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Learning From The Nrc Report "Scientific Research In Education"

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.850.1 - 9.850.12



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Paper Authors

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Alisha Waller

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1630

Learning from the NRC report “Scientific Research in Education”

Alisha A. Waller Georgia State University


In 2002, the National Research Council released a report of the Committee on Scientific Principles for Education Research entitled “Scientific Research in Education.” One goal of the committee was to examine and clarify the nature of scientific inquiry in education. They concluded that the following six principles underlie scientific inquiry: 1) pose significant questions that can be investigated empirically; 2) link research to relevant theory; 3) use methods that permit direct investigation of the question; 4) provide a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning; 5) replicate and generalize across studies; and 6) disclose research to encourage professional scrutiny and critique. The report discusses each of these principles and how they may be applied to education research.

In this paper, I explore these principles as applied to education research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. I draw parallels and contrasts with engineering disciplinary research to illustrate the common and unique features of research within the education context. Finally, I offer a preliminary article review guide based on the principles.


During the late 1990s, policy makers and politicians, as well as teachers and parents, demonstrated frustration with education research. Many persons claimed that the results of education research were not helpful for changing classroom practice and the research was not “scientific” enough (NRC, p. 28). Eventually, legislation was proposed that defined controlled experiments as the only rigorous method for conducting education research, with the implication that federal funds should only fund this type of research. In response, the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a study “to examine and clarify the nature of scientific inquiry in education and how the federal government can best foster and support it” (NRC, p. 1). In this paper I will focus on the first goal and leave the consideration of government support to future papers.

The NRC Committee was comprised of a diverse group of education researchers from academia, foundations, and government centers. They spent three years meeting, researching, and discussing the issues. The report, issued in 2002 through the National Academy Press, is intended to encourage discussion, present ideas and examples for consideration, and further understanding of the nature of research in the context of education.

In this paper, I first review the six principles of scientific research laid out in the report, using concrete examples from education research in science, technology, engineering, and

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Waller, A. (2004, June), Learning From The Nrc Report "Scientific Research In Education" Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12777

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