Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Ben Domingue

Stanford University

Research Focus

Ben Domingue is interested in how student outcomes such as test scores are leveraged to inform our understanding of student learning and the efficacy of educational interventions. He has a particular interest in the technical issues that make it challenging to draw simple inferences from such outcomes and the complexities associated with constructing these outcomes from their constituent parts (i.e., psychometrics). As faculty director of PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education), he is also engaged in issues related to the education of California’s children.

My plans for the fellowship period

During my fellowship, I will conduct research on the ways we measure traits related to child development and the uses to which we put such measures. Measurement of such traits is essential to understanding child development and crafting appropriate interventions but also challenging to do in a way that, for example, is not inappropriately affected by other features of the child (e.g., their language background). My research is wide-ranging. Methodologically-focused studies will aim to, for example, improve understanding of item position effects which are increasingly important given the rise in adaptive testing. Other work will focus on refining our understanding of the effects of large-scale educational interventions via psychometrics. I will also conduct research utilizing such student outcomes; in particular, I plan to continue monitoring the effect of COVID on measures of children’s oral reading fluency.

Through my involvement with PACE, I will work to both improve education for children in California and to learn about practices and policies in California that may help children elsewhere. The fellowship will allow me to move nimbly so as to focus on emergent needs of California children; such needs are likely to be acute given the problems caused by the pandemic.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?

Work done during my fellowship will help refine the measurement approaches we use to understand child development. Research on such measurement issues is important and ongoing; measurement undergirds our ability to make inferences about development and the entire suite of educational interventions utilized with growing children and is constantly evolving given novel approaches for understanding what students know and can do. My work ranges across a number of issues in measurement—are measurement processes fair? can we use ancillary information to improve measurement processes? —that are all focused on improving measurement so as to subsequently improve interventions and outcomes for children.

I will also use such measures to study educational processes. For example, I will continue to provide crucial information on how the COVID pandemic has affected a central academic skill: reading. Our work on this topic can help policymakers calibrate the level of interventions related to reading for affected children and to also identify gaps that are emerging that may necessitate additional instructional support. Via my connection with PACE, a research center focused on education in California, I will be monitoring for occasions wherein research gaps are hindering our ability to serve children and aim to help fill them.