Standard 11 Inquiry/Research: Competently consumes and produces where necessary empirical data to guide educational practice.
Interpreting and Applying Educational Research I & II taught me the importance of looking at research and data with a critical eye. When conducting research to determine the effectiveness of curriculum or teaching strategies, there are several variables that must be considered to determine if the results are valid. There are two types of research: qualitative and quantitative. The type of research being used will depend on the question being asked.
Quantitative research is number-oriented. It works well with things that are concrete and can be converted into numbers for mathematical calculation and analysis. It disregards variables that are abstract such as emotions, perspectives, and beliefs. In quantitative research, the researcher tries to remove themselves as much as possible. Positivism relates to quantitative research because it is a position focused on objectivity. The belief is that researchers are able to prevent their own beliefs from affecting the data. Quantitative research is better suited for generalizability and cause/effect relationships. In quantitative research a hypothesis is already determined and variables are already clearly defined (McMillan, 2008) (Sprinthall, 2007).
Qualitative research is based on people and their unpredictable behaviors, interpretations, and realities. Qualitative data is difficult to generalize because it is subjective. Because this data is based on feelings or perceptions it cannot establish a cause and effect relationship. The researcher’s presence may also influence the group’s response. In qualitative research, the researcher gets involved and attempts to learn about the situation from the perspective of the participants/clients. Qualitative research connects with constructivism, which holds the belief that observers are apart of the system and that whether we like it or not our assumptions, beliefs, and values will effect our observations (McMillan, 2008) (Sprinthall, 2007).
It is important that teachers understand the threats to external and internal validity when conducting research and when using assessment data to make instructional decisions. Threats to internal validity are concerned with control of confounding and extraneous variables whereas threats to external validity are about generalizability of results. Threats to internal validity include history, selection, maturation, pre-testing, treatment replications, subject attrition, statistical regression, diffusion of treatment, experimenter effects, and subject effects. Threats to external validity include subjects, situation, time, interventions and measures. If students do not perform well on an assessment it is important to determine the assessments validity (McMillian, 2008). Were there extraneous variables that could have contributed to either high or low scores? Did the assessment questions match the standard being assessed? Was the testing environment or time of day a factor? Did some students receive different interventions than others?
Research Project Outline: I was able to apply my understanding of research to my own Research Project Outline to determine the effects of fluency instruction on students’ reading comprehension. This was applicable to research I may conduct in my own classroom when trying to determine if a specific teaching strategy or curriculum is effective. In this study I had to define the objective, connect my study to previous research, define variables, determine my research design, define internal and external threats, measures, and sampling procedures.
McMillan, J.H. (2008). Educational research: Fundamentals for the consumer (5th ed.). New York: Pearson Education, Inc.
Sprinthall, R.C. (2007). Basic statistical analysis (8th ed.). New York: Pearson Education, Inc.