At the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) conference happening in Arlington this week, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with several fellow evaluators who shared their unique and collective experiences and challenges with research design/approaches for their respective projects. We discussed the unique opportunities of collecting data on English Language Learners (ELLs) and the critical importance of using culturally responsive and appropriate methods for data collection.
One of the challenges that we discussed was the difficulty of obtaining accurate data on ELLs due to language barriers and cultural differences and even sometimes perceived assumptions on part of the evaluators. For example, standardized assessments may not accurately measure the skills and abilities of ELLs who are still developing their English language proficiency. We also discussed the importance of considering the cultural context and backgrounds when collecting data, as some communities may have different beliefs or values around education, learning, and parental involvement vs engagement.
Despite these challenges, we also discussed strategies for collecting data that is more fair, inclusive, and equitable. One approach is to use mixed-methods research that incorporates both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods, including surveys, interviews, and observations. We also discussed the importance of involving ELLs and their families in the data collection process, as they can provide valuable insights into their experiences and perspectives.
Overall, meeting with fellow evaluators and discussing data collection challenges was a valuable experience. It highlighted the importance of using culturally responsive methods for data collection and reinforced the need to consider the unique challenges and perspectives of ELLs when evaluating programs and initiatives aimed at supporting their academic success.
Kudos to the The Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) team in association with the staff from WestEd for organizing separate 4-hour evaluation-evaluator sessions – highly uncommon in large grant funded conferences. These sessions provided the evaluators the time and space to share and engage freely.
So glad to have met with our clients from Clemson University for the two National Professional Development grants we are evaluating.
On to my next adventure this week! More to come.