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An Introduction to Research Procedures in Education

reviewed by N. A. Fattu - 1965

coverTitle: An Introduction to Research Procedures in Education
Author(s): J. F. Rummel
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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Deficiencies in educational research organizations and personnel are the focus of the Lazarsfeld and Sieber study. The authors find that educational research, in its organized form, has changed little in twenty years, even though marked strides had been made in the related areas of psychology and sociology.

Among the problems of educational research institutes are those stemming from the perennial conflict between service and research. Research has appeared geared to improvement of specific practices in particular locales rather than to understanding. In this local emphasis on service, routine "social bookkeeping" has been confused with research. Within these organizations, preference for former practitioners rather than academic researchers have meant that scholars with a knowledge of educational theory were not often involved.

Students with a research commitment are more likely to enter a related academic area rather than education. Efforts to develop researchers are frustrated by a prior commitment to a future administrative or teaching job. The fact that most schools of education require a doctoral candidate to have teaching experience before starting his studies usually means that the doctorate is seen as a means of job advancement. To develop a strong commitment to research, the student should have had relevant preparation as an undergraduate, and this interest should have been nurtured by subsequent experience.

Relatively few education faculty members are actively engaged in research; hence the opportunity for student apprenticeship is diminished. The alternative is to give training through formal courses, but it is difficult to develop a research commitment through course work alone. Faculty who supervise student research typically are loaded with more than twice as many advisees as their colleagues in psychology or sociology. Partly because of organizational factors and the lesser interest of education students in research, the dissertation program is marked by a certain degree of laxity. Graduate students typically spend less time on their dissertations than students in related fields.

Lazarsfeld and Sieber note that administrators are usually evaluated on political grounds rather than on educational statesmanship. Since it is usually safer public relations not to do anything very new, skepticism about the value of research is common.

This harsh appraisal comes from facts identified in a survey conducted by the chairman and an associate of one of the most respected social survey research organizations in the country. What is striking is that this state of affairs has persisted for so many years.

It is, however, a mistake to extrapolate these trends for the future. Strong social forces outside of education are forcing a new look. The United States knows its future depends on its brainpower, and a first class education for all our people is being recognized as a necessary means of developing that brain power. The cold war and the space and missile race have had their repercussions. The federal government began substantial support of curriculum development programs through the National Science Foundation, and support of research through the Cooperative Research and the National Defence Education Acts. Under the aegis of the Great Society, these programs are not likely to decrease. Federal support is already playing a major role in the organization of research and the training of the new generation of research workers. These programs are already exerting a strong influence toward increasing the widespread support of educational inquiry.

The three books on the content of educational research by Rummel, Kerlinger, and Travers need to be examined in relation to these new demands. In terms of research sophistication, all are distinct improvements over those of a decade ago.

Rummers revision is still addressed to the first year graduate student typically enrolled in a one semester class. This edition was designed to expand the content, update the references, and to make the material more readable. It is the most readable of the three, but it contains the usual simplifications and omissions. The instructor who uses it should be ready to amplify many of the topics.

About one-third of the text is devoted to observational techniques, questionnaire and correspondence techniques, and documentary analysis. More space might have been profitably given to the design of research. To be sure, the author illustrates simple random, random-replication, groups-within-treatments designs, and merely lists the names of others. It would have been useful to extend this discussion to contrast rationales, discuss relative merits and limitations, relative efficiency, and alternative hypotheses.

References at the end of chapters are not at the level of easy transition from the text. The student who has just completed the design chapter would have difficulty in reading such references as Winer and Cox without a good deal of assistance from the instructor.

For a convenient one semester course, Rummers appears to be as readable and accurate an introduction to educational research as any at the present time. However, graduates of schools whose research emphasis is restricted to a one semester course are likely to find themselves increasingly unable to keep up with future research even as consumers.

Kerlinger's major purpose is "to help students understand the fundamental nature of the scientific approach to problem solutions." Emphasis is on the research problem, the design of research, and the relation between the two.

Notions of set, relation, and variance are discussed; and these tools are used to present a coherent treatment of probability, statistics and measurement, and their relation to research activity. The extensive content is organized into eight parts. The first three are devoted to foundations—the nature of science, hypotheses, constructs and definitions, randomness and sampling. The remainder of the book uses the foundations to consider problems of design, measurement, observation and data collection, and data analysis.

Kerlinger recommends two semesters for the course. Several features are used to deal with some of the inherent difficulties. Topics are discussed at length, and many examples are used. One digit numbers are used in the simpler numerical examples to permit focus on the fundamental ideas to be communicated rather than tedious arithmetic. It is unfortunate that these small numbers were not used with some of the more involved examples such as factor analysis. Most of the chapters have problems and suggested readings designed to help the student master the material presented.

Kerlinger emphasizes detailed encyclopedic knowledge. He displays marvelous versatility in presenting an array of materials, concepts, and tools far beyond those in existing educational research textbooks. Even a good student will be challenged to master the content thoroughly within one year. When he does he will be rewarded with a repertoire of tools at his command far beyond those of the majority of present day educational researchers.

