Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

Why I Want to Become an Education Researcher

In 2015, IES launched the Pathways to the Education Sciences research training program in order to help diversify the pipeline of education researchers. Pathways programs provide year-long training to diverse undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and masters students. Pathways fellows receive an introduction to education research and scientific methods, meaningful opportunities to participate in education research studies, and professional development and mentoring. Currently, almost 200 students have participated in Pathways and 91 have completed training. Sixty-three percent of completed fellows are currently enrolled in graduate school (26% doctoral, 35% masters). We reached out to 6 Pathways graduates to ask them what inspired them to become education researchers. Here is what they shared with us.

Photograph of Sydnee Garcia

Sydnee Garcia

Pathways Program, University of Texas, San Antonio

Student Affairs masters student, University of Maryland, College Park

I never thought that I would end up in education. Initially, I saw myself helping others through occupational therapy. It was when I reached the University of Texas at San Antonio, my undergraduate institution, that I gained an understanding of the doors that open when someone receives a formal education. My experiences as a UTSA IES Educational Pathways Fellow also strengthened my belief that co-curricular learning is imperative for modern-day students and that all students should have access to this learning. As a current graduate student at the University of Maryland, my hope for the future is to research inequities in higher education and find effective practices to provide opportunities for students from marginalized backgrounds to find space and growth in a system that wasn't built for them. 

Photograph of James A. Hernández

James A. Hernández

PURPOSE Program, Florida State University/Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Education Psychology doctoral student, Florida State University

As a 5th grade teacher, I was inspired to learn more about educational research. I was constantly analyzing my students’ learning, and I knew there was a way that I could leverage their data to more effectively educate them. However, I was also aware that I did not have the proper research training to do so nor the confidence to apply to graduate school. So I did the next best thing and became a college advisor. Little did I know my passion for educational research would be further ignited as I employed theories like developmental advising models to support my students. During this experience, I eventually garnered enough courage to apply to an educational research graduate program. Through the support of the IES PURPOSE research training program, I received a research conference poster presentation award and 2nd place in presenting my research in under four minutes. Furthermore, with the IES PURPOSE resources, especially the proseminars and mentorship, I was admitted into a PhD program fully funded by the FEF McKnight fellowship. Upon graduating with my PhD, I intend to bring the educational research skills I have gained from PURPOSE and my doctoral program to the classroom by building a community laboratory school.

Photograph of Troy Kearse

Troy Kearse

RISE Program, University of Maryland, College Park/Bowie State University

Psychology doctoral student, Howard University

In my career, I am determined to become a psychologist and professor, focused on cognitive-behavioral studies, particularly for underrepresented minorities. My interest began after taking an introductory course in psychology at Prince George’s Community College. After transferring to Bowie State University my interest in the diverse field of Psychology was enhanced. My ongoing study on cognitive functioning in student success allows me to appreciate the importance of education as it relates to research. With a minor in tutoring and mentoring, I had the opportunity to work directly with students in introductory psychology courses in order to expand my experience in teaching. As the vice-president of the psychological society at BSU, I began to develop tutoring sessions for students in the form of interactive “jeopardy” games like Kahoot!, or more recently, an on-campus version of Escape Room Live to tackle this problem. Students participating in these programs have enjoyed the extra help. I believe that Project RISE was beneficial to my career goals as it continued to enhance my interest in research, as well as make a difference in academia.

Photograph of Natalie Larez

Natalie Larez

AWARDSS Program, University of Arizona

School Psychology doctoral student, University of California, Santa Barbara

Children spend most of their time within schools, allowing for much of their development to be shaped by this environment. Working with students is something that has always intrigued me. When I started my undergraduate career at the University of Arizona, I searched for opportunities that allowed me to work with students, from kindergarten to college age, especially from underrepresented backgrounds. Through these varied experiences, I quickly realized that many of these students were brilliant but were constrained by the systemic barriers that affect minority communities. Additionally, many had experienced significant trauma that was inhibiting them from moving forward. When I was presented with the opportunity to join a Pathways program, it seemed like the perfect stepping stone to a future that I could only dream of. With the support of my mentor, I was able to investigate the associations between traumatic stress symptoms, resiliency, and school outcomes and identify possible solutions to addressing the educational impact. As a result, I was admitted into a top program that will allow me to build skills to better support students in their academics, mental health, and future aspirations. The AWARDSS program was monumental for my career in research education. The AWARDSS program supported my growth in confidence, research skills, access to knowledge on how to pursue graduate school, and mentors that I will continue to work with throughout my career.

