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Educational enquiry

This module considers educational enquiry, exploring the roles it can play for professional practice and policymaking. You’ll examine the nature of educational research, and some of the practical strategies and skills involved in both qualitative and quantitative approaches. There will be an opportunity to explore aspects of data processing and analysis. You’ll also consider ethical issues, and investigate what’s involved in reading and assessing research reports and reviewing research literatures. The module provides an introduction to masters-level study in education, and will help you to adopt the degree of critically that is needed for work at this level


E891 is a compulsory module in our:

  • Masters in Education (F01)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Studies in Education (D52)

E891 is an optional module in our:

If you leave the programme before gaining the 180 credits required for a masters degree, this module will qualify you for a Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Education, or with another 60 credits of specified modules from the programme for a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Studies in Education.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module of the Masters in Education is concerned with educational research, its theoretical assumptions and its contribution to educational practice and policymaking.

The aims of the module are to:

  • develop your ability  to reflect on and critically assess information from various sources, particularly academic research articles
  • increase awareness of key methodological issues underpinning educational research
  • provide an introduction to a sample of approaches currently found within educational research, and the different applications of these
  • facilitate the ability to understand and assess a variety of types of research reports
  • enable clear and productive thinking about the appropriate use of research evidence in making educational decisions
  • introduce some basic research techniques, particularly in relation to data analysis, and generate methodological awareness about threats to validity grounded in an understanding of the way in which the investigation is framed
  • help develop the ability to assess relevant literature.

The Study Guide begins by examining what we mean by ‘educational enquiry’ and distinguishing between ‘academic’ and ‘practitioner-based’ research, discussing the different purposes and possibilities of each. It looks at the centrality of the research question and the purpose of the research centred around this. The second part develops an understanding of the way that any piece of research is shaped by the researcher’s world view and the way that he or she understands knowledge and learning. The importance of understanding methodology before any engagement with research methods is stressed. The module discusses ways of producing data and some research methods are presented as examples: the coverage is not comprehensive on the assumption that you will gradually acquire a repertoire of research techniques relevant to particular areas of study as you progress through your postgraduate studies. The module then considers the way that data can be interpreted and the relative status that can be given to various findings. The final part considers the way in which ‘critical reading’ of research reports assumes understanding of all the issues presented in the previous parts.

Throughout the module you are required to relate the material to your own context and to engage with research reports covering a range of substantive areas. The theoretical elements of the module can be applied to any substantive area within the broad area of education; no particular specialism is assumed. You are neither required nor have the opportunity to undertake any research of your own although one assignment requires you to pilot one research instrument within your own context in order to reflect on your own understanding and learning.

With the exception of one printed reader, the module is entirely online and provides an online study guide and access to a wide range of readings located in the OU library which are essential reading and exemplify some of the concepts introduced in the study guide. There is no day school or other face-to-face contact.

This module will provide an introduction to masters-level work, building on prior experience, reflection, and study. However you should be prepared for working at masters level from the start of the module.

If you are doing E891 as part of the Masters degree in Education (F01) or Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Studies in Education (D52), you should be aware that for other modules in the qualification it is highly desirable or essential that you work with learners or have access to groups of learners although this need not be in a formal setting.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and who will mark and comment on your written work. You can also ask your tutor for advice and guidance. You may have contact with your tutor and fellow students through computer forums. Tutor support will be provided through group activities in both online forums and real time online tutorials.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be required to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system. 

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) is a small-scale project (approximately 5000 words) which will require you to demonstrate your understanding of key research positions drawing upon the breadth of your learning in E891. 

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Entry requirements

This module can only be studied as part of a qualification (see below for the relevant qualifications). 

You must hold a bachelors degree from a UK university or other recognised degree-awarding body, or a qualification at equivalent level.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

The module is taught in English, and your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. A minimum score of 7 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is recommended for students for whom English is not a first language. Please see their website for details.


Start End England fee Register
10 Oct 2015 Oct 2016 £1416.00

Registration closes 17/09/15 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

Ways to pay

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

Study material and activities are provided online only by means of a dedicated website which also provides access to a range of electronic tools, including real time conferencing and online forums. In addition to the online-delivered teaching text, there is a printed Reader which is an integral part of the materials. You will be expected to search for other materials relevant to your assignments, and the module will provide you with help and guidance for your literature searching.

You will also be provided with access to Masters degree in Education qualification website, where additional guidance materials will be found.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

In this module you are expected to use a wide range of resources. The materials will be delivered as web pages, pdf files and web-based tools. Tutorial and student-led discussions and activities will be carried out in text-based discussion forums online. To complement this interaction, some discussions and collaborative activities will take place as live events in our audio-conferencing environment, which combines voice, text and images. Recordings of these events can be accessed after the event by all students.

We have tried to avoid using inaccessible resources, but some material, that is core for the module may not be easily accessible if you use assistive technology. Some students may find the amount of reading from technically different sources challenging. In many cases there will be sufficient alternative activities and materials to enable you to complete assignments successfully. Where this is not the case, you will be given individual support by your tutor in collaboration with other University staff. Support for access to Library resources is available from the Library Helpdesk.

You will need to spend considerable amount of time using a personal computer and the internet. Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.