Educational Research: Improving the Quality of Education

Most people currently agree on the value of young children attending preschool programs, but this was not always so. It has only been in the last several decades that investigative studies showed that youngsters who attend preschool perform better in their long-term school careers. This is just one of the many improvements that have come about in instruction as the result of educational research.

According to a book on the subject by Gary J. Anderson of McGill University and Universalia Management Group, research focusing on educational methods usually does the following:

  • Seeks an answer to a problem
  • Involves gathering new information or using existing information in a new way
  • Is based upon perceptible experience or observable evidence
  • Use accurate observation and description
  • Makes use of precisely designed processes and rigorous examination
  • Develops theories that help to understand or predict the outcome of the research
  • Requires familiarity with the field and skill in gathering and analyzing data
  • Seeks an impartial, unbiased solution and puts great emphasis on substantiating the results
  • Is a long, slow process that often redefines its aims as the research goes on
  • Is thoroughly documented and described to others interested in the problem

There are two basic types of educational research. Basic or academic research is more theoretical in concept. It is usually conducted by researchers in academic settings working on their graduate or doctoral degrees who seek to develop, test, or modify certain hypotheses about education. Applied research is commonly contracted by a sponsor and is focused on finding practical solutions to existing problems.

Most research into different educational concepts uses the scientific method of investigation. This process involves four steps:

  • Developing a hypothesis (a specific prediction, usually based on a generally accepted theory or explanation)
  • Designing a test of the hypothesis
  • Collecting data
  • Accepting or rejecting the hypothesis (if the hypothesis is accepted, then the theory it is based on has been confirmed)

For example, one of the most famous educational research studies included Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s test of conservation tasks in young children based on his theory of the four stages of cognitive development. If a child between the ages of four and seven is shown two identical glasses containing the same amount of water, he or she can usually recognize that they hold the same amount. However, if one of the glasses of water is then poured into a taller, narrower glass, the child typically says that the two glasses now contain different amounts of liquid. This tends to confirm Piaget’s theory that children in the preoperational stage of cognitive development do not recognize conservation (the awareness that changing something’s appearance does not change its basic properties).

Recent educational studies have focused the following issues:

  • The characteristics of effective teachers
  • The use of pretesting on new material to increase eventual test scores
  • Improving reading comprehension by concentrating on content rather than reading strategies
  • Classroom management strategies
  • Boosting parent participation
  • Cooperative learning in effective math programs
  • Improving performance in bilingual students by integrating geography with reading instruction