Why Is Research So Important?
Research gives early childhood
practitioners and policymakers essential knowledge to use in making decisions
on behalf of young children and families. The goal is to integrate the best
available research evidence with the wisdom and values of professionals and
families [Buysse, V., & Wesley, P.W. (Eds.)(2006). Evidence-based practice in the early childhood field. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.]
NAEYC supports the use of relevant,
well-designed research to develop and evaluate early childhood services, and to
better understand young children’s development and learning. NAEYC is committed
sharing research knowledge with
its members and other early childhood professionals;
helping early childhood educators
understand and use research;
promoting collaboration between
practitioners and researchers;
encouraging researchers to
conduct high quality studies that answer important questions for the early
using research to influence public
promoting the development of a
new generation of early childhood researchers.
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What Is "Good" Research?
Just as when buying a car or
finding a quality child care program, consumers of research must be well-informed.
Here are some guidelines:
Much agreement exists about
the overall characteristics of high quality research. For example, such
important question that can be investigated empirically and that contributes to
the knowledge base.
relevant theory and previous research (as seen in detailed references to
independent, balanced, and objective approach to the research.
research methods that are well-suited to the specific question that is being
investigated. No single method or type of research is best in all situations.
enough information about the methods so that other researchers could reproduce
or replicate the study.
alternative explanations for the findings.
to a process of review by other knowledgeable researchers ("peer review").
Online Guidelines and Resources are available to help early childhood professionals become well- informed consumers of research.
Ethical Standards for
Research are critically important when conducting research with young children and other vulnerable populations.
Checklist: Is the research
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Where Can I Find Research
on Early Childhood Development and Education?
Where to look depends
somewhat on your purpose and on your professional role. Are you a researcher, a
teacher, a trainer, a graduate student, a program director, a policymaker? Are
you looking for a quick summary on a topic, or for in-depth information? Are
you looking for actual reports of single pieces of research, or for summaries
or syntheses of a group of studies on the same topic? Fortunately, many
resources are available both in publications and on the Internet. But not all
resources are of equal value. The links below may help:
Other Web Resources to consider
Research Syntheses and Reviews
Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Journals
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How Do I Become an Informed Advocate for Research on Early
Childhood Development and Education?
Children benefit when
research is used appropriately and thoughtfully, combined with the insights of
experienced practitioners to create what has been called "evidence-based
practice." Although there are obstacles to finding and using research
effectively, much can be done to move toward "evidence-based professional
(Fleishman, S. 2006.
Matters: Moving To Evidence Based Professional Practice. Educational
Leadership, March 2006, Volume 63, Number 6)
- Encourage colleagues to
read critically, think about, and apply relevant research in their work
with children and families. Teacher study groups can be interesting and
enjoyable ways to create a "community of learners" around research
- If you are a teacher or
teacher educator, encourage and participate in "teacher research," teachers’ own systematic and sustained study of some aspect of teaching
and learning with young children and their families. High quality teacher
research is grounded in the daily lives of children and based on the
insights of the teachers or caregivers who work with them.
- Find the researchers in
your community (e.g., at a local university) and talk with them about
their work and about the questions you need answers to as a practitioner. Collaborative
relationships and networking may develop from these discussions. At
conferences, attend research-related sessions, sharing your reactions and
experiences with researchers.
- Be open to reconsidering
your own position, policies, or practices in light of a body of new
research (while not jumping on every new bandwagon or being swayed by one
- Avoid misusing research. For
example, do not pick and choose only those studies that support a
particular position, while ignoring what may be stronger evidence on the
- If you are a researcher,
consider what research questions may be the most important to investigate.
What will make a difference for young children and families? When planning
and conducting your research, consider how to collaborate with
practitioners or policymakers, whose perspectives may help make your plans
valid and realistic. When your research is ready to disseminate, consider
multiple audiences and outlets (for example, publishing in both scientific
journals and practice-oriented publications).