P E R S P E C T I V E S:
Evaluation & Research News
In Brief


GRG completed our NSF-funded Massachusetts Linking Experiences and Pathways (M-LEAP) study and have  launched "the sequel:" The M-LEAP 2 follow-on research study, in which we are interviewing a subset of 84 families each year for three years.


We began a new project with our clients at The Ford Family Foundation, evaluating their Ford ReStart and Ford Opportunity Scholars programs, both designed to help non-traditional students attend college.


GRG has also hit the ground running with our clients at EDC, for our evaluation of the Massachusetts Exploring Computer Science Partnership (MECSP)



Save the Date!


GRG is hosting an open house in honor of our 25th anniversary on September 13, 2014! Details to follow. 



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Courteney Smith

Spring/Summer 2014  

A Message from the President


The months of May and June are forever associated in our minds with that pivotal rite of passage: high school graduation. This month, I had the good fortune of attending my own daughter's graduation ceremony. What made the occasion even more memorable for me was that Sarah was selected as the student commencement speaker. The reaction of her classmates and parents to her speech was uniformly positive: they told her that she had spoken for all of them. She managed to do so because of the frank manner in which she had made the large audience aware of her own hard-won success in communicating her unique learning needs to her teachers, staff, and peers.

In this issue of GRG's newsletter, a theme that runs through the articles is that of communication from how researchers communicate with children, to scientists communicating with the public, to people interacting with each other within a social network. As GRG celebrates its 25th anniversary year, we are more than ever attuned to the important role of communication, whether in the case of our clients' projects or in the field of evaluation in general. As the years unfold, we are continually stimulated to increase our repertoire of approaches, expand the tools in our research toolkit, and enhance the ways in which we communicate our findings to our clients and their stakeholders.

It's opportune in this silver anniversary year of 2014 to renew our commitment to our clients, associates, and colleagues. We will celebrate this milestone with an open house on September 13. I invite you join us for the festivities (official invitation to follow). In the meantime, I hope you have a pleasant summer.



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

How to Evalu-EAT: Professional Learning in the Office Environment

We're never done learning at GRG, and among our favorite professional development opportunities are our monthly Evalu-EAT brown bag lunches. Led by a different GRG staff member every month, we discuss new ideas and fresh perspectives on psychology, child development, evaluation, and educational research. We thought we'd share some of the topics of debate from our most recent sessions.


Interviewing Children

Many of our projects use surveys and interviews of children as key tools for collecting data. To better inform our discussion, led by Emma Lukasiewicz, Research Assistant, we read "Children as Respondents in Survey Research: Cognitive Development and Response Quality" by Natacha Borgers, Edith de Leeuw, and Joop Hox, and took our lead from some of their ideas.


We discussed the unique challenges researchers face when surveying children, especially those who might not have a good grasp of language. For example, one way to ensure instrument validity is to alternate between affirmative and negative statements. However, negative statements often confuse children and can give one problems with data later on. Possible solutions include rewording affirmative statements so that they mean the opposite - for example, "Reading is great" would become "Reading is boring" rather than "Reading is not great." This is particularly relevant to our current M-LEAP2 study, because so much of our data is dependent upon the thoughts and opinions of middle- and high-school students and their younger siblings.  


Communicating Science to General Audiences

Another recent topic of discussion was how researchers and scientists can communicate often complex scientific topics to both general audiences and policymakers. Danielle Smith, Research Assistant, presented on Randy Olson's book, Don't Be Such a Scientist, which outlined the mistakes scientists often make when trying to discuss their findings with a broader audience.


We took several key points from Danielle's presentation:

  1. When communicating anything, but especially when communicating science, make sure you understand who makes up your audience.
  2. It's not enough just to throw facts at people, no matter how convincing; you have to appeal to their emotions as well.
  3. The best way to get people engaged in a topic or movement is to appeal to both their emotions and their intelligence, and then give them a concrete, relatively simple action.
  4. In science, as in everything, you have to tell a good story.
These monthly Evalu-EAT lunch-time sessions are an extremely enjoyable part of our ongoing in-house professional development. The conversations can riff off into countless directions, and yet we always find ways to bring it back to relevance to our work.  


GRG Adds Social Network Analysis to Our Evaluation Toolkit
By Maddie King & Courteney Smith


GRG has added Social Network Analysis (SNA) to its evaluation repertoire. SNA is used to show connections - or networks - between individuals that develop or emerge during the course of collaborations or events. Many of the projects GRG evaluates have connecting people as a goal. Developing broader social networks is a means of sharing best practices and increasing the diversity of a project's audience, among many other benefits.  


An important goal of many projects that we evaluate using SNA is reaching non-overlapping social networks. An example Maddie King learned at an SNA workshop resonated particularly for those of us in historic Cambridge: Paul Revere's midnight ride to warn the colonists that the British were coming is an historical example that highlights the lasting effects of reaching non-overlapping networks. Network analysts have examined archival data showing Paul Revere conveyed the warning to many people who did not know each other. In fact, William Dawes may have warned an equal number of individuals but they were all connected within the same social networks. As a result, Revere's efforts became famous as the story spread across diverse networks, while Dawes receives less credit in the history books because his warnings were contained to networks of people who all knew each other. 


Network analysis allows GRG to visually depict growing networks and identify which individuals or groups, if any, form the core network. GRG is also able to analyze the density and connectivity of an expanding network. At critical points throughout a project, GRG is able to aggregate survey data of project participants to quantify the number of new ties being forged and the spread of exposure of the program or events series.

Engaging Community Members for Data Collection


We're wrapping up an exciting project with Boston's Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, which coordinates the U.S. Department of Education-funded Boston Promise Neighborhood grant. Part of our data collection process was a door-to-door survey; we trained field researchers from the Dudley Street neighborhood to collect surveys from their neighbors, and then monitored their efforts. An important element of any interview collection is that the researchers employ culturally competent data collection methods. A great way to make sure you're being sensitive to the needs of the people in the neighborhood is to recruit interviewers from the community itself. These individuals will have a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the neighborhood than would an outside researcher, and will have an appropriate frame of cultural reference. Having these community interviewers treat data collection as an actual job, with proper training, management, and compensation is also a good way to make sure your data is collected efficiently and effectively. 

Thank you for reading our newsletter! For more information about our exciting work, check out our website,

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