Educational Research

The Centre for Teaching & Learning offers support and resources to individuals and research groups engaging in educational research, also referred to as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Download the complete guide: Educational Research: A Practical Guide (PDF, 1.64 MB).

We offer consultations on:

  • How to get started with educational research and the areas of research that most interest you.
  • Scanning the literature to locate peer-reviewed materials in your area of interest.
  • Providing background context and ideas for research approaches for your study.
  • Reviewing existing grants and awards for educational research at Queen's.  
  • Discussing the ethics review process and requirements for Queen's General Ethics Review Board

The Purpose of Educational Research

Educational research "... aims to bring a scholarly lens—the curiosity, the inquiry, the rigor, the disciplinary variety—to what happens in the classroom... [It] begins with intellectual curiosity, is conducted deliberately and systematically, is grounded in an analysis of some evidence, and results in findings shared with peers to be reviewed and to expand a knowledge base." (Nancy Chick, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching).

The reasons for pursuing educational research are to:

  • Examine your classroom practice through a systematic process of inquiry.
  • Record successes and challenges with the goal of improving student learning and teaching practice.
  • Reflect on findings in relation to existing educational research literature.
  • Validate your teaching practice and build theory relating to educational approaches.
  • Share and disseminate experiences to build upon what we know about teaching and learning processes. Educational research is a cyclical and iterative process where one stage informs the next. As with any research project, new information and learning at each stage influences previous and subsequent steps which can lead to changes in the research question and the research design.

Perspectives, Attitudes and Beliefs about Simulation for Assessment in Postgraduate Medical Education
James Ahlin, Department of Emergency Medicine; Melanie Walker, Department of Emergency Medicine; Kyla Caners, McMaster University; and Andrew Hall, Department of Emergency Medicine

Competency based medical education (CBME) is currently being implemented both at Queen’s and nationwide across all postgraduate medical training programs. It is clear that simulation will be an essential part of competency-based assessment given the rare nature and high patient risk of certain clinical scenarios or procedures. Unfortunately, what is less clear is the current landscape of perspectives, attitudes and beliefs on simulation for assessment among both learners and faculty. Some stakeholders have expressed concerns in private or informal discussions about this use of simulation, which has been traditionally touted as a safe space for learning. However, these voices are not currently expressed within the literature on simulation-based assessment. Our study aims to fill this current knowledge gap. This is essential to the appropriate integration of simulation into assessment in medical education that is acceptable for all involved. Furthermore, this is the base for the creation of a safe, reliable and valid assessment space.

Cracking the Correction Mode: Assessing the Effectiveness of Feedback Strategies for Improving Student Writing in the Second Language Classroom and Beyond

Michael Reyes, Department of French Studies; and Francesca Fiore, Department of French Studies

The Department of French Studies recently introduced a series of reforms for improving the grammatical accuracy and overall quality of student writing. However, despite implementing a common framework for providing more feedback on writing across all courses, instructors do not know what kinds of feedback will improve learning outcomes. This project explores the effectiveness of different kinds of corrective feedback on student writing, both in the scholarly literature and in our second-year composition course. By doing so, this research project empowers instructors and staff with strategies for developing the writing skills of second language learners and international students at Queen’s.

Student Learning and Behaviour in Physics Confirmation Versus Guided-Inquiry Labs

Dr. Bei Cai, Adjunct Professor and Dr. Alastair McLean, Professor Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy; and Lindsay Mainhood, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education
There is increasing awareness of the importance of the laboratory experience in physics instruction. In confirmation-inquiry labs, student experience is reduced to merely following prescribed instructions. The educational trend is to provide guided-inquiry labs, experiences in which students are given opportunities to design their own experimental procedures. However, limited physics education research exists on upper-year lab curriculum development and assessment. Our research focuses on studying the differences of student learning and behavior in a confirmation-inquiry versus guided-inquiry lab experiment in our second-year physics lab course. The findings will help motivate and guide the improvement of lab instructions.
Minding the Gap: Navigating the disparity between doctoral training and professional expectations of teachers of geography in higher education

John Haffner, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning; Sandra McCubbin, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning

Teaching experience and evidence of teaching effectiveness are now nearly universal requirements for academic positions in geography; yet teaching development in the form of courses, opportunities, and/or mentorship do not feature in many, if any, geography PhD programs. This research explores how doctoral students experience and navigate the disparity between professional teaching expectations and doctoral training in order to expose the implications for students and the discipline and to identify possibilities for change. The research contributes to the scholarship of teaching and learning in Geography and identifies opportunities to renegotiate how geographers-in-training are prepared to teach.

Developing a model for academic writing support considering the perspectives of doctoral students and their supervisors at Queen’s University

Shikha Gupta, PhD Candidate, School of Rehabilitation Therapy; Jyoti Kotecha, Adjunct Professor, Department of Family Medicine; Associate Director, Research & Business Development, Beaty Water Research Centre; and Past Director, Queen’s University International Centre.

Queen’s University identifies academic writing as one of the core learning outcomes for its graduate students. However, many graduate students, especially those having English as an additional
language, face numerous challenges in scholarly writing. Similarly, academic mentors who supervise graduate students can spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing and editing multiple drafts for
grammatical and compositional matters. Therefore, we propose to explore the multiple challenges in academic writing faced by graduate students and faculty supervisors at Queen’s University. In doing
so, our endeavor is to identify key strategies to students, supervisors, and those who support students and faculty towards success in academic writing.

How should we correct mistakes in the speech of foreign language learners? Assessing the training of Undergraduate Teaching Assistants in effective feedback strategies.

Dr. Michael Reyes, Assistant Professor of Francophone Studies, Department of French Studies

The introductory course in the Department of French Studies uses fourth-year undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs) to provide first-year students with speaking practice in small group tutorials. In recent years, however, students have expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of feedback that they received on speaking from their UTA. For this study, I will research the effectiveness of different strategies for providing feedback and train UTAs in practices supported by this literature. I will then assess the effectiveness of this training on student perceptions of feedback they received from their UTA and determine if the feedback improved students’ speaking skills.


The Educational Research Guide

"Title: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the center of a circle of items that have an arrow going in a clockwise circle. The items were: Recognize & formulate questions; Research the literature; Design approach & select methods; Complete ethics review; Gather data & complete analysis; Evaluate & reflect on research; and Communicate & share research"
Image: C.Laverty

The Educational Research Guide (PDF, 1.8MB) offers information on:

  • Formulating educational research questions
  • Researching the education literature
  • Designing a research approach & selecting research methods
  • Completing an ethics review
  • Creating a data management plan
  • Evaluating & reflecting on your research
  • Communicating & sharing research  


 The Educational Research Guide (PDF, 1.8MB)

Other Resources:

Elgie, S., Childs, R., Fenton, N., Levy, B. A., Lopes, V., Szala-Meneok, K., & Wiggers, R. D.
(2012). Researching teaching and student outcomes in postsecondary education: A guide. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Miller-Young, J., & Yeo, M. (2015). Conceptualizing and communicating SoTL: A framework for the field. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 3(2), 37-53. doi:10.2979/teachlearninqu.3.2.37

Stockley, D., & Balkwill, L. (2013). Raising awareness of research ethics in SoTL: The role of educational developers, The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 4(1), Article 7.