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Edited by Maya Alkateb-Chami, Jane Choi, Jeannette Garcia Coppersmith, Ron Grady, Phoebe A. Grant-Robinson, Pennie M. Gregory, Jennifer Ha, Woohee Kim, Catherine E. Pitcher, Elizabeth Salinas, Caroline Tucker, Kemeyawi Q. Wahpepah

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  • ISSN: 0017-8055
  • eISSN: 1943-5045
  • Keywords: scholarly journal, education research
  • First Issue: 1930
  • Frequency: Quarterly


The Harvard Educational Review (HER) is a scholarly journal of opinion and research in education. The Editorial Board aims to publish pieces from interdisciplinary and wide-ranging fields that advance our understanding of educational theory, equity, and practice. HER encourages submissions from established and emerging scholars, as well as from practitioners working in the field of education. Since its founding in 1930, HER has been central to elevating pieces and debates that tackle various dimensions of educational justice, with circulation to researchers, policymakers, teachers, and administrators.

Our Editorial Board is composed entirely of doctoral students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education who review all manuscripts considered for publication. For more information on the current Editorial Board, please see here.

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Editorial Board

2023-2024 Harvard Educational Review Editorial Board Members

Maya Alkateb-Chami Development and Partnerships Editor, 2023-2024 Editor, 2022-2024 [email protected]

Maya Alkateb-Chami is a PhD student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on the role of schooling in fostering just futures—specifically in relation to language of instruction policies in multilingual contexts and with a focus on epistemic injustice. Prior to starting doctoral studies, she was the Managing Director of Columbia University’s Human Rights Institute, where she supported and co-led a team of lawyers working to advance human rights through research, education, and advocacy. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Jusoor, a nonprofit organization that helps conflict-affected Syrian youth and children pursue their education in four countries. Alkateb-Chami is a Fulbright Scholar and UNESCO cultural heritage expert. She holds an MEd in Language and Literacy from Harvard University; an MSc in Education from Indiana University, Bloomington; and a BA in Political Science from Damascus University, and her research on arts-based youth empowerment won the annual Master’s Thesis Award of the U.S. Society for Education Through Art.

Jane Choi Editor, 2023-2025

Jane Choi is a second-year PhD student in Sociology with broad interests in culture, education, and inequality. Her research examines intra-racial and interracial boundaries in US educational contexts. She has researched legacy and first-generation students at Ivy League colleges, families served by Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and parents of pre-K and kindergarten-age children in the New York City School District. Previously, Jane worked as a Research Assistant in the Family Well-Being and Children’s Development policy area at MDRC and received a BA in Sociology from Columbia University.

Jeannette Garcia Coppersmith Content Editor, 2023-2024 Editor, 2022-2024 [email protected]

Jeannette Garcia Coppersmith is a fourth-year Education PhD student in the Human Development, Learning and Teaching concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A former public middle and high school mathematics teacher and department chair, she is interested in understanding the mechanisms that contribute to disparities in secondary mathematics education, particularly how teacher beliefs and biases intersect with the social-psychological processes and pedagogical choices involved in math teaching. Jeannette holds an EdM in Learning and Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she studied as an Urban Scholar and a BA in Environmental Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ron Grady Editor, 2023-2025

Ron Grady is a second-year doctoral student in the Human Development, Learning, and Teaching concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His central curiosities involve the social worlds and peer cultures of young children, wondering how lived experience is both constructed within and revealed throughout play, the creation of art and narrative, and through interaction with/production of visual artifacts such as photography and film. Ron also works extensively with educators interested in developing and deepening practices rooted in reflection on, inquiry into, and translation of the social, emotional, and aesthetic aspects of their classroom ecosystems. Prior to his doctoral studies, Ron worked as a preschool teacher in New Orleans. He holds a MS in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute and a BA in Psychology with Honors in Education from Stanford University.

Phoebe A. Grant-Robinson Editor, 2023-2024

Phoebe A. Grant-Robinson is a first year student in the Doctor of Education Leadership(EdLD) program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her ultimate quest is to position all students as drivers of their destiny. Phoebe is passionate about early learning and literacy. She is committed to ensuring that districts and school leaders, have the necessary tools to create equitable learning organizations that facilitate the academic and social well-being of all students. Phoebe is particularly interested in the intersection of homeless students and literacy. Prior to her doctoral studies, Phoebe was a Special Education Instructional Specialist. Supporting a portfolio of more than thirty schools, she facilitated the rollout of New York City’s Special Education Reform. Phoebe also served as an elementary school principal. She holds a BS in Inclusive Education from Syracuse University, and an MS in Curriculum and Instruction from Pace University.

Pennie M. Gregory Editor, 2023-2024

Pennie M. Gregory is a second-year student in the Doctor of Education Leadership (EdLD) program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Pennie was born in Incheon, South Korea and raised in Gary, Indiana. She has decades of experience leading efforts to improve outcomes for students with disabilities first as a special education teacher and then as a school district special education administrator. Prior to her doctoral studies, Pennie helped to create Indiana’s first Aspiring Special Education Leadership Institute (ASELI) and served as its Director. She was also the Capacity Events Director for MelanatED Leaders, an organization created to support educational leaders of color in Indianapolis. Pennie has a unique perspective, having worked with members of the school community, with advocacy organizations, and supporting state special education leaders. Pennie holds an EdM in Education Leadership from Marian University.

Jennifer Ha Editor, 2023-2025

Jen Ha is a second-year PhD student in the Culture, Institutions, and Society concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research explores how high school students learn to write personal narratives for school applications, scholarships, and professional opportunities amidst changing landscapes in college access and admissions. Prior to doctoral studies, Jen served as the Coordinator of Public Humanities at Bard Graduate Center and worked in several roles organizing academic enrichment opportunities and supporting postsecondary planning for students in New Haven and New York City. Jen holds a BA in Humanities from Yale University, where she was an Education Studies Scholar.

