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The Methods Lab: Newly Established Lab Brings Research Opportunities for Students in the School of Education

Drexel University School of Education

The Methods Lab Drexel University School of Education

July 23, 2021

Established in Fall 2020, The Methods Lab (“The Lab”) is housed in the School of Education at Drexel University. Through partnerships and rigorous design, The Methods Lab’s mission is to “move research, assessment, and evaluation practices forward across disciplines.”

The Lab uses a bright orange color in its logo. Although the meaning varies across cultures, orange is often associated with positivity - creativity, energy, innovation, knowledge-seeking, dynamic, and friendship. The meaning of the color orange is not lost on The Lab’s Co-Directors, Dr. Toni A. May (Sondergeld) and Dr. Kristin Koskey, who have a long-lasting friendship. Toni and Kristin studied in the same class of 2009 in the Educational Research and Measurement program at The University of Toledo. After pursuing tenure-track lines at different institutions, they reconnected to develop The Lab. Working as methodologists and evaluators for nearly fifteen years, these two were ready to integrate their efforts to scale their work and mentor students. Dr. May contacted Kristin in spring 2020 and said, “I want to start a lab and I can’t think of anyone else better to do it with but you.” Kristin responded, “Let’s do it!”

As an Associate Professor in the School of Education, Dr. May teaches educational statistics, research design, assessment, and evaluation courses and is Co-Director of The Lab. She also supports numerous federally funded grants as PI, Co-PI, or external evaluation lead. Dr. Koskey comes to Drexel University after a 12-year career as an Associate Professor teaching graduate courses in data literacy, assessment, and research methods at The University of Akron. She was accepted into the Visiting Scholar program in the School of Education at Drexel University for the 2020-21 academic year and started as a Research Professor and acting Co-Director of The Lab in July 2021. She explains, “Drexel University’s School of Education has a solid structure to facilitate advancement of research. The SoE Visiting Scholar program provided an opportunity to become enculturated into the Drexel and Philadelphia community, while working to build The Lab.”

Within nine months, The Lab has secured funding from multiple external grants to support the team’s research and evaluation activities. Their latest 5-year grant awarded was through the National Science Foundation as a collaborative initiative with Bowling Green State University and Clarity Assessment Systems. In total, the collaborative amount awarded was just over $3.2 million to support the team’s research, Developing and Evaluating Assessments of Problem-Solving in Computer Adaptive Testing Environments (DEAP-CAT). Drexel University is lead on this collaborative effort. The Lab’s external funding will support multiple Research Assistants studying in the SoE doctoral program for the 2021-22 academic year. Dr. May describes The Lab’s research assistants as “an essential part of our team to advance the mission of The Lab through their diverse range of experiences, skills, and interests. We could not effectively complete our work without them.” The RA “team” currently consists of Dara Bright, Yiyun (Kate) Fan, Christopher Fornaro, and Katrina Struloeff.

“The most meaningful learning experiences and mentoring is done on-the-ground. Important to us is providing opportunities for research assistants to lead a component of a project, have space to be innovative, and grow in their professional identity, ” Dr. Koskey explains. “As doctoral candidates, our RAs are developing personal lines of inquiry. Many of our projects align with local and national priorities in STEM research and policy. Our RAs have numerous ways to carve out a niche to advance their skills while contributing to the field as professionals,” Dr. May adds.

Dr. Koskey notes that “Important to building sustainability of The Lab is to continue developing relationships and applying for funding to support research and doctoral students.” The Lab is applying for multiple grants this fall in collaboration with George Mason, Brigham Young University, University of Arkansas, Washington State University, The University of Akron, University of Northern Colorado, Bowling Green State University, partnering school districts serving underrepresented and underserved youth, and others.

While external funding is critical to The Lab’s sustainability, service is an important component of The Lab’s mission. A few examples of The Lab’s service initiatives in 2021 are consulting on evaluation capacity building with Drexel SoE Visiting Scholar Dr. Kelly Grace for Caring for Cambodia; instrument development advising on a Predictive Processing Survey for Autistic Adults with MIT and Harvard; and evaluation tool development support for pediatric residents enrolled in clinical experiences focusing on Social Determinants of Health (SDH) with Drexel College of Medicine and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

The Lab’s team has the capacity to engage in a wide range of projects in the fields of education, STEM, and health professions within non-profit and private sectors. Reach out to The Lab if you are interested in collaborating on a grant application for funding to build on your prior research, exploring funding for a new line of inquiry, if you need a program evaluation, or if you are simply interested in further developing a personal line of inquiry and would like research or assessment support.

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