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Unit information: Researching Educational Questions in 2018/19

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Unit name Researching Educational Questions
Unit code EDUC10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Cassie Earl
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit introduces students to some of the key educational questions that spark debate in the education field and amongst the wider community. Students will consider how researchers in education set out to answer these questions, using a variety of research approaches. They will examine how particular disciplinary traditions (such as history, sociology, economics and philosophy) lead to different lines of enquiry founded on different ways of knowing. They will explore the advantages and disadvantages of choosing particular research approaches and examine how they can be used to answer different research questions. Through this process students will become critical readers of education research and appreciate how to assess the quality and rigour of individual research studies.

The aims of the unit are to enable students to:

  • understand how and why different traditions of enquiry within the field of education ask different questions and adopt different methods to answer them;
  • appreciate which key educational questions can be investigated through empirical research and which cannot;
  • develop a critical understanding of the types of methods used to collect, analyse and interpret data and the arguments that are advanced in this light;
  • appreciate what constitutes rigour in educational research and evaluation and consider how it can be defined in the context of individual studies;
  • appreciate the importance of conducting ethically-informed research in education settings.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. appreciate how educational issues and questions can be investigated from within particular disciplinary traditions;
  2. recognise the range of methods used to find answers to educational questions and some of their main advantages and disadvantages;
  3. critically appraise the choices researchers make when designing, conducting and reporting research.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, debates and group presentations. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: a 1,000-word essay critically reviewing a research study in the light of their learning from the unit.

Summative assessment: three-hour exam in two parts:

1) ILO 1-3 : A multiple-choice test covering both qualitative and quantitative methodologies (30%);

2) ILO 1-3 : A critical review of an unseen research study reflecting on the methods/methodology that informed the research findings and assessing the main contribution the research might make to knowledge, to policy or to practice (70%).

Reading and References

Bryman, A. (2012). Social Research Methods (4th edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Curtis, W., Ward, S., Sharp, J and Hankin, L. (eds) (2014) Education Studies: An Issue-Based Approach. London: Sage.

Hammersley, M. (2013) Methodology: Who Needs It? London: Sage

Gilbert, N. and Stoneman, P. (eds) (2015) Researching Social Life. London: Sage.

Tracy, S.J. (2010) Qualitative quality: Eight ‘Big-Tent’ Criteria for Excellent Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837-851.

Wellington, J. (2015) Educational Research : Contemporary Issues and Practical Approaches (Second Edition) London: Bloomsbury Academic.