Woohee Kim Editor, 2023-2025

Woohee Kim is a PhD student studying youth activists’ civic and pedagogical practices. She is a scholar-activist dedicated to creating spaces for pedagogies of resistance and transformative possibilities. Shaped by her activism and research across South Korea, the US, and the UK, Woohee seeks to interrogate how educational spaces are shaped as cultural and political sites and reshaped by activists as sites of struggle. She hopes to continue exploring the intersections of education, knowledge, power, and resistance.

Catherine E. Pitcher Editor, 2023-2025

Catherine is a second-year doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Culture, Institutions, and Society program. She has over 10 years of experience in education in the US in roles that range from special education teacher to instructional coach to department head to educational game designer. She started working in Palestine in 2017, first teaching, and then designing and implementing educational programming. Currently, she is working on research to understand how Palestinian youth think about and build their futures and continues to lead programming in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. She holds an EdM from Harvard in International Education Policy.

Elizabeth Salinas Editor, 2023-2025

Elizabeth Salinas is a doctoral student in the Education Policy and Program Evaluation concentration at HGSE. She is interested in the intersection of higher education and the social safety net and hopes to examine policies that address basic needs insecurity among college students. Before her doctoral studies, Liz was a research director at a public policy consulting firm. There, she supported government, education, and philanthropy leaders by conducting and translating research into clear and actionable information. Previously, Liz served as a high school physics teacher in her hometown in Texas and as a STEM outreach program director at her alma mater. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, a nonprofit organization working to diversify the leadership pipeline in the United States. Liz holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Caroline Tucker Co-Chair, 2023-2024 Editor, 2022-2024 [email protected]

Caroline Tucker is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Culture, Institutions, and Society concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on the history and organizational dynamics of women’s colleges as women gained entry into the professions and coeducation took root in the United States. She is also a research assistant for the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Initiative’s Subcommittee on Curriculum and the editorial assistant for Into Practice, the pedagogy newsletter distributed by Harvard University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning. Prior to her doctoral studies, Caroline served as an American politics and English teaching fellow in London and worked in college advising. Caroline holds a BA in History from Princeton University, an MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and an EdM in Higher Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kemeyawi Q. Wahpepah Co-Chair, 2023-2024 Editor, 2022-2024 [email protected]

Kemeyawi Q. Wahpepah (Kickapoo, Sac & Fox) is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Culture, Institutions, and Society concentration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Their research explores how settler colonialism is addressed in K-12 history and social studies classrooms in the United States. Prior to their doctoral studies, Kemeyawi taught middle and high school English and history for eleven years in Boston and New York City. They hold an MS in Middle Childhood Education from Hunter College and an AB in Social Studies from Harvard University.

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Answer: As a generalist scholarly journal, HER publishes on a wide range of topics within the field of education and related disciplines. We receive many articles that deserve publication, but due to the restrictions of print publication, we are only able to publish very few in the journal. The originality and import of the findings, as well as the accessibility of a piece to HER’s interdisciplinary, international audience which includes education practitioners, are key criteria in determining if an article will be selected for publication.

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Answer: Supporting the development of high-quality education research is a key tenet of HER’s mission. HER promotes this development through offering comprehensive feedback to authors. All manuscripts that pass the first stage of our review process (see below) receive detailed feedback. For accepted manuscripts, HER also has a unique feedback process called casting whereby two editors carefully read a manuscript and offer overarching suggestions to strengthen and clarify the argument.

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Introduction to Education Research

  • First Online: 29 November 2023

Cite this chapter

a research about education

  • Sharon K. Park 3 ,
  • Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin 4 &
  • Julie Youm 4  

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Educators rely on the discovery of new knowledge of teaching practices and frameworks to improve and evolve education for trainees. An important consideration that should be made when embarking on a career conducting education research is finding a scholarship niche. An education researcher can then develop the conceptual framework that describes the state of knowledge, realize gaps in understanding of the phenomenon or problem, and develop an outline for the methodological underpinnings of the research project. In response to Ernest Boyer’s seminal report, Priorities of the Professoriate , research was conducted about the criteria and decision processes for grants and publications. Six standards known as the Glassick’s criteria provide a tangible measure by which educators can assess the quality and structure of their education research—clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, and reflective critique. Ultimately, the promise of education research is to realize advances and innovation for learners that are informed by evidence-based knowledge and practices.

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Park, S.K., Le-Bucklin, KV., Youm, J. (2023). Introduction to Education Research. In: Fitzgerald, A.S., Bosch, G. (eds) Education Scholarship in Healthcare. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-38534-6_2

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The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020

We reviewed hundreds of educational studies in 2020 and then highlighted 10 of the most significant—covering topics from virtual learning to the reading wars and the decline of standardized tests.

In the month of March of 2020, the year suddenly became a whirlwind. With a pandemic disrupting life across the entire globe, teachers scrambled to transform their physical classrooms into virtual—or even hybrid—ones, and researchers slowly began to collect insights into what works, and what doesn’t, in online learning environments around the world.

Meanwhile, neuroscientists made a convincing case for keeping handwriting in schools, and after the closure of several coal-fired power plants in Chicago, researchers reported a drop in pediatric emergency room visits and fewer absences in schools, reminding us that questions of educational equity do not begin and end at the schoolhouse door.

1. To Teach Vocabulary, Let Kids Be Thespians

When students are learning a new language, ask them to act out vocabulary words. It’s fun to unleash a child’s inner thespian, of course, but a 2020 study concluded that it also nearly doubles their ability to remember the words months later.

Researchers asked 8-year-old students to listen to words in another language and then use their hands and bodies to mimic the words—spreading their arms and pretending to fly, for example, when learning the German word flugzeug , which means “airplane.” After two months, these young actors were a remarkable 73 percent more likely to remember the new words than students who had listened without accompanying gestures. Researchers discovered similar, if slightly less dramatic, results when students looked at pictures while listening to the corresponding vocabulary. 

