Institute on Statistical Analysis for Education Policy: Causal Inference


Despite being so close to dissertation submission (yes, I wrote at night, in between sessions, and on my flights), I flew off to D.C. for a fun three day institute given by the American Educational Research Association on causal inference analyses for education policy research. The institute focused on design of randomized experiments and challenges to implementation in educational settings. We considered methodological approaches such as propensity scores, regression discontinuity, instrumental variables, path analysis, and structural equation modeling as methods of establishing causal relationships. I met graduate students and faculty from around the U.S., and hope that we will have connections that we can develop into future collaborations.

I encourage anyone in education policy that wants to spend a few days with great faculty teachers dialoguing about causal inference with research, apply to attend. Watch for the opportunity here:

Your Tablet as a Productivity Tool: Organizing Your Apps

Academics, Productivity

I will say it now: I hate messy desktop screens.

As my work became more integrated with technology tools, I found that I needed an efficient way to organize my apps on my tablet. I didn’t want to flip through endless screens to find what I use most, nor did I want to remember if I filed something on the “personal” screen or the “academic” screen. I needed a way to organize myself so that no matter what I was doing, I would quickly find the right app, helping me integrate my tablet into the natural course of my activities.

What finally worked best for me, after trying many different schemes, was organizing apps by what I do with them. This goes beyond the category types you’ll find them organized under in the Play Store or iTunes and instead describes the actual function. Taking a break and want to catch up on news feeds? Check out my “read” folder. Time to update the blog? Look in “write”. Skype date with a colleague who moved across the country? I’ll find that in “talk”.


As you can see, I have my folders on an upper row. Now, my apps that I’m going to use frequently that I don’t want to tap through to find, are situated on a second row and include the obvious – my web browser, calendar, notebook, and email. Everything else that I use on a weekly basis, and yes, that includes Organ Trail, the zobmie-awesome Oregon Trail spin-off, is located in a top row folder. The other four screens of my tablet don’t even include anything at this point and everything else on the device can be accessed in the full menu if needed.

If you’ve been struggling to integrate your devices into your work-flow, then think about trying this action-based organization system. How do you organize your apps? Have you found a system that helps you work and play?

A lot happening at AERA 2013

Academics, Presentations

As usual, a lot happened at the 2013 meeting of the American Educational Research Association. This conference is so big, I don’t think I’ll ever get close to exploring all of it. This year’s highlights for me included our first fireside chat mentoring session in the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas SIG, presenting preliminary analysis from my dissertation, and being voted in as program co-chair for the 2014 meeting.

This year, Program Chair Dr. Eve Tuck introduced the idea of creating a mentoring space in our SIG program. While we worked with her during the planning process, my colleague Crystal Jensen and I developed some ideas about using the time to have small group discussions on particular career-oriented topics. We had 8 junior-senior scholar pairs scheduled to participate and around 40 scholars attended the session. Crystal and I spent the session considering directions for 2014 with Dr. Tuck and Dr. Linda T. Smith who also attended. I think it was a huge success!

During the SIG business meeting, Crystal and I, who helped develop the 2013 program with Eve were nominated in and voted in (although it still has to go out for a full SIG vote) to chair the 2014 program. We will get a behind the scenes look at planning with the SIG leadership and I think we are both really looking forward to the opportunity. See you in 2014!

Finally, I did present preliminary results of my dissertation analysis with the Curriculum and Instruction SIG. There was good conversation and all the papers of the session fit together well to create some dialogue. I always enjoy the exchange that happens, and come home excited (and really tired!) of the possibilities of future directions.

Presentation at American Indian Studies Association

Academics, Presentations

I just enjoyed a fun two days at the American Indian Studies Association in Tempe, AZ. A small conference, with lots to offer, AISA is the longest-standing meeting of scholars on indigenous studies in the United States. A diverse set of topics were discussed over the course of the conference and drew scholars from all over the country. I presented a paper from a recent seminar class on visual sovereignty, where I analyzed an indigenous gaze in the photographing of cultural objects (particularly those held by museums and in private collections). Although not part of my main research, as an artist, I do hope in the future to continue finding ways to intersect my art and educational research interests, and found much encouragement at this meeting.

Thoughts on Sole-Author Publishing as a Graduate Student

Academics, Publications

I was really excited when, for the first time, in late 2012 I got to see my name in the author byline of a journal article. Coming into my fifth year of graduate school, I was feeling behind. Colleagues were earning prestigious, national fellowships and I was still struggling to get my feet under me analyzing dissertation data. I needed a boost. Since then, I have finished two more manuscripts that are currently being revised under “revise and resubmit” requests of the respective journals and completing a fourth, smaller essay. In sharing these accomplishments with a professor, I was urged to contribute my thoughts on the process with a wider audience. That is you, my dear readers.

Being in the humanities and social science fields, there do not exist the same sort of frequent, collaborative authoring opportunities as seem to be available to life and physical science graduates who are constantly part of a professor’s lab (of course, not being in a life or physical science anymore, this may all be perception rather than reality). There are research groups if you work for a professor with a large enough grant and certainly three years worth of graduate student research positions taught me a lot about collaborative grant reports and conference presentations, but none of these have yet led to publications due to the long-term nature of the research.

I realized that if I wanted to begin publishing that I would have to go it alone.

I have been very lucky to take a variety of seminar classes across my two main fields of study that allowed me the opportunity develop pieces of research that could be metamorphosed into publications. Obviously, not everyone takes advantage of such an opening, but if you are searching for that next seminar paper, think for a minute about choosing a topic that will really excite you and be new to the literature conversation (or at least extend and enhance the conversation in some way) in some way.

