What is “Good” Educational Research?
By Karl Hostetler
Epistemological - requiring an account of how knowledge of the given subject could be obtained
Epistemology - The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.
Quantitative research - Quantitative research is research that uses numerical analysis. In essence, this approach reduces the data into numbers The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena.
Quantitative research is generally done using scientific methods, which includes the following steps:
- Developing models, theories, and hypotheses of what the researcher expects to find.
- Developing instruments and methods for measuring the data.
- Experimental control and manipulation of variables.
- Collecting the data.
- Modeling and analyzing the data.
- Evaluating the results.
Qualitative research - is a generic term for investigative methodologies described as ethnographic, naturalistic, anthropological, field, or participant observer research. It emphasizes the importance of looking at variables in the natural setting in which they are found. Interaction between variables is important. Detailed data is gathered through open ended questions that provide direct quotations. The interviewer is an integral part of the investigation (Jacob, 1988).
- Purpose: Understanding - Seeks to understand people’s interpretations.
- Reality: Dynamic - Reality changes with changes in people’s perceptions.
- Viewpoint: Insider - Reality is what people perceive it to be.
- Values: Value bound - Values will have an impact and should be understood and taken into account when conducting and reporting research.
- Focus: Holistic - A total or complete picture is sought.
- Orientation: Discovery - Theories and hypotheses are evolved from data as collected.
- Data: Subjective - Data are perceptions of the people in the environment.
- Instrumentation: Human - The human person is the primary collection instrument.
- Conditions: Naturalistic - Investigations are conducted under natural conditions.
- Results: Valid - The focus is on design and procedures to gain "real," "rich," and "deep" data.
Liberal education - Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
Normative - implying, creating, or prescribing a norm or standard, as in language, of, relating to, or determining norms or standards
Analytical - using or skilled in using analysis (i.e., separating a whole--intellectual or substantial--into its elemental parts or basic principles)
Well-being – a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare
Objective - Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: basing research on observable phenomena and presented factually. Viewing research subjects and data without placing personal value judgments on the subject or the observation. Factual information only.
Subjective – belonging to, proceeding from, or relating to the min of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered. Essentially, everyone will have a different opinion about a subject based on their personal experience with the subject.
The Three Elements
- The role of the question. Need to question the values of the question and whether it contributes to the well-being of the society. We need to ask, “…the good thing is good for these people, at this time, in this situation.” (Hostetler, 2005, pg. 20)
- There needs to be a learning of how to ask questions and developing the conditions for learning this such as reading and expanding ones’ horizons.
- The knowledge that one does not know, needs to be acknowledged. A researcher needs to admit when they do not know something, in order to learn more.
“…our ultimate aim as researchers and educators is to serve people’s well-being” (Hostetler, 2005, pg. 16)
This quote contradicts Marjorie Brown’s article because it does not follow the first standard of the commitment to the theoretical attitude and maintaining objectivity. Once you begin to take into account people’s well-being, you are making a value judgment on what the researcher feels is what is right for other people.
“Good intentions do not guarantee good research” (Hostetler, 2005,pg. 17)
Makes me recognized the importance of aiming for some objectivity in gathering research data. One may feel like this information will be beneficial for society but need to have something to scientifically back it up to legitimize it for others in the field.
“To engage in ethical thought and action at all, one has to accept certain baseline commitments, such as respecting the dignity and humanity of persons” (Hostetler, 2005,pg. 19)
This is something that all researchers, no matter their methodology, should take into consideration.
“The presumption is not that people err with regard to well-being because they are evil. We err because we overlook something, misperceive something. All of us have blind spots.” (Hostetler, 2005,)
Something to be aware of because as people, especially educated people, we sometimes forget that we do not know everything, even about our specialty subject areas. We need to be open to other peoples’ opinions and ideas to help expand our own.
Although this idea of doing research for the purpose of making peoples’ lives better does not follow an objective view point, I find that I like this approach. I understand that what I view as important is not what other may find to be important, I like the idea of being able to help people to live a better life. This is a form of research that would be a lot more difficult to justify and support due to its subjectivity.
There was a suggestion in this article that research should be a beginning for learning more, not the ending that comes up with all the answers. This struck me as something that I would never have thought of before. Research only opens up more questions to explore.
Hostetler, Karl (2005). What Is "Good" Education Research? Educational researcher, 34(6), 16-21