It’s a simple reminder that if you want students to remember something, encourage them to learn it in a variety of ways—by drawing it , acting it out, or pairing it with relevant images , for example.

2. Neuroscientists Defend the Value of Teaching Handwriting—Again

For most kids, typing just doesn’t cut it. In 2012, brain scans of preliterate children revealed crucial reading circuitry flickering to life when kids hand-printed letters and then tried to read them. The effect largely disappeared when the letters were typed or traced.

More recently, in 2020, a team of researchers studied older children—seventh graders—while they handwrote, drew, and typed words, and concluded that handwriting and drawing produced telltale neural tracings indicative of deeper learning.

“Whenever self-generated movements are included as a learning strategy, more of the brain gets stimulated,” the researchers explain, before echoing the 2012 study: “It also appears that the movements related to keyboard typing do not activate these networks the same way that drawing and handwriting do.”

It would be a mistake to replace typing with handwriting, though. All kids need to develop digital skills, and there’s evidence that technology helps children with dyslexia to overcome obstacles like note taking or illegible handwriting, ultimately freeing them to “use their time for all the things in which they are gifted,” says the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

3. The ACT Test Just Got a Negative Score (Face Palm)

A 2020 study found that ACT test scores, which are often a key factor in college admissions, showed a weak—or even negative —relationship when it came to predicting how successful students would be in college. “There is little evidence that students will have more college success if they work to improve their ACT score,” the researchers explain, and students with very high ACT scores—but indifferent high school grades—often flamed out in college, overmatched by the rigors of a university’s academic schedule.

Just last year, the SAT—cousin to the ACT—had a similarly dubious public showing. In a major 2019 study of nearly 50,000 students led by researcher Brian Galla, and including Angela Duckworth, researchers found that high school grades were stronger predictors of four-year-college graduation than SAT scores.

The reason? Four-year high school grades, the researchers asserted, are a better indicator of crucial skills like perseverance, time management, and the ability to avoid distractions. It’s most likely those skills, in the end, that keep kids in college.

4. A Rubric Reduces Racial Grading Bias

A simple step might help undercut the pernicious effect of grading bias, a new study found: Articulate your standards clearly before you begin grading, and refer to the standards regularly during the assessment process.

In 2020, more than 1,500 teachers were recruited and asked to grade a writing sample from a fictional second-grade student. All of the sample stories were identical—but in one set, the student mentions a family member named Dashawn, while the other set references a sibling named Connor.

Teachers were 13 percent more likely to give the Connor papers a passing grade, revealing the invisible advantages that many students unknowingly benefit from. When grading criteria are vague, implicit stereotypes can insidiously “fill in the blanks,” explains the study’s author. But when teachers have an explicit set of criteria to evaluate the writing—asking whether the student “provides a well-elaborated recount of an event,” for example—the difference in grades is nearly eliminated.

5. What Do Coal-Fired Power Plants Have to Do With Learning? Plenty

When three coal-fired plants closed in the Chicago area, student absences in nearby schools dropped by 7 percent, a change largely driven by fewer emergency room visits for asthma-related problems. The stunning finding, published in a 2020 study from Duke and Penn State, underscores the role that often-overlooked environmental factors—like air quality, neighborhood crime, and noise pollution—have in keeping our children healthy and ready to learn.

At scale, the opportunity cost is staggering: About 2.3 million children in the United States still attend a public elementary or middle school located within 10 kilometers of a coal-fired plant.

The study builds on a growing body of research that reminds us that questions of educational equity do not begin and end at the schoolhouse door. What we call an achievement gap is often an equity gap, one that “takes root in the earliest years of children’s lives,” according to a 2017 study . We won’t have equal opportunity in our schools, the researchers admonish, until we are diligent about confronting inequality in our cities, our neighborhoods—and ultimately our own backyards.

6. Students Who Generate Good Questions Are Better Learners

Some of the most popular study strategies—highlighting passages, rereading notes, and underlining key sentences—are also among the least effective. A 2020 study highlighted a powerful alternative: Get students to generate questions about their learning, and gradually press them to ask more probing questions.

In the study, students who studied a topic and then generated their own questions scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who used passive strategies like studying their notes and rereading classroom material. Creating questions, the researchers found, not only encouraged students to think more deeply about the topic but also strengthened their ability to remember what they were studying.

There are many engaging ways to have students create highly productive questions : When creating a test, you can ask students to submit their own questions, or you can use the Jeopardy! game as a platform for student-created questions.

7. Did a 2020 Study Just End the ‘Reading Wars’?

One of the most widely used reading programs was dealt a severe blow when a panel of reading experts concluded that it “would be unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America’s public schoolchildren.”

In the 2020 study , the experts found that the controversial program—called “Units of Study” and developed over the course of four decades by Lucy Calkins at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project—failed to explicitly and systematically teach young readers how to decode and encode written words, and was thus “in direct opposition to an enormous body of settled research.”

The study sounded the death knell for practices that de-emphasize phonics in favor of having children use multiple sources of information—like story events or illustrations—to predict the meaning of unfamiliar words, an approach often associated with “balanced literacy.” In an internal memo obtained by publisher APM, Calkins seemed to concede the point, writing that “aspects of balanced literacy need some ‘rebalancing.’”

8. A Secret to High-Performing Virtual Classrooms

In 2020, a team at Georgia State University compiled a report on virtual learning best practices. While evidence in the field is "sparse" and "inconsistent," the report noted that logistical issues like accessing materials—and not content-specific problems like failures of comprehension—were often among the most significant obstacles to online learning. It wasn’t that students didn’t understand photosynthesis in a virtual setting, in other words—it was that they didn’t find (or simply didn't access) the lesson on photosynthesis at all.

That basic insight echoed a 2019 study that highlighted the crucial need to organize virtual classrooms even more intentionally than physical ones. Remote teachers should use a single, dedicated hub for important documents like assignments; simplify communications and reminders by using one channel like email or text; and reduce visual clutter like hard-to-read fonts and unnecessary decorations throughout their virtual spaces.

