UW–Madison’s David Williamson Shaffer, YJ Kim to tour Asia and offer research ‘master class’

Two faculty from the UW–Madison School of Education are heading Asia to offer “master classes” on an innovative research methodology developed at UW–Madison. 

In a series of seven workshops and lectures across Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur, David Williamson Shaffer, the Sears Bascom Professor of Learning Analytics in the Department of Educational Psychology, and YJ Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will give researchers hands-on opportunities to learn about the methods and potential applications of quantitative ethnography (QE).  

David Williamson Shaffer

Established by Shaffer with funding from the National Science Foundation, QE unifies statistical and qualitative research methods to help researchers use the power of “big data” to build models of complex and collaborative human activity that are more accurate, more fair, and more insightful.

Since the publication of Shaffer’s book, “Quantitative Ethnography,” in 2017, his Epistemic Analytics Lab has interacted with more than 300 researchers from 70 institutions in 30 countries. Those researchers’ work spans a wide range of fields, including anthropology, engineering, environmental science, learning sciences, medicine, and statistics.

Led by Kim and Brendan Eagan, a research scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, the QE Masterclass Series is designed to help researchers acquire the skills they need to participate in the fourth International Conference for Quantitative Ethnography (ICQE23) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. 

“It is often hard for researchers in China, East Asia, and Australia to go to conferences due to the time and cost involved in coming to North America,” says Eagan. “We’re excited that ICQE23 will be in Melbourne, and we want to make it easy for scholars around the world to learn about this exciting research method.”

Shaffer says he is looking forward to meeting new colleagues in the workshops and at the conference, which will be held in October.

“This is a very welcoming community,” he says. “One of my favorite things about talking with people who are new to QE is that I learn so much. Every time someone asks a new question or uses a new kind of data there are new things to understand about how students learn and how we can model their learning processes.”

Kim is excited about this opportunity to connect and reconnect with researchers in the Asia-Pacific region and introduce how she has been applying QE in her own game-based learning and assessment research.  


“I am always looking for ways to connect with my own roots as a South Korean researcher who works in the US context,” Kim says. “I hope this tour will offer us an opportunity to learn about the different challenges that colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region wrestle with and provide new insights for how we can further advance QE methods.”

Shaffer, Kim, and Eagan will be joined for the workshop and lecture series by Zachari Swiecki, a lecturer at Monash University who earned a PhD in educational psychology from UW-Madison.

You can learn more about QE from the International Society for Quantitative Ethnography website, which has links to resources, webinars, data challenges, and other community activities.

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