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SESP Receives $4 Million Grant to Train Education Researchers


Developing excellent researchers to work on improving U.S. education in significant ways is an important goal for the School of Education and Social Policy. Now SESP has received a new $4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to train doctoral candidates as highly qualified education researchers through its Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES).
MPES will prepare young scholars from across Northwestern University to conduct and disseminate rigorous and relevant research in education. Over the five-year duration of the grant, the program will bring together 24 doctoral students from multiple disciplines, from psychology to economics, human development and social policy, and engineering.
“We aim to prepare educational researchers who are not only cutting-edge empiricists but also are equipped to work on topics that are both useful to and usable by decision-makers in schools and education systems,” says associate professor Diane Schanzenbach, director of the MPES program.
Each doctoral candidate will pursue a dissertation on an education topic and participate in course work, bimonthly seminars and a research apprenticeship with an affiliated faculty member. The current grant will support four cohorts of six doctoral students each for a period up to three years.
The new five-year grant builds on the success of the current MPES program. This award marks the third time that SESP has received five-year grants — first in 2004 and then again 2009.
The six doctoral candidates selected as the first cohort are Elizabeth Debraggio, Richard Morel, Meghan Salomon, Jake Schauer, Ryan Svoboda and Carolyn Pichert Swen.
New opportunities through the MPES program will allow students to apply their research to real-world policy and practice. All fellows will participate in a practicum to address applied research questions at Evanston Township High School. In addition, a summer internship at the American Institutes for Research in Chicago is available. Finally, new courses will examine design and the policy and implementation process.
To prepare students for meaningful research that is useful for policy and practice, the program aims to provide the following:
  • multidisciplinary course work
  • training in rigorous research methods
  • research collaborations in education policy and learning
  • grounding in policy and practice
The MPES curriculum, which is unified by connecting policy and practice, incorporates intensive courses in rigorous research methods. The curriculum includes courses in quantitative methods, qualitative methods, evaluation, cognition and student learning, human development, education policy, design, and reading and mathematics learning.
Core faculty members will teach, mentor and collaborate with the doctoral fellows “to prepare them for careers connecting their research closely with policy and practice,” Schanzenbach notes. SESP faculty members participating in the MPES program include Emma Adam, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Cynthia Cohurn, Thomas Cook, Mesmin Destin, Matthew Easterday, David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Larry Hedges, Michael Horn, Kirabo Jackson, Eva Lam, Carol Lee, Douglas Medin, James Rosenbaum, Schanzenbach, Bruce Sherin, James Spillane and David Uttal.
To be eligible to apply, students must be first-year PhD students at Northwestern in engineering, human development and social policy, learning sciences, psychology, sociology or statistics. Second-year PhD students in economics are also eligible to apply. Applicants must also be U.S. citizens.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. IES is dedicated to providing rigorous evidence on which to base education practice and policy and also to sharing this information broadly.

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