So, when the professor mentoring me through my research on the Piper v. Big Pine School District of Inyo County (1924), urged me to publish the resulting paper, I decided to just try and see what happened since I’d been wanting to learn the process anyway.

I narrowed down some journal choices and talked about them with a couple different professors before deciding where to submit. After receiving my first round of clarification questions and editing suggestions, I saw that there was a whole new process that I had to learn in translating the work into a good journal article. But I took the time and found the experience rewarding.

Sharing our hard work with the outside world is, I believe, a psychological process. I remember seeing a tweet awhile back linking to the LSE impact blog and an article by Helen Sword who urged, “when you are 80% happy, kick it out the door”. This resonated with the experiences I had – I felt my research was strong and I felt the paper was good, though not perfect, and opening the work to criticism by submitting it did produce anxiety. My positive and supportive experience with the journal editor of my first publication took some of the fright out of the process, however.

I am not a brilliant writer. I still make grammatical and spelling errors. Usually I am too close to the work to realize when I’m being too dense (don’t worry, reviewers will point this out to you and allow you to fix it!). But, I want to share the things I am learning because that is so much of what the research process is about for me – finding out something I didn’t know before.

In the end, getting started down the path of successful publishing of research comes down to letting go of that fear enough send your writing to a journal. Literatures are built because many people find the same thing exciting enough to research – and all of them began with a just a few people in the conversation. Have the courage to know that someone else will find your work as interesting as you do.

Presentation at History of Education Society

Academics, Presentations

Following a great experience at the Western History Association in October, I traveled further north to Seattle to participate in the History of Education Society meeting November 1-4, 2012. Another first for me, traveling to Seattle, I did take some time to explore the downtown despite drizzly pacific northwest weather (confession: I grew up in the PNW, and I LOVE the weather!).

Probably the smallest conference I have attended, HES was really enjoyable. With less sessions happening at one time, I began to see the same people at sessions through out the weekend and got to attend sessions much further afield than my research areas, which was a lot of fun.

I had some great co-presenters, all of whom pushed the boundaries of historical research on indigenous education history. The final published version of my research on Piper v. Big Pine School District of Inyo County can be found by clicking here.


Western History Association Conference

Academics, Presentations

This year, I got to spend my birthday sharing my research on the CA State Supreme Court case, Piper v. Big Pine School District of Inyo County (published work found here) with a great audience at the 51st annual meeting of the Western History Association in Denver, Colorado. It was my first trip to Colorado and I got to share the weekend with my Native American Studies colleague Angel Hinzo, spend time with our program coordinator Stella Mancillas, and get wonderful dialogue and discussion with historian Dr. Charles Roberts. We even got snowed on! (Okay, it was just little flurries, but it was cold!)

Thank you to my wonderful colleagues and friends for sharing a fun weekend talking about history, education history, and history education!

Special thanks to Drs. Charles Roberts and William Bauer who participated in my organized session “Settler Influences and California Indian Education”; and thanks to the audience who included Angel Hinzo, Stella Mancillas, Dr. David Wallace Adams, Dr. Margaret Connell-Szasz, and Dr. Cathleen Cahill for your attention, kind encouragements, and support.

Paper accepted at 12th International Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations Conference

Academics, Presentations

Following my Vancouver, B.C. adventures in the Spring, I have been accepted into the 12th International Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations Conference, also being held in Vancouver this Summer. Unfortunately (but not unfortunately), I was also accepted into a professional development opportunity that will greatly benefit me for my dissertation during this same time. This is solved by being a “virtual” presenter, sharing my paper for the conference, but unable to attend and visit again my neighbors to the north.

The First Nations and Indigenous Peoples stream looked especially rich and I am glad to have the opportunity to learn about the authors and work happening all over the world!

My conference entry, “Federal unenrollment impacts on scholar careers: A study on indigneous identity in academia” is linked here:


AERA 2012 gathering in Vancouver, BC

Academics, Presentations

This year marks my third year participating in the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, and my second time as a presenting author. First, the location was absolutely incredible. Despite living in the West my whole life, the only part of Canada that I previously visited was Montreal. The sparkling blue waterways and snow-capped mountains of Vancouver in British Colombia were stunning! Sources say that the sunny mid-seventies weather was unseasonably perfect as well.

Beyond the beauty of the landscape, this year’s meeting had a distinct indigenous presence. The opening plenary session featured Decolonizing Methodologies author Linda T. Smith and opening and closing prayers and songs with local indigenous graduate students and community members. A number of sessions featured indigenous scholars sharing important work happening across Indian Country.

Besides attending a number of great sessions, I presented in two. Like in 2011, I presented on ongoing work based on my graduate student researcher position. We took advantage of AERA’s new session type called ‘structured poster sessions’ to develop several posters focused on different aspects of our 5-year mathematics formative assessment NSF research and development grant. We had a large conference room that allowed us time to each speak to attendees about the work and then break out into small groups surrounding each poster for more individualized Q&A. Additionally, I had the pleasure of presenting my own research for the first time. My paper described my nearly complete M.A. research on indigenous scholar identity construction. I received great feedback for focusing the analysis and enjoyed the opportunity to begin engaging fellow educational scholars in dialogues about work that is very dear to me.

The final piece of news comes from the business meeting of the special interest group for indigenous peoples of the americas – it was approved that the program chair would work with two graduate assistants on the 2013 program. Over the next year, I will learn more about the process of structuring the conference sessions based on papers accepted by external reviewers. I am looking forward to 2013 already!