Monday, August 28, 2006

IEREA Poster Submission Deadline Approaching

A reminder to let everyone know that our Iowa Educational Research and Evaluation Association (IEREA) conference is fast approaching and will be upon us before we know it. One of the popular features of the conference is our poster presentation and our paper contest. We need lots of poster and paper submissions to make this part of our conference a success. Please support this part of the conference by forwarding links to this message to potential presenters (graduate students and faculty). The conference theme this year is: Does High School Need to be Reformed? Research Behind the Headlines. The conference itself will take place on Friday, December 8, 2006 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Iowa City. However, the deadline for submitting poster/paper proposals is Monday, September 11th!

Iowa Educational Research and Evaluation Association: 2006 Call for Proposals

Iowa educators are invited to submit proposals to present their research at IEREA's annual conference in Iowa City, IA. Proposals from faculty members, graduate students, and education professionals conducting research related to education, specifically this year's theme, are invited to submit proposals. Additionally, individuals involved in school-based or university-school collaborative action research studies, innovative program evaluations, and work related to technical issues of assessment are also encouraged to submit proposals. IEREA utilizes a poster presentation format, designed to foster dialogue among presenters and conference attendees. To maximize interaction during the poster sessions, posters will be displayed in an open space with sufficient room to congregate, browse, and discuss. Refreshments will also be provided during poster sessions. Instructions for displaying research in a poster format will be sent to presenters of all accepted posters. At least one presenter per poster must register to attend the IEREA Conference, and all poster presenters qualify for reduced conference registration fees. Details are provided upon acceptance of the proposal.

The deadline to submit poster proposals is 5:00 pm, Monday September 11, 2006. Submissions must include two copies of the proposal. One copy of the proposal should contain author name(s), institutional affiliation(s), and complete contact information for the coordinating presenter all on a separate cover sheet. The second copy of the proposal should contain no author names, titles, or contact information in order to facilitate blind review of all proposals. The poster proposal itself should be no more than three (3) double-spaced pages (excluding references) with reasonable margins and minimum 11-point type. Each proposal must include the following: Title of Poster, Abstract (maximum 50 words), Goals/Objectives, Design and Methods, Results Significance/Impact, References. E-mail submissions are strongly encouraged (please type IEREA Proposal in the email Subject line), and receipt of proposals will be acknowledged via return e-mail. Send all poster proposals to:

IEREA Conference Planning Committee
ATTN: Dr. Frank Hernandez
N229B Lagomarcino Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
515) 294-4871

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Orleans is Alive and Well

It is always dangerous for a "research scientist" to report/comment on non-research topics, but that is exactly what I am doing. The most often asked questions I have received about my recent trip to the annual APA conference in New Orleans are about the condition of the city following Katrina. Most people who ask know little about the Ninth Ward or any of the other areas most heavily hit by the hurricane. But they do know the French Quarter and the Warehouse District with its museums, so these are the areas on which I will comment.

My first impression was simply the lack of people. Even with a convention reportedly 10,000 strong, there were far too few people, anywhere. The airport was all but empty (both coming and going), many gates obviously unused. There were no lines for cabs, no lines for check in at the hotel, no lines at dinner (without reservations, I might add). The National D-Day Museum (since named something else by Congress) was practically empty -- on a Saturday no less. I noticed these things because my last trip to New Orleans prior to Katrina was radically different. Even the bars of Bourbon Street were resorting to that old college-town trick of "three drinks for the price of one," hawked by aggressive tub-thumpers with just a bit too much eagerness in their voices.

There were other reminders of the most recent disaster too, subtle perhaps, but eerily present nonetheless. Wendy's on Canal Street had a sign in the window that read "Now Open Every Day." Perhaps they have been open every day for quite some time, but not so long as to warrant removal of the sign. I went to Radio Shack to see about a new battery for my cell phone (foolish as that might sound) and noticed that merchandise was only now returning to the shelf.

Despite these changes since Katrina, there were many things that reminded me of the old New Orleans. Mother's Restaurant , for example, was the spitting image of what I remembered. Arguably offering the best blackened ham in the U.S., Mother's seemed like the same place I have visited hundreds of times before (over a 20-year span). Wonderful chicory coffee, long lines with loud short orders and home town folk. The decadence of Bourbon Street is still there, if not more expanded, as too is the Old Absinthe House across from the Royal Sonesta Hotel, all stops I make when I am in town.

People wonder aloud if New Orleans is ready to resume its tourist trade and rejoin the convention circuit. Well, I have little pull with AERA, NCME or CCSSO (and perhaps even less influence on the readers of this blog) but I do know these conventions would succeed in New Orleans. The new convention center was a wonderful venue for APA and should be suitable for others as well. New Orleans is still a fun place to visit and the timing is ripe before all the tourists get back to town. I encourage y'all to visit and I will continue to lobby the conference planners as well.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Putting Context in Context

Not long ago, Dr. Robert L. Brennan, a professor and friend of mine, identified what he called the "context" of "context effects." He later published the research in Applied Measurement in Education. Ever since then, I have been intrigued with the notion that it is not the context effects themselves that play havoc with measurement, but rather it is the changing context in which the effects occur that seems to cause the problem.

Recently, a friend forwarded to me an email that again peaked my interest in the role of context in learning and assessment. Here is part of the email:
Can you raed tihs?

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
I am told that this is the "trick" to speed reading—namely chunking the information at a level of aggregation higher than the letters' words. This phenomenon—being able to read such jiberish—makes sense when you stop and think about it. Context provides much of the things we claim to be "understanding."

Take for example the following sentence segments: "You have a hot car." "It is very hot today." Technically, you can't tell what the definition of hot is without the context. As such, knowing the primary definition of the word "hot" will do very little, if anything, in helping you understand the meaning behind these sentences. This dilema is one of the reasons that reading is difficult to teach. It is also what causes most automated/computerized "readers" to fail.

However, Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) is a promising, if not new way to use context to allow the computer to actually infer meaning from sentences or other snipits of information in text. As such, the computerized "readers" used in engines like the Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) provided by Pearson Knowledge Technologies (PKT) are likely to finally allow the computer to infer meaning from text (student generated or otherwise) at accuracy rates acceptable to the measurement community.

But don't take my word for it, check out the research yourself : Reliability and Validity of the KAT™ Engine.