Research rescue: Designing flexible and resilient projects for uncertain times

Dayna DeFeo
Director, Center for Alaska Education Policy Research
University of Alaska Anchorage

When the best-laid plans are interrupted by forces external to your project, how can you recover your research agenda? In our 3-year IUSE level 1 grant, our campus experienced a major earthquake, the Board of Regents suspended admissions to one of our focal majors, the institution declared fiscal exigency (the non-profit equivalent of bankruptcy), and the world experienced a pandemic. While we were able to implement the newly designed curriculum (which has been taught online since it was adopted), the assumption underlying our research – that we could make and test the impact of a curricular change because the context for teaching and learning would remain constant – was obliterated. Yet we were able to publish two peer-reviewed manuscripts, and we anticipate two more before the end of our no-cost extension. In this workshop, we will share how our mixed-methods and comparative research designs (along with good communication, a helpful advisory board, and a sense of humor) allowed us to pivot from our original project and make a meaningful research contribution, albeit different from the one we originally intended. Attendees will consider how they can build flexibility into a multi-year implementation project without compromising high-quality data collection.