March 2018 Brown Bag: “Missing Children in Educational Research: Issues with Representation and Large-Scale Data in India” – part of The Digital Nexus: The Promise and Perils of “Big Data” and Global Informatics series. Presented by Dr. Melissa Rae Goodnight.
Description: The presentation addressed the challenges with monitoring national education systems using large-scale data. Based on a study conducted with Savitri Bobde, Dr. Goodnight demonstrated how certain types of children are systematically underrepresented in India’s large-scale data while describing factors that contribute to this underrepresentation. The presentation explored an alternative approach to producing education data: conducting data collection in households rather than schools. Throughout her analysis, Dr. Goodnight highlighted the importance of understanding the Indian context in making sound sampling decisions. Specifically, the choice of research site for collecting data (i.e., schools or households) not only impacts the representativeness of data but also determines the types of education data that can be collected accurately (i.e., reliably and with validity). For instance, it is typically easier to collect accurate data on a mother’s education level from the home whereas it is generally better to collect data on teaching practices from the school. In terms of using large-scale learning data toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning,” these sampling decisions are paramount to producing data that accurately represent all children and highlight their needs and participation in the education system. The study found that the children typically omitted in India’s large-scale education data tend to be the most socially marginalized and underserved by its education system.
Bio: Dr. Melissa Rae Goodnight is a Lecturer in Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a PhD in education from the University of California Los Angeles with an emphasis in comparative and international education. Her research and teaching interests include human rights and social justice philosophy, research design and methods, evaluation, policy, and education for underserved and historically marginalized communities. Most of Dr. Goodnight’s recent research has been conducted in India and has focused on issues of quality and equity in its rural primary education system. Her upcoming study explores the influence that women’s participation in rural fieldwork has on gender relations within different states of India.