Researchers from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge have published an article on techniques for maintaining methodological integrity while working with clinical assistants who are remotely trained and monitored in the collection and reporting of data for aphasia research. The goals of the work are to present a structured methodology, describe its application in practice, and report on the effectiveness and benefits of the approach.
The researchers focus attention on 3 key issues: [i] remote qualification & selection of candidates; [ii] pre-service and in-service training; and [iii] ongoing supervision and coaching during active research data collection. Methods are described for addressing each component in turn. For example, during candidate qualification and selection, the authors employ telephone screenings, questionnaire completion, individual interviews, and review of mock interventions; in stage two, trainees study manuals, review training videos, record practice sessions and upload them to a secure website for subsequent investigator access and review; and during the supervision and coaching phase, the investigators review videotapes of remote personnel gathering data for research, compare observed behaviors with procedural specifications, and respond individually with feedback aimed at improving research fidelity.
The authors provide an account of these methods in practice. They report a study in which seven individuals were initially enrolled as remote assistant candidates. Following qualification review and mock performance analysis, the field of seven was winnowed down two clinical psychologists who advanced to training. These latter studied the manuals and videos, received mentoring and guidance from the investigators, and then began collecting data from subjects in videotaped sessions, which were reviewed for adherence to study protocols. Those data were entered into detailed spreadsheets available securely and asynchronously for review by investigators. The investigators provided specific feedback to remote personnel to ensure adherence to study protocols and maintain the quality of data records. Coaching and fidelity logs were maintained for both of the remote assistants, and content analysis shows that – over the four months of this activity – methodological integrity was eventually achieved and subsequently maintained, while episodes of investigator intervention to improve remote assistant performance dropped steadily over time in frequency, reaching zero by the study’s end.
For further reading: B. Mazumdar, N.J. Donovan, 2020,
Maintaining research fidelity: remote training and monitoring of clinical assistants in aphasia research. Ann. of Indian Acad. Neurol., 23(Suppl. 2): S130–S134, DOI: 10.4103/aian.AIAN_489_20