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Article

Designing Research for Meaningful Results in Educational Leadership  

Karen Moran Jackson and Ric Brown

Making appropriate methodological and analytic decisions in educational research requires a thorough grounding in the literature and a thorough understanding of the chosen methodology. Detailed preplanning is important for all method types and includes an understanding of the assumptions, limitations, and delimitations of the study. For quantitative research, researchers should be cautious with data analysis decisions that give preference to statistically significant results, noting that quantitative research can proceed with intents other than confirmatory hypothesis testing. Decisions and procedures that are used to search for low p values, rather than answer the driving research question, are especially problematic. Presentation of quantitative results should include components that clarify and account for analytic choices, that report all relevant statistical results, and that provide sufficient information to replicate the study. Consideration should also be given to joining recent initiatives for more transparency in research with the use of preregistered studies and open data repositories. For qualitative research, researchers should be thoughtful about choosing a specific method for their project that appropriately matches the method’s framework and analytic procedures with the research aim and anticipated sample. Qualitative researchers should also strive for transparency in their method description by allowing for a view of the analytic process that drove the data collection and iterative dives into the data. Presentation of qualitative results requires a balance between providing a compelling narrative that establishes the trustworthiness of results with the judicious use of participant voices. Mixed methods research also requires appropriate integration of different data types.

Article

Academic Coping  

Ellen Skinner and Emily Saxton

Academic coping describes the profile of responses children and adolescents utilize when they encounter challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures in their scholastic work. Coping is one of multiple strands of research from a variety of subareas within educational and developmental science that share a common interest in this topic, including work on academic resilience, buoyancy, mastery versus helplessness, tenacity, perseverance, and productive persistence, as well as adaptive help seeking, self-regulated learning, and emotion regulation. These approaches focus on the responses (including emotions and goal-directed behaviors) students actually undertake on the ground when they encounter academic difficulties in their daily lives; patterns of action can be contrasted with the belief systems, motivations, or skill sets that underlie these responses. Since the mid 1980s, several dozen studies have examined academic coping in children and youth from 2nd to 12th grade (ages 7–18), including samples from 29 countries (Skinner & Saxton, 2019). These studies have identified multiple adaptive ways of dealing with academic stress, including problem solving, help seeking, and comfort seeking. These responses are considered productive because they allow students to gather resources and strategies, and so re-engage in demanding tasks with renewed purpose, vigor, and effectiveness. Multiple maladaptive ways of coping have also been identified, such as escape, rumination, or blaming others. These are considered unproductive because when enacted in response to academic demands, they are more likely to trigger disaffection, amplify distress, or provoke negative reactions from social partners. In general, research indicates that students normatively show a profile of coping that is high in adaptive strategies (especially problem solving, help seeking, and support seeking) and low in maladaptive responses. Studies find that students’ adaptive coping is linked to their academic functioning and success, including their educational performance, engagement, persistence, and adjustment to school transitions. In contrast, maladaptive coping is linked to a pattern of poor academic performance, disengagement, and school-related burnout. Students cope more adaptively when they possess motivational assets (such as self-efficacy, relative autonomy, or sense of belonging) and experience interpersonal supports from their parents, teachers, and peers. Studies documenting developmental trends suggest normative improvements in the coping repertoire during elementary school. However, over the transition to middle school in early adolescence, many adaptive ways of coping decline while reliance on maladaptive responses generally increases. Starting in middle adolescence, these problematic trends stabilize, and some studies indicate renewed improvement in coping, especially problem solving. Current research on academic coping faces theoretical, methodological, and applied challenges: (a) theoretically, more comprehensive conceptualizations are needed that integrate coping perspectives with social contextual, motivational, and developmental approaches; (b) methodologically, standard measures are needed that focus on core categories of academic coping, and that utilize allocation scoring; and (c) to further applied work, additional studies are needed that describe and explain normative and differential age-graded changes in adaptive and maladaptive coping across childhood and adolescence. Researchers who study academic coping believe that this work has much to offer educational theories, research, and interventions aimed at understanding how to help children and adolescents develop the capacity to deal constructively with the obstacles and problems they will inevitably encounter during their educational careers.

Article

Action Research  

Eileen S. Johnson

Action research has become a common practice among educational administrators. The term “action research” was first coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, although teachers and school administrators have long engaged in the process described by and formally named by Lewin. Alternatively known as practitioner research, self-study, action science, site-based inquiry, emancipatory praxis, etc., action research is essentially a collaborative, democratic, and participatory approach to systematic inquiry into a problem of practice within a local context. Action research has become prevalent in many fields and disciplines, including education, health sciences, nursing, social work, and anthropology. This prevalence can be understood in the way action research lends itself to action-based inquiry, participation, collaboration, and the development of solutions to problems of everyday practice in local contexts. In particular, action research has become commonplace in educational administration preparation programs due to its alignment and natural fit with the nature of education and the decision making and action planning necessary within local school contexts. Although there is not one prescribed way to engage in action research, and there are multiple approaches to action research, it generally follows a systematic and cyclical pattern of reflection, planning, action, observation, and data collection, evaluation that then repeats in an iterative and ongoing manner. The goal of action research is not to add to a general body of knowledge but, rather, to inform local practice, engage in professional learning, build a community practice, solve a problem or understand a process or phenomenon within a particular context, or empower participants to generate self-knowledge.

