SCIENTIFIC METHOD AND EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH
In the history of human civilization, man was encountered with many perplexing problems in making life more comfortable and resolved such problems through a kind of systematic inquiry into phenomena. This tendency of systematic inquiry resulted in rapid advancement in science and technology, wherein the barriers of time and space were conquered. The method that facilitated the scientists for their remarkable achievements is the scientific method. It is necessary to understand the concept of scientific method, as it is the base for any experimental research/action research. Scientific method is a systematic approach to verify ones assumptions emerged out of observation of phenomena. The essential components in the process of scientific method are:
• Observation • Formulation of assumptions • Deduction of consequences and • Verification and proof
This is the first step in scientific method. There are two types of observations, namely, common and scientific. In scientific observation several doubts and assumptions are formulated, whereas in common observation such doubts would not arise. Though two persons observe a same phenomenon, for one it may be common but for the other it may be scientific. For example, observing an apple falling from a tree is scientific observation for Newton but for others it is common observation. Scientific observation alone can help a researcher to proceed to the second step of scientific method.
Formulation of Assumptions:
Scientific observation produces certain doubts. Basing on these doubts one would arrive at some assumptions. These assumptions are called as hypotheses. So all hypotheses are assumptions but not vice versa. In Newton’s observation, the doubts emerged out are – why had the apple fallen down? Why had it not gone up? These doubts result in formulation of a hypothesis that earth must have some magnetic attraction.
Deduction of Consequences:
In the third step, the consequences are deduced. If the assumption were true, what would be the consequences? In the present example, if the hypothesis of Newton is true, then all the objects should have to be subjected to earth’s magnetic attraction and fall down.
Verification and Proof:
After deduction of consequences, in the final step of scientific method, one has to verify whether these consequences are really present. Truth or falsity of hypothesis is verified in this step on the basis of presence or absence of consequences respectively. In the current example, it is verified and proved that all objects fall on to earth and the hypothesis is considered to be true.
Keeping this process of scientific method in mind, let us. Now, peep in into the context where experimental research is necessary in education.
Experiments in education may be carried out in both action research and fundamental research. Action research experiments are generally preferred for classroom problems and experiments in fundamental research are preferred for theoretical problems. Let us confine our discussion only to action research. In day-to-day classroom teaching, teachers may face several problems in bringing out desired changes among learners. In such situations they think about the problem and also about possible solutions. They face difficulty in giving shape to their ideas in terms of well-defined problem. Even if they define the problem correctly, they may not be able to decide the strategy of research, statistical treatment of data and drawing conclusions. On this premise it may not be apt to train them in research methodology, but it is necessary to make them understand the need to systematically practice an idea and test it in a manner that can be appreciated. We cannot expect teachers to undertake a systematic and sophisticated research to solve their classroom problems. Hence teachers are to be acquainted with the process by which they can study their problems scientifically in order to correct their actions and evaluate their decisions. Most of the teachers face problems of various types and complexity relating to their teaching and many of them attempt to do something about these problems. They think of number of ways to overcome such problems and tries out the efficacy of their actions within normal classroom situation. Most of these efforts may involve experimentation at least to some extent. Hence it is necessary to acquaint teachers with the nature of experimental research.
Experimental research involves finding out the functional relationship among phenomena under controlled conditions. The aim of experimental research is to study the cause and effect relationships between two variables. In the process of experimental research, an experimenter manipulates or introduces some changes in one variable and observes the consequent changes in the other variable. In fact scientific method is the basis for experimental research. This can be best be understood when both the processes are compared.
|Scientific Method||Experimental Research|
|1. Observation: Scientific observation gives raise to some doubts||1. A question for which the experimenter seeks an answer.|
|2. Formulation of hypothesis||2. Hypothesis that describes nature of relationship between two variables.|
|3. Deduction of consequences||3. Measurement and implementation of experiment.|
|4. Verification and proof||4. Data analysis to verify whether there is any relationship between the variables.|
Characteristics of Experimental Research:
The essential characteristics of experimental research are:
• Control • Manipulation • Observation
Researcher has to control all relevant variables except the independent variable. In experimental research control plays a very important role. It is not possible to infer the effects of independent variable without control. In order to understand the concept of control in experimentation, it is necessary to know about two basic laws, on which the experimental research is based.
Law of the Single Variable:
This law states that if two situations are equal in all respects except for an independent variable, any change between two situations can be attributed to the independent variable.
Law of the only Significant Variable:
This law states that if significant variables are made equal in two situations, any change between the two situations after manipulation of independent variable to one of the situation can be attributed to the independent variable.
In the process of manipulation, a predetermined set of varied conditions is imposed on the subjects selected for the experiment. The set of varied conditions is referred to as independent variable, the experimental variable or the treatment variable.
The experimenter is supposed to observe the changes that take place in a dependent variable as a result of manipulation of an independent variable.
