Final summary: Argentina and the year ahead

Well, I’m finally back on campus after 6 months in Argentina and several weeks of hurried unpacking, repacking, moving, and organizing all my research materials. Because I had a limited time abroad, I focused all my energy while there on finding sources for my research project about the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. I ended up with thousands of newspaper articles, hundreds of historical documents from police archives, sources from the Madres, politicians, activists and victims, and of course months’ worth of personal experience to contextualize my project.

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Reading dictators’ documents

In my last post, I talked about my frustration with not being able to find media sources from during Argentina’s last dictatorship that talked about the activities of human rights organizers such as the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. The press was ordered by the government not to report on protests and civil disobedience, so there is extremely unfair reporting on and representation of groups such as the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in these public sources.

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If I were to re-do my summer research knowing what I know now, I would make several changes. I believe that, overall, the study I conducted was successful. However, for the future success of this research (if other researchers go back to replicate this work over a period of years), I would make a few suggestions. The biggest aspect of this project that I would change is the way in which we gave the students the surveys and exams. In the future, I would do it over a period of days so that if a student for whatever reason cannot make the single day chosen for evaluation, he or she can still be included in the study. Furthermore, I believe this would be a better use of resources, as it might cut down on transportation costs (if researchers went to the student, they would have to make less trips and would not have to reimburse participants for travel). Another issue I experienced was that even though my group attempted to train the RAs we worked with as thoroughly as possible, it seems as though not all of the instructions translated into practice. I think that although it is a large expense, holding multiple training sessions would be a worthwhile investment so as to avoid as much skewing of results as possible.

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After the evaluation day, there was what seemed like endless data to look over. We had over 75 copies of tests, art projects, and surveys, and some of them had ID numbers that did not match student names, not to mention a few duplicate copies (which could either be due to a student impersonating another student or one student taking an assessment twice – which begs the question of which copy to include in the data set). My partners and I logged in all of the data manually while in Liberia. Once we returned to the U.S., we scanned all of the documents into a password-protected Dropbox folder so as to have secure soft copies of the information. Then, it was time to analyze.  Not only did MFA students score better on the purely academic exam, they also scored higher on the gender section of the survey. The academic exam consisted of three different sections: 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, and each included math, science, and English questions. We based the questions we included off of past MFA and B. W. Harris questions that we obtained through each school’s administration, making sure to change each one so as to not give MFA or B. W. Harris students an advantage.

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On the day that I conducted my research I experienced several challenges. Overall, though, I believe that the study was successful and allowed me to expand vastly my knowledge of research and development in developing countries. To prepare for the evaluation day, my partners and I trained 18 Research Assistants (RAs) on how we wanted them to administer each section of the surveys and exams. Many students as well as RAs showed up late to the site of the research, causing confusion and an inability to keep track of who still needed to take which assessment. However, we ended the day with an almost-complete set of both surveys and exams. In addition, it rained extremely heavily on the evaluation day. This impeded me in multiple ways. Most significantly, we planned on allowing students to play football while waiting to take different assessments or if they had finished. I also planned to play several games with the students to make the day more enjoyable and to create a more comfortable, laid-back environment. Both of these plans were hampered by the rain, although many students did end up playing football in the rain. In addition, I believe that the heavy rain might have contributed to some students not attending. Other than these setbacks, the evaluation day went well. I collected valuable data in a way that was appropriate for both the age and culture of the participants, which was ultimately the goal of this day.