Evaluation 2013 Conference Week: Kathy McKnight on PD Opportunities in Quantitative Methods

Hello! I’m Kathy McKnight, Principal Director of Research, Center for Educator Effectiveness at Pearson.

Today I completed my annual 2-day introductory workshop on Quantitative Methods, which I’ve offered at AEA’s annual conference every year since….well, I’ve lost track. Over the years, I’ve observed a lot of evaluators who participate in my workshop, hungry to learn something about statistics and quantitative methods.

Lessons Learned: A few observations to share: 1) It’s difficult for program evaluators to find quality workshops/educational opportunities for continuing their education in quantitative methods; I find this is the case for those at an introductory, intermediate, and advanced level, unless you’re located within a university (and even then, it’s not guaranteed you can find what you need). 2) I’m further convinced each year that training in statistics is not enough — evaluators need training in measurement and research methods/evaluation design as well. Without each of those critical elements, knowledge of any one of them alone is not sufficient. I’ve noticed that the greatest engagement in my workshop tends to be around methodological/philosophy of science issues with respect to how program evaluations are carried out, and what we can learn from them. Studying statistics helps bring out these issues: it’s not only about what tools are available, but how we can best use them, given our evaluation goals. These issues are what attracted me to program evaluation and keep me interested in this work. It seems to be the case for many others.

Hot Tips: For those interested in furthering their knowledge and skills in quantitative methods, AEA has a Quantitative TIG, and the good news is, we don’t bite! It’s a supportive, engaged group of individuals who share a strong interest in the methods by which we conduct evaluations, how we measure constructs we care about, and how we model relationships between those variables quantitatively. New members could help us identify ways to provide more and better training to our membership, and share resources. Additionally, AEA offers e-Studies (I offered one this past spring on basic inferential statistics) and “coffee break webinars” (brief presentations of a specific topic — I offered one on descriptive statistics). These are just a few of the online resources available to our membership*. The annual meeting also offers 1-day, 3-hour and 90-minute workshops, and a host of presentations focused on quantitative methods. These are well worth checking out as part of your continued education in the broad area of quantitative methods.

Rad Resource: Don’t forget your friend the internet — there are countless YouTube videos and statistics, measurement, and research methods websites that provide tutorials as well as a multitude of resources.

I wish you all a productive, educational conference this year in Washington DC! Please do check out the presentations from the Quantitative TIG.

*Coffee break webinars, e-Study workshops, and Professional Development workshops at the conference are paid content.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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