The role of scientific research in educational interventions


This module aims to introduce students to some important issues related to the incorporation of professional competence in research as a key instrument for promoting quality in educational interventions. Taking the professional debates that have dealt with this issue during the last two decades as a starting point, we will explore the internal and external tensions that have led to the fact that educational research has taken the research conducted in the field of medicine as a reference. In this sense, this discussion will serve to challenge the notion that the research conducted in experimental settings and particularly, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) must necessarily be the standard of reference for educational research and therefore be able to recognise the opportunities that the various available research methods can offer in providing the rationale and evaluation of educational interventions.

To do this, we will now present a brief approach to the scientific method which, beyond its canonical phases, will allow us to understand research as a cyclical or iterative process in which the various procedures available have in common the collection and systematic analysis of the data obtained, with the aim of improving our understanding of the phenomena under study. This approach will serve us later in addressing the results produced by this complex process; in other words, the scientific evidence that it is able to provide as a guarantee that the knowledge generated is in fact in line with what happens with the phenomena. As a result of the pragmatic approach adopted in this text, we will present general principles aimed at promoting quality in the development of the different research phases, a necessary but insufficient condition for assessing the strength or sufficiency of the evidence obtained to answer the research question.

Finally, we will put this discussion into play based on an example that will serve to illustrate the different types of research validity and that it is, in fact, difficult to meet all the requirements in a single investigation. In this sense, we will highlight the shared nature of the challenge posed by the joint construction of an improvement in the understanding of phenomena based on the accumulation of scientific evidence obtained in several independent investigations that supports the new knowledge generated. Finally, we will offer an annotated bibliography with some interesting references that may be useful for furthering the development of research competence beyond the limitations of this text.

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

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Meneses, J. (2019). The role of scientific research in educational interventions. Barcelona: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.


1. The importance of professional competence in educational research
2. A brief approach to the scientific research process
3. The value of scientific evidence in helping the educational intervention
4. Annotated bibliography

Julio Meneses
Julio Meneses
Full Professor

Professor de metodologia de la investigació, director de Learning Analytics de l’eLearning Innovation Center i investigador de l’Internet Interdisciplinary Institute de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.