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Engaging with educational research

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This free course, Engaging with educational research, introduces you to the theoretical toolkit that is an essential part of engaging in educational enquiry. You will consider the types of theories and what their role is in the research process. Two very influential research perspectives are examined to identify differences in ways we think about and study the social world.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand what a research paradigm is and how paradigms are distinguished from each other by the beliefs and theoretical perspectives drawn on
  • understand how a choice of research paradigm and associated methodology relates to how a research problem is conceptualised
  • understand how different paradigmatic and methodological positions have led over time to different views about what counts as evidence and, as a consequence, what is judged to be valuable educational research.

By: The Open University

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Engaging with educational research


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‘Doing research’ is a process but it is a malleable one that can be reworked and revised along the way. It must start with a problem which raises questions, but these can be revised and refined, even discarded as any process of research or investigation is complex and any one stage will expose further questions and require further decisions as it progresses. Each stage of the research depends on decisions made in the previous stage: the process is cumulative.

In this course you are going to build your understanding of how to evaluate research by thinking about a fundamental part of the research process – research perspectives and approaches. Learning about some of the different ways of researching situations concerned with teaching and learning and the different theoretical tools used in the research process, will enable you to begin to interrogate research literature and address your own research questions. The way research is conceptualised informs the decision about the approach to the research process. In this course we examine two distinct and influential ways in which people have in the past, and continue in the present, to think about and study the complex phenomenon of learning, and the practices and structures which support it. These two examples introduce you to the concept of research paradigms and a framework for thinking about the beliefs and theories about learners, learning and what it is to know, that lie behind researchers’ questions and choices about what to pay attention to and how to do this.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from The Open University course E891 Educational enquiry [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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