Photograph of India Simone Lenear

India Simone Lenear

RISE Training Program, North Carolina Central University/University of North Carolina Wilmington

Political Science doctoral student, Purdue University

As a child, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer and then ultimately become the first Black woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I shadowed lawyers and judges, and I participated in mentoring training for future lawyers. I even took debate classes because I thought that was my passion. It was not until I took my first political science class that I realized that I really wanted to be a researcher and professor and that my passion lies in higher education. I wanted to be a professor because I loved the relationship and bond that I developed with some of my professors. I wanted to be a researcher because I wanted to be able to conduct research that would broaden and deepen the scope of research within political science. As I began to understand what my passion really was, I was offered an opportunity to participate in the RISE training program, by way of my extracurricular activities on campus. I immediately knew that I needed to take this opportunity. Over the next year, the RISE program helped to train and mold the way I think critically about issues and topics I want to address, while also being able to navigate the requirements and expectations of being a researcher. The skills that RISE taught me have allowed me to become a great student researcher. I am now happy to say that I am enrolled full-time in a political science doctoral program at Purdue University, where I plan to study American politics in education with a focus on race and ethnic politics, identity politics, and Black feminist theory as it impacts students in college.

Tseng Meng Vang

Pathways Program, California State University, Sacramento

Human Development doctoral student, University of California, Davis

My experience as a Hmong American in the United States inspired me to become an education researcher. I still recall the moment my high school teacher telling our class about the college attainment rate of different ethnic groups and being told that Hmong American’s college attainment rate was one of the lowest of all the ethnic groups. This finding made me question why Hmong Americans were performing poorly compared to the general Asian American classification. Since this issue is so close to home for me, I was inspired to understand protective and risk factors of college attainment.

Compiled by Katina Rae Stapleton, National Center for Education Research. This post is the second in an ongoing series of blog posts on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity within education research.

Inside IES Special Interview Series: From University Research to Practice at Scale in Education

Over two decades, the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research at IES have built a knowledge base to inform and improve education practice. This work has also spurred the development of evidence-based tools, technological products, training guides, instructional approaches, and assessments. 

While some IES-supported interventions are used on a wide scale (hundreds of schools or more), we acknowledge that a “research to practice gap” hinders the uptake of more evidence-based interventions in education.  The gap refers to the space between the initial research and development in university laboratories and pilot evaluations in schools, and everything else that is needed for the interventions to be adopted as a regular practice outside of a research evaluation.

For many academic researchers, advancing beyond the initial stage of R&D and pilot evaluations is complex and often requires additional time, financing, and specialized expertise and support. For example, interventions often need more R&D to ready interventions for scale—whether to ensure that implementation is turnkey and feasible without any researcher assistance, that interventions work the same across divergent settings and across different populations, or to bolster technology systems to be able to process huge amounts of data across numerous sites at the same time. Advancing from research to practice may also entail commercialization planning to address issues such as intellectual property, licensing, sales, and marketing, to facilitate dissemination of interventions from a university to the education marketplace, and to sustain it over time by generating revenue or securing other means of support.

Special Inside IES Research Interview Series

This winter and spring, Inside IES Research is publishing a series of interviews with the teams of researchers, developers, and partners who successfully advanced IES-funded education research from the university laboratory to practice in schools at scale.  Collectively, the interviews illustrate a variety of models and approaches for scaling evidenced-based interventions and for disseminating and sustaining the interventions over time.

