Educational Research – Overview

Educational Research – Overview

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In this post, I will be drawing directly on Creswell, J. and Guetterman, T. (2019). Educational research : planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research to introduce some of the fundamentals of educational research.

We do research so that we can understand topics or concepts better. (p.3)

  1. It adds to our knowledge and the existing knowledge of other research which allows us to find solutions to problems that may arise in our educational setting.  It can fill gaps or advance what already exists.
  2. It suggests how to improve or evaluate our practice with new ideas and therefore become more efficient at teaching our learners.  (p.4)
  3. It helps make connections to other educators with common interests.
  4. It also helps policymakers make informed decisions.  As a result, it needs to be concise and based on evidence. (p.6)

However, research does not always produce these clear answers.  We read through lots of research looking for that key information that doesn’t come.  Yet, it still gradually develops over time.  Even if it doesn’t fit anywhere at first, it may further down the track.  Sometimes, research also was not carried out correctly, so results in dubious data regardless if it gets published or not. (p.7)

How is it done?

First of all, the core framework of doing research is a process of small steps that starts with a question, continues on to collecting data and finishes with answers. (p.3)  More specifically, based on a scientific method:

  1. Identify the research problem

This includes specifying the problem.  Here are some possible problems:

  • Teachers need to be able to place students into levels by looking at their work based on intuition which is unreliable and inefficient.
  • Students need to pass lexico-grammatical placement or entry tests that they have not been adequately prepared for.
  • Curriculum lacks adequate sequences of grammar and the vocabulary that collocates with that grammar, especially (when a textbook only approach has been proven to be problematic)
  • The English Grammar and Vocabulary profile offers a new resource that teachers and students do not know how to utilise.
  • Teachers are unsure which language points to teach.
  • Classrooms assume all students have the same language points covered.
  • Students must invest large amounts of money to attend classes in person.
  • Can what a large amount of students around the world do in their production be used to suggest the complexity of other student’s work?  In other words, can grammar complexity be located in a text as it is demonstrated in the complexity checker on this site?

Then we need to justify why it needs to be studied with evidence and finally, an audience that would benefit from reading the report is suggested.

2. Review literature

The literature review should build on what already exists on this topic.  It is problematic if there is nothing already out there, so don’t worry if the topic seems like it might just replicate prior findings.  (p.8)  As usual with these reviews that most students already know how to do, we need to synthesize key ideas across a range of dependable sources and not just summarising a list of articles.

3.  Specify a purpose for research

If the problem is too broad, this is where it must become more specific.  The extremely important purpose statement defines the intentions of the paper or what is hoped to be found and indicates what procedure (who will be in it, where etc.) will be used in the research. It can be called the research question or the hypothesis that will hopefully be answered.  (p.9)

4. Collect data

Evidence is needed to find answers.  If it will include asking people questions or watching how they behave, then permission needs to be obtained first.  This will lead to collecting test scores or frequency of behaviours which will get written into the method or procedures part of the paper.  (p.10)

5. Analyze and interpret the collected data

While collecting and after, this information needs to be presented as findings and summarised possibly as graphs, tables, images.

6. Report and evaluate research

After the research is done, the report must be written for the audiences.  It must be in the right format depending on the audience.   It will then be evaluated to decide on its strength.

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There are 2 main research paradigms:

  • Qualitative is more naturalistic and interprets data.  It’s more subjective and descriptive than predictive or about measurability.

A major characteristic is that it explores problems in detail to get a better understanding.  The literature review is less important since there is probably not much on the topic already.  Another characteristic of qualitative research is that the question is more open to catch the experiences of those interviewed.  It captures more words (sometimes images) of fewer people but in greater detail to get their views.  Finally, text analysis for themes and interpretation is a large part and bias is expected.

Qualitative research is best suited to address a research problem in which you do not know the variables and need to explore. The literature might yield little information about the phenomenon of study, and you need to learn more from participants through exploration. (p.16)

  • Quantitative is very much about numbers.  It’s more like scientific method.  It assumes that social facts can be measured and uses more deductive reasoning.

A main characteristic of the quantitative track is describing trends or relationships between variables which are attributes such as age, gender, an attitude etc.   It can attempt to explain why certain things happen.  It can check to see if factors can be predictors of outcomes.  The literature review is also much more important to justify the questions and identify the important variables and trends that direct the research.  The hypotheses are observable, more narrow or specific too.  The analysis compares predictions and past research with the current data.  The report and evaluation should be unbiased and objective. (p.13)

Here’s quite a clear summary of the main differences in this video:

There are 8 main designs of the research process: (p.20)

  1.  Experimental design or group comparison or intervention studies are often used by quantitative researchers to see if a difference can be made for learners or teachers.  Basically, you give one group an intervention and not the other and see if a difference results.
  2. Correlational design examines or measures the degree of the relations of variables in only one group.  The result of this type of quantitative research often attempts to see if one of these variables can predict another.
  3. Surveys can be used to describe trends in a population.  The people questioned is the sample.
  4. Grounded theory studies a number of individuals who have all experienced the same thing, not necessarily a “group” to develop an explanation grounded in the opinions of those interviewed.    From these experiences predictions can be made.

For the purposes of this website, and as an example for correlational design: to what degree can the “complexity checker” predict the level of the students.  This could be done using the Cambridge learner corpus through Sketch Engine.

REFERENCE

Creswell, J., & Guetterman, T. (2019). Educational research : planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (Sixth edition.). New York, NY: Pearson. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/qut/detail.action?docID=5812713

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