What is research?
Research is ‘the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies, inventions and understandings’ (Australian Research Council, 2015). There are many types of research. For example:
- exploratory research: involves investigating an issue or problem. It aims to better understand this problem and sometimes leads to the formation of hypotheses or theories about the problem.
- descriptive research: describes a population, situation or event that is being studied. It focuses on developing knowledge about what exists and what is happening.
- causal research (also known as ‘evaluative research’): uses experimentation to determine whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists between two or more elements, features or factors.
- synthesis research: combines, compares and links existing information to provide a summary and/or new insights or information about a given topic.
What research will AERO conduct?
AERO conducts a wide range of research projects.
- Some research is exploratory or descriptive to help us determine the educational issues and topics we need to prioritise. This research may, for example, describe patterns in child and student outcomes so we can learn more about education in Australia.
- Some research generates evidence to improve the evidence base in the areas aligned to our annual research agenda. These research projects entail varied methodologies that are tailored to the specific project, and may include primary field research, secondary data analysis, qualitative investigations, randomised control trials or quasi-experimental designs and more.
- Some research evaluates or synthesises existing evidence on the effectiveness of an approach, to make it more accessible and easy to understand.
- Some research projects are aimed at enhancing the use of evidence in schools and early childhood education and care services. These research projects generate insights into how education practitioners and policymakers use evidence to improve child and student outcomes, and the supports and resources that can increase the frequency and quality of evidence use.
AERO has produced a number of documents to support the production of high-quality research. Explore below.
evidence (or education evidence) - Evidence is any type of information that supports an assertion, hypothesis or claim. There are many types of evidence in education, including insights drawn from child or student assessments, classroom observations, recommendations from popular education books and findings from research studies and syntheses. AERO refers to two types of evidence in its work:
- research evidence: This is academic research, such as causal research or synthesis research, which uses rigorous methods to provide insights into educational practice.
- practitioner-generated evidence: This is evidence generated through practitioners in their daily practice (for example, teacher observations, information gained from formative assessments or insights from student feedback on teacher practice).
data - Data is information that is collected and analysed in order to produce findings and/or to inform decision-making. Data can be qualitative (for example, teacher observations or quotes from students) or quantitative (for example, student test scores or attendance data).
qualitative methods - Qualitative methods involve collecting and analysing non-numerical data, and may include observations, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, and documents and artifact analysis. Qualitative methods can be used to understand concepts, opinions or experiences as well as to gather in-depth insights into a problem or generate new ideas.
randomised control trial - A randomised control trial is a trial of a particular approach that is set up in such as a way that allows researchers to test its effects. In a randomised control trial, subjects are randomly assigned to one of two groups: one receiving the approach) that is being tested (the experimental group), and the other receiving an alternative approach or no approach (the comparison group or control). After the trial period, differences between the groups can be attributed to the approach being tested. Researchers and teachers who use randomisation must take into account ethical concerns, such as whether it is ethical to withhold treatment from subjects in the comparison group.
quasi-experimental design - A quasi-experimental design is a research methodology that aims to establish a ‘cause and effect’ relationship (that is, to determine the specific factors that influence an outcome), but it cannot completely eliminate all factors that could influence an outcome (that is, there may still be an element of subjectiveness in the findings).
effective/ness - An educational approach is effective if it causes (see causation above) a desired change in a particular outcome. This desired change can be an increase in an outcome (for example, increases in student achievement) or it can be a decrease in an outcome (for example, reduction in student absenteeism).