An educational researcher is a pedagogical professional with a doctorate degree. They apply their advanced knowledge of educational research and statistics to improve student achievements and recommend innovative teaching approaches, according to the American Educational Research Association.
In order to become an educational researcher, students must obtain a doctoral degree and have a few years of hands-on teaching or educational administration experience. It is not possible to become an educational researcher with just a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree and relevant work experience may suffice. Doctoral programs involve advanced courses and personal research projects that train students how to design and conduct research on interesting topics under the guidance of experienced mentors. Ph.D. programs in educational research offer classes on educational statistics, program evaluations and qualitative analysis. There are classes that teach complex topics, such as structural equation modeling and computer assisted qualitative analysis. Other electives may include educational policies, theoretical perspectives, classroom assessments and educational metrics and measurements.
Educational researchers work with academic teams that facilitate educational research and discovery by providing design expertise and measurement tools. They typically work in universities and perform educational research projects and develop research programs. They recommend and incorporate existing research knowledge into academic programs and propose independent research projects for potential classes. They maintain collaborative relationships with faculty and other schools. Universities expect educational researches to have proven research experience related to educational assessments, student evaluations and teacher mentoring. The facilitate collective problem solving of common educational challenges, such as administrative bottlenecks, student barriers and program inefficiencies. They directly support the professional development of educators and the leadership development of administrators.
Qualified educational researchers will have experience collecting and analyzing quantitative data that is in turn translated into graphic reports with concise narrative. Thus, they must possess a strong aptitude with statistical analysis techniques, such as hierarchical linear modeling and propensity score matching, and with standard statistical software programs, such as SAS and SPSS. They must know how to design quantitative and qualitative research methods and projects. Educational researchers should have substantive knowledge of current educational issues and state and federal educational policies. Almost all educational researchers are familiar with research from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data (IPEDS) and National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) programs. Almost all candidates have a Ph.D. in statistics, education or research methods.
A Typical Day at the University
Educational researchers in universities teach students and conduct their own research. Most days start out with one or two meetings in the morning with students who are working on dissertations or committees that problem solve pertinent educational issues. Educational researchers then meet with their teaching assistants (TAs) to prepare for their daily classes. These are two to three hours long because they only occur once a week. Afternoons are typically spent meeting with researchers at other educational organizations. Educational researchers usually bring along their research assistant (RA) to help them take notes or record the meeting, which must occur at the end of the day because teachers are busy during the day.
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Educational researchers are highly trained academic investigators who use statistics and experimentation to improve educational systems and programs.