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Using Educational Research for Program Evaluation

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss ways to use educational research in order to make evaluations about educational programs. We will also discuss how to identify and conduct quality research.

Why Evaluate?

Instructors aim to provide students with the best possible education; however, as a matter of law, instructors should use valid research to evaluate educational programming. In fact, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 prohibits the use of educational programming that is not based on sound evidence from valid research.

Identifying Types of Research

Primary research is the conducting of a study under the scientific method. Primary research is usually carried out in educational research labs and in universities because they require extensive resources and access to a general sample size of participants.

Valid primary research follows these steps in the scientific method
the Scientific Method

Secondary research is the review of other studies conducted, or articles and books that have been written on a particular subject. For example, a literature review is a just one kind of secondary research where one is researching other data sets.

Secondary research involves reading through the literature from other researchers
secondary research

Teachers can also conduct small-scale primary research within the classroom to evaluate their own teaching methods. This kind of teacher conducted informal research within a classroom to guide teaching is called action research.

Action research can be conducted by individual teachers on their students within a classroom
action research

By including a variety of all three of these types of research, instructors can evaluate their educational programs and those educational programs available for them to use in the classroom. With as many programs as are available, some at a very high cost, it becomes critical for instructors to identify valid research and learn to conduct their own evaluation of other educational programs.

Identifying Valid Research

Valid primary research is conducted under the principles of the scientific method. The scientific method is a list of steps necessary to ensure the findings can be valid, credible, replicable and generalizable. When looking for research to evaluate an educational program, be sure to use those relevant studies that have been conducted under the scientific method. This will ensure a higher likelihood that the research can be applied to a specific classroom.

When using secondary research to evaluate educational programs, it is important to identify those researchers who are experts in the fields relevant to the classroom. These are the people who write the seminal research articles that provide the foundational background knowledge for a particular educational theory. For example, an instructor coming from a constructivist teaching philosophy would probably not want to look for articles written by researchers in the behaviorist tradition.

One strategy for identifying seminal research articles that are considered the leaders of the field on a given topic is by looking at the references cited for each of the articles. This is a kind of snowball sampling where one articles works cited can lead to several other related articles for further review.

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