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Al Qasimi Foundation | Research | Capacity | Soohyun Jeon

Al Qasimi Foundation Expands Evaluation Capacity with Addition of Senior Fellow

Al Qasimi Foundation
June 14, 2015

In Ras Al Khaimah, the Al Qasimi Foundation has been leading research efforts in the areas of education, public health, and urban planning for more than five years. As the organization has continued to grow, so too have the demands for more internal and external research capacity, particularly in the area of evaluation.

With that in mind, the Foundation, already a regional think tank leader, has expanded and diversified its in-house research capacity with the addition of Dr. Soohyun Jeon.

With a PhD in psychological and quantitative foundations, Dr. Jeon joins the Foundation in the senior role of Research Fellow. The South Korean native brings with her a keen balance of theoretical and practical expertise gained as a professor and researcher—making her an asset to both the Foundation’s research and capacity development efforts.

“In order to keep the quality of our research and our programs high, we needed a researcher whose strengths include the statistical analysis of educational outcomes,” explains Dr. Ridge, “and that’s what we found in Dr. Jeon.”

“My interest lies in student motivation and the roles that teachers and parents play in student engagement,” says Dr. Jeon. “and I’m very happy to be in Ras Al Khaimah, which is a unique educational context. Right now, I’m still putting energy into learning about the emirate, because educational models always have to be implemented and evaluated in terms of relevant cultural contexts.”

Dr. Jeon is already contributing to regional studies that the Foundation is conducting, but has also begun leading the organization’s internal evaluations of its capacity development initiatives, particularly its teacher professional development offerings and the pilot Hands on Learning (HOL) program.

Successful evaluations require access to the right data for analysis. Existing data along with improved processes for responsible data collection are being put into place by Dr. Jeon and the research team in order to ensure that they have reliable data for future evaluations.

Evaluations of both the teacher professional development and HOL initiatives will help the Al Qasimi Foundation to understand whether those programs are improving teacher quality and student outcomes in Ras Al Khaimah classrooms while remaining appropriate for the local cultural context.

“In educational evaluation studies like these, we must keep in mind that, ideally, student outcomes should reflect a balance between academic achievement and psychosocial adjustment,” says Dr. Jeon.

Dr. Jeon is paying special attention to the fledgling HOL initiative. Data from pre-term, mid-term, and end-of-program surveys compare HOL students to a control group in terms of metrics that include their attendance, grades, classroom engagement, and psychological adjustment.

The Foundation’s mandate is to promote the economic, social, and cultural development of its emirate, and this holistic perspective—as illustrated by its HOL evaluations—characterizes its commitment to individual students and educators as well.

Ms. Soha Shami, a Research Associate at the Foundation, helped to establish the HOL program and its evaluation processes since it began in 2013.

“Although our team has anecdotal evidence that students are more motivated to attend and perform at school since they have become a part of HOL,” she says, “it is imperative that we gather and process data to give us accurate representations of how HOL may have affected students in its first year, both in terms of academic performance and mental resilience.”

The Foundation strives to ensure that any educational policy recommendations it makes—whether related to teachers, students, or families—are tailored to the context of our emirate and nation because they are based on regional research findings.

“This goal is ambitious,” says Dr. Ridge, “but we have to conduct internal evaluations because they contribute insight to our plans for the future educational development of this region. Adding a member like Dr. Jeon to our research team should improve our educational service delivery in the future.”