Behavioral Science in the Field: A New Model for Graduate Research Practicums | MIT J-WEL

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Behavioral Science in the Field: A New Model for Graduate Research Practicums

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Authors

  • Chaning Jang
    CSO Busara
  • George Kinyanjui
    Behavioral Economist University of Cape Town
  • Stuart Russell
    PhD Candidate, Political Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Lily L. Tsai
    Faculty Director, MIT Governance Lab; Ford Professor of Political Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kelly Zhang
    Research Affiliate, MIT Governance Lab Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Alisa Zomer
    Assistant Director, MIT Governance Lab Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Description

The "Behavioral Science in the Field" course, a collaboration between the MIT Governance Lab and the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, uses an interdisciplinary approach to train graduate students from MIT, other U.S. universities, and universities in East Africa in cutting-edge behavioral science research. 

Behavioral science uses innovative methods and data to better understand determinants of human behavior (for example, incentives for healthier eating, improved educational pedagogy, or effective policy design for public health compliance). Lab-in-the-field experiments, in particular, are one of the gold standards to test behavior using a method that most closely resembles real life. The Behavioral Science in the Field course has three tracks in economics, political science, and social psychology, all of which include training in the full cycle of lab-in-the-field research. The course syllabus is available online

In this seminar, we discuss lessons from the course pilot held in Kenya in early 2020, including progress on our key pedagogical outcomes: to test and iterate a new practicum model for students to complete a full research cycle (from ideation to field testing and data collection and analysis); to encourage innovative thinking beyond disciplinary boundaries; to provide U.S.-based students with substantive intellectual engagement with their African counterparts as peers; and to deliver training in behavioral sciences as a critical skill to bridge the gap between theory and practice with proven potential to achieve real-world impacts.

Following the presentation, a Q&A covers course outcomes, critical lessons learned, and recommendations for future iterations. 

Who should attend:

This talk is relevant for a range of faculty and researchers interested in new pedagogical models for graduate students, how to structure an intensive course from theory to research design to data collection. interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research (e.g., economics, political science, and social psychology), cutting-edge quantitative behavioral science methods (lab-in-the-field experiments), and cross-cultural exchange in the Global South. 

 

Topics: Real-World Contexts Case Studies Pedagogical Strategies

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