Educational Research


Educational research and in particular, applied/practitioner researcher is a specialised branch of social science research. Debates about methodology, reliability and validity, rage and are often unhelpful in encouraging the key people, teachers, to engage in researching their practice. The secret ‘black box’ (William and Black 1999) of the classroom is another barrier to investigating and sharing best practice.

A number of highly significant research-evaluation projects since 2014 have fore-fronted the importance of research conducted in schools by the people who work in schools. Teachers, however, are often discouraged because of what is perceived as a highly academic process conducted by university researchers, published in esteemed, peer-reviewed journals in an unreadable technical style.

We offer an antidote: ‘systematic enquiry made public’
(Stenhouse 1978)

And read the executive summary at least of this important review:


For a comprehensive overview of educational research go to:

For classroom practitioner research Gerald Pine provides really practical guidance:

Conducting Teacher Action Research, G Pine, Sage Publications (downloaded from the web, 14/06/17)
Re-loaded below as a pdf if the link does not work

ConductingTeacher Action Research

The following offers a range of activities and references that you can either self-study or we will refer to during F2F sessions.

Here’s a starter site and don’t forget we have access to JSTOR (staff check with Praxie in the library for the log-in details)

There are also plenty of explanations of key terms you might want to consider, especially the tricky concepts of methods and methodology – simplified here

Activities –

we may use or you can review

 1. New Scientist – 3 short pieces (opens in word); unpick the ‘research’ in these articles from New Scientist Weekly, October 2017 Activity for F2F1
New Scientist example 1 ParkinsonsNew Scientist example 2 appsNew Scientist example 3 Yoga

2. Learning the language – from methodology to methods…positivist to interpretivist and all camps in-between and beyond – it’s a tricky meta-language and usually best to get on and pick it up along the way!
Activity for F2F1: Understanding research meta-language

Reading: Positivism, Interpretivism, Critical Inquiry
Some quirky spelling and grammatical errors but a useful quick overview; worth joining Researchgate.

3. A bit about empirical research and using IMRaD to read/write journal articles:

Empirical research is based on observed and measured phenomena and derives knowledge from actual experience rather than from theory or belief.

How do you know if a study is empirical? Read the subheadings within the article, book, or report and look for a description of the research “methodology.” Ask yourself: Could I recreate this study and test these results?

Key characteristics to look for:

  • Specific research questions to be answered
  • Definition of the population, behavior, or phenomena being studied
  • Description of the process used to study this population or phenomena, including selection criteria, controls, and testing instruments (such as surveys)

Another hint: some scholarly journals use a specific layout, called the “IMRaD” format, to communicate empirical research findings. Such articles typically have 4 components:

  • Introduction: sometimes called “literature review” — what is currently known about the topic — usually includes a theoretical framework and/or discussion of previous studies

  • Methodology: sometimes called “research design” — how to recreate the study — usually describes the population, research process, and analytical tools

  • Results: sometimes called “findings” what was learned through the study — usually appears as statistical data or as substantial quotations from research participants

  • Discussion: sometimes called “conclusion” or “implications” — why the study is important — usually describes how the research results influence professional practices or future studies

[Accessed via the WWW 07.03.19 from  (Penn State Univ)]

4. Research Methodology – approaches to research – Life Story
I really like this approach as it reflects my interest in narrative and story writing.
BRADFORD, R,. (2010) Life Writing: Essays on autobiography, biography, and literature. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN
FRANK, W., A,. (2012) Letting stories breathe: A socio-narratology. The University of Chicago Press.
GOODSON, I,. and SIKES, P,. (2001). Life history research in educational settings. Open University Press.
GOODSON, I., (2008) Investigating the teacher’s life and work. Sense Publishers.
JOSSELSON, R., and LIEBLICH A., (1993). The narrative study of lives. SAGE
MILLER, R., (2000). Researching life stories and family histories. SAGE
SCILLIO, M., (2017). Making career stories. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN

5. IMPACT – John Hattie (Visible Learning, 2009) emphasises:

Know they IMPACT!

Hattie uses the controversial EFFECT SIZE approach. This has been criticised by researchers but he defends it passionately (Edinburgh Conference keynotes, March 2019) and provides examples of how to do it for small scale studies.

Calculating effect size

Video version

His work mainly centres around attainment and progress when often our work is around attitudes and behaviours.

How do we measure impact in such small scale research projects? What difference have we made to our learning…student learning? What changes have we made to the school…the system? What constitutes IMPACT – is it just about achievement…standards of attainment…the progress students make in the taught curriculum?

A focus on attainment would constitute a narrow caricature of school life as experienced by students and staff. Life is more ‘complex’ and certainly the knowledge, skills and understandings required to live a productive and enjoyable life in our contemporary and predicted not too distant society reflect much more than curriculum attainment against, for example, national educational targets. Of course we can’t and must not ignore achievement but we need to look at impact in a much broader sense to capture the richness of practitioner research.

The first impact to consider is on the practitioner. What difference has it made to you – your practice, your thinking, your ambitions…? This is a reflective activity. The research group of critical friends provides opportunities to engage in high level and deep reflection. Your research or field journal is a useful place to capture this thinking.

Then it’s time to look to other forms of impact.

A large scale research/evaluation project I was involved in around the Creative Partnerships Programme in England had a particular brief to consider impact. Whilst this was large scale it involved a series of small scale case studies of individual schools and so has a resonance with the kind of practitioner research this programme is concerned with. The following appendix extract from the final report may be helpful in considering the breadth of impact and some of the sources of evidence. Often schools did not consider this breadth, especially in terms of areas like behaviour and attendance.

Impact and evidence data analysis


ARTICLE 1 Journal article – An approach to research from one of our colleagues in a secondary school in Iceland. The Change Room Hjordis Article

ARTICLE 2 elegant tasks art action research Journal article – from a primary school teacher conducting an action research classroom project in Singapore

ARTICLE 3 A resume of John Hattie’s Visible Learning: Visible Learning

Podcast/listening activities

If you haven’t already signed up for TES resources then I thoroughly recommend you do. In any event the latest series of podcasts are great and usually last no more then 30-40 minutes. I am a recent convert!

Elements in your practitioner research How can I improve elements

From big idea to specific question/s What is research? NFER

A big chapter here from Gerald Pine, (Sage, 2009) lots and lots of guidance and practical support: Pine G ConductingTeacher Action Research

A Research Tool-Kit – short piece that does what it says: tool kit

A simple planning template – you might find useful to complete with notes ready for our first 1:1 meeting: C2(i)inquiry plan