Because the tools are new to everyone, regular feedback on topics like accessibility and ease of use is crucial. Teachers should post simple surveys asking questions like “Have you encountered any technical issues?” and “Can you easily locate your assignments?” to ensure that students experience a smooth-running virtual learning space.

9. Love to Learn Languages? Surprisingly, Coding May Be Right for You

Learning how to code more closely resembles learning a language such as Chinese or Spanish than learning math, a 2020 study found—upending the conventional wisdom about what makes a good programmer.

In the study, young adults with no programming experience were asked to learn Python, a popular programming language; they then took a series of tests assessing their problem-solving, math, and language skills. The researchers discovered that mathematical skill accounted for only 2 percent of a person’s ability to learn how to code, while language skills were almost nine times more predictive, accounting for 17 percent of learning ability.

That’s an important insight because all too often, programming classes require that students pass advanced math courses—a hurdle that needlessly excludes students with untapped promise, the researchers claim.

10. Researchers Cast Doubt on Reading Tasks Like ‘Finding the Main Idea’

“Content is comprehension,” declared a 2020 Fordham Institute study , sounding a note of defiance as it staked out a position in the ongoing debate over the teaching of intrinsic reading skills versus the teaching of content knowledge.

While elementary students spend an enormous amount of time working on skills like “finding the main idea” and “summarizing”—tasks born of the belief that reading is a discrete and trainable ability that transfers seamlessly across content areas—these young readers aren’t experiencing “the additional reading gains that well-intentioned educators hoped for,” the study concluded.

So what works? The researchers looked at data from more than 18,000 K–5 students, focusing on the time spent in subject areas like math, social studies, and ELA, and found that “social studies is the only subject with a clear, positive, and statistically significant effect on reading improvement.” In effect, exposing kids to rich content in civics, history, and law appeared to teach reading more effectively than our current methods of teaching reading. Perhaps defiance is no longer needed: Fordham’s conclusions are rapidly becoming conventional wisdom—and they extend beyond the limited claim of reading social studies texts. According to Natalie Wexler, the author of the well-received 2019 book  The Knowledge Gap , content knowledge and reading are intertwined. “Students with more [background] knowledge have a better chance of understanding whatever text they encounter. They’re able to retrieve more information about the topic from long-term memory, leaving more space in working memory for comprehension,” she recently told Edutopia .

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  • What is Educational Research? + [Types, Scope & Importance]


Education is an integral aspect of every society and in a bid to expand the frontiers of knowledge, educational research must become a priority. Educational research plays a vital role in the overall development of pedagogy, learning programs, and policy formulation. 

Educational research is a spectrum that bothers on multiple fields of knowledge and this means that it draws from different disciplines. As a result of this, the findings of this research are multi-dimensional and can be restricted by the characteristics of the research participants and the research environment. 

What is Educational Research?

Educational research is a type of systematic investigation that applies empirical methods to solving challenges in education. It adopts rigorous and well-defined scientific processes in order to gather and analyze data for problem-solving and knowledge advancement. 

J. W. Best defines educational research as that activity that is directed towards the development of a science of behavior in educational situations. The ultimate aim of such a science is to provide knowledge that will permit the educator to achieve his goals through the most effective methods.

The primary purpose of educational research is to expand the existing body of knowledge by providing solutions to different problems in pedagogy while improving teaching and learning practices. Educational researchers also seek answers to questions bothering on learner motivation, development, and classroom management. 

Characteristics of Education Research  

While educational research can take numerous forms and approaches, several characteristics define its process and approach. Some of them are listed below:

  • It sets out to solve a specific problem.
  • Educational research adopts primary and secondary research methods in its data collection process . This means that in educational research, the investigator relies on first-hand sources of information and secondary data to arrive at a suitable conclusion. 
  • Educational research relies on empirical evidence . This results from its largely scientific approach.
  • Educational research is objective and accurate because it measures verifiable information.
  • In educational research, the researcher adopts specific methodologies, detailed procedures, and analysis to arrive at the most objective responses
  • Educational research findings are useful in the development of principles and theories that provide better insights into pressing issues.
  • This research approach combines structured, semi-structured, and unstructured questions to gather verifiable data from respondents.
  • Many educational research findings are documented for peer review before their presentation. 
  • Educational research is interdisciplinary in nature because it draws from different fields and studies complex factual relations.

Types of Educational Research 

Educational research can be broadly categorized into 3 which are descriptive research , correlational research , and experimental research . Each of these has distinct and overlapping features. 

Descriptive Educational Research

In this type of educational research, the researcher merely seeks to collect data with regards to the status quo or present situation of things. The core of descriptive research lies in defining the state and characteristics of the research subject being understudied. 

Because of its emphasis on the “what” of the situation, descriptive research can be termed an observational research method . In descriptive educational research, the researcher makes use of quantitative research methods including surveys and questionnaires to gather the required data.

Typically, descriptive educational research is the first step in solving a specific problem. Here are a few examples of descriptive research: 

  • A reading program to help you understand student literacy levels.
  • A study of students’ classroom performance.
  • Research to gather data on students’ interests and preferences. 

From these examples, you would notice that the researcher does not need to create a simulation of the natural environment of the research subjects; rather, he or she observes them as they engage in their routines. Also, the researcher is not concerned with creating a causal relationship between the research variables. 

Correlational Educational Research

This is a type of educational research that seeks insights into the statistical relationship between two research variables. In correlational research, the researcher studies two variables intending to establish a connection between them. 

Correlational research can be positive, negative, or non-existent. Positive correlation occurs when an increase in variable A leads to an increase in variable B, while negative correlation occurs when an increase in variable A results in a decrease in variable B. 

