The benefits of educational research

Research in education is as important as scientific research that finds answers to our physical health. "Action research" as described by Stringer involves incorporating three aspects: Look, Think, and Act, which addresses the needs of the learner as well as the instructor (Stringer, 2008). Teachers can facilitate and adapt learning to meet the needs of individual students based on the results of “action research” which is an ongoing process throughout teaching (Stringer, 2008). The mentor observes her students, analyzes the information and then acts with a plan. This is similar to a student researching a topic, studying it out and then writing a paper (Stringer, 2008). However, action research may be more fluid, and changing with the changing needs of the students. Even so, with a solid groundwork of research, teachers are better able to plan, instruct, and evaluate their work (Stringer, 2008). 

 However, in a classroom of many students, teachers are not always able to address the needs of everyone. There are diverse personalities, backgrounds, and expectations. A scripted syllabus to meet everyone’s level of learning must include a teacher who tries to reach and understand each of her students (Stringer, 2008). This realization emphasizes the need for a continual, action-based research. Even with a diverse group of students, Bloom’s taxonomy of learning can be applied to the process of learning that includes knowing, comprehending, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating (Stringer, 2008). Bloom’s taxonomy of learning was updated by educational psychologists in the 1990s to reflect the active part of learning: Starting with “remembering” and moving forward through understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating (Overbaugh, n.d.). Students and instructors must continually evaluate their plan for learning and adjust it to meet the desired outcomes of being able to create with gained knowledge.

Educational research touches everyone, because we all have had experiences in “going to school” or “taking a course” or some other form of “learning” (Wallen & Fraenkel, 2009). Therefore it is an area that influences the sharing of knowledge – from the mentor to the learner. Teachers are aquainted with nonempirical research – they may have read journals and compared results as a process of selecting methods of teaching (Wallen, 2009). Empirical research is firsthand research with tightly defined controls to compare and contrast with the test group (Creswell, 2012).  Educational research is not always conclusive and results are not that easily applied to a classroom of diverse learners (Wallen, 2009). Researchers are required to propose questions to study that are not subjective or dependent on value judgments (Wallace, 2009). These questions are sometimes too broad and even within a narrow selection of learners, not all personalities and backgrounds can be addressed.

I have become most familiar with educational research from the viewpoint of a tutor in need of non-empirical research to choose a method of teaching and learning. I had one young student with dyslexia that necessitated a different teaching method based on his learning abilities. This is a clear example of why the value of research is dependent on the end results, which necessitates an understanding of diverse learners and an early intervention.

Not all methods of teaching a dyslexic to read are successful. I found that teaching one-on-one was the only way I could gather information and “look” at what was going on, even asking questions of my young student as to what he saw. Through this method I was able to “think” about solutions and search through periodicals that had empirical evidence of success (Stringer, 2008). Still, it was a trial and error approach, where I used various texts and methods until I found success and my student began to sound-out the letters and read. I found that even within the body of research narrowed down to teaching dyslexics to read and write, individual results are variable. This was the “act” part of this action research (Stringer, 2008).

For my student, I employed more than one method of learning and utilized the components of “sight” and “hearing” to help my student grasp the phonetics of reading. This required continual monitoring as a teacher to ensure that the chosen method of learning was effective (Stringer, 2008). Spelling was approached from a different angle than traditional techniques. 

Without this type of hands-on teaching and guiding, I feel certain that this young student would not have started reading at the same age as his peers. The positive results were seen, as he did not suffer from embarrassment in a large classroom of students or get lost in the "system." He practiced reading aloud in the comfort of a tutor and eventually surpassed other students in his ability to read aloud confidently and with understanding. Now, at age 17 the dyslexia appears to be a thing of the past, with the help of research and a method of “looking”, “thinking” and “acting” (Stringer, 2008).

Creswell, J. (2012).   Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. New Jersey: Pearson

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from    http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Stringer, E. (2008). Action research in education. New Jersey: Pearson

Wallen, N. & Fraenkel, J. (2001). Educational research: A guide to the process. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

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