Greg Walsh


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Reading and class reflection from 2-19-2009

Thursday February 19, 2009

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes

This week, we talked about two readings: A truly useful bat is one found in the hands of a slugger by Grob, and Government information policy research: Importance, approaches, and realities by McClure and Jaeger. I thought Bat was a good article because it not only describes how evaluations can be used as a valid research method, but, it also had a How to succeed in business kind of vibe to it.

As I$ve talked about before, evaluations are a way to look at interventions and decide if the are helping, not helping but not harming, or harming their intended audience. This article wonders if $evaluations are useful only if they are based on randomized experiments, with control groups, null hypotheses, and designs that examine every possible explanation of apparent but suspect success of social programs.$ [p. 499] The article acknowledges that only a handful of evaluations have met that description and less rigorously performed evaluations can still move knowledge forward (if thorough and objective.)

The part I liked best was the author's description of how to get into the world of policy influence. Grob offers a loosely framed, step-by-step process to become a player that I think could be useful in my own academic career. His steps, translated by me, are:

  1. Learn who the thought leaders are $ get in the scene. Find out who is leading the field in what. Become one of them by specializing in a topic and becoming recognized as a thought leader by other thought leaders. So if I want to be in the instructional game world, I need to know who the others are and become recognized by them. I can see how conferences and journal articles as well as some of my speaking gigs can really move that forward.
  2. Master the machinery $ Grob was referring to how policy is created. I didn$t think that I$d be interested in policy, but, when I thought about it, I realized I$m more interested than I thought. For example, I would love for video games to be part of curricula but the only way to do that is to influence policy. Maybe not congressional policies but state and local jurisdictions$ education policies.
  3. Body of work $ Grob says you need to know everything about your topic. True. Not only do I need to be familiar with the research on my topic, but, I need to be familiar with the policies about my topic. It won$t do me any good to research instructional games that could never be realized due to policy.

So I liked that article and McClure and Jaeger's article is going into my library to be re-accessed when I need more exact information on looking at policies and research about policies.