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Educational Research

Discussion Outline
•  Sources of knowledge
•  Educational research as scientific inquiry
•  Types of research designs
–  Quantitative
–  Qualitative
–  Analytical
–  Mixed methods
•  Functions of research
•  Research report formats
Sources of Knowledge
•  All of us frequently make decisions
related to our professional lives
– Some decisions are very, very
important, others quite trivial
– Some decisions are made in very
formal, deliberate manners, others quite
•  Where do we turn for such knowledge?
Sources of Knowledge
•  What is the likely basis upon which each
of the following questions could be
– What is the best way to relax, today?
– What are we going to do for the
holidays this year?
– What are the legal implications of the
new attendance policy?
Sources of Knowledge

•  Three legitimate sources for decisions

of this nature
–  Personal experience
–  Tradition
–  Authority
•  Characteristics of these sources
–  Idiosyncratic
–  Informal
–  Subjective in nature
Sources of Knowledge
•  What is the likely basis upon which each
of the following questions could be
– Will Gabrielle benefit by being held back
in the second grade next year?
– How many students should be
scheduled into Ms. North’s third grade
– Does block scheduling have an effect
upon students’ achievement?
Sources of Knowledge

•  Research is the most legitimate source for

questions of this nature
–  Research is a systematic process that is guided
by accepted procedures to establish credibility
•  Data collection
•  Data analysis
•  Interpretation
–  The systematic, testable, and objective nature of
research permits careful examination of the
process and results
Sources of Knowledge
•  Describe some of the more important
decisions you’ve made recently in
your work with students, faculty, or
•  On what basis did you rely to make
these decisions?
Research as Scientific Inquiry
•  Scientific inquiry is the search for
knowledge using recognized methods
in data collection, analysis, and
•  The purpose of scientific inquiry is to
develop knowledge
–  Describe phenomena
–  Examine empirical relationships between
or among phenomena
–  Test whether such relationships are causal
in nature
The basic steps of research...
Scientific and disciplined inquiry is an
orderly process, involving:
● recognition and identification of a topic to
be studied (“problem”)
● description and execution of procedures to
collection information (“method”)
● objective data (“analysis”)
● statement of findings (“results”)
Research as Scientific Inquiry

•  Knowledge is typically presented in the

form of theories
– A theory is a set of propositions that
explain the relationships among
– A theory is a means of simplifying and
understanding complex realities
•  Examples of learning theories
Educational Research

•  Lack of a single, appropriate

methodological approach to study
•  Two major approaches
– Quantitative
– Qualitative
Educational Research
•  Differentiating characteristics
–  Goals
•  Quantitative: tests theory, establishes facts,
shows relationships, predicts, or statistically
•  Qualitative: develops grounded theory,
develops understanding, describes multiple
realities, captures naturally occurring behavior
–  Research design
•  Quantitative: highly structured, formal, and
•  Qualitative: unstructured, flexible, evolving
Educational Research
•  Differentiating characteristics
–  Participants
•  Quantitative: many participants representative of the
groups from which they were chosen using probabilistic
sampling techniques
•  Qualitative: few participants chosen using non-
probabilistic sampling techniques for specific
characteristics of interest to the researchers
–  Data, data collection, and data analysis
•  Quantitative: numerical data collected at specific times
from tests or surveys and analyzed statistically
•  Qualitative: narrative data collected over a long period of
time from observations and interviews and analyzed
using interpretive techniques
Educational Research
•  Differentiating characteristics
–  Researcher’s role
•  Quantitative: detached, objective observers of
•  Qualitative: participant observers reporting
participant’s perspectives understood only
after developing long-term, close, trusting
relationships with participants
–  Context
•  Quantitative: manipulated and controlled
•  Qualitative: naturalistic settings
Types of Research Designs
Research Designs

Quantitative Qualitative Analytical Study Mixed Method

Case Study Concept Analysis

Non-Experimental Experimental

Phenomenaology Historical Analysis

Descriptive True Ethnography

Comparative Quasi Grounded Theory

Correlational Single Subject

Causal Comparative

Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008

Quantitative Designs
•  Two major categories
– Experimental
•  The investigation of causal effects
through direct manipulation of an
independent variable and control of
extraneous variables
– Non-experimental
•  The investigation of the current state of a
variable or the relationships, other than
causal, between variables
Quantitative Designs
•  An example of an experimental design
–  Randomly assign students to one of two classrooms
in which the same social studies unit is being taught.
Teach the first class using the traditional lecture
approach, the second class using co-operative
learning groups. Examine the achievement
differences between the two groups to see if the type
of “approach” to instruction had an effect.
–  This study is characterized by the investigation of
cause (instructional approach) and effect
(achievement), manipulation (choice of instructional
approach), and control (same unit being taught,
random assignment, etc.)
Quantitative Designs
•  Differentiating the three types of experimental
– True experimental
•  Random assignment of subjects to groups
– Quasi-experimental
•  Non-random assignment of subjects to
– Single subject
•  Non-random selection of a single subject
Quantitative Designs
•  Examples of non-experimental designs
–  Approximately 10% of Louisiana’s public school students
do not finish high school.
–  The GPA of students participating in extra-curricular
activities is higher than that of student who do not
–  Student attitude is moderately related to achievement
–  Several factors are related to the high dropout rate in
Louisiana. These include the student’s age, academic
record, repetition of grade(s), gender, and ethnicity.
–  These studies are characterized by descriptions (dropout
rate, GPA differences, opinions) or relationships (attitudes
and achievement, factors related to dropping out)
Quantitative Designs

