Purpose of Foundational, Early-Stage or Exploratory, and Design and Development Research Studies Foundational, Early-Stage or Exploratory, and Design and Development Studies
An important genre of education research advances knowledge about fundamental principles of sound education practice. This includes studies to advance foundational knowledge that guides theory development; Early-Stage or Exploratory research to identify evidence of the promise (or lack thereof) of programs, policies or practices; and research that guides the development and early-stage testing of innovative programs, policies and practices to improve education outcomes.
Foundational Research The purpose of Foundational Research is to advance the frontiers of education and learning; develop and refine theory and methodology; and provide fundamental knowledge about teaching and/or learning.

Foundational Research studies may examine phenomena without establishing an explicit link to education outcomes.

Early-Stage or Exploratory Research The purpose of Early-Stage or Exploratory Research is to investigate approaches to education problems to establish the basis for design and development of new interventions or strategies, and/or to provide evidence for whether an established intervention or strategy is ready to be tested in an efficacy study.

Early-Stage or Exploratory Research should establish initial connections to outcomes of interest. Studies in this genre should support the development of a well-explicated theory of action that can inform the development, modification, or evaluation of an intervention or strategy. They should build on existing research and theory to examine issues such as:

(1) Associations between (a) education or learning outcomes and (b) malleable factors (that is, factors that are alterable, such as children’s behaviors; technologies; education programs, policies, and practices) and; (2) Factors and conditions that may mediate or moderate the relationship between (a) education or learning outcomes and (b) malleable factors; and (3) Opportunities for new interventions or strategies, and challenges to their adoption, with the goal of informing policy, practice, and future design or development.

Design and Development Research The purpose of Design and Development Research is to develop new or improved interventions or strategies to achieve well-specified learning goals or objectives, including making refinements on the basis of small-scale testing. Typically this research involves four components:

(1) Development of a solution (for example, an instructional approach; design and learning objects, such as museum exhibits or media; or education policy) based on a well-specified theory of action appropriate to a well-defined end user; (2) Creation of measures to assess the implementation of the solution(s); (3) Collection of data on the feasibility of implementing the solution(s) in typical delivery settings by intended users; and (4) Conducting a pilot study to examine the promise of generating the intended outcomes.

In some cases, funders will expect all four stages to be completed within a single project; in other cases, Design and Development Projects may entail sequential projects.