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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011

New inquiry methodology Ph.D. program in IU School of Education enrolling students

Unique program could help fill need for more test experts

Jan. 21, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.--The Indiana University School of Education has opened enrollment for its new Inquiry Methodology Ph.D. program.

The new degree could help fill needed roles in designing and interpreting standardized tests. The program emphasizes studying and developing research techniques that can help better inform public debates about education policy. Those admitted to the program will be part of the first class of Inquiry Methodology doctoral students in the fall of 2011.

The program -- approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education two years ago -- will prepare graduates to teach; to consult with other social science and educational researchers; and to work in numerous types of research, development, and policy centers. Students earning the Ph.D. will be prepared to advise on educational policies and to work for companies and government agencies that develop standardized tests around the world.

ISTEP testing

A new Ph.D. program at IU will prepare students for designing and interpreting standardized tests.

Print-Quality Photo

The Inquiry Methodology Ph.D. directly addresses the continued high demand for such expertise given the growth in student assessment testing at the state and federal level, particularly with the demands of Race to the Top. A report by the independent policy analysis organization Education Sector recommended a huge investment in training new psychometricians -- experts in the design, administration, and interpretation of educational measurement -- because of a nationwide shortage.

"The person who focuses in this area is going to be very well-situated to secure jobs in academia or state testing agencies, commercial testing agencies, or in the U.S. Department of Education," said Leslie Rutkowski, assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Education's Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology. "That's because there is such a shortage of well-qualified measurement or testing experts in the U.S. and around the world.

"What I think is especially unique about this program is a dual focus on methods for understanding both quantitative and qualitative data and how to integrate findings from these data," Rutkowski continued. "Most programs focus on the quantitative side and don't have a qualitative component."

That combination also provides program flexibility. With the choice between quantitative, qualitative, or an integrated program of study, students will be able to examine a variety of interests, including educational testing and assessment, but also philosophy of social science, ethnography, methodological theory, and program evaluation, among others.

Rutkowski joined the faculty in 2010 to help develop the program. Her experience includes working as a research associate for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The IEA created and administers the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Math and Science Survey (TIMSS), which collect data from more than 60 countries to assess student learning.

From her perspective, working with large-scale, international assessments, Rutkowski said the program could develop researchers who may create more useful assessments. Bringing together two paradigms of inquiry, assessments that intelligently combine quantitative and qualitative components can provide richer information about what students know and can do.

"There have been few instances of evaluating student achievement internationally with non-traditional assessment strategies that are also cost and time-effective," Rutkowski said. "So this would be just one of many possible areas of study for students who are interested in improving or making inroads to better measuring educational systems around the world."

More information about the Inquiry Methodology Ph.D. is available at