Educational Research, Evaluation & Measurement

OIR conducts rigorous research and evaluation that significantly contributes to the IMSA community and beyond. We also provide expertise and guidance in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research techniques, data collection, and data analysis to IMSA colleagues and external partners.

OIR’s current and recent educational research, evaluation, and measurement projects include:

Reimagining Introductory Biology: A Pilot Study

OIR conducted a pilot study of a new, one-year introduction to Biology course called Advanced Biological Systems (ABS) to compare and contrast the effectiveness of the new course with the traditionally offered one-semester Scientific Inquiries-Biology (SI-Biology) course. The pilot study began in fall 2017 and will continue through spring 2021.

The pilot study aims to identify whether the ABS course leads to better teaching and learning of complex biological concepts, as well as improved student outcomes, when compared with the SI-Biology course. In order to identify the impact of the course on students’ subsequent outcomes, IMSA Classes of 2020 and 2021 were randomly assigned to either the treatment (ABS) group or control (SI-Biology) group using a stratified, random sampling method. In this process, students were stratified into blocks based on race/ethnicity and gender. Then, half of the students in each block were randomly assigned to either the treatment or the control group.

Students’ outcomes and engagement are being assessed using a variety of measures, including the following: incoming grades and test scores; scores on pre- and post-study assessments of biology content knowledge; scores on pre- and post-course assessments; scores on a survey of engagement in Biology; course grades in Biology and subsequent science classes; scores on the College Work and Readiness Assessment (CWRA+); elective-taking patterns across the sciences; and retention rate.

Preliminary findings from the study were presented at the National Consortium of Secondary Stem Schools (NCSSS) Professional Conference in fall of 2019. 

IMSA Mathematics Placement Test

Beginning in Fall 2017, Dr. Anderson collaborated with the Mathematics Team to discuss the administration and usage of the Mathematics Placement Test for incoming Sophomore students. This project was conducted as Dr. Anderson’s dissertation research titled “A Psychometric Investigation of a Mathematics Placement Test at a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Gifted Residential High School” which sought to provide valuable information to the Mathematics Team, as well as the larger IMSA community. The aims of the research were to (1) provide evidence of Content Validity, (2) provide evidence of Construct Validity and Internal Consistency Reliability, (3) examine the item characteristics and potential bias of the items between males and females, and (4) provide evidence of Criterion-Related Validity by investigating the ability of the mathematics placement test scores to predict future performance in an initial mathematics course. Various statistical analyses were conducted including Multidimensional Scaling, Hierarchical Cluster Analysis, Exploratory Factor Analysis, Item Response Theory, Differential Item Functioning, and Hierarchical Multiple Linear Regression.

A portion of this research was presented at the National Council on Measurement in Education’s 2019 Annual Meeting. The complete dissertation can be downloaded here.

IMSA Year of Inquiry into Student Mental Health

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Dr. Pareja partnered with Ms. Katie Berger, IMSA’s Chief Student Affairs Officer, to co-lead a Year of Inquiry at IMSA. The purpose of the Year of Inquiry was to engage community members in an in-depth investigation of a current challenge that significantly influences IMSA’s work and mission. This model allowed IMSA to evaluate the issues that face our community and present challenges to fully realizing our mission, and then conduct a deep dive on the research surrounding one defined challenge in a way that engages the entire community – specifically staff, faculty and students.

For our first Year of Inquiry, IMSA selected the challenge of student mental health. This issue was selected based on the rise of mental health concerns being noted nationwide in the secondary student population coupled with the data collected regarding IMSA student health and wellness based on survey data from instruments including Stanford’s Challenge Success tool as well as staff/faculty observations.

Through a mix of email communication and town hall style meetings, we engaged a group of dedicated students and faculty/staff to conduct data analysis, focus groups and literature review during the 2018-2019 academic year.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the following initiatives were piloted at IMSA in response to the findings from the Year of Inquiry: 1) Academy Assessments Master Calendar; and 2) No homework assigned over Extended Weekends and no major assessments on the first day of class following Extended Weekend

Also during the 2019-2020 school year, Dr. Pareja and Ms. Berger co-led a Year of Inquiry committee that focused on sleep education and incentivizing positive sleep behaviors. Members of the committee participated in work groups focused on sleep: 1) sleep educational programs; 2) incentives for positive sleep behaviors; 3) policies and practices related to sleep; and 4) communication and marketing.

Read additional information regarding the Year of Inquiry.

Preliminary findings from the Year of Inquiry were presented at the National Consortium of Secondary Stem Schools (NCSSS) Professional Conference in fall of 2019 and at the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (IAGC) 25th Annual Silver Conference in February of 2020.