EDF 500 Research Methods


DEPARTMENT: Professional & Secondary Education


COURSE TITLE: Research Methods



INSTRUCTOR: Dr. David I. Backer


Statement on Disabilities

Any student with a disability who believes he/she needs accommodation(s) in order to complete this course should contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible.  The staff in the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities will determine what accommodations are appropriate and reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities is located in Lawrence Center – Room 105, and can be reached by phone at 610-436-2564.


Historical, descriptive, and experimental methods of research. Methods for locating, evaluating, interpreting, and reporting research data. Each student prepares a research prospectus.

Trochim, William M. The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition. Internet WWW page, at URL: <http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/> (version current as of October 20, 2006).


Essential Questions: How does one produce knowledge in education? How should research be done? What are the steps necessary for completing a research project in education?


  1. Read course texts.
  2. Practice democratic techniques in class, like online discussion and self-evaluation.
  3. Complete FSA papers, Educational Memoir, and the Research Prospectus..
  4. Complete two grade proposal surveys at final and midterm.
  5. Complete one evaluation check-up.


Due Content Reading Assignment
(8/29) Post A Introduction, Syllabus Guide, Self Introduction Introductory video lecture Introduce Yourself: In a post, say what brought you to this class, what animates you, and your professional interests.
(9/7) Post B Foundations 1 Language + Philosophy FSA 1
(Application section should be about something you’ve read or encountered before)
(9/14) Post C Foundations 2 Ethics, Conceptualizing, Evaluation Research (same link as above) FSA 2
(Application section should be about something you’ve read or encountered before)
(9/21) Post D Educational memoir Write about an educational experience you had in the near or distant past, one which inspires you to research. This experience should something you think a lot about and want to know more about. Use details to describe this particular situation: context, colors, sounds, smells, feelings, thoughts, things people said, silences. Be dramatic and creative: tell a story. (Try to leave names out to protect others’ identities). 1,000 words.
After you post it, generate — with Dr. Backer– a research question. You will revisit this research question throughout the semester in your FSA papers.
(9/28) Post E Sampling Sampling FSA 3
(10/5) Post F Measurement 1 Validity, Reliability, Levels FSA 4
(10/12) Post G
Measurement 2 Survey Research

(same link as above)

(10/19) Post H Measurement 3 Scaling, Qualitative Measures, Unobtrusive Measures
(Same link as above)
(10/26) Post I Design 1 Internal Validity, Introduction to Design, Types of Designs FSA 7
(11/2) Post J Design 2 Experimental Design, Quasi-experimental Design
(Same link as above)
(11/9) Post K Design 3 Relationships among pre-post designs, Designing Designs for Research
(Same link as above)
(11/16) Post L Literature Review 1 Based on your research question and the applications you have written thus far, find and skim 20 peer-reviewed articles, essays, or books which relate to your research. What has been said before about your question? Who has written about this? Write an annotated bibliography in APA format, listing the citation and 1-2 sentences summarizing the text.
(11/22) Post M Literature Review 2 Using your annotated bibliography, write a prose Literature Review. It should be ~2,000 words. If you were to guide me through the research you found, like a tour guide, how what would you say on the tour?
(11/30) Post N Research Prospectus Draft Post a draft of your Research Prospectus. Read through another students’ draft and make comments.
(12/7) Post O
Final Prospectus Post Send your final prospectus via email to dbacker@wcupa.edu.


Description of Assignments and Worth


FSA papers 35%

Educational Memoir and Research Question 20%

Research Prospectus 35%

Midterm Survey 5%

Final Survey 5%


FSA Papers

FSA papers are Fact-Summary-Application papers. You will write 11 of these papers, posting them online. They will guide your reading and help you prepare for your final project. Write each FSA paper with the Research Prospectus in mind. Full credit on an FSA paper requires three components:

1) Write a factual question about the text and answer it yourself by looking it up elsewhere (internet, wikipedia, dictionary, encyclopedia)

  • Factual questions include: What does [a word] mean? Who is [a person]? When did [an event] happen? What is [a thing]?