When a change in any of the variables does not trigger a succeeding change in the other, then the correlation is non-existent. Also, in correlational educational research, the research does not need to alter the natural environment of the variables; that is, there is no need for external conditioning. 

Examples of educational correlational research include: 

  • Research to discover the relationship between students’ behaviors and classroom performance.
  • A study into the relationship between students’ social skills and their learning behaviors. 

Experimental Educational Research

Experimental educational research is a research approach that seeks to establish the causal relationship between two variables in the research environment. It adopts quantitative research methods in order to determine the cause and effect in terms of the research variables being studied. 

Experimental educational research typically involves two groups – the control group and the experimental group. The researcher introduces some changes to the experimental group such as a change in environment or a catalyst, while the control group is left in its natural state. 

The introduction of these catalysts allows the researcher to determine the causative factor(s) in the experiment. At the core of experimental educational research lies the formulation of a hypothesis and so, the overall research design relies on statistical analysis to approve or disprove this hypothesis.

Examples of Experimental Educational Research

  • A study to determine the best teaching and learning methods in a school.
  • A study to understand how extracurricular activities affect the learning process. 

Based on functionality, educational research can be classified into fundamental research , applied research , and action research. The primary purpose of fundamental research is to provide insights into the research variables; that is, to gain more knowledge. Fundamental research does not solve any specific problems. 

Just as the name suggests, applied research is a research approach that seeks to solve specific problems. Findings from applied research are useful in solving practical challenges in the educational sector such as improving teaching methods, modifying learning curricula, and simplifying pedagogy. 

Action research is tailored to solve immediate problems that are specific to a context such as educational challenges in a local primary school. The goal of action research is to proffer solutions that work in this context and to solve general or universal challenges in the educational sector. 

Importance of Educational Research

  • Educational research plays a crucial role in knowledge advancement across different fields of study. 
  • It provides answers to practical educational challenges using scientific methods.
  • Findings from educational research; especially applied research, are instrumental in policy reformulation. 
  • For the researcher and other parties involved in this research approach, educational research improves learning, knowledge, skills, and understanding.
  • Educational research improves teaching and learning methods by empowering you with data to help you teach and lead more strategically and effectively.
  • Educational research helps students apply their knowledge to practical situations.

Educational Research Methods 

  • Surveys/Questionnaires

A survey is a research method that is used to collect data from a predetermined audience about a specific research context. It usually consists of a set of standardized questions that help you to gain insights into the experiences, thoughts, and behaviors of the audience. 

Surveys can be administered physically using paper forms, face-to-face conversations, telephone conversations, or online forms. Online forms are easier to administer because they help you to collect accurate data and to also reach a larger sample size. Creating your online survey on data-gathering platforms like Formplus allows you to.also analyze survey respondent’s data easily. 

In order to gather accurate data via your survey, you must first identify the research context and the research subjects that would make up your data sample size. Next, you need to choose an online survey tool like Formplus to help you create and administer your survey with little or no hassles. 

An interview is a qualitative data collection method that helps you to gather information from respondents by asking questions in a conversation. It is typically a face-to-face conversation with the research subjects in order to gather insights that will prove useful to the specific research context. 

Interviews can be structured, semi-structured , or unstructured . A structured interview is a type of interview that follows a premeditated sequence; that is, it makes use of a set of standardized questions to gather information from the research subjects. 

An unstructured interview is a type of interview that is fluid; that is, it is non-directive. During a structured interview, the researcher does not make use of a set of predetermined questions rather, he or she spontaneously asks questions to gather relevant data from the respondents. 

A semi-structured interview is the mid-point between structured and unstructured interviews. Here, the researcher makes use of a set of standardized questions yet, he or she still makes inquiries outside these premeditated questions as dedicated by the flow of the conversations in the research context. 

Data from Interviews can be collected using audio recorders, digital cameras, surveys, and questionnaires. 

  • Observation

Observation is a method of data collection that entails systematically selecting, watching, listening, reading, touching, and recording behaviors and characteristics of living beings, objects, or phenomena. In the classroom, teachers can adopt this method to understand students’ behaviors in different contexts. 

Observation can be qualitative or quantitative in approach . In quantitative observation, the researcher aims at collecting statistical information from respondents and in qualitative information, the researcher aims at collecting qualitative data from respondents. 

Qualitative observation can further be classified into participant or non-participant observation. In participant observation, the researcher becomes a part of the research environment and interacts with the research subjects to gather info about their behaviors. In non-participant observation, the researcher does not actively take part in the research environment; that is, he or she is a passive observer. 

How to Create Surveys and Questionnaires with Formplus

  • On your dashboard, choose the “create new form” button to access the form builder. You can also choose from the available survey templates and modify them to suit your need.
  • Save your online survey to access the form customization section. Here, you can change the physical appearance of your form by adding preferred background images and inserting your organization’s logo.
  • Formplus has a form analytics dashboard that allows you to view insights from your data collection process such as the total number of form views and form submissions. You can also use the reports summary tool to generate custom graphs and charts from your survey data. 

Steps in Educational Research

Like other types of research, educational research involves several steps. Following these steps allows the researcher to gather objective information and arrive at valid findings that are useful to the research context. 

  • Define the research problem clearly. 
  • Formulate your hypothesis. A hypothesis is the researcher’s reasonable guess based on the available evidence, which he or she seeks to prove in the course of the research.
  • Determine the methodology to be adopted. Educational research methods include interviews, surveys, and questionnaires.
  • Collect data from the research subjects using one or more educational research methods. You can collect research data using Formplus forms.
  • Analyze and interpret your data to arrive at valid findings. In the Formplus analytics dashboard, you can view important data collection insights and you can also create custom visual reports with the reports summary tool. 
  • Create your research report. A research report details the entire process of the systematic investigation plus the research findings. 


Educational research is crucial to the overall advancement of different fields of study and learning, as a whole. Data in educational research can be gathered via surveys and questionnaires, observation methods, or interviews – structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. 

