and research design, These gaps will be addressed through participation in selected courses on campus (e.g., on field experimentation, hierarchical linear models, structural equation modeling, meta-analysis). Specialized courses will also be available. For example, in the fall of 2008, Peabody doctoral students were able to participate in a course with Mark Wilson of UC Berkeley on measurement delivered through means of a videoconference. For fellows who may have had strong methodological training but little course work in education or learning, other courses are available to enhance their knowledge of educational policies and practices.

3. Research analysis meetings across projects within PRI.  As mentioned in the section on projects, PRI staff members hold a biweekly research analysis group meeting to discuss analytic issues common to several projects.  These meetings are intentionally separate from administrative meetings to accomplish the important tasks of training, data collection, entry, cleaning, and analysis.  Participating in these meetings are PhD level PRI Research Associates whose primary responsibilities are to conduct the kinds of multilevel, complex analyses field based experiments require.  The Research Associates provide another mentoring experience for the postdoctoral fellows.  Fellows will be able to bring their own analytic efforts into these meetings to receive guidance from more experienced analysts.  By participating in the discussions about the results of analyses on other projects as well as their own, the fellows will be exposed to the myriad issues involved in educational research.  Gradually through exposure to this kind of learning environment, the fellows will take on a greater leadership role helping them to be able to guide their own doctoral students in future research endeavors.

4. Affiliation with ExpERT.  Peabody College is home to the ExpERT (Experimental Education Research Training) program, funded by IES for a second five-year award in 2008.  The program was designed to equip predoctoral fellows with expertise in planning, executing, and analyzing high-quality randomized field trials of educational programs and other strategies that are firmly grounded in theoretical frameworks and supported by prior empirical evidence on the viability of the proposed intervention. Coupled with skills in the use of meta-analytic procedures, the accumulation of evidence from such studies is to provide an additional basis for answering questions of what works for whom and under what circumstances. To enhance the caliber of theories guiding practice, the development of interventions based on theories and research about how people learn in educational settings is a particular focus of the training program. ExpERT's ultimate aim is to develop a new breed of education scientists who are both committed and well-equipped to articulate models of effective educational practice that are rooted in principles of learning and high-quality empirical evidence.Postdoctoral fellows will be connected to the ExpERT program. 

Recruitment Plan

The primary focus of recruitment for the postdoctoral fellows for this program will be to identify the strongest individuals who have a commitment to issues of educational effectiveness.  These should be individuals who want to improve their methodological and analytic capabilities and who wish to remain involved in educational research after the postdoctoral experience. 

Our second focus will be on individuals who have received a doctorate in education.  Although psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have much to offer the field of education, the predoctoral preparation in education is perceived as weaker (Levine, 2007) with a consequently greater need for postdoctoral training and experience. 

A final and equally important focus of our recruitment efforts will be on recruiting underrepresented minority groups. Towne and Hilton (2004) emphasize the need to create culturally compatible, competent research teams to tackle the thorny education issues remaining in school systems heavily populated by minority students

 Several Doctoral Intensive research universities are among the top 20 universities that awarded the doctoral degree to minority students in the last survey in 2007 (NORC, 2008a). In addition to the ordinary advertising venues for postdoctoral positions (e.g., the Chronicle of Higher Education), we will specifically target universities as being likely to have minority graduates interested in research careers.  In addition, following the recommendations of Towne and Hilton, we will specifically target recruitment efforts within the American Education Research Association Special Interest Groups (SIG) focused on Urban Learning, Teaching and Research (SIG #147), Research Focus on Black Education (SIG #85) and Hispanic Research Issues (SIG #46