Answering Important Questions: How We Conduct Education Research


Oprah Winfrey has declared this “the year of asking questions.” In education, it is always the year of posing important questions and asking questions is the essence of my work as an educational researcher.

As educators, one of the big questions we all continue to grapple with is: How do we improve outcomes for all students, with a special focus on children and youth who are underperforming?

Toward this end, ESSA helps us focus on ways to ensure high-quality instruction and services for our classrooms, and guides education researchers in pursuing two lines of inquiry. The first one is to look at the evidence base in the development of programs and professional development. There's robust research in our field to guide us; the examples that I'd like to share are the Report of the National Reading Panel and Visible Learning by John Hattie. I bring these to your attention as current learning science and education research provide positive direction in terms of establishing what works in improving outcomes.

Developing an evidence base for all that we do in education is absolutely necessary but is not sufficient. The second step is to continuously test what we are doing in a variety of settings with diverse student populations. This is how we determine what works for whom and under what conditions. Here's the path to proving what works:

 

Many of you are undertaking research projects in your own districts as part of continuous improvement efforts. In this age of ever-increasing access to data, we are learning together—and we value our partnerships with school districts, university researchers, and third-party research firms. In conducting research on the efficacy of program materials and professional services with our education partners, we follow a ten-step process:

  • Determine the research question(s)
  • Identify partners
  • Attain approvals
  • Hold a kick-off meeting with all partners
  • Deliver professional development and materials as necessary
  • Monitor progress
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Prepare the report
  • Duplicate the research

We're in an exciting time of scientific progress, especially in the areas of health and well-being and, in the field of education, focusing on the whole child. What are the big questions you are trying to answer? Please join the conversation on Facebook and help us "shape" future posts.