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Research Spotlight: Wei Li

Q & A with Wei Li, Assistant Professor in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

I am a quantitative researcher. My research centers on the development and application of experimental and quasi-experimental methods to address issues in education and policy studies. Currently, my methodological work focuses on the design and analysis of longitudinal interventions and multilevel cost-effectiveness studies. My substantive work encompasses research on class size effects, teacher effects, and the effectiveness of online learning and teaching. I am also interested in the evaluation of education and policy issues in China.

What makes your work interesting?

My methodological work helps applied researchers design rigorous educational interventions. For example, when educational researchers plan their experimental studies, they need to decide what the minimum required sample sizes (e.g., numbers of students, classroom, schools, etc.) are needed to identify the treatment effects with confidence. My work provides methods and free, user-friendly tools for applied researchers to compute the sample sizes when they design longitudinal experiments and multilevel cost-effectiveness studies. In particular, my work on cost-effectiveness analysis might be of interest to some researchers who are working on Institute of Education Sciences grant applications, which now require cost or cost-effectiveness analysis in the proposals.

I also serve as a quantitative methodologist on several intervention/evaluation studies. Working with my collaborators, we are using advanced quantitative methods (e.g., multilevel models, mediation and moderation analyses, experimental and quasi-experimental methods, etc.) to evaluate the causal effects of educational interventions, programs, and policies on student achievement and non-cognitive skills.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I have several methodological and applied projects in progress. First, working with Dr. Nianbo Dong, Dr. Rebecca Maynard, Dr. Ben Kelcey, and Dr. Jessaca Spybrook, we are developing new methods and tools for educational researchers to design and analyze randomized cost-effectiveness studies. This project has been funded by the National Science Foundation. Second, working with Dr. Spyros Konstantopoulos, we are working on developing sample size and statistical power computation methods and tools for longitudinal interventions. Third, working with my prior colleagues at the University of Alabama (Dr. Bryan Mann and Dr. Kevin Besnoy), we are evaluating the enrollment trends and effectiveness of the Alabama ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide) Virtual Learning program. Last, I am exploring the causal mechanism and heterogeneous treatment effects of class size reduction policy across countries using data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). I look forward to working with colleagues and students at UF on methodological and empirical studies.