UC Evaluation Center at UCLA Hosts System-wide Institute for Graduate Students

UCEC's annual Summer Training in Educational Evaluation Institute provides workshops, discussions, and networking for graduate students, faculty, and researchers.

For the past four years the University of California Evaluation Center (UCEC) has offered the Summer Training in Educational Evaluation Institute—a unique opportunity for UC graduate students to build research and evaluation skills, exchange and develop research ideas, and engage with faculty and peers from across the UC system. The Summer Institute is held over a period of three days and provides attendees with opportunities to attend methods, theory, and skill-based workshops in educational evaluation.

The UCEC has trained over 120 graduate students from a range of disciplines, including Economics, Education, Medicine, Political Science, and Psychology. The UCEC Site Directors, who are also nationally recognized UC faculty, possess a breadth of expertise, including early childhood education, education policy, and research and evaluation methodology.

Professor Christina Christie (center, at right), director, University of California Educational Evaluation Center (UCEC), and Anne Vo, UCEC associate director, (at left, center) welcomed UCEC site directors to UCLA this summer for the annual statewide Summer Training in Educational Evaluation Institute. L-R, back row: Greg Duncan (UC Irvine), Julian Betts (UC San Diego), Bruce Fuller (UC Berkeley). L-R, front row: Will Shadish (UC Merced), Vo (UCLA), Christie (UCLA), and Michal Kurlaender (UC Davis). Courtesy of Anne Vo
Professor Christina Christie (center, at right), director, University of California Educational Evaluation Center (UCEC), and Anne Vo, UCEC associate director, (at left, center) welcomed UCEC site directors to UCLA this summer for the annual statewide Summer Training in Educational Evaluation Institute.
L-R, back row: Greg Duncan (UC Irvine), Julian Betts (UC San Diego), Bruce Fuller (UC Berkeley). L-R, front row: Will Shadish (UC Merced), Vo (UCLA), Christie (UCLA), and Michal Kurlaender (UC Davis). Courtesy of Anne Vo

This year’s event, which was hosted at UCLA in July, brought 20 graduate students, nine faculty, and four industry experts from across the UC system together. UCEC Site Directors, who are faculty members that specialize in some aspect of educational evaluation, taught workshops, facilitated discussions, and provided feedback on students’ research studies in small group settings. The Institute also included valuable networking opportunities where students, faculty, and guest speakers could engage in conversations about their shared interests in formal as well as informal spaces.

The theme for the 2014 Institute was on evaluation use – the most frequently researched and debated topic in the evaluation field. The Institute opened with UCLA Professor of Education and UCEC Director Christina Christie, providing an overview of evaluation theory and how to approach evaluation use alongside evaluation methods and values. This was followed by dinner hosted by UCEC and research breakout groups with students and UCEC Site Directors. In these sessions, graduate students were matched with faculty and peers and discussed their own research interests and graduate school projects.

The Institute also offered workshops on evaluation designs and students were able to choose from three tracks that focused on a different approach for conducting evaluation research. On one track, Professor William Shadish (UC Merced) discussed causal experimental designs; Professor Bruce Fuller (UC Berkeley) reviewed qualitative methods for identifying causal mechanisms; and lastly, Professor Greg Duncan (UC Irvine) provided an introduction to meta-analysis. After lunch, the Institute resumed with more panels focused on the Site Directors’ research specialties. Students were able to choose topics that matched their interests. Professor Julian Betts (UCSD) offered a session on interrupted time series while Professor Michal Kurlaender (UC Davis) addressed issues related to the use of administrative data in evaluation research. Professor Marvin Alkin, who celebrates his 51st year of service at UCLA this year, facilitated a session that guided participants through various approaches to conducting a “real world” evaluation. A panel on mixed-methods research and a networking reception brought the second day of the Institute to a close.

The Institute concluded with a guest panel of leaders in the field who spoke about the current climate of navigating the politics of evaluation, managing stakeholder relationships, developing evaluation proposals, and conducting evaluative research. All panelists were UC alumni and included Drs. Eric Barela (Salesforce Foundation), Julie Marsh (USC Rossier School of Education), Jia Wang (UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing), and Kyo Yamashiro (Los Angeles Educational Research Institute).

In previous years, students have expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to attend the UCEC Training Institute. Not only do they receive individual feedback on their own research projects from experts in the evaluation field, they are also able to develop lasting relationships outside of their own departments. Students also expressed positive sentiments about attending an evaluation conference in an intimate setting outside of their home campuses. In many ways, for students who are still trying to focus their own research interests, the conference provided them with a practical overview of evaluation research and pointed them to new areas where they could revisit in the future. Overall, participants’ positive feedback about increasing their knowledge about evaluation, receiving helpful suggestions about their work and developing their professional networks highlights an important need for future training institutes geared towards graduate students.

“Regardless of my knowledge base in any particular method, I found relevance to my own work,” one student is quoted to have said. “Interestingly, some of the sessions that were less relevant pushed my thinking about methodology, developing research questions, interacting with stakeholders, and context- and user-specific needs in new ways.”

 

Above: Professor Marvin Alkin of the Social Research Methodology Division at UCLA Ed & IS (at far left), shared his expertise with students and colleagues from throughout the UC system at the annual Summer Training in Educational Evaluation Institute, hosted by the the University of California Evaluation Center (UCEC) at UCLA. Courtesy of Anne Vo