It is almost exactly the six-month anniversary of the Empirical Educator Project’s (EEP’s) first annual summit at Stanford University. The thesis behind EEP is simple: We believe that one of the biggest barriers to increasing student access and success in US higher education is a failure to communicate. We see substantial innovation and progress happening across the sector, from individual classrooms to entire university systems, from access-oriented institutions to research universities to vendors of all shapes and sizes. But for a variety of reasons, the lessons being learned rarely travel far. We believed that if we could just get the right people talking to each other and sharing their work with each other, then good things would happen.
That’s it. It was that simple.
Six months ago, we tried it for the first time with about 50 hand-picked people for one and a half days. Most people there knew less than half the people in the room. That was one of our goals; we wanted to get people talking across the normal boundaries of their peer (or customer, or competitor) groups.
Early indications are that we succeeded beyond our wildest hopes. The group generated somewhere between 15 and 20 project collaboration ideas, many of which have been active even over the summer months. We haven’t written much about the ongoing work because we’ve been waiting for the participants to feel they have made enough progress on their respective projects that they are ready to talk about them publicly.
Today, I am happy to tell you about the first EEP collaboration that has crossed that threshold. Here’s the text of an announcement from James Madison University’s (JMU’s) department of Psychology:
JMU faculty associated with the Assessment & Measurement PhD program and the Center for Assessment and Research Studies have formed a strategic partnership with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University to assess educational effectiveness. Drs Sara Finney and Keston Fulcher began this partnership with CMU when meeting Dr. Marsha Lovett at the Empirical Educators Project meeting at Stanford in February 2018.
Since that time, JMU faculty member Dr. Jeanne Horst traveled to CMU to engage in training offered by the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation in June 2018. During the 2.5 day Teaching As Research Institute, Dr. Horst engaged in conversation about evidence-based teaching and learning practices. She and the CMU professionals shared experiences regarding the process of developing and implementing intentional curriculum and instruction in higher education and assessing its effectiveness.
In July 2018, JMU hosted our CMU colleagues Mike Melville and Elizabeth Whiteman for training offered during JMU’s week-long national award-winning Assessment 101. During this training, JMU faculty and graduate students offer practice-orientated materials and build skills regarding student learning outcomes assessment.
In August 2018, Dr. Marsha Lovett traveled to JMU to observe JMU’s large-scale Assessment Day. In addition to learning about how to plan, proctor, and engage students during institutional accountability testing, Dr. Lovett also observed a focus group to elicit students’ perceptions of general education courses. She also met with JMU faculty and graduate students to plan the next steps in our strategic partnership. JMU faculty look forward to sharing our expertise in assessment and measurement with CMU faculty while gaining additional knowledge and skills associated with creating and implementing evidenced-based programming from the experts (and our friends) at CMU.
JMU and CMU are about half a day’s drive from each other. They are both (underrated) top-tier universities. Each has particular areas of strength in applied learning science research that complements the other’s. And yet, they didn’t know about each other until they met at EEP. That one meeting was all it took to trigger three rather substantial reciprocal campus visits—one in June, one in July, and one in August—to learn from each other and to develop what JMU is now publicly characterizing as a “strategic partnership.”
The EEP network has quite a few other such pots simmering on the stove that you’ll be hearing more about in the coming months. Not all ideas for joint efforts will bear fruit, and not all EEP participants are engaged in successfully progressing projects yet. We at e-Literate are still learning how to reduce the friction that inhibits successful collaboration. But we are off to a fantastic start, thanks in large part to the amazing folks in our first EEP cohort.
Here’s an e-Literate TV video of several CMU Simon Initiative and Eberly Center faculty talking about their view of learning science:
And here’s JMU’s Sara Finney talking about their approach to course and program effectiveness assessment in her lightning talk at the EEP summit:
Peanut butter, meet chocolate.
Stay tuned. We’ll have more good stories to share soon.