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Unit information: Understanding Educational Research in 2018/19

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Unit name Understanding Educational Research
Unit code EDUCD0011
Credit points 20
Level of study D/8
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Tikly
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit proceeds by examining the justifications for different approaches to educational and social research, and examples of recently published research which have influenced theory, policy, planning or practice in education. These examples are critically interrogated in ways that reveal their paradigmatic foundations, and their conceptual and methodological strengths and weaknesses. The examples are discussed in respect of their worthwhileness, applicability and ethical characteristics using perspectives and methods drawn from the philosophy of the social sciences.


The unit provides an overview of different approaches to educational research through theoretical and methodological reflections and the critical examination of contemporary research studies. It examines the challenges involved in understanding the current diversity of research strategies, and aims to enhance understanding of the way research design and methods influence the interpretation of data and the application of findings.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit participants will be able to:

  • Consider educational research in terms of paradigmatic frameworks and the major philosophical and epistemological challenges faced by social science;
  • Review and categorise significant forms of current educational research
  • Understand and critically examine issues such as objectivity, subjectivity, validity, relatibility and trustworthiness of evidence in educational research;
  • Investigate the influence of research designs, methods and researcher values on findings in educational research
  • Consider the relevance, role and potential of educational research regarding policy and practice.

Teaching details

Participants will be expected to be active and participatory in this unit. They will need to read and prepare both during and before the course. There will be lectures, case-studies, workshops and seminars led by the tutor, but each participant will also make a presentation, critique or defence of a designated research report which they will study during the unit. Participants will also contribute to categorisation, critique and defence of other research, and engage in group discussions.

Assessment Details

A 4,000 word assignment.

Each participant will critically evaluate selected research based articles, representing different paradigms, which report empirically-based research in any field of education. In making selection, they must ensure that evidence is available on the researcher’s aims, theoretical framework or assumptions, and on issues such as the research design, sample, data-gathering and form of analysis. They may use a study which has provided a case for this taught unit. Each analysis will be directly related to the learning outcomes.

Reading and References

  • Crooty, M (1998): The Foundations of Social Research. Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London. Sage
  • Delanty, G (1997): Social Science: Beyond Constructivism and Realism, Buckingham: Open University Press
  • Furlong, J (2004) ‘BERA at 30. Have we come of age?’ British Educational Research Journal, Vol 30, No 3, 344-358
  • Punch, K (2005) Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, London: Sage
  • Kennedy, M (1997) ‘The connection between research and practice’, Educational Researcher, Vol 26, No 7, October
  • Scott, D and Usher, R (1996) Understanding Educational Research, Buckingham: Open University Press