Postpositivism and Educational Research

Postpositivism and Educational Research

D. C. Phillips

Language: English

Pages: 112

ISBN: 0847691225

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This volume presents in a forthright and lively way, an account of the philosophical position generally identified as 'Postpositivistic' that undergirds much of mainstream research in education and the related social sciences. The discussion throughout is informed by recent developments in philosophy of science. Authors D. C. Phillips and Nicholas C. Burbules cite a number of interesting examples from the educational research and evaluation literature to illustrate the value of a scientific approach. Many educational researchers aspire to carry out rigorous or disciplined inquiry aimed at producing accurate (and generally 'truthful') accounts of educational phenomena and the causal psychological or social processes that lay behind them. However, many recent critics have argued that it is a mistake to believe that research can yield theories, or advance claims that are true, objective, and value-neutral. In other words, that researchers always work within frameworks that embody important (and often questionable) assumptions about values and the nature of human knowledge. This book argues that , while there is much to be learned from recent critiques, traditional scientific values and assumptions are not outmoded. The authors show students how to implement and benefit from the scientific method in ways that take into account recent critiques.














science attainment of female students? Do they have other effects of which policy makers (and parents and teachers) ought to be aware? Does the TV program Sesame Street successfully teach young viewers such things as the alphabet, counting skills, and color concepts? Is it more successful than the instruction children can get from parents who, say, read books to them regularly? Does this program have an impact on the so-called achievement gap that opens up at an early age between many children

advancement) to influence his views on genetics, with disastrous repercussions. Mendelian genetics was suppressed for a period, and a faulty approach based on Lamarckian principles was adopted in Russian agricultural plant breeding programs. Some Mendelians were purged and exiled to Siberia where they died (Zirkle 1959; Shipman 1988, 132–133). In short, cases like this demonstrate that values do influence the work of scientists! Unfortunately, again, this argument is beside the point. It is

two-pronged case needs to be presented if the general charge against value neutrality made in these two metanarratives is to be upheld. In the first place, it needs to be established (presumably by some sort of historical study) that Western capitalists or white males have in fact been dominant in the requisite way and have had the capacity and the opportunity to insert their values into social science and education research (a case that is probably relatively easy to make). But, second, it needs

funding agencies and the like; this is probably unavoidable so long as scientists require substantial research moneys to carry out their work. Although it is not ideal, it again does not lead to the subversion of the ideal of value-free science—so long as the sources of funding do not have improper influence over the internal or cognitive values of science and over how these values are applied in practice. The ideal of value-free scientific investigation boils down to this: The activities of

to argue that whatever Shakespeare had in mind is quite irrelevant; the meaning of the passage is not constituted by whatever intentions Shakespeare might have had. The words of the soliloquy are there and are “open”—we might see meanings in them that Shakespeare did not consciously intend to put there, for of course Shakespeare himself was writing under sociocultural influences of which he might not have been aware but might have influenced what he wrote—how he depicted the character of the

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