The typical day for an educational researcher varies because they study a wide range of topics and work in different organizations. They may be employed by public schools, private colleges or teaching companies. They all follow the scientific inquiry model to systematically explore and methodically resolve educational problems. Educational research involves issues such as district policy, classroom dimensions and quality enhancements.
What’s the Purpose?
Educational research is grounded in intellectual curiosity, empirical disciplines and evidence-based practices. There are many valid reasons for pursuing educational research, such as improving classroom practices, teaching techniques and student learning outcomes. Sometimes, the purpose is to investigate existing research to find new correlations, possibilities and theories. Educational research helps educators share experiences, disseminate knowledge and document institutional successes and failures. The research outcomes help to improve student retention, dropout, enrollment and engagement.
Educational researchers may start out by selecting a descriptive or explanatory focus. If they choose descriptive, they will want to describe a group sample, situation or organization. Sample areas include seeking evidence of technique effectiveness or student misconceptions about distance education. An explanatory focus will identify and derive assertions, inferences and relationships based on variables. This could be which online discussions trigger the most engagement or what study habits contribute the best results.
An educational researcher who works for a university may design a study that examines the peer review process of academics. They may scale how students are more critical of other peers’ work and what perceptions and factors cause critical intensity. Going even deeper, they may ask: how do critical thinking processes influence someone’s writing? An educational research may simply document which primary reference sources a humanities department prefers, such as Google Books or the National Archives.
An educational researcher may be employed by a hospital system to conduct a long-term investigation into the teaching efficacy of an on-site health sciences training program. The hospital executives may want to identify which teaching methods at the different hospital facilities are the most effective for achieving learning outcomes. The educational researcher could conduct a qualitative survey of students’ opinions about activities, textbooks and hands-on learning workshops. The educational researcher could then compare the results to white papers published by other experts.
How is Research Done?
Educational researchers use qualitative and quantitative methods to gather information. Qualitative research methods use observations, interviews, case study’s and focus groups. Interviews provide immediate responses and detailed questions, but the results can be subjective and generalized. Focus groups explore a given theme through a guided discussion. They allow researchers to explore group dynamics, but can sometimes get off track. Quantitative data research includes surveys, test scores, questionnaires, experiments and content analysis.
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Educational researchers usually have a master’s degree with specialized training in scientific methodologies, analytical writing and data collection techniques. Anyone interested in learning more about educational research can visit the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) website and Sage Journal’s Review of Educational Research (RER) page.