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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Barnes, C. (2012). It’s no laughing matter…Boys’ humour and the performance of defensive masculinities in the classroom. Journal of Gender Studies, 21(3), 239–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Blackmore, J., & Wright, J. (2006). The quality agenda and some issues for educational research and researchers: an introductory essay. Review of Australian Research in Education, 6, 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bohanon, H., Fenning, P., Carney, K. L., Minnis-Kim, M. J., Anderson-Harriss, S., Moroz, K. B., et al. (2006). Schoolwide application of positive behavior support in an urban high school: A case study. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8(3), 131–145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bohanon, H., Fenning, P., Hicks, K., Weber, S., Thier, K., Aikins, B., et al. (2012). A case example of the implementation of schoolwide positive behavior support in a high school setting using change point test analysis. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 56(2), 91–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Buras, K. (1996). Questioning core assumptions: A critical reading of and response to E. D. Hirsch’s the schools we need and why we don’t have them. Harvard Educational Review, 69(1), 67–93.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Coburn, C., & Talbert, J. (2006). Conceptions of evidence use in school districts: Mapping the terrain. American Journal of Education, 112(4), 469–495.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Connell, R. (2009). Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism. Critical Studies in Education, 50(3), 213–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Crosnoe, R., Kirkpatrick Johnson, M., & Elder, G. H. J. (2004). Intergenerational bonding in school: The behavioural and contextual correlates of student-teacher relationships. Sociology of Education, 77(1), 60–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Demanet, J., & Van Houtte, M. (2012). Teachers’ attitudes and students’ opposition: School misconduct as a reaction to teachers’ diminished effort and affect. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(6), 860–869.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Doherty, C. (2015). Making trouble: ethnographic designs on ruling relations for students and teachers in non-academic pathways. The Australian Educational Researcher, 42(3), 353–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Doherty, C., Dooley, K., & Woods, A. (2013). Teaching sociology within teacher education: Revisiting, realigning and re-embedding. Journal of Sociology, 49(4), 515–530.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dreyfus, H. L., & Rabinow, P. (1982). Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics (2nd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Finn, J. D., Fish, R. M., & Scott, L. A. (2008). Educational sequelae of high school misbehaviour. The Journal of Educational Research, 101(5), 259–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Flannery, K. B., Sugai, G., & Anderson, C. M. (2009). School-wide positive behavior support in high school: early lessons learned. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11(3), 177–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Goodyear, P., & Zenios, M. (2007). Discussion, collaborative knowledge work and epistemic fluency. British Journal of Educational Studies, 55(4), 351–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Greenberg, J., Putnam, H., & Walsh, K. (2014). Training our future teachers: Classroom management. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin? Educational Researcher, 39(1), 59–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Habermas, J. (1971). Theory and practice. Boston: Beacon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Harrison, N., & Seddon, T. (2013). Living in a 2.2 world: from mapping to strategic capacity building for Australian educational research. Australian Educational Researcher, 40(4), 403–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Harwood, V. (2006). Diagnosing ‘disorderly’ children: A critique of behaviour disorder discourses. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Johnston, K., & Hayes, D. (2008). “This is as good as it gets”: classroom lessons and learning in challenging circumstances. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 31(2), 109–127.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Lakoff, G. (2004). Don’t think of an elephant: Know your values and frame the debate. Melbourne: Scribe Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Lather, P. (2006). Paradigm proliferation as a good thing to think with: Teaching research in education as a wild profusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(1), 35–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lather, P. (2013). Methodology-21: What do we do in the afterward? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 634–645.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lather, P., & St. Pierre, E. (2013). Introduction: Post-qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 629–633.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Laura, C. (2014). Being bad: My baby brother and the school-to-prison pipeline. New York and London: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Levine, D. (2015). Dialogical Social Theory. The Newsletter of the Research Committee on Sociological Theory (Summer), 9-11.

  32. Lyotard, J.-F. (1979). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Margutti, P. (2011). Teachers’ reproaches and managing discipline in the classroom: When teachers tell students what they do ‘wrong’. Linguistics and Education, 22, 310–329.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. McFadden, M., & Munns, G. (2002). Student engagement and the social relations of pedagogy. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(3), 357–366.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Munns, G., Hatton, C., & Gilbert, S. (2013). Teaching in low socio-economic status communities. In G. Munns, W. Sawyer, & B. Cole (Eds.), Exemplary teachers of students in poverty (pp. 33–46). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Nolan, K. (2011). Police in the hallways: Discipline in an urban high school. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. O’Neil, S., & Stephenson, J. (2012). Classroom behaviour management content in Australian undergraduate primary teaching programs. Teaching Education, 23(3), 287–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Ritzer, G. (2004). The McDonaldization of society (revised new century. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forest Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Schussler, D. L., & Johnson, L. (2014). A house built on sand? Commentary on NCTQ’s classroom management report by Greenberg, Putman, Walsh (Commentary: ID Number 17475). Teachers College Record, 1–3.

  40. Smyth, J., & Hattam, R. (2001). ‘Voiced’ research as a sociology for understanding ‘dropping out’ of school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 22(3), 410–415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Sriprakash, A., & Mukhopadhyay, R. (2015). Reflexivity and the politics of knowledge: researchers as ‘brokers’ and ‘translators’ of educational development. Comparative Education, 51(2), 231–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. St. Pierre, E., & Jackson, A. (2014). Qualitative data analysis after coding. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(6), 715–719.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Wacquant, L. (2009). Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity (English ed.). Durham and London: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Weis, L., Jenkins, H., & Stich, A. (2009). Diminishing the divisions among us: reading and writing across difference in theory and method in the sociology of education. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 912–945.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Willis, P. (1977). Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Aldershot, England: Gower.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Yates, L. (2004). What does good education research look like?. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Debra Hayes.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hayes, D., Doherty, C. Valuing epistemic diversity in educational research: an agenda for improving research impact and initial teacher education. Aust. Educ. Res. 44, 123–139 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-016-0224-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Teacher education knowledge base
  • Theory of knowledge
  • Research utilization
  • Research implementation