• Research Type #1: Foundational Research provides the fundamental knowledge that may contribute to improved learning and other relevant education outcomes. Studies of this type seek to test, develop, or refine theories of teaching or learning and may develop innovations in methodologies and/or technologies that will influence and inform research and development in different contexts.
  • Research Type #2: Early-Stage or Exploratory Research examines relationships among important constructs in education and learning to establish logical connections that may form the basis for future interventions or strategies to improve education outcomes. These connections are usually correlation rather than causal.

Research Type #3: Design and Development Research  develops solutions to achieve a goal related to education or learning, such as improving student engagement or mastery of a set of skills. Research projects of this type draw on existing theory and evidence to design and iteratively develop interventions or strategies, including testing individual components to provide feedback in the development process. These projects may include pilot tests of fully developed interventions to determine whether they achieve their intended outcomes under various conditions. Results from these studies could lead to additional work to better understand the foundational theory behind the results or could indicate that the intervention or strategy is sufficiently promising to warrant more-advanced testing.

Efficacy, Effectiveness, and Scale-up Research contributes to evidence of impact, generating reliable estimates of the ability of a fully-developed intervention or strategy to achieve its intended outcomes. The three types of Impact Research share many similarities of approach, including designs that eliminate or reduce bias arising from self-selection into treatment and control conditions, clearly specified outcome measures, adequate statistical power to detect effects, and data on implementation of the intervention or strategy and the counterfactual condition. However, these studies vary with regard to the conditions under which the intervention is implemented and the populations to which the findings generalize. Specifically,

  • Research Type #4: Efficacy Research allows for testing of a strategy or intervention under “ideal” circumstances, including with a higher level of support or developer involvement than would be the case under normal circumstances. Efficacy Research studies may choose to limit the investigation to a single population of interest.
  • Research Type #5: Effectiveness Research examines effectiveness of a strategy or intervention under circumstances that would typically prevail in the target context. The importance of “typical” circumstances means that there should not be more substantial developer support than in normal implementation, and there should not be substantial developer involvement in the evaluation of the strategy or intervention.
  • Research Type #6: Scale-up Research examines effectiveness in a wide range of populations, contexts, and circumstances, without substantial developer involvement in implementation or evaluation. As with Effectiveness Research, Scale-up Research should be carried out with no more developer involvement than what would be expected under typical implementation.