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What Is Educational Research?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Educational research is the study of behavioral patterns related to learning in schools and other educational programs. Typically, data are collected for this type of research by examining the products of existing educational practices using tests and other documentation. It is also possible to conduct educational research using methodologies associated with social sciences such as anthropology and sociology. The goal of educational research is to study how the practices of education affect students, typically with the idea that understanding the link between education and learning can help students learn. Given that the education of youth is almost always important for a society's successful continuation, this is an area in which many different institutions have significant interest.

Standardized testing in schools is a common way of evaluating how successful a current educational program is. These tests evaluate the aptitude of students in a regular way, allowing researchers to determine which areas need improvement. There is significant criticism from teachers and others that standardized testing does not solely evaluate the quality of a student's education, which is also affected by parenting, economic status, and student ability. Those conducting educational research continue to use this data to make determinations about educational policy change because it is a form of traditional and relatively easy-to-use statistical data.

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Another way of performing educational research is to consider the educational system in its social context. A person conducting this kind of work might look at how to integrate the educational experience with the student's larger life or the effect of parenting on a student's educational success. This kind of research requires detailed fieldwork that is specific to small areas, although it is possible that results can be applied more broadly.

Educational research is primarily concerned with strategies that are used within the classroom by teachers and larger policies employed by an educational institution. Typically, researchers are interested in large changes such as changing the hours of a school day or compensating teachers in a certain way. Smaller strategies, such as how to discipline students or how to teach a certain subject, are also considered, but these are usually left up to a teacher's discretion.

Most people who are interested in educational research are interested in improving education overall. By understanding how education works currently, it may be possible to make informed improvements to the system. Unfortunately, education is not an isolated system. Although educational research often effectively evaluates how well people learn in educational systems, it does not always help make policies that account for systemic crises.

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