Each interview will address a similar set of questions:

  • Was it part of the original plan to develop an intervention that could one day be used at scale in schools?
  • Describe the initial research and development that occurred. 
  • What role did the university play in facilitating the research to practice process? 
  • What other individuals or organizations provided support during the process?
  • Beyond the original R&D process through IES or ED grants, what additional R&D was needed to ready the intervention for larger scale use?
  • What model was used for dissemination and sustainability?
  • What advice would you provide to researchers who are looking to move their research from the lab to market? What steps should they take? What resources should they look for?

Check this page regularly to read new interviews.

We hope you enjoy the series.

This series is produced by Edward Metz of the Institute of Education Sciences

Diversify Education Sciences? Yes, We Can!

In this blog post, Stephen Raudenbush discusses the University of Chicago’s successful efforts to diversify its IES-funded predoctoral training program. This post is the first in a series exploring issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the education sciences.

In 2015, the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago launched a national campaign to recruit a talented and diverse group of pre-doctoral fellows. With funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, we sought to train a new generation of social scientists from across the disciplines to bring rigorous methods of social science to bear on questions related to the improvement of education.

We’d had previous success in pre-doctoral training with IES support. Our fellows had a great track record conducting research and getting good jobs, but we were deeply unsatisfied that only 3 of 35 of those fellows were members of under-represented minority groups. This didn’t make sense, particularly in Chicago—a city where 90% of the public-school students are African American and Hispanic—and where our aim was to build a strong research-practice partnership.

Our campaign was quite successful. We now have a terrific team of 23 PhD fellows, including 9 who are African American or Hispanic. All are making excellent progress toward degrees in disciplines as varied as Comparative Human Development, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Social Services Administration, and Sociology. We’re writing to share our five key strategies that underscored our approach to improving student diversity in the education sciences.

Create a compelling intellectual argument for choosing education sciences. We invited prospective students to join us in an interdisciplinary research project focused on overcoming educational inequality. We organized the training around one question: “How can we improve the contribution of schooling to skills required for the labor market success of urban youth?” We reasoned that many of the most talented minority and non-minority scholars are deeply committed to answering this broad question, and we reasoned that many would be motivated to come to Chicago to study these questions. A plus for us is the University’s longstanding engagement with public schools in Chicago.

Hire a coordinator dedicated to recruitment. Faculty were totally committed to the recruitment goal, but they were too busy teaching, mentoring, doing research, and serving on departmental committees to oversee a major student recruitment campaign. So we hired a dedicated recruitment director to coordinate with prospective students and faculty and carry out many of the administrative tasks associated with recruitment. The recruitment director assigned every prospective student to a faculty member with kindred interests and followed up to see that faculty colleagues made connected with these students.

Reach out to social networks that include diverse students. Within the university, we worked closely with officers at the University of Chicago who are focused on recruiting diverse students. Our faculty made use of personal connections, and we pooled information about people we know at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority-Serving Institutions, and liberal arts colleges. We made it easy for interested students to express interest and connect with faculty and staff through our website. We also found that organizations such as the American Educational Research Association and the National Equity Project were happy to spread the word about our campaign.

Maximize faculty contact with prospective fellows – well before applications are due. Our faculty were heroes in following up with every promising prospective fellow. We think it’s key to make a phone call before admissions decisions are made and to encourage potentially interested and promising persons to apply. In this way, every person who is admitted will already have a history of communication with a faculty member. Continued communication builds trust and the sense of belonging that encourages young people to join the project. Having a diverse faculty helps; however every faculty member, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, pitched in, and this united effort clearly paid off.

Build a welcoming culture. We encouraged all admitted students to visit before deciding what university to attend. We mobilized University funds to support travel and lodging. We encouraged the prospective fellows to meet each other and to meet our current doctoral students during these visits. The key is to convey to each student a true sense of belonging. We created lots of opportunity for small group discussions and social engagement to foster colleagueship and promote respect for the diversity of perspective. Our fellows run our weekly Education Workshop, which often showcases the work of minority scholars. Making this happen for our first cohort helped recruit our second cohort.

