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Experimental Education Research Training (ExpERT II):Vanderbilt’s Predoctoral Research Training Program in Education Sciences

Abstract

The project for predoctoral research training in education sciences (ExpERT) received  five additional years of support for Vanderbilt University's Experimental Educational Research Training (ExpERT-II) program. The original ExpERT training program was funded by IES in August, 2004 (R305B04110). The ExpERT-II training program will continue to rely on multiple instructional and research activities to train a sizable cadre of scientists who are experts in conducting randomized field experiments of theory-based interventions and approaches aimed at enhancing student learning in educational settings. These main training activities in­clude formal courses and, substantial research experience. In addition, the program offers teaching opportunities, mini-workshops, a distinguished lecture series, and provisions for conference attendance. Over the next five years, at least 29 predoctoral trainees will acquire ex­pertise in conducting high quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of edu­cation programs, policies and practices that are grounded in strong theoreti­cal frameworks and supported by relevant prior empirical evidence. Coupled with skills in the use of meta-analytic procedures, accumulation of evidence from such studies will provide an additional basis for answering questions of what works for whom under what circumstances.

The training program is located within the Vanderbilt's Learning Sciences Institute, a university-wide organization dedicated to stimulating and supporting interdisciplinary research on learning, teaching, curriculum, assessment, policy, and educational design. The training program brings together over two dozen faculty, many with national and international reputations, from four departments within the College of Edu­cation and Human Development -- the Department of Psychol­ogy and Human Development (PH&D), Teaching and Learning (T/L), Special Education (SPED), and Leadership, Policy and Organi­zations (LPO). The emphasis for each trainee is on the development of a core set of knowledge and skills organized around three themes: (1) the theory and practices associated with the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to estimate unbiased effects of educational programs and strategies, including first-hand experience; (2) knowledge about the educational settings in which interventions are delivered, based on relevant educational theories and supported by prior re­search evidence; and (3) understanding the mechanisms of teaching and learning, including cutting-edge theory and research from cognitive psychology and related areas.

The overall management of the proposed training program will be provided by a three-member ExpERT-II Executive Committee, comprised of the Co-Training Directors (Cordray and Farran) and the Director of the Learning Sciences Institute (Elliott). At all levels of the university, there is substantial institutional commitment for this program. Institutionalization of an interdisciplinary approach to solving important problems in education is a primary goal for this program. Monitoring and assessment of training activities, components, and products will be undertaken to optimize the realization of this goal.