Get access

Conducting causal effects studies in science education: Considering methodological trade-offs in the context of policies affecting research in schools



This paper focuses on the trade-offs that lie at the intersection of methodological requirements for causal effect studies and policies that affect how and to what extent schools engage in such studies. More specifically, current federal funding priorities encourage large-scale randomized studies of interventions in authentic settings. At the same time, policies that require schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) on state achievement tests make it risky for them to participate in trials of unproven interventions. Researchers attempting to balance rigorous study designs with the pressures felt by school districts must thoughtfully balance validity threats that are introduced in the negotiations with those districts. In this article, we draw on our experience conducting several randomized trials to discuss how these factors can be balanced. Specifically, we discuss necessary trade-offs in causal effects studies related to statistical power, measurement sensitivity, research ethics, minimizing bias, and addressing the interests of all stakeholders. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 50: 1127–1141, 2013