•  Differentiating the four types of non-

experimental designs
–  Descriptive
•  Makes careful descriptions of the current situation or status of
a variable(s) of interest
–  Comparative
•  Compares two or more groups on some variable of interest
–  Correlational
•  Establishes a relationship (i.e., non-causal) between or
among variables
–  Ex-post-facto
•  Explores possible causes and effects among variables that
cannot be manipulated by the researcher.
Qualitative Designs

•  Much less precision in the definitions of

and distinctions between qualitative
designs in comparison to quantitative
•  Four major categories of designs
–  Case study
–  Phenomenology
–  Ethnography
–  Grounded theory
Qualitative Designs
•  Case Study
– An examination of a specific instance
of a phenomena in its natural context
viewed from the perspective of the
•  This study explored the meaning of “inclusion”
for three disabled students who had been
placed in a regular education setting.
•  This study examines in-depth a phenomena of
interest to the researcher (i.e., the meaning of
inclusion) in a natural context viewing it from
the participant’s perspectives
Qualitative Designs
•  Phenomenology
– A description of the meaning of an
•  The purpose of this study was to
examine the meaning of being “left out”
for an adolescent
•  This study examines in-depth the
experiences of being “left out” from the
perspectives of the adolescent
experiencing this phenomena
Qualitative Designs
•  Ethnography
–  A description the beliefs and practices of a
cultural or social group or system
•  The purpose of this study was to identify and
describe the conflicts that experienced second-
grade teachers encountered as they switched
from a traditional approach to teaching
mathematics to a constructivist-sociological
•  This study examines the beliefs and practices
of second grade teachers experiencing a
common phenomena related to their approach
to teaching
Three Es

• Enquire
• Examine
• Experience
Qualitative Designs
•  Grounded theory
–  A description of a conceptual understanding
of a particular phenomenon
•  The purpose of this study was to understand the
relationship of the bar to the teachers who
frequented it on Friday evenings. We found that
teachers used the bar to facilitate their movement
from “professional” to “personal” self.
•  This study examined a phenomena of interest to
the researcher (i.e., teachers congregating at a
particular bar on Friday evenings) and developed a
conceptual understanding of it.
Analytical Designs
•  Descriptions of historical, legal, or policy
issues through an analysis of documents, oral
histories, and relics
•  Two basic approaches
–  Concept analysis – the study of
educational concepts (e.g., co-operative
learning, leadership, etc.) to describe the
different meanings and the uses of the
–  Historical analysis – the systematic
collection and criticism of documents that
describe past events of relevance to
Analytical Designs

•  An example of a concept analysis

– The purpose of this study is to examine
the meanings and uses of the term
standards-based curriculum.
– This study examined the varied
meanings, interpretations, and uses of
an important curricular concept.
Analytical Designs

•  An example of an historical analysis

– The purpose of this study is to examine
the changes in standardized testing over
the last 40 years.
– This study addresses the historical
developments characterizing the use of
standardized tests over a 40 year
Mixed Method Designs
•  The use of quantitative and qualitative
designs and methods within a single
•  Allows the researcher to better match
the approach to gathering and
analyzing data to the research
•  Relative emphasis given to any
particular method varies widely
Action Research Design

•  Systematic investigation that aims to

improve professional practice/s
•  Emphasis on teachers, counselors, and
•  Brings together characteristics of
systematic inquiry and practice
Four Functions of Research

•  Basic: research designed to test or refine


•  Applied: research conducted in a field of

common practice and concerned with the
application and development of research
based knowledge
The research continuum…
laboratory field
pure evaluation
research research

theory current
development problems

why it works what works

produces concepts provides data

Four Functions of Research

•  Action: research designed to solve a specific

classroom or school problem, improve
practice, or make a decision at a single local

•  Evaluation: research designed to assess the

merit and worth or a specific practice in terms
of the values operating at a site
Educational Report Formats

•  Title and author

•  Abstract
•  Introduction
– Quantitative: specific research questions
– Qualitative: general problem statement
•  Review of the literature
– Quantitative: extensive
– Qualitative: brief
Educational Report Formats
•  Research problem statement or questions
– Quantitative: specific, narrow questions
and hypotheses
– Qualitative: general, foreshadowed
•  Method and design
– Quantitative: participants, instruments, and
– Qualitative: participants and settings/sites
Educational Report Formats

•  Results
– Quantitative: statistical explanations
– Qualitative: narrative descriptions
•  Discussion
•  Conclusions
•  References
Approaches to reasoning...
…developing generalizations from
a limited number of specific
observations or experiences
…highly dependent on the number
and representativeness of the
specific observations used to
make the generalization
Approaches to reasoning...

…developing specific predictions from
general principles, observations, or
…dependent on the truth of the
generalizations used as a basis for its
Relating reasoning with research methods…

pure laboratory work field work evaluation

research research

researcher researcher
objectivity intersubjectivity

logical positivism: post-structuralism:

factual depth

“snapshot” “portrait”