Jump-starting an Education Research Project: Applying a 4-Step Process to Plan Your Research

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Bring your burning education research questions and ideas and be prepared to jump start your next education research project. During this fast-paced, interactive, and information packed session presenters will use a case-study approach to exemplify a 4-step process to design, conduct and disseminate your next education research project.  We will also share research tips, techniques, and tools and solicit others from participants. Bring a device and a research question ideas you want to jump start. 


Paige McDonald is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Learning at The George Washington University. She is currently working to promote blended learning and develop blended courses in Health Professions education. Paige's research interests include blended learning, collaborative learning, reflective practice, and course design for higher levels of learning.
Over 20 years in adult education and curriculum development. Online learning is my modality and I partner with e-learning developers to implement best practices in instructional design and educational pedagogy for teaching and learning.
I currently work with a team to develop and reinforce the pedagogy and assessment strategies of faculty, and facilitate the growth of education science. Current research is focused on instructional design, educational technologies and assessing the value of online learning mechanisms and educational outcomes of blended learning and social media learning communities.

Extended Abstract

Problem & Relevance

Educational innovation requires research to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of new methods of learning design and delivery. In 1991, Boyer defined the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) as the systematic study of the processes of teaching and learning. Shulman (1999) further distinguished SOTL as work that is made public, available for peer review and critique, and that other peers may build upon.  In essence, Shulman was describing how educational researchers can contribute to a body of science on teaching and learning. Within the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), we have an opportunity to lead the science of teaching and learning with technology (SOTLT). However, in order to take this lead, we must develop a community of researchers skilled in educational research to generate evidence of effective models, frameworks, interventions, and practices for teaching and learning with technology. We must generate a body of knowledge that is public, available for critique by peers and capable of being built upon by other scholars.

We begin by designing and conducting high quality research, even from an action research perspective, to determine the effectiveness of innovations in pedagogical approaches, including innovative uses of technology. Much of our current research focuses on case examples of new and innovative approaches, but we lack sufficient data to demonstrate generalizable results to others contexts and learning environments. We need to be able to generate a larger “N” for educational research projects to move beyond pilot projects or case studies for generalizable results.

To achieve the goal of advancing a community of SOTLT scholars, faculty and instructional designers should consider research design in conjunction with the design of new courses, pedagogical approaches or technological innovations. Time, lack of knowledge of research processes and methods can inhibit the generation of evidence. Therefore,  faculty and instructional designers need a streamlined process for designing effective education research projects, research protocols must be implemented in conjunction with pedagogical innovation, and structural assistance, such as an umbrella protocol for research on innovative learning design and delivery, are required to remove the barrier of time associated with education research.


Quick Start (Pre-Session)

Participants will be invited to  join our web-based, interactive platform (e.g. Padlet or Trello) which will be used for facilitating the session and dissemination of resources. Once connected to the platform, participants will respond to descriptive questions to help the facilitators ensure they know who is participating and how to tailor the session.   

Start with the Why (5 Minutes)

Using a storytelling approach the facilitators will frame the problem and the relevance to our community. 

Welcome, Objectives, and Introductions (2 Minutes) 

Facilitators will welcome participants, establish objectives, and create a learning environment by revisiting the quick start activity to explain how the interactive platform will be used throughout the session. 

Developing an Education Technology Research Protocol 

Facilitators will kick off the 4 Step process by creating a common language and differentiating amongst action research, education research, and program evaluation. During the microlecture and discussion portion of each of the 4 Steps an education research example(s) will be deconstructed to help provide a frame-of-reference for participants. 

Step 1: What is the Problem or Issue You are Trying to Solve? (10 Minutes) 

Microlecture & Discussion (Large Group): Developing A Question 

Protocol Development (Independent or Small Group)

Feedback (Partners)

Step 2: What data will inform you? (5 Minutes) 

Microlecture & Discussion  (Large Group): Data & Data Collection 

Protocol Development (Independent or Small Group)  

Feedback (Partners)

Step 3: How will you collect the data? (5 Minutes) 

Microlecture & Discussion  (Large Group): Methods

Protocol Development (Independent or Small Group)

Feedback (Partners)

Step 4: How will you make meaning of your data? (5 Minutes) 

Microlecture & Discussion  (Large Group): Analysis 

Protocol Development (Independent or Small Group)

Protocol Debrief: Metacognition with Partners (5 Minutes)  

Participants reflect on their experience and commit to follow-up actions as a result of their experience. 

Beyond the Protocol: Questions and Considerations (3 Minutes) 

Large group discussion focusing on topics such as: IRB, dissemination of findings, technology sandboxes, approval and governance at your institution, help people avoid pitfalls

Closing (5 Minutes )

Facilitators will close the session by summarizing workshop pearls and sharing next steps for implementation of the protocols including virtual collaboration space, coaching, and reporting back. 

Tangible Takeaways

At the conclusion of this session, participants will have: 

  • individualized education technology research protocol to implement   

  • access to a virtual toolbox with references and resources 

  • access to a virtual collaboration space


Ernest L. Boyer (1996) From Scholarship Reconsidered to Scholarship Assessed, Quest, 48:2, 129-139, DOI: 10.1080/00336297.1996.10484184

Shulman, L. S. (1999). Taking learning seriously. Change, 31 (4), 10-17. Retrieved from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/elibrary/taking-learning-seriously