Valuable Research Questions for Educators

I was drawn to Tip 4 (McMillan, pp. 55), which explains that “The problem statement/question should be written with “how” and “what” to keep the focus on description of phenomena [versus]… an emphasis on causal conclusions and relationships.”  Last Spring, I was on a leadership committee at my then-school dealing with issues of racial stereotyping, and so much of our conversation centered on ‘why’ questions and our inability to necessarily answer them.  Perhaps if we expanded our mindset to focus on the ‘how’, it would have freed us from prior conceptions and allowed us to more openly evaluate the situation.

In terms of utilizing this process to develop a research question that would have been valuable at that site, perhaps ‘How does student engagement affect test scores at the high school level?”  The district was torn between implementing more individualized instruction to focus on remedial needs and incorporating the Governor’s project-based learning initiative – many viewed this as opposing objectives.  If there was a way to qualitatively evaluate the affect of active learning on a quantitative measure such as SOL scores, it might greatly benefit the ongoing pedagogical dialogue.
A more general question might be “How do reluctant learners perform in a project-based classroom?”  I believe this question prevents the issue of being “too vague” (McMillan, pp. 54) since it limits the type of learner and classroom, but is still general enough to allow for unbiased observation and exploration.  The text explains that ‘a middle ground is needed so that what is being investigated is clear, while at the same time not so specific that the researcher is unable to capture new and significant information when it arises.”

McMillan, J. H. (2007). Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer 6th ed. Pearson.


  1. […] the initial development of my research question surrounding Project-Based Learning, and my cursory analysis of two initial sources, I began to compile a comprehensive reference list […]

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