Monday, March 25, 2013

ICPSR - teaching & educational resources

Last month I attended a webinar hosted by ICPSR (the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) which highlighted and explained the resources available to educators and students. As a social worker who loves research and education, I was excited to learn more about these resources! (You can watch the whole webinar on YouTube! Click here.)

The first exciting tool is the Data-driven Learning Guides (aka Short Exercises). These are meant for use in non-research-methods courses, usually for undergraduates. They will be helpful for introducing students to the utility and purpose of data. ICPSR advocates for introducing data earlier in the life of a college student rather than waiting until substantive years such as junior or senior year, because if students learn earlier on that data is a useful/meaningful tool, then perhaps fewer of them will abandon research knowledge in the future. All of the modules are standardized. ICPSR has made it so easy for any educator to use this resource: they have the following sections of information on each guide: goal and concept of that particular guide, the dataset, variables contained in the dataset, and ideas for application (which help students think about certain research questions, and has links to pre-made tables for the purpose of analysis).

The next tool is the Exercise Sets. These are more suited for students in research-focused classes. They provide a series of modules designed as a sequence to follow throughout a class rather than just for one assignment. One module uses Robert Putnam's book on social capital, Bowling Alone, which is very applicable to social work education.

The last tool is the Crosstab Assignment Builder (which is in beta-level development). According to the website, "The instructor selects an appropriate dataset and identifies relevant variables. The students can be given varying degrees of autonomy; instructors can designate placement of specific variables (row, column, control) or they can leave the choice up to students."

In addition to these great tools, the website also contains pages on: resources for students, videos on teaching, and external links. Be sure to browse through the full site so you can discover the full range of the wonderful resources available here!

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