You can create a survey/questionnaire for educational research with Formplu s. As a top-tier data tool, Formplus makes it easy for you to create your educational research survey in the drag-and-drop form builder, and share this with survey respondents using one or more of the form sharing options. 


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Educational Research: What It Is + How to Do It

Educational research is collecting and systematically analyzing information on education methods to explain them better. Learn more.

Education is a pillar in modern society, it provides the tools to develop critical thinking, decision making, and social abilities. Education helps individuals to secure the necessary research skills to secure jobs or to be entrepreneurs in new technologies. This is where educational research takes an important place in the overall improvement of the education system (pedagogy, learning programs, investigation, etc.).

Educational research is the spectrum that involves multiple fields of knowledge that scope the different research problems of the learning system and provides a variety of perspectives to solve the issues and improve in general. Educators need ways to filter through the noise of information to find the best practices to better their jobs and deliver better students. This is why educational research that attaches to the scientific method and creates better ideas and new knowledge is essential. The classroom response system allowed students to answer multiple-choice questions and engage in real-time discussions instantly.

What is educational research?

Educational research is collecting and systematically analyzing information on education methods to explain them better. It should be viewed as a critical, reflexive, and professional activity that adopts rigorous methods to gather data, analyze it, and solve educational challenges to help advance knowledge.

Educational research typically begins with identifying a problem or an academic issue. From there, it involves the research of all the data, the information must be analyzed to interpret it. This process ends with a report where results are presented in an understandable form of speech, which can be used by both the researcher and the educational community.

Why is educational research important?

The primary purpose of educational research is to improve the knowledge it exists towards the pedagogy and educational system as a whole. Improving the learning practices and developing new ways of teaching can be achieved more efficiently when the information is shared by the entire community rather than guarded by one institution. Simply put, we can tell that the main three reasons to conduct educational research are:

  • To explore issues . Undertaking research leads to finding answers to specific questions that can help students, teachers, and administrators. Why is student experience design important in new university models? What is the impact of education on new generations? Why is the importance of language while redacting a survey for a Ph.D.?
  • To shape policy . This type of educational research is conducted to collect information to make sustained judgments that can be informed to societies or institutions to improve the governance of education.
  • To improve the quality . Trying to do something better than what is done now is a common reason for educational research to be done. What if we can improve the quality of education by adopting new processes; what if we can achieve the same outcomes with fewer resources? This is quite common in the educational system, but to adapt, institutions must have a base ground of information, which can be obtained by conducting educational research.

Educational Research Methods

Educational research methods are the tools used to carry out research to prove or not the hypothesis of the study.

     An interview is a qualitative research technique that allows the researcher to gather data from the subject using open-ended questions. The most important aspect of an interview is how it is made, typically, it would be a one-on-one conversation that focuses on the substance of what is asked.

Focus Group

Focus groups are also one of the best example of qualitative data in education or approach to gathering information. The main difference from an interview is that the group is composed of 6 – 10 people purposely selected to understand the perception of a social group. Rather than trying to understand a more significant population in the form of statistics, the focus group is directed by a moderator to keep the group in topic conversation. Hence, all the participants contribute to the research.


Observation is a method of data collection that incorporates the researcher into the natural setting where the participants or the phenomenon is happening. This enables the researcher to see what is happening in real time, eliminating some bias that interviews or focus groups can have by having the moderator intervene with the subjects.

A survey is a research method used to collect data from a determined population to gain information on a subject of interest. The nature of the survey allows gathering the information at any given time and typically takes no time, depending on the research. Another benefit of a survey is its quantitative approach, which makes it easier to present it comprehensively.

How to do educational research

Like any other type of research, educational research involves steps that must be followed to make the information gathered from it valuable and usable. 

  • Identifying the problem. The first step in the process is to identify the problem or formulate a research question. 
  • Formulating objectives and hypotheses. Research objectives are the goal intended for the research to take place, they must be explicit at the beginning of the research and related to the problem. The hypothesis is a statement of the research in the form of a question, it helps the researcher to decide which research method is going to be used as well as the data that needs to be collected.
  • Deciding the method of research. There are plenty of research methods, but deciding which one is the best for each case depends on the researcher’s objectives and hypothesis planted in the previous step.
  • Collecting the data. The research method determines how the data is going to be collected. Whether it’s going to be an interview, focus group, or survey depends on the research method.
  • Analyzing and interpreting the data. Arranging and organizing the data collected and making the necessary calculations. A correct translation/interpretation of the data is primordial for everyone to understand, not only the researcher.
  • Writing a report. After the analysis and interpretation of data, the researcher will form a conclusion, a result of his research which can be shared with everyone. This will be done through a report, or a thesis, which includes all the information related to the research. It will include a detailed summary of all his work and findings during the research process.

Educational research is crucial for the improvement of the education system, the improvement of the teaching/learning process relies on the information that’s available in the field. Statements without research evidence are nothing but opinions, the gathering and distribution of information are fundamental in order to improve what we have as an educational system, as it provides explanations to the big questions and provides a bigger picture for future generations. 

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The Belk Center, at its core, is all about productive, collaborative partnership . . .

“The Belk Center, at its core, is all about productive, collaborative partnership, with not just the N.C. Community College System and its 58 colleges, but also with other partners supporting the work of community colleges in this state,” said Audrey “AJ” Jaeger, W. Dallas Herring Professor of Community College Education and executive director of the Belk Center.

The College of Education’s doctoral programs in community college education have long prepared students to become leaders in community colleges. As the Belk Center celebrates five years of elevating NC State’s support for these engines of opportunity, the center’s staff, graduate researchers and faculty fellows are living and breathing our university’s land-grant mission to serve people across our state.

Convening Leaders

The Belk Center launched in 2019, but it was born from conversations that stretched back to 2015, when the John M. Belk Endowment awarded a grant to the college to create its Envisioning Excellence for Community College Leadership Program. Under those auspices, the college revamped its doctoral programs — and its annual Dallas Herring Lecture on emerging topics in educational leadership — to focus on the needs of community college leaders, their students and employers.