Learning from CTE Research Partnerships: Building a Collaborative Data Culture in South Dakota

As part of our ongoing blog series aimed at increasing state research on career and technical education (CTE), Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate at Advance CTE, and Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), are conducting interviews with individuals who are part of successful CTE State Director research partnerships. The second interview was with Laura Scheibe of the South Dakota Department of Education and Marc Brodersen of REL Central at Marzano Research. [Note: this interview has been edited for length; you can find the full interview transcript here].

Could you both talk about the project(s) that you have worked on and your research questions? How did the relationship start, and who approached whom?

Marc When we were doing needs sensing with the states in our region, particularly with South Dakota, CTE emerged as a pretty high priority area. We needed to determine what the research questions were, what questions we could actually address, and what data were available that could be used in those research projects. So, this work started off as a technical assistance project where we were working with South Dakota pretty closely and getting all of the relevant players around a table and going through and mapping their data. And it was quite a long process.

Laura–There’s huge support in South Dakota behind CTE, but there wasn’t state-level evidence behind why CTE is such a good thing for students. So, the value that Marzano provided to the project in helping us walk through “this is the data that can help you, this is the process that we are going to go through to help you get to the answer” has been incredibly helpful and not something that we, as a pretty small department of education, could ever have undertaken on our own.

Can you talk about what research questions you ultimately came to and where you are in the process of answering those?

Marc –We have three main questions: 1) What is the impact of being a CTE concentrator on high school graduation, two- and five-year postsecondary enrollment, and completion status? 2) What is the impact of being a CTE concentrator on two-year and five-year employment and quarterly wage status? 3) How do the two-year and five-year outcomes vary by the various CTE Career Clusters®?

Connecting education to workforce data is really difficult, and we’re talking about collecting data over a five to 10 year span for an individual student. Many state data systems don’t go back that far, or data systems have changed, so it’s difficult trying to identify one data system that has 10 or more years of data for an individual student. We’re making it work, but it takes some time and some finagling. We haven’t even begun to analyze the data so, unfortunately, we can’t talk about any preliminary findings.

What were some of the early roadblocks in building this relationship and starting to examine and compile some of the data?

Laura– One of the roadblocks was just getting everyone around the table and bought into the idea. We’re a fairly small state, so it wasn’t hard to reach out to my counterparts at the other agencies who would need to be involved, but this project was, and continues to be, something that is on top of the day to day work that we do. It’s not driven by any specific policy initiative but rather by everybody around the table acknowledging and recognizing that “yeah, this would be really useful for us.” But, in that sense, it’s hard to get everyone’s commitments to the time it has taken and takes to pull this off and making sure that we’ve got the right people around the room as well. We’ve involved not just the Board of Regents but the technical college system and the people with the workforce data.

Marc – Having somebody at the policy level, the data level and the leadership level in the room at the same time is almost essential, particularly when you’re at the brainstorming phase. You can have the leadership that’s going to say “yes, this is important, and I want you to devote time to this,” and then the data person is saying “well, that data just doesn’t exist,” and the policy person may not know about that piece. And having all three of those perspectives at the same time can save a lot of time and effort.

How do you plan to use this research project to further policy in South Dakota?

Laura– First and foremost, this particular project is demonstrating the value that CTE has to the secondary students. This project pre-dated Perkins V [the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act], but as we’re moving into implementation of Perkins V full force in the coming calendar year, with the new requirements that Perkins places on states -- and therefore on schools -- to be an approved program, we’re seeing school districts question if it’s really worth it. This project is really coming in at a good time where we will hopefully have some data where we can say, “yes, CTE is worth it.” Being able to message that is hugely valuable from the perspective of a CTE Director in a state where almost every single public school district runs an approved program. Now that we’ve got Perkins V and the [comprehensive local] needs assessment, it will be just one more bit of evidence for schools to be able to examine whether they’re providing the best opportunities for our kids.

