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Understanding Education and Educational Research


  • Date Published: November 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107401617

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About the Authors
  • Educational research is widely believed to be essentially empirical, consisting mainly of collecting and analysing data, with randomised control trials as the 'gold standard'. This book argues that good educational research is often philosophical in nature. Offering a critical overview of the current state of educational research, the authors argue that there are two factors in particular that distort it. One is that throughout the world it is expected to serve the interests of the state in securing educational improvements, as measured by standardised examination results, and to demonstrate 'scientific' credentials sufficient to guarantee absence of ideological bias and carry conviction. The other is that learning to do educational research is generally seen as a matter of being trained in empirical 'research methods'. The authors demonstrate, by contrast, that good educational research needs the rigorous thinking characteristic of philosophy, and that philosophical treatments themselves sometimes constitute such research.

    • Offers a wide-ranging critique of educational research, and will therefore prove a valuable resource for those undertaking 'research methods' courses
    • Makes plentiful use of case studies throughout to make the relevance of the theoretical material clear
    • Includes examples of educational research that can be pursued philosophically, for those looking for ways to develop their research in non-empirical directions
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Smeyers and Smith have produced a coherent collection of papers that provide a healthy antidote to many of the cliche ridden discourses that are increasingly dominating the theory and practices of educational research - the inappropriate and uncritical aping of scientific method as a vehicle for educational inquiry and the assumption that only this will contribute to rigorous educational inquiry ('scientism'); the insistence on quantifying the unquantifiable ('metricophilia' is the new perversion) and the marginalising of modes of understanding, discernment and appreciation rooted in literature, history, social anthropology and philosophy. The critique of educational research is not directed against its uselessness but against its failure to grasp the stuff of humanity that it is dealing with and to acknowledge the sources that have a continuing capacity to illuminate this experience. It is an antidote that should be taken preventatively by all students and, if it is not too late, as curative medicine by all those that are teaching them 'research methods'.' David Bridges, Emeritus Professor, University of East Anglia; and Director of Research, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

    'We seem to have entered a new dim age, a murky mix of scientism and managerialism in which accountability is reduced to accounting, judgment replaced by rubrics, and science parodied as a cultic religion of methods and statistics. In such an age, one needs guides such as Smeyers and Smith who, with their perfect blend of philosophical erudition and common sense, show how the craze for 'what works' distracts us from the crucial question of what matters in education, how the search for genuine understanding gets left behind in the contemporary parade of flimsy correlations, sloppy conceptualizations, and pseudo-generalizations.' Chris Higgins, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107401617
    • length: 227 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Education and its research
    2. The nature of social science
    3. The idea of method
    4. The nature of philosophy
    5. The art of research
    6. Language, truth, and meaning
    7. On the dominant nature of educational research and its shortcomings
    8. Research, policy and practical reasoning
    9. The limits of measurement
    10. Parenting and government intervention in the family (case study I)
    11. Researching happiness and well-being (case study II)
    12. Philosophy and research.

  • Authors

    Paul Smeyers, Universiteit Gent, Belgium
    Paul Smeyers is Research Professor for Philosophy of Education at Ghent University and Extraordinary Professor at KU Leuven, both in Belgium, and Honorary Extraordinary Professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He teaches philosophy of education and methodology of qualitative/interpretative research methods. He is President of the International Network of Philosophers of Education and link-convenor for Network 13, Philosophy of Education of the European Educational Research Association. Since January 2014 he has been the editor of Ethics and Education.

    Richard Smith, University of Durham
    Richard Smith is Professor of Education at the University of Durham, where he teaches philosophy of social science and philosophy of education. He has been editor of the Journal of Philosophy of Education and was founding editor of the journal Ethics and Education.

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