Deciding if an RCT is Appropriate
The purpose of a randomized control trial, or RCT, is to learn whether an intervention causes improved outcomes for students. However, not all interventions are ready or appropriate for an RCT.
In preparation for an RCT, it is perhaps most important to be certain that the intervention is well defined. A clear understanding of the role of each participant as well as creating expectation of the goals and how they will be measured, must be established before it’s time to for an RCT.
Also, before conducting the RCT, there should be evidence supporting the intervention’s association with improved student outcomes. Evidence of a positive correlation between student participation and the desired outcome might come from anecdotes of other similarly situated schools or districts who have tried it before.
Conducting a pilot study will also yield helpful data. Remember though, that positive correlations do not mean that the intervention caused the outcome but these correlations might suggest that further study is warranted.
Finally, an RCT is only possible if there is political support for the work. Ideally, this support already exists but it can also be cultivated. You may need to educate school board members, principals, teachers, or parents about the benefits of your proposed RCT.
For more information about determining if an intervention is appropriate for this kind of evaluation and about other aspects of implementing a high quality RCT, see the Evaluating What Works website or email Kristin Klopfenstein.
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