by Claire Miller
Researchers at RAND, a nonprofit institution that seeks to help improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis, created an algorithm for identifying racial profiling in law enforcement, helped develop game theory after World War II and conducted a study on homosexuals serving in the military that was used to overturn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
In her role as director of the education unit at RAND, Darleen Opfer works with individuals who conduct and publish education-related research both in the U.S. and abroad, giving her a front row seat to the issues educators face today and how her unit’s careful study of such issues can have an impact.
“One of the really great things about my job is that every day, I get to see people doing research that leads to change,” Opfer told College of Education students, faculty and staff at the March 7 Research Wednesdays. “RAND really wants to be a trusted source of information for policymakers.”
To maintain a culture of objectivity, RAND reports are internally and externally peer-reviewed before publication with an emphasis on identifying any bias that may be present in the research.
Ensuring that its analyses are unbiased is only one of the struggles RAND Education faces in its mission to improve educational policymaking. Opfer also noted that researchers in her unit also have to tackle educational issues for which there aren’t easy solutions; research measures that aren’t always effective in evaluating teaching methodologies; and trying to conduct research within short time frames.
Despite these obstacles, Opfer said her organization is developing new avenues to disseminate its research findings and finding new ways to show clients how educational research can make a difference.
“When we work in partnerships, we can help them understand what research can and can’t do, and what research can and can’t say about the problems they’re facing,” she said. “We can also help them understand how long it takes to see change.”
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information on Opfer and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.
For more information about RAND Education, visit http://www.rand.org/education.html.