By LIsa Towne Lauress L. Wise Tina M. Winters
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Html 3 Building the Knowledge Base E ven if the quality of discrete education research studies is outstanding, if the field is not able to forge connections among them, it will amass a multitude of studies that cannot support inferences about the generalizability of findings nor sustain the long-term theory building that drives scientific progress. Forging connections among studies will enable the field to be more than the sum of its parts. Lacking the infrastructure or the professional norms to engage in efforts to connect and integrate theories and data across investigations, the scientific study of educational phenomena will be fragmented (as some currently are; see Lagemann, 2000).
That is, even though randomization creates (statistically) equivalent groups at the outset, once the intervention is under way, other events or programs could take place in one group and not the other, undermining any attempt to isolate the effect of the intervention. Furthermore, the use of multiple methods in such studies is highly desirable: for example, observational techniques can depict the implementation of the intervention and sharpen the ability to understand and isolate the influence it has on outcomes.
They give meaning to data, drive the selection of questions and methods, and provide the foundation for large-scale data collection efforts. For example, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, designing the noncognitive data collection (that is, background data on test-takers, schools, teachers, and instruction) around a coherent set of strong theories would result in a more streamlined data set and promote more coherent lines of investigations focused on well-articulated theoretical models (Grissmer, 2003).