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Introduction to Educational Research

Introduction to Educational Research

PLEASE NOTE: These modules have now been transferred to the HEE e-Learning for Health platform and should be accessed via

No new accounts should now be created. Please follow the above link to access the modules.

This suite of modules will be completely decommissioned in September 2017, from which point it will no longer be accessible.

The overall aim of educational research is to provide teachers, clinicians, managers and learners with systematically obtained information that helps to improve the quality of the learning process. Boyer’s (1997) model of ‘scholarship’ can be helpful here, as it alerts us that not only does theory shape practice, but practice can lead to theory, and teaching shapes both research and practice. The model is dynamic and it clarifies and balances activity across the following four categories:

  • The scholarship of discovery – original research that advances knowledge;
  • The scholarship of integration – synthesis of information across disciplines, across topics within a discipline, or across time;
  • The scholarship of application (or ‘scholarship of engagement’) – the application of disciplinary expertise with results that can be shared with and/or evaluated by peers to address problems; and
  • The scholarship of teaching and learning – the systematic study of teaching and learning processes in order to optimise learning and advance learning theory.


The difference between doing educational research and other healthcare research is that often the immediate effects of the intervention are seen and assessed on the educators or their students, rather than on the processes and outcomes of patients. Nevertheless, it is always worth remembering that we are only educating in healthcare so that we can provide good or better quality care to patients. Therefore, wherever possible, we should think about how to measure the effects of an educational intervention on the patient.

This module provides an introduction to the main research methods used in healthcare education. The module covers some aspects of research supervision and provides practical examples of how you can use the principles of educational research in your own teaching. In this module, we consider ‘research’ as distinct from ‘evaluation’ which is described in Assuring & Maintaining Quality in Health Professions Education.

By the end of the module you should have an enhanced understanding of the principles of educational research and how this operates in a range of clinical and educational contexts. You will also be better equipped to identify opportunities for educational research in your own practice. You will have the opportunity to explore how you think the ideas relate to your own practice as a clinical teacher and supervisor, and be provided with information about how to further develop your and others’ research skills.

Before you start

Before you start the module we recommend that you spend a few minutes thinking about the following points and noting down some of your thoughts. If you are registered on the site, you can do this in the ‘reflections area’. Click on the ‘my area’ link at the top of the page to access your personal pages. Please note that you must be logged in to do this. Please also note that you will need to contribute to the ‘reflections area’ in order to complete and print out your certificate.

Thinking points
  • In what ways are you currently involved in carrying out or supervising research?
  • Can you think of some of the differences between clinical research and educational research?
  • What do you think are some of the issues or barriers to carrying out educational research in the clinical setting?

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Further information

More information about this module, further reading and a complete list of glossary terms.

Learning activities

Read about the recommended learning activities for this module.