2) Write a summary statement of the text (500 words)

  • Summary statements will demonstrate your understanding of the reading’s main points in your own words. A summary focuses on important terms and using examples to illustrate how you uniquely comprehend the material. Use analogies, previous knowledge, personal stories, movies, poems, or anything to show that you understand the ideas. Summary statements include: The most important concept in this reading is [concept], which the author says is [definition].  [Idea in reading] reminds me of…Something I kept thinking about as I read was [your recurring thought/image].

3) Write an application statement about the text (500 words)

  • An application statement takes the important ideas in the reading applies them either to a piece of research you’ve encountered or to your research question which you will generate from your educational memoir. Given the issues in your educational memoir, how can the information in the reading apply to a research study which examines these issues?

Research Prospectus

Write a research prospectus for an original research question based on your own educational experience. Your prospectus should include a research question (~100 words), literature review (~2,000 words), experimental design (~800 words), sampling (~100 words), threats to validity (~800 words), and a bibliography. The final prospectus should be about 10 pages.

Each of these terms should be in bold, in this order, and the content beneath. The readings will help you complete each section. If what you produce follows the descriptions found in the course textbook, you know you’re on the right track.

You may use your writing from FSA papers throughout the semester to complete these sections.

Grading Scale

Course grades will be based on the following scale:

93+   A              77-79            C+

90-92   A-             73-76            C

87-89   B+            70-72            C-

83-86   B              69 or less      F

80-82   B-

Note on grading: Dr. Backer will not “give” students grades. Rather, students will propose a grade based on their own standards of quality and negotiate with Dr. Backer. Two times throughout the semester, Dr. Backer will send out a grade proposal survey. Students will take the measure of their own learning with these surveys, to which Dr. Backer will respond with prose feedback. At one point during the semester, each student must complete a personal check-up through email. Since criteria for evaluation are democratized in this course, there are no formal criteria for grading. However, the percentages above are a suggestion to help you think about self-evaluation.

Diversity Statement

The HEPSA program of West Chester University strives to provide an inclusive learning environment for all members of its community by ensuring that faculty, students, and staff reflect the larger community, and by building a program committed to inter-cultural growth and learning.  Please contact Dr. Michelle Wade at mwade@wcupa.edu (Chair, PPA Diversity Sub-Committee) or the Campus Climate Intervention Team (http://www.wcupa.edu/_admin/social.equity/ccit.asp) if you have any concerns.

Course Policies


Academic Integrity:  For questions regarding Academic Dishonesty, the No-Grade Policy, Sexual Harassment, or the Student Code of Conduct, students are encouraged to refer to the department’s handbook, the Graduate Course Catalogue, the Ram’s Eye View, or the University Web Site. Please understand that improper conduct in any of these areas will not be tolerated and may result in immediate ejection from the class.

ADA Policy Statement:  If you have a disability that requires accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please present your letter of accommodations and meet with me as soon as possible so that I can support your success in an informed manner. Accommodations cannot be granted retroactively. If you would like to know more about West Chester University’s Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSD), please contact the OSSD which is located at 223 Lawrence Center. The OSSD hours of Operation are Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Their phone number is 610-436-2564, their fax number is 610-436-2600, their email address is ossd@wcupa.edu, and their website is at http://www.wcupa.edu/ussss/ossd.

Course Withdrawal Policy:  A grade of W (withdraw) will be entered on the academic record of any student who withdraws from a course after the drop/add period and before the end of the ninth class week or the equivalent in summer sessions. A student may not withdraw from a course to avoid an academic integrity violation. After the ninth week of classes, students may not withdraw selectively from courses; they must contact the Office of the Registrar and withdraw from the University. The University will record a “W” for all courses in which the student is registered. However, if the effective date of official withdrawal is during the last week of classes, a letter grade or NG will be assigned for that course. A student may not receive a W during the last week of classes.

