In the Science Directorate

Advanced Training Institute Courses Immerse Scientists in Innovative Methodologies

More than 100 psychologists, behavioral scientists and graduate students participated in these informative courses.

By Nicolle Singer

APA’s four Advanced Training Institutes (ATI) of 2009 are now complete. More than 100 psychologists and other behavioral scientists, including advanced graduate students, took part in these informative courses sponsored by the APA Science Directorate.

Participants in each ATI arrived for their week of intense study ready to hit the ground running. Before each course began, they had already received a list of recommended readings and a short biography of each participant and instructor. After travelling from across the state, country, or internationally, participants settled into hotels—for which APA arranged special discounted rates—the day before the start of each course.

The first three programs of the summer took place in June. The University of Cincinnati hosted its popular course "Non-Linear Methods for Psychological Science" (June 8-12). This ATI provided a thorough introduction to a variety of non-linear and dynamical methods. This family of methods is becoming increasingly prominent within psychology and related disciplines, and many participants arrived with ideas about ways to incorporate them into their research. Specific topics at this ATI included time series analysis, recurrence quantification analysis, fractal analysis, and dispersion analysis. In addition to lectures and discussion, the course included hands-on experiences in which participants practiced using advanced software, made available by the instructors, and had the opportunity to consult with the instructors about their own projects.

The second ATI of the summer on “Research Methods with Diverse Racial & Ethnic Groups” (June 22-26) was also enthusiastically received. Michigan State University’s Center for Multicultural Psychology Research hosted this course, which drew an eager group of researchers interested in learning the best ways to conduct sensitive and appropriate research with diverse populations. The nine expert instructors discussed research methods in their areas during lectures and discussion sessions. Sessions covered such topics as quantitative and qualitative methods, the why’s and why-not’s of web-based data collection, measurement equivalence and invariance across diverse groups, and methodological issues in areas ranging from genomics to HIV prevention. Participants also collaborated on group projects during a portion of each day and discussed their plans with faculty and the entire class on the last day of the course.

The University of Virginia was once again the site of the third ATI of the summer, “Structural Equation Modeling in Longitudinal Research” (June 29-July 3). Because participants in this course were currently using structural equation modeling (SEM) in their research or had firm plans to begin using these methods, interest was intense and questions flowed freely. The workshop included classroom lectures, demonstrations, and lab time with instructors ready to answer individual questions. After an in-depth overview of the principles and practice of SEM, instructors discussed increasingly advanced topics with the group. Participants were encouraged to bring along their own data and research problems to the ATI, and have reported that the hands-on nature of the program and interactions with the instructors was very beneficial -- above and beyond what they can learn from a written text alone.

A new ATI was held on July 20-24 on “Exploratory Data Mining in Behavioral Research” at the University of Southern California. This course provided an overview of recent advances in exploratory data mining for the analysis of psychological and behavioral data, including both general principles and specific techniques. Participants were encouraged to bring their own data to work on in consultation with the instructors, and this one-on-one time was again reported to be very valuable. In addition to lectures and discussion, participants had time to experiment with the data mining computer programs and develop their own new projects. Jack McArdle of USC directed the ATI and co-taught it with other faculty from US and European universities.

The Science Directorate looks forward to building upon the success of these programs with the 2010 line-up of ATIs, which will be announced this winter. To learn about next summer’s ATIs, visit the website or contact us by email. The programs will be announced in PSA as soon as they are made final.