Interpreting Education Research

Countless education research papers are published every day, but it’s not always clear how to interpret their results. What makes for a good study? How can we decipher the results? How do these studies translate into everyday practice?

“It’s like the university folks who study best teaching practices are standing at the edge of a canyon and all the way on the other side are the actual practicing teachers.” – Jennifer Gonzalez

Luckily, there are many people out there offering resources to help. Larry Ferlazzo, an award-winning teacher, educational blogger and author, listed some great resources for helping educators understand and interpret research studies on his blog. Here are some stand out selections.

There are many ways to analyze research papers for quality and trustworthiness. Listed below are some helpful questions offered by the European Association for International Education to ask yourself when evaluating research studies.

  • Why was the study undertaken?
  • Who conducted the study?
  • Who funded the research? Walt Gardner points out, “They are often financed by philanthropic foundations. But unless the foundations have been willing in the past to back research that does not advance their agendas, I advise extreme skepticism.”
  • How was the data collected?
  • Is the sample size and response rate sufficient? As Paul Bruno says, “… big, novel findings from such studies should be taken with a grain of salt. Think of them as clues or stepping stones rather than reasons to dramatically rethink schooling.”
  • Does the research make use of secondary data? If the study uses secondary sources, it’s important to review those for credibility as well.
  • Does the research measure what it claims to measure?
  • Can the findings be generalised to my situation?

“Educational research does not involve chemicals in a laboratory. It involves students in real life. That alone should be cause for pause.” – Walt Gardner

Mr. Ferlazzo’s blog post lists many more links to sources for learning to interpret education research studies effectively. Below are a few more resources to help you evaluate education research studies. For more help finding and analyzing research, reach out to the Decoda Literacy Librarian by emailing library@decoda.ca.

Resources

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