Monday, February 20, 2012

Educational Research: Rigor AND Relevance?

I was reading a post that I came across on Change MOOC this last week, the title was Can Educational Research be both Rigorous and Relevant? This article was an interesting read for both people who are researchers and people who are practitioners. The main theme of the article is that research articles have been rigorous enough to pass peer-review but they haven't necessarily had an impact; and at the end of the day impact is what matters.

In general, I agree with the overall tones of the article. We do see a lot of research published these days - the article cites something like 1300 (approx.) education related journals in existence, and even if they had just one issue per year (which most don't) that's a lot of reading. The other figure that really stuck with me was that only 40% of those articles tend to get cited in other subsequent publications.

Two things come to mind here. While it is true that not all articles don't get cited, at least not right away, that doesn't mean that they aren't valuable to someone. Looking at my own citation index on Google Scholar I can see a big fat zero in terms of who's cited my articles. At the same time, I know that there are people who have used my articles, but their work doesn't require citation (at least in any way that citation counting services measure). I am also a young scholar, which means that I probably won't have much (if any) citations anytime soon. That doesn't discourage me from research and publishing on my own, and with the MRT.

The other thing that comes to mind is teacher, and professional preparation. It has been my experience that teacher prep, and even professional instructional designer preparation has been mostly a review of selected works that count as canon for that profession. Students aren't always encouraged to think outside the box (at least as far as the literature goes) and aren't encouraged to critique and think about the literature in a critical fashion. Once people graduate that also tends to be the end of their learning from research and access to research in many cases.

If we want research to have impact we ought to encourage our educational professionals to not just attend trainings and workshops for professional development points, but also encourage them to start looking at the research literature on their own and seeing what can apply to their own classrooms and environments. It's only through this that we will get more impact from our research literature. Our current model of waiting for certain gate-keepers (i.e. the people that train educational professionals in workshops and higher education classrooms) isn't working.

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