Research Design: Levels of Measurement

Operationalizing Quantitative Measurements

Your measurements are your dependent variables. In educational research, one of the dependent variables is frequently learning. To measure learning, we have to define exactly what we mean. Learning could be measured by grades on assignments, such as exams or projects, performance on standardized tests, such as concept inventories, or self-report, such as feelings of learning. All of these options are possible, though some are more defensible in scientific research (more on validity later). As a researcher, you need to operationalize, or clearly articulate in a way that can be applied to your research, what you mean when you say learning, or any of your other dependent variables. You might need to operationalize your independent variables, too. For example, instead of saying you’ll measure peer-to-peer interaction, you could operationalize these interactions as number of posts on a peer-to-peer forum and number of contributions during peer-to-peer discussions in class.

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Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Data

Your measurements, or dependent variables, provide the data you will analyze. There are two main types of data.

Quantitative data represent the world with numbers that can be statistically analyzed. They are necessary for relational or causal research questions because these types of questions require inferential statistics that generalize the results from your study to a larger population (more on this later). For example, quantitative data could tell us the average number of forum posts per student or the number of times students watched a video. Quantitative measures are appropriate when you want to confirm a hypothesis (e.g., that students in one group outperform others), but they are close-ended, which does not allow for exploration.

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Research Design: Dependent and Independent Variables

Variables in education research are anything that can have different values or vary across learners. Dependent variables are the outcome variables that you collect data about in research, like learning outcomes. They apply to all research designs: non-experimental and experimental. All measurements used to evaluate or understand learning or a learning environment, such as test scores or attitudes, are dependent variables. Pre-tests and post-tests are dependent variables.

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Research Design: Non-Experimental and Experimental Designs

The type of research design that you need depends on the type of research question that you have. Descriptive and relational questions can be answered with non-experimental designs, and causal questions must be answered by experimental designs. Note: these design categories are independent from pre-test and post-test designs, so you can have a pre-post non-experimental design or a pre-post experimental design.

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Research Design: Pre- and Post-Tests

When you collect data has important implications for the conclusions that you can draw from that data. In education research, we often try to measure a difference, such as what students learn or how their experiences or perceptions change. Because we often try to make conclusions about differences, it can be equally important to take measurements at the beginning and end of a study.

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Research Design: Research Questions

Many research questions in education come from observing something unexpected in the classroom, reading about a new method of instruction, or learning about a new tool. For example, you might find that a student has a unique explanation for a concept and want to know if it would help other students. Or you might have read about a metacognitive strategy and want to know if using that strategy would improve learning outcomes in your class. Your research methods will depend heavily on what type of research question you have.

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Research Design: Series Introduction

Education research aims to understand how people learn and the effects of learning environments, including sociocultural factors. The ultimate goal is typically to improve learning and enable learners to achieve their goals. How researchers build this understanding and achieve this goal is called research design, which is critical to the quality and validity of the knowledge produced. Research design includes several aspects:

  • Crafting research questions that are interesting and answerable
  • Selecting research methods that are appropriate and thorough
  • Identifying or designing measurements that provide reliable and valid data
  • Conducting appropriate analysis of data based on the type of data and the research questions
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Wellness: Recovery: Dopamine – Recognizing Addiction and Good Hygiene

Many people have heard that dopamine is responsible for feelings of reward, but that’s only part of a highly complex system. The dopamine system developed to motivate us to seek things that have a cost or risk to attain. Evolutionarily, this included hunting for food, getting water, or gathering information. Dopamine motivates us to do things that we wouldn’t do for fun but are essential to survival. Because it works to motivate us, it is responsible for feelings of agitation (e.g., craving) as well as reward.

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Wellness: Recovery: Sleep – Disruptors and Making the Best of Bad Sleep

High-quality sleep might be the best thing you can do for your health, but you can’t always control how well you sleep. Disrupted sleep was actually one of my primary catalysts to pay attention to my health. During the pandemic, I lived next to a guy who would throw loud parties 3-4 times a week until 12-1am. Because of the moratorium on evictions, there was nothing anyone could do about it, so I lived in this environment for over a year. I learned that while sleep is important, it’s not so precious that you can’t make the best of bad sleep.

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Wellness: Recovery: Sleep – Routines

Getting your sleep right is perhaps the best thing you can do for your health, but it’s hard to get quality sleep. Not only does it take a long time, but it’s easily disrupted because we’re so vulnerable while sleeping. If we could’ve evolved away from sleeping, we would have. Instead, most adults require 7-9 hours of quality sleep to maximize their health, especially mental health like mood and focus. This post focuses on routines for quality sleep because sleep depends on the circadian rhythm and, thus, reliable patterns.

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