Article

Attitudes and Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs in Regular Schools  

Elias Avramidis and Anastasia Toulia

There has been a proliferation of studies examining attitudes toward the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular education settings. Most studies to date have focused on examining the attitudes regular teachers hold toward inclusion on the assumption that their acceptance of the policy of inclusion is likely to affect their commitment to implementing it. Other researchers have directed their attention to the attitudes held by typically developing children toward their peers with SEN and, to a lesser extent, to the attitudes of parents toward the inclusion of students with SEN in their children’s classroom. Teachers have been found to generally hold positive attitudes toward the notion of inclusion, which are largely affected by the severity of the child’s disability, the level of in-service training received, the degree of prior teaching experience with students with SEN, and other environment-related factors. Typically developing students have been found to hold neutral attitudes toward their peers with SEN. Age, prior experience of studying in inclusive settings, and parental influence seem to influence their attitudes. Studies on parents’ attitudes have revealed neutral-to-positive attitudes toward the general notion of inclusion. Several factors were found to influence parental attitudes, such as their socio-economic status and education level along with their child’s type of disability. Most attitudinal research to date has described static situations through the employment of single methodological research designs. Consequently, there is a need for mixed-method studies that employ coherent and, wherever possible, longitudinal research designs.

Article

Creativity  

Dimitrios Zbainos and Todd Lubart

Creativity refers to the ability to produce original work that is meaningful and valuable within its context. Paul J. Guilford, at the American Psychological Association conference in 1950, devoted his presidential address to creativity and stressed its importance for future generations. Guilford conceptualized creativity as a factor within a general theory of intelligence, and in this regard, creativity was an individual ability involving divergent thinking that could be developed through interaction between individuals and their environments. Since then, creative thinking processes have been extensively studied, the initial conceptions have been modified, and new perspectives are being provided; for instance, neuroscientists are examining creative thinking processes using different methods and tools than those used in traditional cognitive psychology. Nevertheless, great creations have not always been the products of one person. On the contrary, many great creative achievements have involved the collaboration of several people, not as the sum of individual creativities but as the product of the whole group. Furthermore, both individual and group creativity, as any other psychological construct, cannot be studied isolated from the context within which it occurs. Even Guilford’s emphasis on creativity was the product of the sociopolitical and cultural conditions of the time (the Cold War, post–World War II intellectual malaise, and the dawning of the space race). Creative processes and acts are not solely an expression of individual abilities; they are also social, embodied, and temporal and should be studied as such. In recent decades the world is characterized by rapid change; the economic and the sociocultural conditions in a globalized economy have led creativity to be a highly socially valued ability. People consume creative products at a higher rate than any other time in history, including artistic creations such as films, music, fine arts, or countless technological innovations, which in turn raises the demand for more creative productions. Education has an important role to play to prepare students for a creativity-thirsty society. In Vygoskian terms it mediates the elements that help children to master their environments. Modern curricula stress the need for the development of students’ creativity so that they are equipped with the necessary skills for the society of tomorrow. It is possible to consider the different facets of creativity through a 7 Cs approach. These Cs provide a framework for examining creativity in terms of creators (creative people), creating (the act of producing new work), collaborations (interactions with close others during creation), context (the physical and social environment), creation (the new production and its characteristics), consumption (the uptake and adoption of creative work), and curricula (teaching and developing creativity through education). Research on creativity, across the 7 Cs, provides numerous avenues for the educational development of creativity.

Article

Accountability of Assessment Administration  

Arsaythamby Veloo, Ruzlan Md-Ali, and Rozalina Khalid

Changes in the education system will invariably alter the modes of assessment and practices moving forward. This will demand high expectations among stakeholders who are directly involved with the accountability of assessment administration. Presently, professional education organizations have codes of conduct, principles and standards for administration assessment that outline certain responsibilities to ensure that the inherent accountability of the assessment administration system is maintained and continually improved. Accordingly, it is important that assessment administration practices are aligned with the institution’s assessment policies. Similarly, assessment administrators should collaborate with institutions to develop and unify assessment standards and practices and to pay particular attention to the accountability of assessment administration, which includes maintaining assessment security and integrity. Assessment practices are expected to be fair, equitable, and unbiased when measuring students’ performance, which is heavily reliant on the accountability of assessment administration. Assessment practices previously have been focused more on the cognitive aspects involved in paper and pencil tests based on a standardized test. Thus, not many issues concerning assessment administration have been discussed. However, there is a need to accommodate and modify assessment administration according to the needs of current assessment modes and practices, where most countries have now adopted school-based assessment. The accountability of teachers towards the student’s assessment becomes even more important within the school-based assessment system. Hence, the teachers are accountable for students’ performance in the classroom environment rests with teachers. Therefore, to overcome and address many of the challenges associated with administration assessment as we move towards the future; close attention must be paid to the accountability of how the process around the administration of assessments is administered. Assessment administrators are accountable and expected to display honesty, integrity, due care, validity, and reliability, and to ensure that fairness is observed and maintained during assessment. The assessment process can impact the teacher’s orchestration and design of assessment administration practices and in addressing the issues of fairness in the eyes of stakeholders when determining student performance. Assessment administration involves processes that need to be well planned, implemented, and continuously monitored. Likewise, there are standardized, documented rules and procedures that assessment administrators need to follow to ensure that accountability is maintained.

