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Last modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New IU School of Education program addresses need for test experts

Unique program one of few nationally to combine research methodologies

Dec. 17, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University School of Education is now offering a new doctoral program in Inquiry Methodology, a program just approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

The Inquiry Methodology Ph.D. focuses on the study of research strategies used with both quantitative and qualitative data, allowing students to pursue a wide range of interests and contribute to better informing public debate on education and educational policy. This new program will prepare graduates to teach, consult with other social science and educational researchers, work in a variety of research, development and policy centers, as well as work for companies and government agencies that develop standardized tests in the U.S. and worldwide.

ISTEP testing

A new IU Ph.D. program will help address a crisis in designing and interpreting standardized tests.

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Among other things, this new doctoral degree program will directly address what some have described as a crisis in measurement and interpretation of test scores, given the increased requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. According to a report from Education Sector, an independent policy analysis organization, more than half of state testing offices around the country have trouble finding and keeping qualified staff for testing-related jobs, raising concerns about the quality of standardized exams. The report recommended the federal government pay to train 1,000 psychometricians -- experts in the design, administration and interpretation of educational measurement -- over five years to meet the demand.

"Education is in critical need of good research to help inform national and international reform efforts," said Gerardo M. Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education. "The new Ph.D. program in Inquiry Methodology will prepare future researchers capable of addressing complex research questions through both quantitative and qualitative means. We are very pleased to be among the first in the country to offer such an integrated program."

Integrating quantitative and qualitative research methodologies makes the Inquiry Methodology program unique. The American Psychological Association reported that in 2007, most of the approximately 26 research methodology programs in schools of education in the U.S. prepared researchers only in quantitative methodology.

"Very few focus on both," said Ginette Delandshere, professor of research methodology at the IU School of Education. "Most other programs in the U.S. focus exclusively on quantitative research methods."

Delandshere explained that in addition to helping to meet the high demand for quantitative research methodologists, the new program will also address concerns about the caliber of qualitative research.

"Good qualitative researchers need extensive education in applied social theory, but this is unavailable in most schools of education despite the popularity of this approach," she said. "There is consequently a gap, nationally, between the demand for good training in qualitative research and the typical offerings provided in schools of education."

Aside from addressing the shortage of psychometricians, the Inquiry Methodology program will help meet the growing demand for researchers in colleges and universities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook projects a need for more than 380,000 new higher education faculty in the next eight years. The report predicts a demand for nearly 53,000 education administrators and continued growth in the number of social scientists by 2016. "Good research methodology skills are at the core of faculty and social scientists' work," Delandshere said.

Leadership at the IU School of Education began considering the new program around three years ago. During that time the faculty studied other programs around the country and worked on the conceptualization and design of their own program.

"Students can begin enrolling in the program now, but more realistically, new students will be admitted for the fall semester in 2009," Delandshere said.

More information about the new Inquiry Methodology program is available at