Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment

By Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview
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Chapter 10

Values, Objectivity and Ideology

If we adopt a critical constructivist epistemology, we reject the positivistic notion that facts and values are separate. From this perspective values are seen as a basic dimension of the research process from the selection of what is to be investigated, to the methods employed, to the definitions given to terms encountered during the investigation. This is quite a contrast to the traditional positivist belief that values play no role in the research process unless to undermine its validity.

Critical Constructivist Research and the Expose of Values

A point which critical qualitative research has made repeatedly is that underlying all social research are specific assumptions about society-value-laden assumptions which refer to the way we view social control, order, and responsibility. Critical qualitative researchers have accepted the fact that inquiry is anything but a neutral activity, as it draws upon our values, our hopes, and the mysteries emerging from our social worlds. We are constantly confronted with value questions dealing with morality, critical constructivist researchers maintain, since the subjects and objects of social science are humans. Social and educational research finds it impossible to remove itself from value assumptions about social relationships. Indeed, many philosophers of research argue that educational research is meaningful only to the extent that it has a value orientation (Popkewitz, 1981a; J. Smith, 1983; Brennan and Noffke, 1997; Carson and Sumara, 1997; Brosio, 2000).

Critical constructivists, of course, reject the possibility of value-free research into social and educational phenomena and see attempts to argue the case for value freedom as a form of ideological mystification-that is, an attempt to hide the political interests of educational practice and the research about it. If researchers fail to keep the normative or value dimension of educational research in mind, the research they produce and the ends to which it is applied will simply serve to reproduce hegemonic social relations. Thus, from the critical perspective an awareness of the value orientation of research is essential, as it brings to consciousness the


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Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment


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