Article

Peer Effects in Education  

Jonathan Pratschke and Giovanni Abbiati

In the social sciences, the term “peer effects” has been widely used to describe the various ways in which individual behaviors and attitudes can be influenced by friends, acquaintances, and the wider social environment. Due to the crucial role of social interactions within the school context, the role of peers in shaping academic outcomes has been under scrutiny for decades. Following seminal work by Manski, we distinguish between three different components of peer influence: endogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies in accordance with the behavior of the peer group), exogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies with the characteristics of the members of the peer group), and correlated (where the behavior of individuals is shaped by shared environmental or institutional factors). By estimating a simultaneous autoregressive model, we assess the relative strength of these three forms of peer influence in relation to secondary school exam results in a large sample of Italian school-leavers. One limitation is that we are only able to observe peer influence within the classroom, while another is that the study is confined to a specific moment in time, which comes quite late in young people’s educational trajectories. The results confirm that peer processes play an important role in the reproduction of social inequalities, against the backdrop of institutional criteria for the selection of students into schools and classes. These factors therefore demand the sustained attention of educational administrators and policymakers.

Article

High Stakes Testing and Educational Inequality in K-12 Schools  

Ronald W. Solórzano

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.

Article

Intelligence  

Robert J. Sternberg

Intelligence is commonly viewed as the ability to learn from experience as well as to adapt to the surrounding environment. There are several approaches to understanding intelligence, including the psychometric, cognitive, biological, cultural/contextual, and systems approaches. Each approach places an emphasis on different psychological aspects of intelligence as well as on different ways of investigating it. The psychometric approach is largely based on statistical methods, especially factor analysis. The cognitive approach studies mental representations and processes. The biological approach is largely brain based. The cultural/contextual approach emphasizes the role of culture in defining what constitutes intelligence in a given cultural setting. And the systems approach looks at intelligence in terms of complex systemic interactions. Two systems theories are Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and Robert Sternberg’s theory of successful intelligence. Gardner’s theory argues that there are eight distinctive intelligences, whereas Sternberg’s theory argues that intelligence comprises creative, analytical, practical, and even wisdom-based skills. Intelligence appears to be at least somewhat malleable. A number of programs have had modest to moderate success in helping people to improve their intelligence. These programs work best if they are sustained. They work less well if used only for short periods of time. Schooling is one way of increasing intelligence. The Flynn effect shows modifiability of intelligence across secular time. During the 20th century, IQs rose roughly 30 points worldwide, or 10 points per decade. These results suggest that environment can have a powerful effect, at least on IQ and over a generational time span. However, the increases experienced in the 20th century are not being experienced worldwide in the 21st century.

Article

A History of Qualitative Research in Education in China  

Manli Li

Since the early 2000s, qualitative research (QR) emerged as an interpretive approach and has gained increasing interest in education in China, while it is deeply rooted in Chinese intellectual history. Indigenously, the concept of QR methodology sought to explore the richness, depth, and complexity of phenomena, which was a way to gain insights through discovering meanings by improving the comprehension of the whole overall. In the 1920s, pioneering intellectuals promoted Western education or new education in the New Culture Movement (around the time of the May 4 Movement in 1919), led by Hu Shih, Chen Tuhsiu, Li Tachao, and others. They actively advocated democracy and science. The May 4th Campaign dealt a heavy blow to the traditional rituals that ruled China for more than 2,000 years. It has inspired people’s democratic consciousness and promoted the development of modern science in China. Quantitative research, like statistical methods, was introduced in the field of education. With the development of theories and methods of probabilistic statistics for studying randomness, small sample theory, statistical estimation, and statistical tests were widely introduced in the 1940s. In the upcoming decades, for many, quantitative research evoked a strong allegiance in academia, particularly in education, since it was considered to be based on a belief in science, perhaps more so than what many considered qualitative research in China. Actually, the relationship between qualitative and quantitative research in education has been fraught with misunderstanding, confusion, and tension in China. After the 1990s, QR, which has been primarily advocated by Western researchers, has also grown in importance in educational and cultural studies in China as a methodological approach to research that aligns in important ways with quantitative research. Thus, internal tensions within the field of education have also emerged. Yet, though both approaches vary and have distinct genealogies and commitments, QR may be seen as a broad methodological genre in which open-ended interviews, participatory and non-participation observation, literature analysis, case studies, and other methods of social phenomena engage in long-term, in-depth, and meticulous studies. Such critically oriented QR has important implications for educational research.