Tsai-Hsuan (Angel) Chung is a first-year student in IEDP, dual majoring in the Statistics, Measurement, Assessment, and Research Technology (SMART) program. She was born and raised in Taiwan and first came to the US for one year-long exchange of study at UC Berkeley. She joined the IEDP right after graduating from National Chengchi University in Taiwan with dual degree in Sociology and Economics. She used to work as a research assistant at Academia Sinica, Taiwan and as a legislative intern assistant in the Taiwanese Parliament. She is particularly interested in education inequality, social innovation, policy research, and monitoring and evaluation.

International educational development (IED) is broad in scope, ranging from teacher professional development, refugee education, technology education, community development, and so on. While it is overwhelming, the IEDP at Penn is structured in a flexible way, allowing us to explore our own interest and design an individualized IEDP journey. With my interest in monitoring and evaluation in the IED field, I have taken three elective courses on quantitative methods this fall and have chosen to do a dual major in both IEDP and the Statistics, Measurement, Assessment, and Research Technology (SMART) program at GSE to equip myself with useful hard skills in the IED field.

Decision-making Process

While I worked at Taiwanese parliament one year ago, I had a chance to engage in the process of policy-making and legislation first hand. The one thing I was struggling with was that while we were trying to revise existing policies, most policy evaluation report there remains narrative description and is lacking in empirical evidence and research. Without comprehensive evaluation, it was hard to improve the policy design or implementation, not to mention truly serve the population or solve the problem we intended to; it also exacerbated the efficiency of budget allocation. It was the time I realize how influential and critical a thorough policy evaluation is to improve the program/policy we implemented and start developing my additional interest in program/policy evaluation.

After starting my journey in IEDP, I quickly learn that it is important in IED field too. As many reading assigned at the beginning of this semester in IEDP required courses show that for many cases in development field, doing good could cause more harm. Evaluating if the program efficiently achieve the goal we expected and revise if it failed or delievered in an inappropriate way is necessary. Quantitative analysis could be one of the tool, but it was also the skill I am lacking of and would like to learn. SMART program provides the courses on data analysis and different quantitative methods for program evaluation, which is a great complement for IEDPer who are interested in monitoring and evaluation.

Though I knew I want to do research and monitoring and evaluation of programs and policies in the IED field, I was unsure if my passion was enough and I had no confident in myself. Throughout my education in Taiwan, my worst subject was math. When I majored in Sociology during my undergrad, I preferred and had more exposure to qualitative courses and research; I disliked and never had interest in quantitative research. Choosing to dual major in SMART would be a turning point. I was afraid of wasting money if it is not the right fit. However, in addition to preparing myself to achieve my goal, qualifying for three year OPT is another huge advantage of dual majoring in SMART for international students.

I consulted with professors in the IEDP and discussed with my friends and family. On the deadline of add/drop courses, I was still unsure if I would be in the SMART program, but I chose to take three elective courses in SMART this semester. Not only could I ensure my determination and capability for entering into this area, but I could also reduce the time and cost spent on a dual major. In an ideal situation, I’ll be able to finish in 1.5 years.

Elective Courses

The elective courses I am taking are required core courses in the SMART program:

1. EDUC 680 Evaluation of Programs and Policies with Dr. Boruch: The course introduces the procedure of monitoring and evaluation. We learned the concept of needs assessment, program model, program implementation, and different research design and quantitative analysis on program evaluation. For example, randomized control trial, quasi-experiment, regression discontinuity, and difference-in-differences model. In the class, we also present and discuss previous research that adopted these methods.

2. EDUC 625 Data Processing and Analysis with Dr. Rovine: The main purpose of this course is teaching us how to use statistical softwares R and SAS. In addition to the important skills required for doing data cleaning, processing, and analysis, the professor emphasizes ensuring our understanding of the operation behind R and SAS. For example, instead of using the functions established in software to do regression analyses for us, we learn the mathematic formulas and conduct different ways of calculation, like matrix, to run a regression. It is challenging but also pushes us to learn faster and more comprehensively.

Class on Data Processing and Analysis

3. EDUC 684 Measurement and Assessment with Dr. Victor: The course is mainly teaching us the concept of reliability and validity. We have learned different methods and their assumptions for calculating reliability and validity. We use R as a tool to analyze them and judge which method is the most appropriate for a certain type of dataset. In addition to the knowledge and skills we learn, the professor also requires us to write test reviews to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of measurements such as the GRE, the IQ test, or ‘grit’ scale, which measures a person’s perseverance. At the end of the semester, we will have learned to conduct item analysis in R.

Tradeoffs

Two month after learning in these classes, I have more confidence and stronger determination to pursue a dual major in SMART. I finally applied by submitting my new statement of purpose and two recommendation letters; I will officially start my dual major in the Spring semester. However, the tradeoffs are the financial burden and the restriction of choosing classes outside of IEDP and SMART. In fact, people can build their quantitative skills without dual majoring in SMART due to the flexibility of the IEDP. Nevertheless, other than OPT, I think the degree is valuable. With this background, I could be more competitive or have a higher chance of earning an interview opportunity while looking for a research or evaluation job in the IED field. Though I may be wrong in deciding this, I am glad to have a relatively clear direction on the pathway to my goal.