Electronic Mail and Standards of Communication Policy: It is expected that faculty, staff, and students activate and maintain regular access to University provided e-mail accounts. Official university communications, including those from your instructor, will be sent through your university e-mail account. You are responsible for accessing that mail to be sure to obtain official University communications. Failure to access will not exempt individuals from the responsibilities associated with this course. In all interactions with students, faculty, and any guests, students will adhere to accepted standards of appropriate academic discourse. Failure to conform to such standards will result in a warning upon the first infraction. Subsequent infractions will be met with significant penalties up to and including removal from the course.

Emergency Preparedness: All students are encouraged to sign up for the University’s free WCU ALERT service, which delivers official WCU emergency text messages directly to your cell phone.  For more information and to sign up, visit http://www.wcupa.edu/wcualert.   To report an emergency, call the Department of Public Safety at 610-436-3311.

Required Technology Skills: Students are expected to be competent in the use of computers and the internet. Students without experience using the university’s learning management system (Desire2Learn, hereafter “D2L”) can contact the instructor and/or the Student Help Desk to arrange instruction. Students must have access to the most current version of Internet Explorer/Safari/Mozilla. It is expected that all students will be able to open Microsoft Office 2007 files. Students are encouraged to contact the student help desk to ensure that their computer equipment if sufficient for the D2L operating system.

Required hardware and software:  Hardware requirements include a PC or Mac. Software requirements include the most current version of Internet Explorer/Safari/Firefox. It is expected that all students will be able to open Microsoft Word 2007 (or later) documents.  Students are encouraged to contact the Student Help Desk to ensure that their computer equipment is sufficient for the D2L operating system. Students must be able to readily access the Internet via cable or broadband. The use of external headsets with microphones and headphones are encouraged during synchronous meetings.

Accessing University Resources at a Distance: Resources of WCU’s libraries are readily accessible at a distance at http://subjectguides.wcupa.edu/distance.  You will find full information related to remote use of library resources. Further details can be found in the WCU Library Services policy on services and support for Distance Education Students available at http://www.wcupa.edu/library.fhg/policies/distanceEd.asp

Technical Support: Students experiencing technological problems can contact the instructor or the Student Help Desk at http://www.wcupa.edu/d2l or call the ACC Student Help Desk at (610) 436-3350. Instructions for logging onto D2L and university webmail accounts are provided below.

Accessing D2L:

  1.     Open up an Internet browser (i.e., Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari)
  2.     Go to http://D2L.wcupa.edu  (You can also access D2L from the WCU main page.)
  3.     Enter the same network USERNAME and PASSWORD you use for Webmail and myWCU.
  4.     Your username is your initials followed by your 6 digit WCUID#@wcupa.edu
  5.     Example: John Smith = JS123456@wcupa.edu
  6.     Generic password for first-time WCU students is WCU-full birthdate (MMDDYY). Ex. WCU-062482.   This should be changed once you set up your e-mail or myWCU account.

Navigating D2L:

  1.     Once you have successfully logged in, look for the box labeled My Courses on the RIGHT of the MY Home screen.  The names of the courses will be underlined and in blue type.  Click the name of the course that you wish to access.
  2.     Once inside a D2L course, use the navigational tool bar along the top of your course homepage.  The links located on this tool bar allow you to access materials within your course.
  3. This course will use the following tools:
  4.     Content will include the course syllabus and all other materials, including recorded lectures.
  5.     Dropbox will be used for the electronic submission of all assignments.
  6.     D2L Collaboration will be used for small group discussion and for professor/student synchronous communication.
  7.     D2L Discussion Board will be used for small group discussion board postings.
  8.     AppreNet will be used for uploading individual learning videos.

More detailed descriptions and expectations for each of these concerns can be found in the Course Content area of D2L and individual assignment prompts.