The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 123–139 | Cite as

Valuing epistemic diversity in educational research: an agenda for improving research impact and initial teacher education

  • Debra Hayes
  • Catherine Doherty


Research in education draws upon a wide range of epistemological traditions due in part to the wide range of problems that are investigated. While this diversity might be considered a strength of the field, it also makes researchers who work within it vulnerable to being divided into those worth listening to and those who should be ignored by ‘end-users’. These people and groups who are interested in the outcomes of educational research, such as policy makers and system providers, increasingly expect research findings to be accessible, and to inform questions of the ‘what works’ variety. Under this imperative, research processes that elaborate the complexity of educational problems, and the provisional, partial and contingent nature of solutions, tend to be dismissed as unnecessarily complex and inaccessible. Epistemological diversity in educational research also presents challenges for inducting teacher education students into the profession. We outline some of these challenges in a discussion of epistemological diversity in research in education. We also describe differences in how research traditions construct educational problems. We argue that crossing epistemic boundaries is a necessary condition of the educational practices of teachers and of those preparing to join their ranks. We compare and contrast knowledge-producing processes in education and identify the repertoires of capabilities and habits of mind associated with different epistemologies or ‘angles’. We suggest that the impact of educational research, including its contribution to teacher education programs, policy and public debate about issues in education, might be enhanced through a heuristic suite of four angles that are each understood to be necessary but not sufficient on their own. We provide a brief worked example of how such a heuristic might be applied to make sense of the diverse bodies of research regarding student engagement in school.


Teacher education knowledge base Theory of knowledge Research utilization Research implementation 



Cathie would like to acknowledge the Australian Research Council, which funded her DECRA project (Project DE1210569). The literature review in this paper draws upon the work in this project. Deb would like to acknowledge the conversations made during 2014 with Professors Ruth Lupton and Carlo Raffo (University of Manchester) that contributed to the early conceptualisations of the worked example.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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