August 2008 Archives

The life of an applied researcher

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Check out the first deleted scene from The Simpsons Movie. It's really funny and deftly portrays what it can be like to conduct applied research in the policy arena. The head of the EPA fails to persuade President Schwarzenegger to take action on pollution in Springfield and resorts to giving a lesson on the statistical concepts of central tendency, variance, and outliers. In the end, a "stupidly high level" of pollution proves less persuasive than one mutant specimen. The takeaway: data collection and statistical analysis can strongly suggest a course of action, but applied researchers must also consider what types of information will resonate with their audience if they hope to inspire appropriate action. Presenting tabular information in maps, for example, can give statistics more meaning. Another takeaway: technocracy is funny.

Workshop on quasi-experimental design and analysis in education

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I recently attended one of the Workshops on Quasi-Experimental Design and Analysis in Education. The workshop was led by two of my heroes, Thomas Cook and William Shadish. It was an honor to be selected for the workshop and to share the company of Tom, Will, and my fellow attendees for a week in Evanston. I had some experience with quasi-experimental methods before the workshop, but I learned a great deal more, such as checking propensity score balance criteria and mixing design elements to strengthen causal inferences. The workshop definitely improved my ability to conduct causal research in education.

Tom, me, and Will
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View from Northwestern University
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Camping at Illinois Beach State Park after the workshop

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