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Educational Research

Educational Research

27 March, 2016

Educational research refers to various methods, in which individuals evaluate different aspects of education including but not limited to: “student learning, teaching methods, teacher training, and classroom dynamics”.

Educational researchers have come to the agreement that, educational research must be conducted in a rigorous and systematic way, although what this implies is often debated. There are a variety of disciplines which are each present to some degree in educational research. These include psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. The interrelation in disciplines creates a broad range from which methodology can be drawn. The findings of educational research also need to be interpreted within the context in which they were discovered as they may not be applicable in every time or place.


  1. Basic approach
    Basic, or academic research focuses on the search for truth or the improvement of educational theory. Researchers with this background “design studies that can test, refine, modify, or develop theories”. Generally, these researchers are affiliated with an academic institution and are performing this research as part of their graduate or doctoral work.
  2. Applied approach

The pursuit of information that can be directly applied to practice is appropriately known as applied or contractual research. Researchers in this field are trying to find answers to existing educational problems. The approach is much more utilitarian as it strives to find information that will directly influence practice. Applied researchers are commissioned by a sponsor and are responsible for addressing the needs presented by this employer. The goal of this research is “to determine the applicability of educational theory and principles by testing hypotheses within specific settings”.


The following characteristics are from Gary Anderson’s Fundamentals of Educational Research:

Educational research attempts to solve a problem.

Research involves gathering new data from primary or first-hand sources or using existing data for a new purpose.

Research is based upon observable experience or empirical evidence.

Research demands accurate observation and description.

Research generally employs carefully designed procedures and rigorous analysis.

Research emphasizes the development of generalizations, principles or theories that will help in understanding, prediction and/or control.

Research requires expertise—familiarity with the field; competence in methodology; technical skill in collecting and analyzing the data.

Research attempts to find an objective, unbiased solution to the problem and takes great pains to validate the procedures employed.

Research is a deliberate and unhurried activity which is directional but often refines the problem or questions as the research progresses.

Research is carefully recorded and reported to other persons interested in the problem.


The foundation for educational research is the scientific method. The scientific method utilizes directed questions and manipulation of variables to systematically find information about the teaching and learning process. In this scenario questions are answered by the analysis of data that is collected specifically for the purpose of answering these questions. Hypotheses are written and subsequently proved or disproved by data which leads to the creation of new hypotheses. The two main types of data that are used under this method are qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative research
Qualitative research uses data which is descriptive in nature. Tools that educational researchers use in collecting qualitative data comprise: observations, conducting interviews, conducting document analysis, and analyzing participant products such as journals, diaries, images or blogs.

Types of qualitative research
    Case study
Phenomenological Research
Narrative Research
Historical Research

Quantitative research
Quantitative research uses data that is numerical and is based on the conjecture that the numbers will describe a single reality. Statistics are often applied to find relationships between variables.

Types of quantitative research
    Descriptive Survey Research
Experimental Research
Single – Subject Research
Causal – Comparative Research
Correlational Research

Combination methods
There are also a new school of thought that these derivatives of the scientific method are far too reductionistic in nature, since educational research involves other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, science, and philosophy and refers to work done in a wide variety of contexts it is proposed that researchers should use “multiple research approaches and theoretical constructs”. This could mean using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods as well as common methodology from the fields mentioned above. In social research this phenomenon is referred to as triangulation (social science). This idea is well summarized by the work of Barrow in his text an introduction to philosophy of education:

“Since educational issues are of many different kinds and logical types, it is to be expected that quite different types of research should be brought into play on different occasions. The question therefore is not whether research into teaching should be conducted by means of quantitative measures (on some such grounds as that they are more ‘objective’) or qualitative measures (on some such grounds as that they are more ‘insightful’), but what kind of research can sensibly be utilized to look into this particular aspect of teaching as opposed to that.”

Types of combined methods
    Action Research
Program Evaluation