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Should I Use a Control Group for the Life Effectiveness Questionnaire?

James Neill
Last updated:
15 Dec 2003


SHOULD I USE A CONTROL GROUP?

Control groups are notoriously difficult to get hold of in research and evaluation of naturally occurring intervention programs such as outdoor education programs.  And random assignment to groups is neigh impossible.  Occasionally there are great opportunities, such as when a school sends a random half of its students to a program one semester and the other half of the students in the next semester.  Most of the time, however, we have the situation of a program operating where it is difficult to identify and use a control group.  In these cases, three other forms of 'control' can be recommended:

(a) Baseline Measures: In this approach, we strive to use the group which will undergo an intervention as its own control, by collecting measures from the group prior to the intervention.  For example, by administering a pre-program assessment in the weeks or months prior to a program, and then a first day assessment, a control or baseline period showing no change can be obtained.  This makes subsequent evidence of any changes by the end of a program or at a followup assessment more convincingly attributable to the intervention and not just as a possible artifact of the testing process;

(b) Comparison Groups: Whilst a control group (who experiences no intervention) may be difficult to obtain, comparison groups are often more readily available.  A comparison group would be a similar group of participants who undertake a different type of intervention or program.  For example, a school may send some students to your outdoor education program whilst the other students go to the city and visit museums for a week.  When a comparison group is included in the study, meaningful comparisons can be made regarding the intervention program's relative strengths and weaknesses compared to what the comparison group experienced.

(c) International LEQ Outcomes Database: Particularly where a program has a pre-post design with no control or comparison groups, it is strongly advised that comparison be made between the program's results and an appropriate comparison group drawn from the International LEQ Outcomes Database which contains outcome results for over 3000 outdoor education participants.  To do this, you will need to contact James Neill.