What advice would you give to other researcher/ State Director partners for conducting CTE research or establishing similar partnerships?

Marc – From my perspective, as far as establishing a partnership, I think face-to-face interactions are invaluable. It takes a while to trust each other or establish a positive working relationship.

Laura– My advice to State Directors would be to really plan for it and make it a priority. And don’t make it something that isn’t part of the day-to-day because then I think the thread can get lost. I would also say getting that higher-level buy-in is really important. It’s important to make sure that you’ve got that policy-level partner to keep things moving along. The benefits will be there in the end, it just has to be woven into the day-to-day of what you’re doing in order to make it all come together.

Going through this process has helped me form partnerships with my colleagues in other agencies even more strongly than I had before. Just the exercise of having gone through all of that and understanding their work and their data and everything they do, having them understand my role and my constraints better, has just made us a more effective CTE/ workforce team in our state. As we move forward with Perkins V and WIOA [Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act] state plans and all of this other stuff coming, it just benefits us and enables us to work more effectively and work faster now that we have those strong relationships. They were there before, but they’re definitely stronger now as a result of this project.

Marc –One of the things I thought was really neat was getting all these folks together and thinking deeply about data. It might not be the most exciting topic for a lot of folks, but going through the process gave everyone a better understanding of what they can do and how they might be able to work with others. And I think in the day-to-day, not everyone spends that much time thinking at the data and variable level. But doing that will increase everyone’s capacity to be able to do this kind of work moving forward.

One other thing to add just as a side note. Throughout this process, we also collaborated with Nancy Copa at the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) when we were doing the data mapping piece. We did not officially map the South Dakota data to that, but we used the CEDS as kind of a template to provide us with a common dictionary to have these conversations across departments. And that was really useful. In fact, all of us – the different departments in South Dakota and the CEDS folks –co-presented at the last STATS-DC conference, which I thought was a very positive experience.

The full transcript of this interview can be accessed on Advance CTE’s website. Other blog posts in this series can be viewed here.

Building the Evidence Base for BEST in CLASS – Teacher Training to Support Young Learners with the Most Challenging Classroom Behavior

Classroom teachers of young children face a seemingly never-ending challenge – how to manage disruptive behavior while simultaneously teaching effectively and supporting the needs of every student in the classroom. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Florida have received five IES research grants over the past decade – three through the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) and two from the National Center for Education Research (NCER) – to develop and test a model of training and professional development, including coaching, for early childhood and early elementary school teachers on how best to support children who engage in disruptive and otherwise challenging classroom behaviors.

With their first IES grant in 2008, Drs. Maureen Conroy and Kevin Sutherland developed the original BEST in CLASS model for early childhood teachers. The goal of BEST in CLASS - PK is to increase the quantity and quality of specific instructional practices with young children (ages 3-5 years old) who engage in high rates of challenging behaviors with the ultimate goal of preventing and reducing problem behavior. Professional development consists of a six-hour workshop that uses didactic and interactive learning activities supported by video examples and practice opportunities. Following the workshop, teachers receive a training manual and 14 weeks of practice-based coaching in the classroom. 

The results of this promising development work led to a 2011 IES Efficacy study to test the impact of BEST in CLASS - PK on teacher practices and child outcomes. Based on positive findings from that Efficacy study the team was awarded two additional Development and Innovation grants – one in 2016 to develop a web-based version of BEST in CLASS – PK to increase accessibility and scalability and another in 2015 to adapt BEST in CLASS – PK for early elementary school classrooms (BEST in CLASS – Elementary). Drs. Sutherland and Conroy are currently in the second year of an Efficacy study to test the impact of BEST in CLASS - Elementary to determine if the positive effects of BEST in CLASS in preschool settings are replicated in early elementary classrooms.

Written by Emily Doolittle, NCER Team Lead for Social Behavioral Research, and Jacquelyn Buckley, NCSER Team Lead for Disability Research