UW-Madison Department of Educational Psychology - Faculty Research

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Faculty Research

Our faculty do extensive and award-winning research and are involved in many interesting projects.  Please click on the program area you are interested in to read more about faculty research specific to that area.

Faculty Spotlight

David Kaplan's "Slice of Pisa"

Photo of David KaplanProfessor David Kaplan is just one guy. But one guy, if he is an expert in his field, can help improve the way countries around the globe deliver education to young adults about to enter the workforce or higher education.

For the past few years, Kaplan has been a consultant for the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a large-scale educational project that assesses 15-year-olds’ academic competency with the goal of improving educational policy and outcomes.

The PISA consortium, established by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), hires several consulting groups to advise the consortium on the development and implementation of PISA.

About six years ago, a colleague at the Australian Council for Educational Research, where PISA is based, invited Kaplan to join PISA’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG oversees the technical integrity of the entire PISA design – translations, sampling, etc.

“I said ‘yes’ in the beginning without knowing what I was getting into, and it turned out I loved it,” said Kaplan, whose personal research focus is the development of statistical methods for empirical education research.

Kaplan recently completed his term on the Technical Advisory Group and joined the Questionnaire Expert Group, which consults on the design of context questions that accompany the test “with the idea that (PISA) is going to be used by policy makers and researchers,” he said.

For example, the group attempts to discover how school level selection policies in given countries influence the recorded attitudes and perceptions that students have toward delivery of a curriculum, and how that relates to outcomes on the PISA assessment.

Part of Kaplan’s consulting role is to offer advice on what data and statistical models will get at that answer. Such a research question would require a background questionnaire to get reliable information at the school and student level, Kaplan said. “My interest always has been the way (the PISA assessment) is used for secondary analysis and statistical modeling,” he said.

Kaplan agreed to continue with the consulting job, despite the jet lag it causes from traveling back and forth across the globe, “because the problems are really interesting and the people I work with are really smart.”

Kaplan also uses his connection with PISA to help his students access data for their own work, to provide relevant examples in his classes, and to test out his own statistical modeling ideas on the data.

Faculty Awards

Kaplan Honored as APA Fellow

The American Psychological Association's Division of Evaluation, Measurement and Statistics elected Professor David Kaplan as an APA Fellow. Congratulations, Prof. Kaplan!

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