Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

A Research Primer for Agricultural Educators

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

A Research Primer for Agricultural Educators

Article excerpt

When Dr. Ralph Bender ffered me a graduate ssistantship at Ohio State some years ago, I said yes but there were three conditions that had to be met:

1. The assistantship had to start on July 1.

2. The assistantship had to pay a certain amount.

3. The assistantship had to involve teaching, not research.

The third condition was the key condition. I did not want to do research. As a high school agriculture teacher I was suspicious of research. To me research was like some type of voodoo mumbo jumbo. There was no rational reason for my views other than the fact that I didn't know much about research. We tend to fear those things that we don't know about. Fortunately, Dr. Bender agreed to these conditions, so I started my graduate career at Ohio State.

I was soon enrolled in an introductory research course, and discovered that research was not all that scary. As a matter of fact, it was sort of interesting and could even be enjoyable. The first research course was followed by several others. I ended up getting a minor in research and statistics as part of my doctoral program.

I believe the reason many agricultural educators have views toward research similar to those I had as a teacher is because they don't understand some of the terminology used in conducting research and are confused by the statistics that are often associated with research studies. The purpose of this article is to try and simplify the world of research. As professional educators, we should possess some knowledge of research and research methodology. It is the mark of a professional educator.

What is Research?

Research is simply searching for answers to questions. That is it!! In order to do quality research there are some established procedures to be followed, but basically research is seeking answers to questions or problems that we may encounter. If students do poorly on an exam, we try to figure out why. Did the students study for the exam? Did I do a poor job of teaching the material? What should be done differently next time? The goal of research is to find answers to questions.

The Research Question

One of the first steps in conducting research is to clearly state a research question. Exactly what is the problem that needs to be studied or what is the question that needs to be answered? It is hard to conduct research if one does not clearly know what he or she is researching. Examples of research questions might be:

1. Does assigning homework result in students scoring higher on unit exams?

2. How do other agriculture teachers who are on block schedules utilize class time?

3. What are the reasons students give for not wanting to have a SAE program?

In identifying the research question, it is important to consider several factors.

* Is the topic significant? In other words is this problem really worthy of study. Often students in graduate school who have to conduct research as part of a class assignment seem to pull topics out of the air that are not really that important. The question should be worthy of study.

* Is the research feasible? Does the researcher have the time and money to conduct the study? One doesn't want to start a research study and then at/andon it because of time issues or cost.

* Is the research question written so that it is researchable? Some research questions may be worded so broadly that it is impossible to answer the question. Does cooperative learning work? This question is way too broad and is not a good research question because work can be interpreted in a variety of ways. This question needs to be refined.

Some researchers take the research question and convert it to one or more research objectives. An example would be: "The purpose of this research is to determine if assigning homework in agricultural education results in higher test scores on unit exams." The decision on whether to have a research question (or questions) or research objectives is a matter of personal preference. …

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