Research in Education: Causal Inference


Course Objective

This elective will introduce students to the possibilities and
challenges of doing research in real-world settings, using education as
the case in point. At the end of the course, students
• Can distinguish between the available different (quasi-)
experimental methods.
• Understand the strengths and weaknesses of these methods.
• Can empirically estimate (quasi-)experimental regression
• Can evaluate if studies provide sufficient evidence to allow
conclusions about causality
• Can form an opinion about a number of key debates in the
educational sciences

Course Content

Estimating the causal effects of innovations in the real world is truly
important and difficult: Once one leaves the confines of the lab,
it becomes much more difficult to distinguish causal relations from mere
correlational ones. A case in point is education. A change in an
educational program rarely occurs in isolation, and its consequences are
thus hard to assess.
In the course, you will learn a number of techniques developed to
identify causal effects in educational settings, such as RCTs,
Difference-in-Difference designs, Regression-discontinuity approaches,
natural experiments and statistical matching techniques. These
techniques can also be applied outside of educational sciences, but the
examples given will concern education.
This course provides you with the knowledge and empirical skills
necessary to identify whether educational programs are effective.
Moreover, you will apply these skills in some of the more prominent
debates in educational science to evaluate the evidence presented by
both sides.

Teaching Methods

Lectures, Seminars

Method of Assessment

Presentations, paper


R.J. Murnane & J.B. Willett (2011) Methods matter – Improving causal
inference in educational and social science research. Oxford University
Press ISBN: 978-0-19-975386-4.

Van Klaveren, C. & De Wolf, I. (2015). Systematic Reviews In Education
Research: When Do Effect Studies Provide Evidence? In: De Witte, K. ed.
Contemporary education issues from an economic perspective, Leuven
University Press. pp. 1-26

General Information

Course Code P_MRESED
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Fac. of Behavioural and Movement Science
Course Coordinator dr. C.P.B.J. van Klaveren
Examiner dr. C.P.B.J. van Klaveren
Teaching Staff dr. C.P.B.J. van Klaveren
dr. I. Cornelisz

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture