The State of Educational Research & Development

Here are some excerpts from a 2003 paper by Burkhardt and Schoefeld in the journal Educational Researcher:

Educational research is not very influential, useful, or well funded.

Just how important,
in dollar terms, is the research enterprise in education? Organizations
in applied fields where change is recognized as important
(medicine, engineering, electronics) typically spend 5% to 15%
of turnover on R&D, with about 20% of R&D expenditures on
basic research and 80% on design and systematic development.
Here is how education compares. The U.S. House Committee
on Science (1998) wrote, “currently, the U.S. spends approximately
$300 billion a year on education and less than $30 million, 0.01 percent of the overall education budget, on education
research . . . This minuscule investment suggests a feeble longterm
commitment to improving our educational system” (p. 46).

The research-based development of tools and processes for
use by practitioners, common in other applied fields, is
largely missing in education. Such “engineering research”
is essential to building strong linkages between researchbased
insights and improved practice.

Just about everybody, having gone to school, thinks he or she is an expert on education.

Basically, we could use more funding for research and development to improve education, especially more development. We need more educational engineers, learning designers, eduhackers, whatever you want to call it. Both curriculum development and technology development. Bob Tinker made a similar point in another paper:

IMD is the only NSF program to develop new learning materials and plans to spend only $7M in FY2006, which is less than 1% of the EHR budget (0.86%) and about 1/9th of one percent of the total NSF budget. This strikingly low number is consistent with NSF policy, which appears to take the position that new materials are not needed….In short, the NSF plans to study the how to develop materials, but does not have the actual development of new materials as a priority.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education could be reformed by simply reallocating the current NSF education budget. No huge infusion of new funding is required, just the leadership to change from current policies that are not achieving the desired goal. No huge research effort is needed to find new ways to teach and learn; we already know all that is required to make major improvements. Innovation, not fundamental new knowledge, is needed at each step to integrate ideas from researchers from mathematics, science, and engineering and to incorporate changes in the disciplines and new insights about cognition.

Posted in research

Doug Holton

Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Embry-Riddle


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