P E R S P E C T I V E S:
Evaluation & Research News
In This Issue
How My Educator Experience Shaped Me as an Evaluator
Media in Preschool Science Classroom
Evaluation Spotlight
In Other News...
In Brief
GRG Welcomes 4 New Staff Members!

Pamela Stazesky, Ph.D., Research Associate, joins GRG with over 15 years of experience
conducting program evaluations and research studies in K-12 public education.

Markeisha Grant, Research Assistant, joins GRG after graduating cum laude from Smith College with high honors in Psychology.

Maddie King, Research Assistant, joins GRG after graduation with honors from Williams College in 2011 with a degree in Psychology and Art History.

Karina Lin, Research Assistant, joins GRG after graduating with honors from Barnard College of Columbia University with a degree in Psychology.

In addition to welcoming 4 stellar new staff members, GRG bid farewell to 3 terrific Research Assistants who went onto different grad schools: Kate Parkinson (Duke Ph.D. program in Developmental Psychology), Molly Priedeman (NYU Law School), and Helena Pylvainen (Harvard Kennedy School Masters Program in Public Policy). Best wishes to them!


Tina Lagerstedt



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  Fall 2011  
Welcome from the President.....



Colleen and Irene retreat picture
Irene and our Director of Research, Colleen Manning, at our annual staff retreat.
It's autumn again, the leaves are turning golden colors, and frost is in the air. We recently had our annual staff retreat, which stimulated renewed focus and energy in our team. Although our evaluation work is year-round, autumn brings new projects and a reactivation for ongoing projects that engage students and faculty in informal (and formal) education programs.These projects -- ranging from preschool to elementary, middle, and high school to college retention programs, graduate internships, and educator fellowships -- are already in high gear. 


I thought about our clients and their projects while I was enjoying a highly readable book by Carol Dweck, Mindset (2006). In fact, her research is applicable for all ages and in many settings. She distinguishes between two kinds of mindset: fixed and growth. The difference between them is that whereas people with a fixed mindset believe that our abilities are determined at birth and remain fixed thereafter, those with a growth mindset take the view that our inborn abilities can be developed by means of hard work and application.

Dweck is particularly eloquent on the negative consequences of the fixed mindset. Students in this category tend to link their sense of self-worth with their inborn abilities. As a result, they interpret failure of any kind as a reflection on their abilities and thus tend to avoid taking risks because of that fear of failure. The source of this insight for Dweck was puzzlement as to why some students who were not afraid of failure went on to make progress. The positive consequences of the growth mindset in many areas, from sports to academic performance to the corporate world, are amply demonstrated by Dweck.


Happy autumn and happy reading, 

'Irene' signature
Irene F. Goodman, Ed.D.
Founder and President

How My Educator Experience Shaped Me as an Evaluator
By Pamela Stazesky, Ph.D.

As I get older, it never fails to amaze me how so many of the professional experiences in my past have guided me in ways that cause me to pause and reflect.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but it is reassuring that these past experiences have served to prepare me for what lies ahead, even when the path is different than I had ever imagined. One of these experiences is that of being a classroom teacher. While teaching high school mathematics, I never envisioned that I would return to graduate school to pursue a career in program evaluation. During my years as a classroom teacher, when I thought I was doing most of the teaching, I now realize that I was learning valuable lessons that shape how I approach evaluation.


Certainly, being a former teacher allows me to bring some contextual understanding of what it means to work in a school system. This background knowledge has enabled me to avoid snags that waste time and resources during the data collection phase of an evaluation. In some circumstances, earning the trust of teachers has been easier because they know I have walked in their shoes. My experience as an educator has also shaped the way I think about evaluation questions. I constantly think about what my former principal and fellow teachers would have wanted to learn. But above all, remembering many of my students, I am reminded to check my assumptions, to listen carefully (especially to the quiet ones, as they also have a story to tell), and to be careful when making recommendations, because it is difficult to understand the full context necessary to provide wise guidance. 



Media in Preschool Science Classrooms
By Elizabeth Bachrach, Ed.D.

In the past year, GRG has had the opportunity to evaluate two hands-on science curriculum packages that are connected to public TV series for preschool-aged children: PEEP and the Big Wide World and Sid the Science Kid. The PEEP Explorer's Guide offers six thematic units, with in-depth, hands-on activities meant to encourage exploration, rich science learning, and fun for preschoolers. The newer Sid Summer Science Camps curriculum, to date, offers one week-long curriculum tied to one of the show's weekly episode cycles. Based on the preschool science curriculum, Preschool Pathways to Science, the Sid curriculum builds on children's natural sense of curiosity and encourages kids to think, talk, and work like scientists.


Each curriculum integrates video from the series, hands-on exploration for children, and hands-on training for teachers. The PEEP Explorer's Guide includes Family Science Letters and book and activity suggestions for parents. GRG's recent evaluation of the PEEP Explorer's Guide focused on teachers' attitudes and behaviors after using at least four of the six PEEP units over the course of a school year. Teachers reported in their inquiry-based teaching the quality improved and the quantity increased, and they were more comfortable conducting science activities and investigations in their classrooms.


GRG's current evaluation of the Sid Summer Science Camps curriculum in Head Start and preschool programs focuses on the extent to which children's science knowledge and process skills change. Preliminary findings indicate that children show increased sophistication in the ways they use and talk about science tools, that they see Sid as a role model, and that they see themselves as scientists.  


Evaluation Spotlight



GRG has been evaluating this past year for George Mason University's Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to analyzing website data, GRG assessed visitors' patterns of use, the site's perceived value, and the usefulness of the website's resources in helping them teach American history. Based on the information we've learned this past year, GRG will continue to evaluate this site, gathering feedback from social studies methods professors, pre-service teachers, and non-users of the site.


In Other News...
GRG Collecting Data Across the Country
In the upcoming weeks, GRG staff members will be collecting data for various projects across the country. For our evaluation of Sid the Science Kid, we will be in Los Angeles at a local pre-school. Last spring, we collected data at a Head Start Center in New York City.

Additionally, GRG staff members will collect data in San Francisco at the first ever Bay Area Science Festival held by the Science and Health Education Partnership at the University of California San Francisco, a member of the Science Festival Alliance! If you're in the area, please stop by. The Festival is taking place from October 29th to November 6th and will have over 50 different events at various locations in the Bay Area. One of the biggest events will be the Discovery Days at AT&T Park on November 6th.

Two of our new staff members, Pamela Stazesky and Markeisha Grant, spent two weeks at three universities in Indiana and one in Illinois. These visits are part of our evaluation of the Midwest Crossway AGEP Alliance of which the universities are members. Pam and Markeisha conducted student focus groups and faculty interviews at these sites.

GRG Staff Members on Whirlwind Conference Tour

Irene participated on a panel at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference in Baltimore on October 16th. The panel presentations and break-out discussions focused on network partnerships formed among public television stations, science museums, and community-based organizations (CBOs).

On October 20th, she made a presentation with our client, The Ford Family Foundation about our ongoing evaluation of the Ford Scholars program, at the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) Conference in Nashville. November 2nd brings a presentation on the business aspects of evaluation firms at the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference in Anaheim, California.

Elizabeth Bachrach will present at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Conference in Orlando, FL. In this session, Maura Thompson, Director, Children's Outreach at Thirteen/WNET, will discuss how to implement Sid the Science Kid week-long summer camps in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Elizabeth will discuss GRG's evaluation of the Sid Summer Science Camps in Head Start classrooms (see article above for more information on Sid).

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