Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

The Role of Educational Research

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

The Role of Educational Research

Article excerpt

A decade ago Martyn Hammersley (2003) challenged researchers to consider whether educational research can and should be educative, conducted primarily to facilitate decision-making, policy and practice, or whether it should primarily focus on generating new knowledge for its own sake. It is a question that has been debated internationally for at least thirty years (Skilbeck, 1983). If our primary concern is educative, then we will explore ways to ensure research informs contemporary education policies and we will be interested in how our work influences actions and has practical effects and consequences.

Readers and contributors to the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies (NZJES) have very diverse views on what constitutes educational research. The manuscripts submitted for review reflect many research priorities, methodologies, and whether or not the primary concern is to educate or to generate. Most submissions attempt both.

If we accept the view that educational research is "systematic inquiry made public" (Stenhouse, 1975), articles published in NZJES invite the reader to consider and engage critically with systematic inquiries undertaken within a range of educational research agendas. Ultimately, as editors, we invite readers to consider whether the research undertakings of their colleagues across national and international contexts enhance our collective ability to consider and re-consider areas that might otherwise be taken for granted.

If we consider that educational research supports the aim of generating "new knowledge" then it is reasonable to expect that articles within this journal challenge common assumptions or understandings by foregrounding new or novel educational ideas or concepts as identified through their research. If we also consider that "the overriding purpose of educational research is to bring about worthwhile educational change" (Elliott, 1990, p. 4), then some researchers will explore their new knowledge in relation to how this might inform change for educators, policy makers, teachers and other researchers. In a similar way, Elliot argues that for research to be educational it must be directed towards exploring values in practice. The ideological positions of researchers are evident (but not always explicit) in how they interpret, present and interrogate their data but ideology is also evident in what is read, critiqued and included to justify the researcher's interpretation of what should be valued as a meaningful education research agenda. As Stenhouse's work influenced a generation of research in education to explore an agenda of "reflective inquiry" his work was clearly educative in nature. Eisner (2009) has long argued that scientifically-based knowledge is not the only way to improve educational practice, and in his research agenda the arts (or imagination) are central.

Other forms of education research are by choice more theoretically oriented and are primarily concerned with transforming a body of knowledge than with transforming educators and their practices. Such research might be undertaken primarily to resolve theoretical problems, achieved through the discovery and publication of new knowledge (as proposed by Carr, 1995). Irrespective of whether education researchers are primarily interested in their research being used for an educative potential or for the pursuit of new knowledge, disseminating and publishing their findings is part of the research process. …

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