Doing Educational Research

By Geoffrey Walford | Go to book overview

11

THE FRONT PAGE OR YESTERDAY’S NEWS

The reception of educational research

Peter Mortimore


INTRODUCTION

British educational researchers are a relatively new breed. Although there is a rich tradition of writers, like Arnold of Rugby, addressing educational ideas, it is only in the last thirty or so years that educational research—as distinct from psychological, sociological or even psychiatric studies—has been funded from public sources and that the results of studies have begun to influence what goes on in schools. (A lucid account of developments through this time can be read in Shipman, 1985). Even so, it is sometimes difficult to identify clearly what makes up an ‘educational research study’ and to distinguish this from similar studies carried out in the general area of the social sciences. This is because educational researchers usually have taken their degrees in other subjects and have frequently worked in different traditions. It is a strength, in my view, of education that it can draw on the methods and concepts of other disciplines and that it can adopt—as appropriate—their perspectives, paradigms and theories.

This flexibility of approach, and youthful vigour, are helpful. But perhaps less helpful is the lack of collective experience of publishing work and disseminating findings. Furthermore, because education is such an important aspect of our society—especially in current times—publishing results and disseminating findings can take place in a highly charged political atmosphere. Alternatively, findings can be ignored—hence the title.

In this chapter, I will examine the publication of the results of research. I will draw on my experience as a co-author of two major studies of school effectiveness—Fifteen Thousand Hours, a study of secondary schools by Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore and Ouston,

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