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USC Shoah Foundation to Conduct First Large-Scale Quantitative Study of IWitness

USC Shoah Foundation will soon begin recruiting teachers to participate in its first-ever large-scale quantitative study of its educational website IWitness. The study will examine IWitness’s effectiveness in developing students’ capacity to become more responsible participants in civil society through the educational use of genocide survivor and witness testimony.

The Institute’s evaluation staff has previously conducted evaluation of IWitness by working with small groups of IWitness users, usually a single classroom up to two or three classrooms at a time. Students and teachers fill out pre- and post-surveys to determine how participating in an IWitness activity impacted them, and also participate in focus groups to give feedback. In addition, classrooms are observed during the activity and an analysis of student work is conducted to get a full picture of students’ engagement with the activity.

However, the new study is purely quantitative, meaning teachers and students will primarily respond to pre- and post-survey questions using a number scale with a few additional open-ended questions. The study will also be larger than any other, with the goal of recruiting 25 teachers to participate with their students. Taking a broad look at several classrooms with a large number of participants will help evaluation staff to see the overall trends among IWitness users.

There are three primary goals for the study.

First, the study will provide important data about the use of IWitness and its potential impacts on students’ development of the IWitness learning outcomes. The pre- and post-survey questions will determine how the use of testimony (through a structured IWitness activity) helps students develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will help them to become more responsible participants of civil society.

A student does the IWitness activity "Finding Your Seat on the Bus"The larger data pool will also provide a more definitive assessment of students’ gains and the effectiveness of IWitness than the previous smaller studies, and will be used to validate conclusions from those studies.

Finally, the results of the study, and its implementation, will help inform and develop USC Shoah Foundation’s future quantitative studies.

USC Shoah Foundation will reach out to IWitness users (middle and high school teachers) for volunteers to participate in the study within a time frame of February to June 2017. All participating teachers will receive a $50 incentive.

They will be asked to complete either the “My Story Matters: Power of Story” activity or “Finding Your Seat on the Bus” activity in their classroom, receiving a virtual professional development session before they complete the activity.

Both the teacher and his or her students will complete a pre-survey before doing the activity, and a post-survey after they have finished.

My Story Matters: Power of Story introduces students to the power of personal stories to encourage respect and tolerance. Students write their own six-word stories at the end of the activity. Finding Your Seat on the Bus teaches students about being active, responsible participants in society and the importance of standing up for themselves. At the end of the activity, students write acrostic poems about grit, resilience and determination. In both activities, students watch clips of genocide survivor testimony from the Visual History Archive.

By including two activities in the study, USC Shoah Foundation evaluation staff will see if there are any major differences in student outcomes depending on the activity, or if students experience positive gains regardless of the specifics of the activity.

Once the data has been collected, USC Shoah Foundation will analyze the findings and present its conclusions in summer 2017.

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