Education is an integral aspect of every society and in an attempt to expand the frontiers of knowledge, educational research must become a priority. Educational research plays a vital role in the overall development of pedagogy, learning programs, and policy making.
What is educational research?
Education research is the field of scientific study that examines the processes of education and learning and the human attributes, interactions, organizations, and institutions that shape educational outcomes. Educational research encompasses the full spectrum of rigorous methods appropriate to the questions being asked and also drives the development of new tools and methods. W. Best defines educational research as that activity which is directed towards the development of a science of behavior in educational situations.
The main purpose of educational research is to expand the existing body of knowledge by providing solutions to different problems in pedagogy while improving teaching and learning practices. Many of the educational practices used in schools today have emerged from activities that resemble research techniques. Hence, as educators began to reason and apply information, to repeat and refine instructional methods, new facts and ideas previously unknown were obtained.
All educators can benefit from knowledge of the nature, techniques and procedures of scientific research. First, this knowledge is useful because these skills will enable classroom teachers and other professionals to use scientific methods to attack their own practical problems.
Second, research knowledge is essential because it can provide school personnel with the information needed to make objective decisions about curriculum, methods, administrative procedures, etc. Finally, thirdly, research knowledge allows the educator to be both a consumer and a producer of research.
It seems logical to assume that those who borrow from the reservoir of research will want to contribute to the growing supply of valid educational knowledge through research. School staff are in a key position to study the effects of new materials, methodology, and similar innovations on the learning process.
Research that actively involves the educator in a problem that has meaning for him or her, to the extent that the results can be directly applied to his or her teaching or administrative position, can substantially contribute to the improvement of the educational process.
Characteristics of education research
While educational research can take many forms and approaches, several characteristics define its process and approach. Some of these are listed below:
It aims to solve a specific problem.
Educational research adopts both primary and secondary research methods in its data collection process. This means that in educational research, the researcher relies on first-hand information sources and secondary data to reach an appropriate conclusion.
Educational research is based on empirical evidence. This is due to its mainly scientific approach.
Educational research is objective and accurate because it measures verifiable information.
In educational research, the researcher adopts specific methodologies, detailed procedures and analyses to arrive at the most objective answers.
Educational research findings are useful in developing principles and theories that provide a better understanding of urgent problems.
This research approach combines structured, semi-structured and unstructured questions to collect verifiable data from respondents.
Many educational research findings are documented for peer review prior to presentation.
Many educational research findings are documented for peer review prior to presentation.
Types of education research
Educational research can be broadly categorized into 3 that are descriptive research, correlational research, and experimental research. Each of these has distinct and overlapping characteristics.
In this type of educational research, the researcher simply seeks to collect data regarding the status quo or current situation of things. The core of descriptive research lies in defining the state and characteristics of the research subject that is being understudied. Because of its emphasis on the “what” of the situation, descriptive research can be described as an observational research method. In descriptive educational research, the researcher makes use of quantitative research methods that include surveys and questionnaires to collect the required data. Usually, descriptive educational research is the first step in solving a specific problem.
Examples of descriptive research
A reading program to help you understand students’ literacy levels
A study of student performance in the classroom
Research to collect data on students’ interests and preferences
From these examples, you will observe that the researcher does not need to create a simulation of the natural environment of the research subjects; rather, he observes them as they engage in their routines. Furthermore, the researcher is not concerned with creating a causal relationship between the research variables.
This is a type of educational research that seeks to understand the statistical relationship between two research variables. In correlational research, the researcher studies two variables with the intention of establishing a connection between them. Correlational research can be positive, negative, or nonexistent.
Positive correlation occurs when an increase in variable A leads to an increase in variable B, while negative correlation occurs when an increase in variable A results in a decrease in variable B. When a change in either variable does not trigger a successive change in the other, then the correlation is non-existent. Furthermore, in correlational educational research, the research does not need to alter the natural environment of the variables; that is, there is no need for external conditioning.
Examples of Correlational Research
Research to discover the relationship between student behaviors and classroom performance
A study on the relationship between students’ social skills and their learning behaviors
Experimental educational research is a research approach that seeks to establish the causal relationship between two variables in the research environment. It adopts quantitative research methods to determine cause and effect in terms of the research variables being studied.
Experimental educational research generally involves two groups: the control group and the experimental group. The researcher introduces some changes in the experimental group such as a change of environment or a catalyst, while the control group is left in its natural state. The introduction of these catalysts allows the researcher to determine the causal factor(s) of the experiment. At the heart of experimental educational research is the formulation of a hypothesis and, therefore, the overall design of the research is based on statistical analysis to approve or refute this hypothesis.
Examples of experimental research
A study to determine the best methods of teaching and learning in a school.
A study to understand how extracurricular activities affect the learning process
Research methods in education
Surveys / Questionnaires
A survey is a research method used to collect data from a predetermined audience about a specific research context. It usually consists of a set of standardized questions that help you better understand the audience’s experiences, thoughts, and behaviors. Surveys can be administered physically through paper forms, face-to-face conversations, telephone conversations, or online forms.
Online forms are easier to administer because they help you collect accurate data and also help you achieve a larger sample size. Creating your online survey on data collection platforms such as Formplus also allows you to easily analyze respondent data. To collect accurate data through your survey, you must first identify the research context and research subjects that would make up the data sample size.
An interview is a qualitative data collection method that helps you gather information from respondents by asking questions in a conversation. It is usually a face-to-face conversation with the research subjects in order to collect information that will be useful for the specific context of the research.
A structured interview is a type of interview that follows a premeditated sequence; that is, it uses a set of standardized questions to collect information from the research subjects. An unstructured interview is a type of interview that is fluid; that is, it is not directive. During a structured interview, the researcher does not make use of a set of predetermined questions, but rather asks questions spontaneously to collect relevant data from the respondents.
A semi-structured interview is the mid-point between structured and unstructured interviews. Here, the researcher makes use of a set of standardized questions; however, he or she still makes inquiries outside of these premeditated questions as the flow of conversations in the context of the research. Interview data can be collected using audio recorders, digital cameras, surveys, and questionnaires.
In the classroom, teachers can adopt this method to understand student behavior in different contexts. In quantitative observation, the researcher aims to collect statistical information from respondents and in qualitative information, the researcher aims to collect qualitative data from respondents. Qualitative observation can also be classified as participant or non-participant observation.
Steps to be developed
Like other types of research, educational research involves several steps. Following these steps allows the researcher to gather objective information and arrive at valid findings that are useful for the research context.
Clearly define the research problem.
Formulate your hypothesis. A hypothesis is the reasonable conjecture of the researcher based on the available evidence, which he seeks to prove in the course of the investigation.
Determine the methodology to be adopted. Educational research methods include interviews, surveys and questionnaires.
Collect data from research subjects using one or more educational research methods.
Analyze and interpret your data to arrive at valid findings.
Create your research report. A research report details the entire process of the systematic research plus the results of the research.
Research in education is fundamental for the general advancement of the different fields of study and learning, as a whole. Data in educational research can be collected through surveys and questionnaires, observation methods or interviews: structured, unstructured and semi-structured.
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