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The Discipline(s) of Educational Research

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Abstract

Running through this chapter is a distinction between discipline as a general requirement on any enquiry which aspires to the status of ‘research’ for it to be conducted in a rigorous and systematic way, and a discipline as a particular evolved form of such systematic and rule governed enquiry. The chapter begins by describing the recent history of the disciplines which have informed educational enquiry. It pays particular attention to the way some of the longer established disciplines have fragmented and the way in which they have been joined by new forms of enquiry drawn from almost every part of the academy. The result is that educational enquiry is constituted by a perhaps bewildering array of diverse balkanised and hybridised disciplines that has prompted some to talk of an era of postdisciplinarity. However, the surrender of discipline in the more generic sense comes at a very high price. Without what Schwab calls its ‘syntactical structure’ any form of educational enquiry loses the basis of its claim to credibility, let alone to its particular honorific standing as research. Worse, it undermines the very possibility of a community of arguers. The final section examines the argument as to whether disciplines constitute obstacles to free and open enquiry, power structures which exclude some forms of enquiry as well as privileging others. It argues that disciplined enquiry is needed to reveal and critique power/knowledge structures and not just to protect them. The very diversity of forms which educational enquiry assumes today is some protection from a particular academic hegemony.

Keywords

  • Discipline
  • Epistemic community
  • Post-disciplinarity
  • Systematic
  • Rules

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The B.Ed. offered trainee teachers the possibility of a 4-year programme incorporating concurrent elements of subject study, teaching preparation and practice and educational theory leading to a degree. This rapidly replaced the previous 3-year Certificate of Education programme. It also prompted in the UK what became known internationally as the ‘universitification’ of teacher training, since only universities could award degrees.

  2. 2.

    The full data set for these Research Assessment Exercise submissions is available on www.hefce.ac.uk/rae and provides a fascinating insight into the diversity of practice in educational research in the UK. A further assessment was conducted in 2008, but this did not require scholars to give a particular designation to the genre of research they submitted.

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Acknowledgements

This contribution draws on material previously published by the author in Bridges, D. (2006) ‘The disciplines and discipline of educational research’ in Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(2), 259–272. Copyright author’s. See also Bridges (2003).

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Bridges, D. (2014). The Discipline(s) of Educational Research. In: Reid, A., Hart, E., Peters, M. (eds) A Companion to Research in Education. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6809-3_4

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