Research Methods in Education

By Louis Cohen; Lawrence Manion et al. | Go to book overview


Parts of this chapter are taken from Cohen, L. and Manion, L. (1981) Perspectives on Classrooms and Schools with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
We are not here recommending, nor would we wish to encourage, exclusive dependence on rationally derived and scientifically provable knowledge for the conduct of education—even if this were possible. There is a rich fund of traditional and cultural wisdom in teaching (as in other spheres of life) which we would ignore to our detriment. What we are suggesting, however, is that total dependence on the latter has tended in the past to lead to an impasse: and that for further development and greater understanding to be achieved education must needs resort to the methods of science and research.
Primarily associated with the Vienna Circle of the 1920s whose most famous members included Schlick, Carnap, Neurath and Waisman.
A classic statement opposing this particular view of science is that of Kuhn, T.S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kuhn’s book, acknowledged as an intellectual tour de force, makes the point that science is not the systematic accumulation of knowledge as presented in text books; that it is a far less rational exercise than generally imagined. In effect, it is ‘a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions …in each of which one conceptual world view is replaced by another.’
For a straightforward overview of the discussions here see Chalmers, A.F (1982) What Is This Thing Called Science? (second edition), Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
For a later study that examines the influence of science and objectivity on the secularization of consciousness, see the same author’s Where the Wasteland Ends, London: Faber & Faber, 1972.
The formulation of scientific method outlined earlier has come in for strong and sustained criticism. Mishler for example, describes it as a ‘storybook image of science’, out of tune with the actual practices of working scientists who turn out to resemble craftpersons rather than logicians. By craftpersons, Mishler is at pains to stress that competence depends upon ‘apprenticeship training, continued practice and experienced-based, contextual knowledge of the specific methods applicable to a phenomenon of interest rather than an abstract “logic of discovery” and application of formal “rules” ’. The knowledge base of scientific research, Mishler contends, is largely tacit and unexplicated; moreover, scientists learn it through a process of socialization into a ‘particular form of life’. The discovery, testing and validation of findings is embedded in cultural and linguistic practices and experimental scientists proceed in pragmatic ways, learning from their errors and failures, adapting procedures to their local contexts, making decisions on the basis of their accumulated experiences. See for example, Mishler, E.G. (1990) Validation in inquiry-guided research: the role of exemplars in narrative studies, Harvard Educational Review, 60 (4): 415-42.
See, for example, Rogers, C.R. (1969) Freedom to Learn, Columbus, OH: Merrill Pub. Co.; and also Rogers, C.R. and Stevens, B. (1967) Person to Person: the Problem of Being Human, London: Souvenir Press.
Investigating social episodes involves analysing the accounts of what is happening from the points of view of the actors and the participant spectator(s)/investigator(s). This is said to yield three main kinds of interlocking material: images of the self and others, definitions of situations, and rules for the proper development of the action. See Harre, R. (1976) The constructive role of models, in L. Collins (ed.), The Use of Models in the Social Sciences, London: Tavistock Publications.
It may seem paradoxical to some readers that, although we have just described interpretive theories as anti-positivist, they are nevertheless conventionally regarded as ‘scientific’ (and hence


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Research Methods in Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Boxes xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Part One - The Context of Educational Research 1
  • 1 - The Nature of Inquiry 3
  • Part Two - Planning Educational Research 47
  • 2 - The Ethics of Educational and Social Research 49
  • 3 - Research Design Issues- Planning Research 73
  • 4 - Sampling 92
  • 5 - Validity and Reliability 105
  • Part Three - Styles of Educational Research 135
  • 6 - Naturalistic and Ethnographic Research 137
  • 7 - Historical Research 158
  • 8 - Surveys, Longitudinal, Cross-Sectional and Trend Studies 169
  • 9 - Case Studies 181
  • 10 - Correlational Research 191
  • 11 - Ex Post Facto Research 205
  • 12 - Experiments, Quasi-Experiments and Single-Case Research 211
  • 13 - Action Research 226
  • Part Four - Strategies for Data Collection and Researching 243
  • 14 - Questionnaires 245
  • 15 - Interviews 267
  • 16 - Accounts 293
  • 17 - Observation 305
  • 18 - Tests 317
  • 19 - Personal Constructs 337
  • 20 - Multi-Dimensional Measurement 349
  • 21 - Role-Playing 370
  • Part Five - Recent Developments in Educational Research 381
  • 22 - Recent Developments 383
  • Notes 396
  • Bibliography 407
  • Index 438


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