Analyzing Complex Longitudinal Data in Educational Research: A Demonstration With Project English Language and Literacy Acquisition (ELLA) Data Using xxM.
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When analyzing complex longitudinal data, especially data from different educational settings, researchers generally focus only on the mean part (i.e., the regression coefficients), ignoring the equally important random part (i.e., the random effect variances) of the model. By using Project English Language and Literacy Acquisition (ELLA) data, we demonstrated the importance of taking the complex data structure into account by carefully specifying the random part of the model, showing that not only can it affect the variance estimates, the standard errors, and the tests of significance of the regression coefficients, it also can offer different perspectives of the data, such as information related to the developmental process. We used xxM (Mehta, 2013), which can flexibly estimate different grade-level variances separately and the potential carryover effect from each grade factor to the later time measures. Implications of the findings and limitations of the study are discussed.