Despite this virtuosity, something seems to be missing. The Kerlinger text appears to be well suited for producing competent technicians. If educational research is to assume its proper role in the latter third of the twentieth century, perhaps some concern about creativity—for the identification and development of fresh new ideas—needs to be expressed.

Travers covers essentially the same ground as Kerlinger but does so more selectively and therefore appears to be more readable. His style and concern are directed toward the architect as well as the brickmaker. Travers suspects that the graduate student who is most capable of generating novel research ideas is not usually the one who evaluates such ideas critically. In fact, critical abilities seem to inhibit the free flow of ideas. Those who have ideas may be expected to have many poor ones as well as good ones. Such students need advisers who recognize their talent and encourage it.

Intellectual climate seems to be important in developing creative talents. Few graduate schools of education have created an environment favorable for the development of such talent. They are usually organized for conformists who follow the rules and regulations.

A student nurtured on Travers would be less competent as a technician, but more understanding relative to imagination and creativity, than one exposed only to Kerlinger. For a first-rate two semester course it would seem that the student ought to be exposed to both. He would thereby gain a wide variety of techniques, and at the same time be better able to appreciate the role of creativity.

Both Kerlinger and Travers deal with the strategies and tactics of psychological and sociological research thus reflecting the background and interests of their authors. But is this all there is to research in education? This point may be clarified by referring to W. K. Estes' article on learning in the Encyclopedia of Educational Research:

As the psychology of learning begins to show signs of maturity, one sees ever more clearly that its relation to education is going to be much more like that of physiology to medicine than like that of medicine to the patient. We find no rational grounds for expecting direct transfer of laboratory findings or direct application of psychological theories to problems of the schoolroom. False expectations in this respect by educators can only be a source of perpetual disappointment.

Only Travers acknowledges the existence of an evolving field of educational research. Experimental and other research methods of psychology and sociology will be useful to education for basic research and for some applied research contributions. But education must also be concerned with operations of schools and application of basic discoveries to the improvement of its program. The Arthur D. Little investigators, in their Basic Research in the Navy, point out that it took far more effort to translate a basic discovery into an application than it did to make the basic discovery in the first place. An application cannot be made until the last bit of knowledge needed to make it is discovered. In education, where the contingencies are far more diverse than those of physical science or engineering, we expect the application to be made more or less automatically. Perhaps we may not be training educational research workers capable of coping with the future unless that training includes work in operations research, simulation, and other strategies that are useful in maximizing information in educational situations. Books like those reviewed are necessary but not sufficient.


The New Jersey State Department of Education has issued Paperbound Books in New Jersey Public Schools, prepared by Project Director Max Bogart and Rychard Fink. This is far more than a report on a project involving systematic analysis of the effects of paperbacks on the English language arts curriculum; because both teachers and children were consulted, and a startling inadequacy of available literature was revealed. The implications of the "paperback revolution" are dramatic, if taken seriously in the schools; and this attractive booklet indicates some of the possibilities. Two student comments may summarize them best: "Gee, who picked these books? They're really good ones," and "This is a great idea."

The prominence given Edgar Z. Friedenberg's Coming of Age in America (soon to be reviewed in these pages) makes relevant and interesting the research project on which it was based: "Influence of Ressentiment on Student Experience in Secondary School," Cooperative Research Project No. 1758, by Carl Nordstrom, Edgar Z. Friedenberg, and Hilary A. Gold. (The term "ressentiment" is adapted from Jean-Paul Sartre, who says that men of "ressentiment" cannot bring other individuals into focus when dealing with them and are compelled to throw them into abstract categories which deny individuality.) The accounts of actual interviews with high school students and the attempt to discover the effects of institutional "press" on young people are provocative enough to move others into inquiry and, perhaps, assessment of their own—as well as this particular project's—assumptions and methodologies.

Biographies and autobiographies hold considerable significance for teachers interested in helping young people conceptualize and structure their lives. There is, presently, a wealth of new writing in this dimension: Claude Brown's (soon to be reviewed), the Sammy Davis Jr. story called Yes I Can; and the posthumous work by the great Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco. Kazantzakis did not live long enough to edit and chisel down; but the book, for all its frenzies and excesses, makes possible an experience of seeking which is in the deepest sense "educational." With his roots sunk deeply in the Cretan soil, Kazantzakis undertook a spiritual and intellectual journey perhaps unique in modern times. Moving between western and eastern cultures, between the classic and the intensely modern, the Enlightenment and the monastery, the university and the battle field, Re-port to Greco becomes a kind of Baedeker to the intellectual landscapes of the century in addition to being a flawed, grandiose work of art. It can serve as a guidebook for teachers and for all who go in search.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 67 Number 3, 1965, p. 233-233
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 2383, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 8:41:05 AM

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