Steps in Experimental Research
The steps in experimental research are similar to that of scientific method. The important steps in experimental research are:
• Selection of the problem • Stating the hypotheses • Preparing experimental plan • Execution of the experimental plan • Data analysis
Selection of the problem:
The first step of experimental research is selection of problem. Scientific observation leads to certain doubts and these doubts would be formulated into research problems. In classroom researches, teachers’ introspection into their own practices is one of the potential sources of locating the classroom problems. After selection of the problem it is to be defined. The variables to be studied should be defined in operational terms. For example, in a problem that intends to study the effect of source materials on the achievement of in history, the variables, namely, source materials and achievement in history, are to be defined operationally. The experimenter has to explain what exactly the meaning of these terms in his/her experiment. Here, source materials are epigraphs, archaeological findings and minutes of various rulers and achievement in history is the achievement test score.
Stating the Hypotheses:
The second step of experimental research is stating the hypothesis in terms of the causal link between two variables under study. In the present example, the hypothesis cab be stated as, ‘use of source material will improve the achievement in history.’
Preparing the Experimental Plan:
The third step of experimental research is to plan the procedure of experimentation. Following points are to be kept in mind while planning the experiment.
• Identify non-experimental variables and decide the procedure of control • Select the procedures of collecting evidences • Select the procedure of experimental treatment • Prepare time schedule • Decide the statistical procedures
In the present example, intelligence and interest may be considered as non-experimental variables and one group pre-test post-test design may help to control inter-subject differences.
Execution of Experimental Plan:
After preparing the plan, it is to be meticulously executed. In this fourth step of experimental research, an experimenter is expected to introduce his/her experimental treatment and administer the tools as per the experimental plan to collect necessary evidences to test the hypothesis.
The final step of experimental research is analysis of data/evidences. The data obtained should be subjected to statistical treatment using the statistical techniques decided in the experimental plan.
Limitations of Experimental Research
While conducting experimental research, teachers should keep in view the following precautions.
• The experiment should be based on classroom problems or the concerns that are bothering teachers in their practices. • The results of an experiment conducted on a group under certain conditions cannot be applied to other groups unless the experimental group is representative of a large population. • The results should not be over generalized. • The results should be interpreted with utmost caution because it is difficult to control so many variables. • The teacher should not reflect her/his personal bias for a particular method or factor during experimentation. • The experiment should be conducted under normal conditions of the schools.
Helping Teachers to Experiment
The general atmosphere of the school is very important to motivate teachers to undertake action research. Teachers also require help in each aspect of action research/experimental research process.
The general conditions of school that help a teacher to conduct experimentation are:
• Encouragement • Freedom to conduct experiments • Providing staff cooperation • Staff meetings or academic discussions • Providing material facilities
Teachers are allowed to express their views on their success and also failures. This kind of self-examination and self-criticism would help teachers to undertake classroom researches. Freedom should be given to teachers for conducting experiments to solve their classroom problems. For conducting experiments, cooperation from other teachers is necessary. All teachers are encouraged to experiment together collectively and cooperatively as action research is collaborative. During staff meetings, the progress of experimental projects may be reviewed and necessary feedback is provided to classroom researchers. Time and material that is needed to a teacher who conducts experiment should be provided.
Helping in each aspect of the Action Research Process: besides school conditions, it is necessary to help teachers in each aspect of the action research or experimental research process. Teachers are helped to –
• Become constructively and constantly dissatisfied with their own teaching. • Develop hope that his/her problem can be solved. • Define the classroom problem. • Diagnose the difficulty. • Search for promising solutions. • Formulation of hypothesis. • Plan their experiment. • Execute the experiment. • Analyze data. • Write report.
==Qualitative vs quantitative research==
Qualitative and Quantitative research
There are numerous differences between qualitative and quantitative measurement.
Quantitative research is research involving the use of structured questions where the response options have been predetermined and a large number of respondents is involved.
By definition, measurement must be objective, quantitative and statistically valid. Simply put, it’s about numbers, objective hard data.
The sample size for a survey is calculated by statisticians using formulas to determine how large a sample size will be needed from a given population in order to achieve findings with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Generally, researchers seek sample sizes which yield findings with at least 95% confidence interval (which means that if you repeat the survey 100 times, 95 times out of a hundred, you would get the same response) and plus/minus 5 percentage points margin error. Many surveys are designed to produce smaller margin of error.
Qualitative Research is collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data by observing what people do and say. Whereas, quantitative research refers to counts and measures of things, qualitative research refers to the meanings, concepts, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and descriptions of things.
Qualitative research is much more subjective than quantitative research and uses very different methods of collecting information, mainly individual, in-depth interviews and focus groups. The nature of this type of research is exploratory and open-ended. Small numbers of people are interviewed in-depth and/or a relatively small number of focus groups are conducted.
Participants are asked to respond to general questions and the interviewer or group moderator probes and explores their responses to identify and define people’s perceptions, opinions and feelings about the topic or idea being discussed and to determine the degree of agreement that exists in the group. The quality of the finding from qualitative research is directly dependent upon the skills, experience and sensitive of the interviewer or group moderator.
This type of research is often less costly than surveys and is extremely effective in acquiring information about people’s communications needs and their responses to and views about specific communications.
Basically, quantitative research is objective; qualitative is subjective. Quantitative research seeks explanatory laws; qualitative research aims at in-depth description. Qualitative research measures what it assumes to be a static reality in hopes of developing universal laws. Qualitative research is an exploration of what is assumed to be a dynamic reality. It does not claim that what is discovered in the process is universal, and thus, replicable. Common differences usually cited between these types of research include.