Dr. Falecia D. Williams, President of Prince George’s Community College, delivering the 2023 Dallas Herring Lecture.

Jaeger and others in the College of Education appreciated that these leaders could benefit from a dedicated source for research and professional development to prepare them for the rigors of their roles. Decision-makers in the college made it their mission to provide it; for funding, they again sought the backing of the Belk Endowment and its chair, MC Belk Pilon. The $10.8 million grant awarded by the Belk Endowment enabled the creation of the Belk Center.

Few models existed for exactly what Jaeger and her colleagues aimed to build — a center at a flagship, four-year university geared to support a statewide system of community colleges — but Jaeger knew that “ whatever the Belk Center was going to be, it needed to be based upon relationships .” Her team formed an advisory board , packed with experienced community college leaders, to steer discussions that could define their focus.

They built their leadership development resources around what presidents of community colleges told them were their most important issues.

Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College, joined the Belk Center’s advisory board in 2019. As an educator with over two decades’ experience in community college leadership, a former student of two North Carolina community colleges, and a first-generation college graduate who’d completed her bachelor’s degree through years of part-time learning as a working professional, she knew first-hand the obstacles that community college leaders — and their students — must navigate.

“The most wonderful thing about the Belk Center is they don’t make up their content on their own,” said Spriggs. “They built their leadership development resources around what presidents of community colleges told them were their most important issues. For example, at Forsyth Tech, the concepts of equitable educational access, equitable success and equitable career outcomes for every student are essential.”

Dr. Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Technical Community College, converses with attendees at the 2023 Belk Center National Advisory Board meeting.

Spriggs was joined on the advisory board by another educator grounded in the challenges of community college leadership. Jeff Cox has been president of the N.C. Community College System for just over a year, but he was president of Wilkes Community College in 2019, when he first got involved with the Belk Center. After years spent educating students in K-12 schools, first as a teacher and later as an assistant principal, principal and superintendent, he became president of Wilkes in 2014.

These resources that have come out of the Presidents’ Academy are allowing new leaders to really hit the ground running and be effective from day one . . .

There, he grappled with the steep learning curve confronting new presidents who must work quickly to grasp — and anticipate — the interests of business and community stakeholders, and of local learners of all ages and backgrounds.

“Having gone through that, I recognized we really needed to develop a much more robust onboarding and professional development program for new presidents,” said Cox.

Dr. Jeff Cox, president of the N.C. Community College System, converses with other at the 2023 Belk Center National Advisory Board meeting.

From the early efforts of the advisory board, the Presidents’ Academy emerged . This program, led by the Belk Center in partnership with the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, centers on an annual series of “Critical Conversations” with community college leaders around the issues most vital to their institutions. These dialogues foster a wealth of research and leadership development programming made accessible to leaders and their teams through the Belk Center.

“These resources that have come out of the Presidents’ Academy are allowing new leaders to really hit the ground running and be effective from day one, instead of having to take two years to figure everything out,” said Cox.

Creating Tools

The Belk Center then sought to create additional tools that could better equip college leaders to shape positive outcomes at their institutions. One pressing challenge involved the need for a statewide framework of professional development for community college faculty , who have a large hand in influencing the student experience.

“Since community college students don’t necessarily get all the extracurricular activities of a four-year university, and 90% of their college experience is in the classroom, their relationship with faculty is crucial,” said Cox. “There’s a robust infrastructure across the state’s K-12 system for professional development. But my observation coming into the community college system is that we didn’t have that same infrastructure, and it’s often up to each college to figure out what they want to do for professional development.”

The need to prepare faculty with the skills to push through barriers and reach students on their own terms became even more pronounced in 2020, as the world entered a pandemic and learning moved to a digital environment. So the Belk Center, in partnership with national nonprofit Achieving the Dream and the N.C. Student Success Center, set out to identify the specific faculty development needs of North Carolina’s community colleges.

It’s a human-centered approach that also gives students a voice through the educators who serve them on the ground.

“We did six deep-dive case studies, at a mix of urban and rural schools with differing student populations — some with more dual-enrollment high school students, others with more adult learners,” explained Jaeger. “We learned what worked to encourage faculty, incentivize faculty and provide professional development to lift up teaching and learning practices that connect with students.”

The Belk Center leveraged these efforts to create four regional Teaching and Learning Hubs to engage educators in all 58 North Carolina community colleges , connecting them with resources and evidence-based teaching strategies to meet the needs of local learners. The hubs, in their three years of operation, have enhanced learning for around 100,000 students statewide through the faculty they’ve reached.

“It’s a human-centered approach that also gives students a voice through the educators who serve them on the ground,” said Spriggs.

Participants pose at a Teaching and Learning Hub event hosted by the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research.

The center and its partners continued collaborating on new initiatives to emphasize student voices — such as the NC Reconnect program, launched by the Belk Endowment in 2021. This program engages adult learners who started but did not finish their postsecondary education, helping them navigate re-enrollment and re-entry while building a plan to complete a credential or degree.

Researchers at the Belk Center gathered data from five pilot colleges on the barriers adult learners face while juggling career, family responsibilities and their education . They then held focus groups with college leaders, employees, students and former students to gain insight into the factors that stand between adult learners and graduation.

Adult learners involved with the NC Reconnect program learn about medical practices in a hospital room.

NC Reconnect has grown to include 15 colleges in three cohorts, all of which continue contributing data to the program. Spriggs, at Forsyth Tech, became intimately involved with this work when her college joined NC Reconnect’s second cohort of participating schools in 2022.

“We heard from these adult learners that sometimes the challenge is just, ‘life happens,’” she explained. “Their spouse lost a job and they had to work, or someone they were close to got sick and they had to care for them. But we also heard things we weren’t expecting, like our scheduling just wasn’t ideal for their lives, or they didn’t see how a program could lead them to a career.

