Campus News Faculty Spotlight

Making the most of educational assessments

Matthew Madison is an assistant professor in the University of Georgia Mary Frances Early College of Education’s department of educational psychology. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Matthew Madison focuses on statistics, data science

When speaking to Matthew Madison, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia Mary Frances Early College of Education’s department of educational psychology, it’s evident that he’s passionate about three things: his family, research and teaching.

Madison, who received a Ph.D. in 2016 from the college’s department of educational psychology, conducts research to help educators get the most out of educational assessments, which are the methods and instruments used to measure student knowledge like standardized tests.

“I spend a lot of time developing authentic assessments and giving students the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned in different ways such as projects, data visualizations, oral presentations and written reports,” he said. “As a teacher, I think about the types of information I need to be the best educator that I can be and what types of information students need to be active in their learning.”

To help teachers obtain useful information from these assessments, Madison uses statistics and data science. K-12 teachers are often required to teach content standards, but large-scale assessments are not designed to provide results at the standards level. To help teachers make the most impact on day-to-day learning, Madison employs statistical models to identify students’ specific strengths and weaknesses at the standards level.

Specifically, Madison’s research looks at the modeling of formative and intermediate assessments used throughout learning, not just at the end of a course. This aspect of research inspires his teaching, as he looks for creative ways to assess students’ progress toward achieving course learning objectives.

His favorite course to teach at UGA is introduction to statistics because it attracts students from diverse programs and areas of study.

“The students bring different backgrounds, practical experiences and research perspectives to the course,” he said. “I really enjoy getting these students excited about statistics and showing them how useful it can be in their research.”

As a graduate student, Madison wanted to join a doctoral program that focused on educational measurement and an advisor who viewed educational assessment through an educator’s lens. He found that at UGA in Triple Dawg Laine Bradshaw, an associate professor in the college’s department of educational psychology.

“In 2015, while completing my dissertation, my first daughter, Maya, was born,” he said. “We lived in UGA’s graduate housing. I remember coming home after successfully defending my dissertation and holding her and thanking her for sleeping through the night so I could work. Having a child while in graduate school was one of the greatest and most memorable experiences.”

Previously, Madison worked as an assistant professor at Clemson University and the University of California, Los Angeles. When he received an offer to join UGA as a faculty member, he was overjoyed at the idea of returning to UGA and using his research and teaching to inspire students.

“I hope that students gain confidence in doing statistics and learn that there is no such thing as a ‘math person’—everybody can learn and do statistics,” he said. “I hope they gain a broader perspective on research and data analysis. And I hope they learn to use all the tools available to study the things they are passionate about.”