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Feature Article-Steve Ross (

Instructional designers and educators sometimes become so enamored with their products (new designs and programs) that they interpret their own positive experiences from local applications or pilot testing as justification of the effectiveness of those products. They come to AECT and other forums with enthusiastic descriptions and demonstrations only to find that others, in the absence of more objective evidence, are not so convinced. And, if a theoretical framework is also lacking for the product design, it becomes difficult for the academic or practitioner consumer to understand why the product should be successful, how it differs from what is already being used, and how it can contribute in a more sustaining and generalizable way to advancements in the field.

These considerations are my way of emphasizing that in instructional design and technology (as in other educational fields), systematic research is highly important and necessary. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter so much whether there search is formative or summative evaluation, basic or applied, or quantitative or qualitative in nature. What matters is that it logically fits the evaluation needs of the project, is tied to meaningful research or evaluation questions/hypotheses, and is well conducted, interpreted accurately with regard to results, and clearly described. Where we have quality research, important impacts on the field, both in training and school contexts, can be made. This has clearly been the case in areas such as cooperative learning, individualized instruction, and reading strategies, to name only a few. In instructional technology, I particularly see a growing need for research on Internet uses and navigation, distance learning, and integrating computer-supported instruction in to P-12 classroom teaching and professional training.

As editor of the Research section of Educational Technology Research and Development, I encourage RTD members to consider sending us manuscripts reporting their research work. Our turn-around time is only about 6 weeks, and our reviewers typically provide very constructive and fair reviews that help authors to improve their manuscripts (whether accepted or rejected). Qualitative and “alternative” (e.g. literature review) manuscripts now make up fully 50% of our acceptances. If readers are uncertain about whether to submit a certain type of paper, they should feel free to contact me (901-678-3413; for an opinion. In the coming months, we have very interesting papers appearing in ETR&D. Look in the near future for a special issue with papers by such noted researchers/theorists as John Bransford, Elliot Soloway, Marcy Driscoll and Walter Dick, Roy Pea, Mitch Resnick, Ben Schneiderman, Rita Richey, and Marcia Linn.

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