EP-ADS Doctoral Program: Sample Comprehensive Exam Questions

The following questions are examples of comprehensive exam questions.  For more information about comprehensive exams, please see the program handbook.

A.     Consider the challenges associated with measuring fidelity of implementation. Describe the origin of the concept and current conceptualizations. Explain various ways in which fidelity of implementation has been operationalized in the education literature. What are some of the complexities associated with measuring fidelity of implementation? What, if any, are the implications of fidelity of implementation for understanding internal validity, external validity, and causal inference? Finally, what are the implications of fidelity of implementation for practice and policy at the federal, state, and/or local levels?

B.    Describe the various ways that teacher quality has been operationalized to date.  For each, what evidence is available of impact on student achievement?  What evidence of measurement quality (i.e. reliability and validity) exists for measures of teacher quality?

C.   Selection bias poses a significant challenge to studies of teacher impacts on achievement. Given that teachers are not randomly assigned to schools, and students are not randomly assigned to teachers, what research designs can be useful for evaluating teacher impacts and attempts to improve those impacts?

D.   Define social competence in typically developing two and three year old children. What are the most common deviations from "the typical" in terms of special education intervention? How does social competence relate to social skill development and self-regulation? How might this be different for atypically developing children of this age?

E.    Single subject research designs are often used to examine the effectiveness of educational interventions with young children with disabilities. Like group designs, single subject research design can be conducted with sufficient rigor to draw firm conclusions about treatment effectiveness. In recent years, researchers have increasingly recognized the importance of establishing treatment fidelity. Define what is meant by treatment fidelity in the single subject research design literature. Explain how treatment fidelity is related to the quality of the research design, the dependent variable, the independent variable, external validity, and internal validity.

F. What is the role of connectedness in adolescent girls' development, and what are its theorized effects on self-esteem and risk-taking behaviors? Describe how connectedness is operationalized and distinguished from similar constructs such as relatedness, belonging, attachment, and social support.

G.  Discuss the use of after-school programs, including but not limited to sports programs, to facilitate the development of connectedness in adolescents. How has connectedness been operationalized in studies of/research on programs, interventions, and after-school settings? What best practices have been suggested for programs to help facilitate connectedness and its associated outcomes and what are the potential limitations of work in this area to date?

H. What does existing literature tell us about the roles of and interaction between contextual and individual risk factors for antisocial behavior? Specifically, what are key theoretical contentions and what is the related empirical support for neighborhood level, school setting, and family level (including family relationship qualities and parenting practices) interacting with individual characteristics in predicting antisocial behavior exhibition?

I. Examine the evidence for the value of multiple level programs over focused single level efforts noting the strength of the evidence and identifying key constraints and needed next studies to advance understanding about this.  

J. Education policy researchers are facing a bit of a puzzle.  Statistical and anecdotal evidence indicates that teachers are the single most important determinant of student outcomes under the influence of school systems.  Yet, few, if any, value-added analyses find any teacher attributes or interventions lead to improved student achievement.  Using your understanding of the process of educating children, the methodological issues in identifying causation, the structure of value-added empirical models and the content of most data bases employed in value-added analysis, explore why these efforts have yielded so little evidence of ways that policy could improve teachers or teaching. Illustrate your points with specific examples and reference to the literature. 

K.  Historically, research on socialization during adolescence has focused on either aspects and influences of parental relationships or aspects and influences of peer relationships. Bringing together the empirical and theoretical literatures from these two areas, discuss the demonstrated and potential moderating role of parental relationships in the peer influence process.  Include both risk and protection in your discussion. 

L. Considering Rich Lerner’s model of Positive Youth Development (PYD) and its proposed “5C’s”, use the empirical and theoretical literature to explain peer influence as part of that model or as a route through which positive development can occur within the 5 C’s model. Within your discussion consider the implications of that influence and its pathways for intervention programs.