Two years ago, I wrote a blogpost about the new Training School Program of the International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature (IGEL) and now I am happy to report we are creating a nice momentum. This past summer we organized two training schools, that were both received enthusiastically.

Our first training school – right before our biennial conference in Stavanger – was on the topic of Psychometrics. The aims of this Training School were to teach early career researchers coming from the Humanities the basics of psychometrics. This field of research is devoted to the development and validation of measuring instruments. We focused mainly on self-report instruments, but also introduced alternative measuring instruments. The participants learned – through lectures and hands-on sessions – to design a questionnaire based on qualitative data; to analyze and reduce the data using exploratory factor analysis; and to validate their resulting scale using confirmatory factor analysis. Together with Arthur Jacobs, Emy Koopman, Don Kuiken and Jana Lüdtke, I provided the lectures and hands-on sessions.

What was great to see was that apart from learning these new methodologies, the participants also were able to find their own peers. I should explain. The field of empirical literary studies is not established in a traditional way: most of the PhD students in our field are employed at humanities departments where running experiments and statistical data analyses are not common practices. Often these students have to find their own way, which can be rather lonely if you are the only student in a department conducting empirical research. This is exactly what IGEL training schools are for: providing these students with the training they need to successfully complete their PhD research. Providing the students with a peer-to-peer support system was an added bonus that, to be honest, we had not anticipated. But, wow, I was glad to see it happen!

For the second training school, my colleague Gerhard Lauer and I went back to Aachen – I wrote a blogpost on the lecture I gave there last year at this wonderful new group Art GogLit – to teach a four day training school on Empirical Methods for the Humanities. I have given this type of training school a couple of times now, and I am always excited to do it. Being asked to give this course, means there is new interest coming from Humanities departments to learn empirical methods and statistics, to take a step forward in restructuring their views on what the Humanities are and how we should teach our students. This group of students was particularly motivated and really really good!! I am excited to see the Ma-theses and PhD projects that will be written by these participants! It is always great to welcome new people to our IGEL community.

Speaking of which: if you haven’t done it yet, go check out IGEL’s new website. It is shaping up to be a great resource on everything empirical literary studies. Also, it will keep you up to date on when our next training schools will be organized.


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