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Education Leaders’ Knowledge of Causal Research Design: A Measurement Challenge

Federal policy has both incentivized and supported better use of research evidence by educational leaders.  However, the extent to which these leaders are well-positioned to understand foundational principles from research design and statistics, including those that underlie the What Works Clearinghouse ratings of research studies, remains an open question. To investigate educational leaders’ knowledge of these topics, we developed a construct map and items representing key concepts, then conducted surveys containing those items with a small pilot sample (n=178) and a larger nationally representative sample (n=733) of educational leaders. We found that leaders’ knowledge was surprisingly inconsistent across topics. We also found most items were answered correctly by less than half of respondents, with cognitive interviews suggesting that some of those correct answers derived from guessing or test-taking techniques. Our findings identify a roadblock to policymakers’ contention that educational leaders should use research in decision-making.  

Research evidence; education leaders
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Hill, Heather C., and Derek C. Briggs. (). Education Leaders’ Knowledge of Causal Research Design: A Measurement Challenge. (EdWorkingPaper: 20-298). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

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