|| Definition of Educational Research || || Purposes of Educational Research|| Types of Educational Research || Approaches to Educational Research ||Characteristics of Educational Research || Limitations of Educational Research || Example || Course Overview Map ||

What is educational research? Different people may answer this same question quite differently.

First of all, let's clarify what is education. Education is usually associated with knowledge, disposition, skills, abilities, or in one word, power. For example, two chameleons were sitting on a limb that overlooked the window of a house. Inside t he house, a woman pressed a button on a spray can, and fourteen flies fell dead to the floor. "And that," stated the elder lizard, " is what an education will do for you". However, education and ignorance always go hand in hand; the more we learn, the m ore we find out how truly ignorant we are. Thus, education will never end.

But what is research then? Some may say research is re-searching, re-searching whatever you desire to. Think about a sufficiently large dark house. People may search the house again and again and they may find same things or different things at diffe rent times. Since no one really knows how big the dark house is and what exactly are inside it, re-searching can go on forever. This sounds like research is like chickens without their heads, but we do have our brains. Research is a systematic proc ess of collecting and logically analyzing information (data) for specific purpose, and the research methods (or methodology) are the ways one collects and analyzes data..

Now, here again: What is educational research? Let's find out!

Activity: Generate as many terms that you think are related to educational research, and develop a concept map to express the relations among them.

Definition of Educational Research

Educational research is disciplined inquiry in which different disciplines, including education, provide principles of research by which to collect and reason from data.

  1. Educational research demands the selection of a particular set of measured observations or facts from infinite possibilities.
  2. Educational research has developed a set of unique language and research methodology conventions.
  3. Educational research concerns a specific discipline--education.

Purposes of Educational Research

For any type of educational research, the ultimate goal is to advance knowledge about education phenomena and improve education practice. Findings of some educational research have more specific practical implications; less so for others. This is re lated to generalizability of educational research. Generalizability is the extent to which the findings of one study can be used in a variety of educational settings.

Types of Educational Research

Depending on the generalizability of research findings, educational research can be classified into three types: Basic research, Applied Research, and Evaluation Research.
Types of Educational Research
BasicAppliedEvaluation
Topic of ResearchEducational psychology, philosophy of education, sociology of education, educational economics, etc.Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, Educational Technology, Educational AdministrationMeasure and Evaluation, Program Development and Evaluation, Policy Studies, etc.
PurposeTo develop foundational theories about educationTo develop theories for improving specific practicesTo determine the efficiency of specific educational practices and develop related educational policies
Type of Discourse and Level of GeneralizabilityAbstract, most generalSpecific, Subject-specifically Generalizable Concrete, Least Generalizable
Intended UseAdd to the body of knowledgeAdd to the body of subject-specific knowledge and direct practicesAdvance methodology and facilitate Policy Making

Approaches to Educational Research

Approaches to Educational Research
OrientationQuantitativeQualitative
Assumptions about the WorldA single objective reality, i.e., measured by an instrumentMultiple realities depending on contexts
Research PurposeEstablish relationships between measured variablesUnderstanding a social situation from participants' perspectives
Research Methods and ProcessProcedures are planned before study beginsFlexible, design emerges as study progresses
Prototypical studyExperimental studyEthnographic study
Researcher's roleDetached from studyImmersed in the study
Importance of contextContext freedeeply contextualized
Source: McMillan and Schumacher (1997)

Characteristics of Educational Research

Characteristics of Educational Research
CharacteristicsQuantitativeQualitative
ObjectivityExplicit description of data collection and analysis proceduresExplicit description of data collection and analysis procedures
PrecisionMeasurement and statisticsDetailed description of phenomenon
VerificationReplicableExtension of understanding by others
Parsimonious explanationLeast complicated explanation preferredsummary generalizations
EmpiricismNumerical data Sources, data
Logical ReasoningPrimarily deductivePrimarily inductive
Probabilistic ThinkingStatement of statistical probabilityTentative synthesized interpretations
Source: McMillan and Schumacher (1997)

Limitations of Educational Research

like any other types of research, educational research has a number of limitations:

  1. Human subjects--Ethics of Educational Research;
  2. Changing contexts/institutions;
  3. Complexibility of Research Problems;
  4. Methodological Difficulties.

An Example

Let's examine one educational research study by applying the main ideas of today's discussion.

Integration of Technology into the Secondary Curriculum