Standard 11 Inquiry/Research: Competently consumes and produces where necessary empirical data to guide educational practice.
The major goal of EDU 6975 [Ed Research I] was to provide students with an overview of research terms and concepts coupled with practical experience writing the first four sections of a research paper. Through this process, I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of being a critical consumer of research through an enriched understanding of research methodology as well as how to conduct an electronic literature search.
To develop an understanding of the role of research in education.
The text Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer addressed the question of the role of research in education, in particular the difference in other possible sources of knowing such as personal experience, tradition and authority. McMillan (2012) described personal experience, tradition, and authority as limited ways of knowing, reflecting on the limitations that this means of knowing would place on our educational practices. For example, though many teacher base decisions on personal experience, this makes us vulnerable to bias as our own observations (no matter how hard we try to be objective) are based on our perceptions. According to McMillan, we make mistakes in our observations and have a natural inclination to protect our own self-interests, self-esteem, and ego.
I also expanded my understanding of quantitative and qualitative research, when one methodology would be used in lieu of the other, and when a mixed method would be best. Though both Research I and Research II focuses on quantitative research, McMillan (2012) states that there are limitations to using a quantitative research framework in educational settings:
- Conceptually conservative; does not generate new theories and concepts
- Asks yes/no questions, not open-ended which limits the possible questions being asked
- Research focuses on commonalities
- Questions focus on variables that are not effected by simply asking the question (by measurement)
- Tend to focus on the easily and “desired” measurability (no “messy” results).
To develop an understanding of concepts, procedures, and vocabulary of quantitative educational research.
I this course, I learned that quantitative research is associated with the positivism worldview. According to a positivistic worldview, physical and social reality is independent of those who observe it, and that observations of this reality, if unbiased, constitute scientific knowledge. This is in opposition to a Constructivist worldview which is associated with qualitative research. According to onstructivists acknowledge that observers are part of the system they are observing, which means that one cannot treat reality as existing.
These are the concepts covered in the course modules:
- Variables and Hypotheses
- Research Design
- Experimental Validity
- Descriptive Statistics
- The normal curve and probability
- Educational Measurement
I cannot say that I completely absorbed each of these concepts and associated vocabulary in totality, however this course provided a good point of departure for Educational Research II.
The major assignment for this course was the creation of an original research proposal. I found this to be a straight forward assignment that was nonetheless difficult to execute without support from the instructor in area VI. Instruments and Measures and section VII. Sampling. This was mainly due to the limited population from which I would be able to draw my sample. I also found that I needed some assistance with the details of conducting an effective literature search. One of my biggest issues was the erroneous belief that I had to actually conduct my research proposal during the Educational Research II class! I’m not sure where this thought originated, however thinking that I had to actually carry-out my research design meant that I worked overtime in trying to make it a realistic research design that I would actually be capable of carrying out.
My Research proposal purpose was to “examine whether there exists a relationship between choice and collaboration, and teacher attitude towards professional development” (Rayl, RPO). This is a link to my final Research Proposal Outline for Ed. Research I.
The major goals of EDU 6976 Ed Research II are to give students a lasting appreciation of the vital role of the field of statistics in empirical research, and to teach students to use appropriate statistical methods in empirical research and to become statistically literate.
Students will understand the role of statistics and research in education.
Clearly, the biggest take-away from this course is the importance of being able to understand vocabulary and major concepts when reading educational research. One of the key concepts that I learned is that statistical testing is measuring a smaller amount (sample) to infer about a larger amount (population). The research cycle is really quite simple: following identification of a hypothesis to test, the researcher selects a sample that is representative of the population at large, paying attention to details such as sample size, randomization and the potential for bias. This is the descriptive phase of research which provides a “snapshot of the groups under study” (Mvududu, lecture 2).
- Hypothesis stated.
- Population is defined by the researcher
- A sample is selected to participate in the study.
- Sample is measured to determine statistics.
Another important concept I learned is that research is about hypothesis testing. I learned that there is a null hypothesis which essentially says that any difference between the sample and population is due merely to chance. The alternative hypothesis states that any differences observed is actually due to something other than simply chance. While a difference may be found, it is important to remember that significance tests do not always equate to real-world meaning. According to McMillan (2012), “A significant difference is one for which the chance explanation has been rejected…significant difference are not always especially meaningful…” (p. 257).
Students will understand, calculate, and interpret descriptive and inferential statistical procedures including Pearson and Spearman correlations, t-tests, ANOVA, regression, and chi-square. Develop and demonstrate the ability to analyze and interpret findings from computer printouts and research tables (i.e., Scatterplots, MS Office Excel).
During this course, I learned about both descriptive and inferential statistics. One of the concepts that was easier for me to understanding was ANOVA. This is a link to a discussion board prompt where I gave an example of a possible ANOVA application, compared and contrasted ANOVA with T-tests and talked about the post-hoc Tukey test. Discussion ANOVA. I also learned about the difference between parametric and non-parametric measures. Essentially, a non-parametric measure is not measuring for central tendency and is not comparing sample data to a population. Rather, a non-parametric design is interested in whether a distribution matches what we expect (Mvududu, Lecture Module 6). This is a link to a discussion board post that demonstrates my understanding of chi-square Discussion Chi-Square.
Implications for Future Practice
After having taken both Educational Research I and II, I am pleased at the depth of my understanding of statistic research. While the mathematical formulas and equations are quite difficult for me to compute, especially without the benefit of notes and examples, I have gained a deeper conceptual understanding of what is being tested when and for what purpose. While I do not have any immediate plans to engage in experimental research, I feel better prepared to be a critical consumer of educational research as I am able to question whether the results of a sample study may be cause for inference to the population at large.
Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (1999). Applying Educational Research: A Practical Guide, Fourth Edition. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
McMillan, J. H. 2012. Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer, Sixth Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Sprinthall, R. C. (2000). Basic Statistical Analysis, Ninth Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.