Zombie apocalypse. Natural disasters. Chaos and mayhem. We love a good dystopian thriller. However, we might not remain spectators for long, and our schools may be ground zero. They say the schools prepare us for the real world, but the two haven’t been in sync for decades. We need an influx of educational research to update our coordinates and correct the misalignment. And we need them now. However, the urgency of the matter is never a reason to compromise our ethical principles.
Education is not like wine. Its value doesn’t go up the older its constitution is. Schools prepare the youth for the world outside the classrooms. Therefore, they should be in synchrony with what kind of world they are preparing the children for. Otherwise, education is devalued. Educational research is a systematic qualitative research for relevant and timely updates to the learning system. It is a type of social research that adheres to the scientific method of investigation. With the stagnation of learning comes the slow and certain implosion of civilization.
Carriages to electric cars. Snail mail to instant messaging. Times have changed. But no one told the US education system. With localized changes here and there, most of our schools have remained in reverence to the antiquated learning system. The need to keep up with the times wasn’t as pressing in the past. Academic institutions could stand comfortably idle. However, the rate of progress has accelerated in the last decades. It was like the world morphed overnight. The unprecedented boom of development made several of what used to work obsolete at best.
The mind is a muscle
At least according to Christian Wolff. He and several people proposed the notion that the human mind is a separate entity from the physical body. Schools, therefore, have to train the mind as if it was a mass of muscle. And like the human body, the repetitive exercise of skills is the best way for children to learn. If their mind is trained enough, they are ready for life. This notion was popularized in 19th-century American education but later fell out of practice when the mental discipline theory was discredited due to questionable research methods.
Man is inherently good
This was the theme of Jean Jacques Rosseau’s influential book, Emile. He believed that children should learn in an environment that nurtures their inherent goodness, and it is up to the teachers to provide such. Therefore, schools should shift from an authoritative model of education to learning through experience. The former was a popular method in schools, wherein teachers pass information through lectures according to a fixed program. Rosseau held that such an approach discourages the curious and inquisitive nature of children.
The outdated update
Rosseau’s vision of schools letting children develop their individuality was not practical as the economy transitions from agricultural to industrial. The country needed workers. The skill mismatch prompted one man to change the education scene to accommodate the economy shift. A big change was necessary, and Horace Mann and his colleagues stepped up to the challenge. They reformed education into a system that rewards submission, punctuality, and basic academic literacy. The youth was molded to be good enough. And if you were good enough to finish levels of schooling, you can apply for a job.
The modern predicament
In the current economy, knowledge and specialization are given incentives. When our schools focus solely on indoctrinating conformity and discipline, we can’t provide the best environment for learning. We are long past the industrial revolution. Being good enough is no longer enough now that the demand has shifted again. We need to find new ways that will work for us. We need to pay attention to how we can best facilitate learning and promote holistic growth. To do this, we need research. The good news is that the schools are realizing this.
However, in a publish or perish ecosystem, academic scholars are pressured to churn out research papers. The pressure, while it is not a justification, led some of the people to sidestep ethical standards. Reportedly, some of the scientists admitted to reshaping their research methodology to favor their benefactors. Some of them turned a blind eye at the stark errors in the data analysis and presentation in some of the research articles that they have found. Others also ignored ethical rules on handling human participants. Although few, there are scientists who intentionally plagiarized. These are only a few of the alarming ethical issues that plague the research community.
Our challenge now is making sure that we remain on the bounds for ethics in our research endeavor. With so much information and possible approaches that we can use to improve educational practices, we should be critical and reflective in creating our studies. For us to know what is wrong, we have to know what is right. There are several ethical guidelines and policies that sought to define the scope of ethics in educational research. The following are some of these guidelines that are made available online. Brush up on how to improve your research conduct with the following downloadable PDF files.
Ethical considerations are an important aspect of research. That is why before you can publish your work, an ethics committee will review it. The following questions help you assess if you are within your rights as a researcher and if you are preserving the integrity of your educational research.
You have to define the criteria of participant selection. The similarities and differences of each participant must be relevant to your research. Non-discrimination helps in the generalizability of your research. Before you can access and use their information, you should first get permission. You are required to disclose the potential benefits and risks and other information that can influence participation in your study. The participants should also be informed of their rights.
Researchers should ensure the security and confidentiality of the information disclosed by the participants. Should there be a need to release private information, you should see to it that the data cannot be identified to the owner. Anonymity protects the participants from potential physical, emotional, psychological, and social harm that participation in your study entails. You should inform your participants what information will be made known and who will have access to their information.
We research so we can generate knowledge on how to live better and smarter. As agents of science, we should stay true to the greater goal. Therefore, your study should contribute to the improvement of education in the country. Other academic institutions should also benefit from the findings. Will the research return all the effort and resources invested in it? Because you will likely benefit human participation, you must ensure that their gain is greater than their grief.
Since you grounded your study on related literature, you have to properly cite your references. You are committing plagiarism if you improperly cited your sources of information. If you used data from surveys, interviews questionnaires, official documents, and the like which aren’t for public access, you have to include in your research the forms certifying that you were given permission to access and disclose such data.
Unless you are a philanthropic billionaire, chances are you cannot support the cost of comprehensive research. For some of us, publishing studies is an intrinsic need to forward our careers. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you can’t just produce a lackluster study then justify it with the lack of funding just to say you have done something. Therefore, we apply for research grants from related institutions. While we are free to do so, we have to report any conflict of interest so as not to mislead the readers.
Our education system has to keep with the times. If we stubbornly stick to what worked for our grandfathers as the rest of the world moves on, we will be left in a time warp. When we keep propagating the old standard, it is like we are paying schools to intentionally waste away the children’s promising potential.