Educational research, sometimes called the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning or SoTL, is the systematic analysis of aspects of instruction and their effect on student learning. This can be descriptive or can be hypothesis-driven. This research also can be quantitative or qualitative. Streveler and Smith suggest that as teachers evolve, they should grow toward this scholarship of teaching as a means of improving their own teaching and providing information to guide other teachers; see information from these authors below.
When considering educational research, as with any research project, the first step is to clearly define your research question. This best permits design of a study to capture necessary quantitative data (for example, student grades) and qualitative data (for example, survey of student to determine attitudes). Quantitative studies are descriptive and explanatory; they explain phenomena from an objective perspective and provide data as numbers, statistics, charts and tables. Qualitative studies are descriptive and interpretive; they explain a particular setting or phenomenon from the point of view of the people experiencing it and use words and images to describe and communicate their findings. With any kind of study, attention should be paid to collection of baseline data before changes are implemented and evaluated. Examples of databases that can be searched for literature review to support educational research include ERIC (Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse), Academic Search Complete, and Pubmed and educational databases available through the University library system. Interesting information and some obscure materials can sometimes be found through Google Scholar.
IRB (human subjects research) paperwork
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Minnesota oversees all human subjects research. Investigators who have never taken human subjects training are required to do so before studies can be approved by IRB; this initial training is called the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) basic course. After initial training, advanced training is periodically required. Not all studies require rigorous review by IRB; they will make that determination for investigators. The IRB website has links to training and all necessary forms, and the staff at the IRB are happy to assist investigators as they prepare to do educational research.
Examples from within the College
Many faculty members at the College participate in SoTL. Examples of their work are included in the dropdowns below. If you have published educational research that is not included in these examples, please send an electronic copy of your work to Peggy Root ([email protected]).