You are here: Home / Types of research evidence

Types of research evidence

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

It is increasingly being argued that teaching practice should be evidence based. But there are many different kinds of research into learning and teaching and this claim (that teaching should be evidence based) only becomes meaningful if we say what kind of research evidence we are talking about.

In addition, people outside education are beginning to notice that much educational research doesn’t look anything like the scientific research which usually precedes technological advances and that it doesn’t seem to be resulting in any kind of cumulative development in our understanding of learning or any kind of visible improvement in our ability to design effective teaching programmes.

These observations raise a number of questions. How should learning and teaching be studied? Are there particular research methods which provide more compelling evidence than others about how best to bring about different kinds of learning outcomes in different kinds of learners? Or have education researchers yet to reach agreement on how the effects of teaching on learning might best be measured? What is to count as research evidence? Is there any agreed research evidence on which teaching practices might be based? In this book we will consider these questions in some detail as we explore the different assumptions which are being made and the different research methods which are being employed by those who are engaged in research into learning and teaching.

This book consists of four major chapters.

Chapter 1 considers various widely used research methodologies (approaches to research) and asks which of these methodologies have learning and/or teaching as their subject matter in the sense that they attempt to identify functional relationships between possible teaching variables and possible learning outcomes.

Chapter 2 addresses the question of how learning is to be observed and measured and what is to count as an accurate and reliable record of learning.

Chapter 3 asks how the effects of teaching variables on learning are to be identified and measured.

Chapter 4 considers the types of evidence which might be used in a move to evidence-based teaching practice and asks whether we have yet discovered enough about the relationships between teaching variables and learning outcomes to justify a move towards evidence-based practice in the classroom.