“ Because of NC Reconnect and the data gathered by the Belk Center, Forsyth Tech expanded a lot of our work-based learning opportunities . We support more apprenticeships, we have more learning internships, we have stronger partnerships with local businesses and we support a more diverse range of programs.”

Catalyzing Change

The Belk Center is committed to elevating the voices of those who’ve worked toward positive change across North Carolina’s community colleges. The center’s celebrated Trailblazer Profiles , for instance, honor the groundbreaking contributions of Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous leaders.

“The impact of these changemakers is immeasurable,” said Jaeger. “Their mentorship lives on forever.”

Stelfanie Williams, 2012-2018 president of Vance-Granville Community College and a Trailblazer Profile honoree, accepts the NC State College of Education’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019.

The center channels this mentorship to support changemakers continuing the work of building more accessible pathways to a community college education — such as leaders of colleges serving North Carolina’s rural communities. College leaders in these communities face unique challenges, including vast service areas, funding gaps and difficulties attracting faculty to specialized programs that meet the career needs of local learners.

The Belk Center launched its Rural College Leaders Program in 2022 to equip leadership teams at these colleges with tools to advance more equitable outcomes for their students. The capacity-building initiative offers targeted support at 10 rural colleges to guide leaders in channeling resources to close gaps in program completion rates for historically underserved populations, including low-income students and students of color.

It’s not about doing this work for them — it’s about sitting beside them and doing it with them.

“We’re really partnering with these rural colleges and helping them think about: how can they leverage their strengths to scale proven strategies; how can they work with other rural colleges or even suburban and urban colleges to partner on things like sharing adjunct professors,” said Cox, whose experiences at Wilkes gave him a firm grasp of rural college leadership. “It’s not about doing this work for them — it’s about sitting beside them and doing it with them.”

Participants at a recent Rural College Leaders Program event stroll through a lobby in front of a sign for the event.

Cox and the N.C. Community College System recently hired the system’s first associate vice president of strategy and rural innovation to serve rural colleges statewide. This position, partially supported by the Belk Center, aims to extend strategies emerging from the Rural College Leaders Program and similar partnerships in rural schools throughout the state. The role reflects a larger calling, as work and education evolve, to continue partnering on scalable solutions to support positive outcomes across North Carolina’s community colleges .

“I think the model is changing toward education being more iterative and lifelong,” explained Cox. “You come, you get this degree, you start work, you change roles, you get a new certification or a new degree. Community colleges are in a unique position to complement universities and tailor programs, including transfer programs, community-by-community and company-by-company to meet the needs of today’s learners.”

The Belk Center and our partners — community colleges and their supporters — are in this together. We’re collaborating for the larger good.

In advancing educational and economic mobility for North Carolinians, community colleges have committed partners in the Belk Center, the College of Education and NC State.

“The Belk Center and our partners — community colleges and their supporters — are in this together,” said Jaeger. “We’re collaborating for the larger good.”

2,035 Adult Learners

enrolled in North Carolina community colleges as a result of NC Reconnect and related partnerships.

16 Community Colleges

in North Carolina have leveraged the Belk Center’s PACE Climate Survey to drive data-informed strategies.

1,406 Employees

from all 58 North Carolina community colleges participated in Teaching and Learning Hub events.

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Education | University of Colorado unveils Center for Psychedelic Research in Denver

Researchers will study the health applications of psilocybin as well as the social impacts of legalization, decriminalization.

Officials announced the creation of the CU Denver Center for Psychedelic Research, which aims to study the medical potential of substances like psilocybin (pictured) as well as the societal impacts of legalization and decriminalization in Colorado. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

On Monday, the University of Colorado announced the creation of the CU Denver Center for Psychedelic Research , which will study the health applications of drugs such as psilocybin as well as the social impacts of legalization and decriminalization in the state. Its mission is to improve “the quality of life of people by studying the possible benefits psychedelic drugs may have in treating a range of mental, emotional, neurologic, and other health conditions,” per the announcement.

With this new center, the University of Colorado joins the ranks of Johns Hopkins University , The University of California , New York University , Ohio State University , and others with research facilities dedicated to investigating psychedelics.

For centuries, indigenous cultures have used certain plants ceremoniously, but momentum has only recently been building to adopt them for medicinal purposes in the United States. Enthusiasm in the 1950s and ‘60s led to robust research into drugs like LSD (acid), and the effects of psychedelics. Though much of that enthusiasm was quashed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, studies and trials have rebounded, leading many researchers to proclaim the arrival of a “psychedelic renaissance.”

Small-scale studies have shown promising results for psilocybin’s ability to treat severe depression , existential distress , nicotine and alcohol addiction , among other ailments. CU Denver is currently conducting what it bills as one of the largest studies on the therapeutic use of psilocybin for individuals facing the end of life . The study’s co-principal investigator, psychology professor Jim Grigsby, serves as executive director and chief science officer of the new psychedelic research center.

“Preliminary research here, and elsewhere, suggests that psychedelics may induce or enhance neural plasticity and neurogenesis in certain parts of the brain,” Grigsby said in a statement. “They are thought to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which might make them effective as therapies for neurological conditions such as stroke or certain neurodegenerative diseases. We have a lot of work to do, but there is so much potential that it’s an exciting time.”

In addition to mental and physical health, the CU Denver Center for Psychedelic Research will evaluate the societal and economic implications of Colorado’s relevant new laws.

In 2022, voters approved a measure that both legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin in state-regulated facilities and decriminalized five different drugs derived from plants and fungi. Regulators are now preparing for a brand-new industry around psychedelic-assisted therapy , which is expected to come online in 2025.

CU Denver’s research center plans to explore how new state law is applied, the ethical and public health implications, and equitable structures to develop insurance coverage and payment policies for these novel treatments, the announcement stated. Faculty will also develop an educational curriculum for folks who want to work with psychedelics in a clinical setting.

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