In standard research, there are several groups used . Groups are made up of the same type of people (age, gender, similar conditions, etc.). One group is called the “Control Group.” The control group does not recieve the “condition” of the study. There needs to be many members in each group for the best possible results (hundreds of thousands). This is considered a large sample size. Also, each group should have the same number of people . Each group participates in a different side of the study being conducted. For example, if a pharmaceutical company tests a new medication , they have one group that receives the drug and another group that does not receive the drug . The group that does not take the drug will instead take a placebo (sugar pill) that will not have an effect on the condition being researched . Also, all other conditions for each group are kept the same (except for the drug for the condition studied). Example, sleep, exercise, diet, etc. To help justify the results , the researcher assigning the groups, the researcher(s) administering the study , and the person who interprets the results are all different people. The researchers of the study do not talk about the research until all of the data are completed . This keeps a person’s opinion or bias out of the study. This is called a “Double Blind” study. Since the other conditions are nearly identical , the only condition that is different between the groups is the factor (drug) being tested . Any information should then be a result of the one condition that was researched in the various groups.
Educators and education researches use a different style of research. They use a style called “Action Research.” What is Action Research? Action Research is a type of research that uses observation as part of the study . There are no control groups, the person running the research is the same person that analyzes the data , and there is only a small sample size, sometimes as little as twenty children . Since there is no control group, and one person controls the entire research , there is no “Double Blind” standard used in Action Research.
So, why would they use Action Research? A concern in educational research is that it is improper to give something of value to one student and withhold it from another, even if the thing of “value” has not been determined to be of value. Also, society isn’t open to the idea of experimenting on children . It is very difficult to have a large research group. Usually research can only be completed at the classroom, school, or at most the district level. This results in small sample sizes.
What are the possible discrepancies with the data from action research? When Action Research is being conducted , the first thing that happens is a hypothesis is stated (What a researcher believes the condition researched will do). Second, the educator applies the condition to the research (gives the material, etc. to his or her students) . Finally, the researcher compiles the data . Someone using this type of research needs to be very careful not to skew the data towards the hypothesis. This is easy for someone to do without even knowing he or she being aware of it. For example, let’s say you are teaching with a new idea because you believe the new method will help students understand a concept more clearly . You see that one of your the students prefers to use a method you used earlier in the year. You then say to the student, “This “other” method is better and easier.” The researcher just changed the results by expressing to a student that the new method is better. The student uses the new method because your comment lets the student know that, that is the method he or she should use. The problem is that the student understands the old way better and you just pushed a result towards your hypothesis. Plus, students may use the old way on the assesment but make it appear to be like the new method . This is so the student doesn’t disapointed theteacher.
Is Action Research a completely negative thing? No, but when using Action Research, make sure you work hard to make the study as non-biased as possible. When reading the results of a study that used Action Research, you need to understand that there is no definitive proof that the research is valid. A lot of Action Research is mostly common sense. So use your common sense and take it with a grain of salt. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been told to use researched strategies in my classroom that will raise state test scores. It always starts off with, “Research shows…” I teach the condition of the research because I am told to do so. I follow the study’s guidelines and practices . The condition does not increase our state test scores . I then consult the research and find out that the parameters of the study are specific and do not apply to our school’s demographics . The research was used out of state, so the two state assesments may not be comparable.