Recently, I worked with a client on a grant proposal. In the RFP, the funder stipulated that the evaluation study should have a quasi-experimental design--that is, if a full-blown experimental design was not possible. (The randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, that you've heard bandied about take precedence.) As the emails went back and forth, I realized that the funder's expectations were opaque. It was an opportunity to educate my client. Here's a brief sponsored by UNICEF that explains what a quasi-experimental design is, when you might use one, and how. Take a look and let me know if you have questions or thoughts about how you might use the methods. I'd be curious to know.
I'm really excited about a research tool I discovered while setting up a project involving informal science education. It's called "photovoice." It's a qualitative method whereby participants take pictures of settings interesting or important to them and then describe or write about what's meaningful. The method has been used in public health ethnographies, such as the smoking habits of new fathers. Recently, it has surged with the prevalence of smart phones, no doubt. Lots of pockets have cameras in them.
I think middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students would be naturals. In a recent study, Behrendt & Machtmes used photovoice to evaluate student learning on a field trip. Check it out. I'd be interested to know what uses you find, what successes and pitfalls you encounter. Drop me a line.