Trends and Methods of Educational Research Used in the UK Dr Mahmoud M. S. Abdallah Lecturer of Curriculum & TESOL/TEFL Methodology Assiut University College of Education E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: www.mabdallah.bravehost.com
What did I FEEL and LEARN about the educational research process while I was studying in the UK?
There are many research approaches/paradigms prominent in the scene, one of them is the Scientific/Positivist Research Paradigm (the Experimental Research Design OR the Quantitative Research Methods OR the Statistical Research Approaches).
There are 2 main approaches of research: Quantitative Research vs. Qualitative Research, and a third new one called, ‘Mixed-method Research’.
The research objectives/questions should guide the whole research process, not the other way around!
The choice of a certain research methodology/method over another depends on the appropriateness of this method to the research purposes/problem, and NOT on the fact that there is a method which is genuinely better than another.
Stating the RATIONALE behind using a certain method is extremely important (i.e. One should always justify their choice).
What did I FEEL and LEARN about the educational research process while I was studying in the UK? (2)
Learning is a human, social phenomenon that is hard to subject to the same scientific and objective standards applied to physical phenomena.
The research process is a complicated and negotiable endeavour that goes on in a circular fashion, not in a linear one!
Educational research belongs to a wider family/category of research called, “Social Research” or “Humanistic Research”.
The research process involves some kind of reflection and self-assessment.
Networking with other colleagues of similar research interests is a pre-requisite for success.
Thinking about the Viva (PhD Oral Exam) should start from the 1 st day!
Writing the research report should start from the 1 st day as well…One should never leave that to the last moment since all what we write before the exam is provisional by nature!
Mixed-method approaches are currently coming to the fore!
What did I FEEL and LEARN about the educational research process while I was studying in the UK? (3)
When I choose a certain research paradigm, method, or tool, I should always be aware of the wide range of options and possibilities .
One should always be open to any criticism and always be ready to guard against any weak points right from the start.
One should always acknowledge or admit the limitations of their research design/approach and state that clearly in their thesis since no research design is ever perfect!
One should not be stiff and defensive all the time; otherwise, they won’t improve!
One should always talk about their research study with others because it is a good way of understanding one’s own work (i.e. If you want to understand it, just talk about it!)
Crotty’s Theoretical Grounding (Adapted) Source: Crotty, M. (2003). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process . Sage, London. Epistemology Approach (Theoretical perspective) Methodology Methods Techniques & Procedures
Example of a Research Design (My PhD Study Research Framework)
The Interpretivist (Qualitative) Research Paradigm
Interpretivist research has emerged in reaction to the dominance of positivism with the goal of studying learning phenomena in great depth (Crotty 2003; Flick 2006; Grix 2004).
The qualitative method investigates the why and how of a certain phenomenon, not just what , where , when . Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often needed than large samples.
It includes many qualitative methodologies/methods, such as:
a) Case Studies
b) Narrative Enquiry
d) Grounded Theory
Qualitative researchers typically rely on the following methods for gathering information: Participant Observation, Non-participant Observation, Field Notes, Reflexive Journals, Structured Interview, Semi-structured Interview, Unstructured Interview, and Analysis of documents and materials.
Juuti and Lavonen (2006) criticise the conventional trust of the accuracy of the findings obtained from (quasi-)experimental research designs favouring a DBR design to be used in science education. They argue for the difficulty of controlling all the variables involved in teaching and learning, or treating any complex learning/teaching phenomenon as an independent or dependent variable. Many uncontrollable factors (e.g., physical, psychological, social, emotional, and financial) may interfere with the teaching/learning process. These include:
social and psychological atmosphere;
pupils’ motivation, attitudes towards learning topics or schooling in general; and
students’ experiences outside school, such as discussions with their parents, and the media.
Participatory Research Approaches: Action Research and Design-Based Research
According to these approaches, the research process is conceived as a collaborative endeavour in which participants/practitioners provide their input.
Action Research (AR) is a reflective process which is done simply by action. It is progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams to improve the way they address issues. AR can also be undertaken by larger organizations/institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their knowledge, strategies, and practices. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices.
Barab and Squire (2004) argue that DBR is a context where the research moves beyond simply observing to involve systematically engineering learning contexts in ways that allow us to improve and generate evidence-based claims about learning (see also Van den Akker et al. 2006).
One of the problematic issues of DBR is that there are many labels attached to it, such as ‘design experiments’, ‘design research’, and ‘developmental research’.
Based on many definitions, I can signpost the core of DBR as follows:
DBR is a new paradigm or methodology in educational research that is based on both theory and previous research with the aim of improving educational practice. It is conducted in the real, complex, and messy learning/teaching contexts through iterative cycles of analysis, design, development, and implementation mediated by some interventions. It originates from real educational problems and/or challenges, and ends with design principles and/or learning theories subject to continuous refinement and improvement. Thus, the products/outputs of DBR are design principles, learning theories, interventions, curricular products, instructional tools, and/or practical solutions/prescriptions.
Though AR might also aim at refining theory in some instances, the element of design is clearly more evident in DBR projects. In other words, because of its original emphasis on designing computer artefacts, there is an engineering approach to design, especially as far as computer environments and innovations are concerned.
Another significant difference is that an AR study might resolve a practical learning problem without necessarily producing any design principles or theoretical frameworks to be taken further by other researchers. Hence, AR is typically focused more on a practical outcome rather than on a theoretical one. On the other hand, DBR is very much concerned with generalisations, of at least two types: (1) generating explanations for how designs do (or do not) lead to desired (or undesired) outcomes; (2) principles for designing particular kinds of interventions (Sandoval, personal communications, 2009).
Comparison of experimental design and design-based research Citation: Abdallah, M. M. S. (2011). Web-based New Literacies and EFL Curriculum Design in Teacher Education: A Design Study for Expanding EFL Student Teachers’ Language-Related Literacy Practices in an Egyptian Pre-Service Teacher Education Programme . PhD Thesis. University of Exeter, UK. Generates/Cultivates hypotheses Tests hypotheses Hypotheses Testing Values social interaction Values isolated learning Learning Follows flexible procedures to refine designs Follows fixed procedures Procedures Messy, natural learning/teaching situations Artificial laboratory settings Location Characterises the situation Controls variables Orientation Design-Based Research Experimental Research Category