The methodology employed for this book involved collecting titles, abstracts, and citation counts from the Scopus API of all articles in the top 20 journals (as identified by Google Scholar) from the four targeted subdisciplines of education research (Teaching and Teacher Education, Educational Technology, Educational Psychology and Counseling, and Higher Education) from 1970 to 2020. Based on citation counts for each article, we identified the top 20 articles for each decade in each subdiscipline and conducted qualitative coding and synthesis of the articles into a coherent narrative for each decade. We also conducted keyword analyses for all articles to identify most common words in titles and abstracts for each decade to assist the narrative.
Teaching and Teacher Education
By undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the top cited research articles in teaching and teacher education over the past 50 years, this chapter identifies trends and issues in this field leading up to and including the year 2020. Data sources included articles from thirteen professional journals on teaching and teacher education. We identified the 20 top cited articles of each decade from 1970 to 2020, resulting in 120 articles comprised of empirical studies, theoretical works, literature reviews, and conceptual papers. Then, we analyzed each article individually for content and compared the articles to identify key themes throughout the decades. Results show that broad changes took place in the field of teaching and teacher education over the past 50 years. We observed the following trends: (a) increased focus on teacher education improvement and reform, including a move from focusing on teacher practice within teacher education programs toward a focus on teacher beliefs, efficacy, and attrition; (b) increased awareness of sociocultural factors within teaching and teacher education; and (c) increased acknowledgment of the unique needs of ESL students, which was reflected by changes in the field of ESL teaching. The implications of this analysis are that as teaching and teacher education evolves, and as researchers and practitioners seek for ways to further improve the field, teaching and teacher education will continue to move toward more student-centered, culturally-aware approaches.
Educational Technology
Our goal in this chapter is to explore the history of educational technology research by identifying research trends across the past 50 years. We surveyed 20 representative research papers from each decade ranging from 1970 to 2020. We used bibliometric data to select these representative papers and then qualitatively analyzed and manually coded them. We found that while the particular technologies investigated consistently changed, research generally progressed from addressing theoretical difficulties to determining the affordances of instructional technologies and finally to studying pedagogical strategies. We saw this trend on a macro level, occurring over 50 years. These findings imply that educational technology research (a) is iterative, beginning with the adoption of new technologies by practitioners; (b) relies on determining the effectiveness of instructional technologies; and (c) ultimately investigates teaching strategies related to technology.
Educational Psychology
The purpose of this study was to evaluate and thematically synthesize educational psychology and counseling research over the last 50 years. We used bibliometric measures to identify the top 20 articles for each decade, from 1970–2019. We then systematically reviewed and coded each article, looking for thematic trends. Themes for each decade were discussed in detail. Some of these major themes included schema theory in the ’70s, self-efficacy and self-regulation in the ’80s, cognitive load in the ’90s, motivation in the 2000s, and student learning outcomes in the 2010s. A preliminary discussion about where the field is going during the 2020s is also included. While some themes were decade specific, we found that several themes spanned the entire 50 years. Those themes included the following: (a) teachers; (b) self-concept, self-efficacy, and self-regulation; (c) motivation; (d) measurement tools and statistical processes; and (e) cognitive load. Taken together, the field of educational psychology and counseling has evolved and shifted over the last 50 years with the research bearing evidence of important themes across time.
Higher Education
Research within the field of higher education has rapidly expanded over the past 50 years. The purpose of this study was to synthesize the research of higher education from 1970 through 2020 and identify the trends and themes in that time period. While many authors have surveyed higher education research by studying all publications (output), we reviewed the field by focusing on the publications that made the biggest impact through the number of citations (outcome). We used a bibliometric literature analysis to identify the 20 most highly cited journal articles of each decade and then measured the number of citations. This comparison of citation counts allowed us to trace the growth and changes in topics of the most interest to higher education researchers and determine which themes had the most impact on the field. Themes centering on students and learning—such as effective teaching, retention, engagement, assessment, feedback, and employability—were the most common among the high-impact articles. Our findings suggest that over time, the field of higher education has moved away from a teacher-centered approach and more towards a student-centered focus in order to encourage deep, applied learning. The results of our analysis also showed that many of the identified trends are connected to the social, political, and economic influences of the same time periods, including an increasingly diverse and growing student population and a transformation in education delivery methods.
Research Impact Metrics
By analyzing 50 years of citation counts of 51,281 research articles across 86 education journals in conjunction with textual analysis of article titles and abstracts, we explore how a variety of article features, such as title length, use of a subtitle, reading difficulty, and open access status, have historically influenced the impact of education research articles. Results indicate that (a) shorter titles are more likely to be cited than long titles, (b) articles with subtitles (designated with a colon) are more likely to be cited, (c) articles with lengthy and more technical abstracts are more likely to be cited, and (d) open access status has no effect.