PIRT Program of Studies
FCRR PIRT Fellows will complete the requirements of the degree program in their home departments, including required coursework. Fellows will complete additional coursework and research experiences to increase their capacity to conduct competent, meaningful, and relevant educational research as part of the PIRT training program.
In combination with the research training opportunities offered through the on-going work at FCRR and the on-going research of project faculty, the PIRT training program is designed around a core of five interdisciplinary courses in research methodology, measurement, quantitative analyses, core knowledge in reading, and practical issues in educational research. Four of these courses are offered every other year. The core knowledge in reading course will take the form of an ongoing seminar co-taught by program faculty as well as visiting scholars. In addition to these five courses, fellows must take two additional elective courses to increase their specialized knowledge in either evaluation research or psychometrics (e.g., advanced psychometrics, advanced hierarchical linear modeling, structural equation modeling).
In most cases, PIRT courses are co-taught by faculty across disciplines to ensure interdisciplinary representations of the content area.
"Advanced Research Methods in Educational Science" will introduce the scientific method and critical thinking as basic tools for accumulating knowledge. Fellows will receive grounding in the philosophy of science as well as practical training in designing experiments to address questions of causal inference. Topics to be covered include, critiquing journal articles, assessing the reliability and validity of measurement inferences, and constructing and evaluating experimental and quasi-experimental designs. The overall goal of this course is to provide fellows with the knowledge and ability to apply the design that yields the greatest causal inference capacity given the limitations of the field situation.
"Measurement in Educational Sciences" will provide fellows with knowledge in theories of test construction as well as exposure to the quantitative methods involved in psychometrics (e.g., classical test theory, item-response theory).
"Advanced Quantitative Methods in Educational Sciences" will provide fellows with knowledge and experience to use appropriate statistical techniques in educational research. In addition to advanced applications of the general linear model, specific techniques for dealing with nested designs (e.g., hierarchical linear modeling) and measurement (e.g., applications of item-response theory) will be covered.
"Political and Practical Considerations in Education Research" will provide fellows with knowledge of the issues that need to be addressed in mounting high-quality program evaluations in schools. Topics to be covered include perspectives of principals and administrators, understanding the culture of schools and school systems, and solutions to common problems in field research as well as issues related to instructional strategies, student assessment, curriculum, leadership, and professional development. The overall goal of this course is to provide fellows with the knowledge and skills to be able to negotiate the complex political and practical realities of conducting program evaluations in schools. Working in collaboration with superintendents, principals, teachers, and other practitioners, fellows will identify a research agenda addressing questions of critical importance to educators in the field.
"Core Knowledge in Reading Research" seminar will cover background knowledge and cutting edge developments in Presentations and Publications. This course will be co-taught by program faculty throughout the training program, allowing students to draw on the considerable expertise related to reading of the program faculty.
A unique component of the FCRR PIRT training program is an explicit link between coursework and research practica. Graduate fellows enrolled in both the Advanced Research Methods in Educational Science course and the Advanced Quantitative Methods in Educational Sciences course will participate in a practicum course the following semester in which they apply the content knowledge of the course to a current question or existing data within FCRR. For instance, in conjunction with the quantitative methods course, fellows may use item-response theory analysis to address questions concerning equivalence of item performance across subgroups of students with data generated by FCRR or apply hierarchical linear modeling to outcome data from a planned variation study using data generated by FCRR. In conjunction with the research methods course, fellows may work with FCRR staff to develop and assist in the implementation of an evaluation of new instructional programs. These practica are designed to turn knowledge learned in courses into practical experiences with real-world data
Throughout their program of studies, graduate fellows will be required to be actively engaged in research. Initially this is likely to take the form of graduate fellows working with their graduate advisor, but graduate fellows will be expected to take a leadership role in research relatively early in their program of studies. Graduate fellows in the program will be required to submit at least one publication-quality empirical manuscript for publication each year they are in the program. Given access to the substantial data archives of FCRR and program faculty, as well as the practicum experiences associated with core courses, this requirement can be achieved easily.
To enhance graduate fellow's interdisciplinary perspectives on education research, at least one of these projects must be conducted in collaboration with a program faculty member outside of the fellow's primary discipline.
Graduate fellows' dissertations must address practical questions in education. Fellows' doctoral committees will be directed by a PIRT program faculty member and include at least one additional program faculty member.
The training program includes a colloquium series in which researchers who have significant experiences with education science are invited to participate in a series of seminars and colloquia for graduate fellows. In addition to describing their work that is relevant to educational science (colloquium), speakers share the lessons learned about the politics and pragmatics of conducting research in applied settings (seminar). The goal of this seminar and colloquium series is to both advance graduate fellows' content knowledge and to provide them with insight into how to be successful in conducting rigorously designed, important, and educationally relevant research. It is our view that the best way to impart that knowledge to students is to have them hear it firsthand from those who have figured out how to do it. Fellows have an opportunity to consult with these experts on questions and issues specific to the fellow's area of interest and current research projects.