Melding a Critical Interpretive Methodology
In this appendix I situate myself within, as well as distinguish myself from, a critical research orientation by: 1) defining what is commonly meant by critical education research, 2) outlining and responding to some common criticisms of critical research, and 3) describing a specific approach to critical research that draws upon Habermas's theory of communicative action, as well as insights from postmodernism and interpretivism, to meld a viable brand of critical inquiry. After establishing this orientation, I describe how I applied my “critical interpretivist” approach to the research design and methodology.
Although critical research undoubtedly falls under the umbrella of qualitative or interpretive research paradigms in education, it defies clear-cut placement within various typologies common to the field. 1 This is due in large part to the broad amalgamation of theoretical and research traditions that critical orientations draw from. Recent surveys of critical education research describe its indebtedness to symbolic interactionism, ethnography, ethnomethodology, neo-Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism, to name a few. The core affinity critical researchers identify between these diverse traditions centers around a concern for enhancing the structuralist, or functionalist, critique provided by Marxism with parallel emphases on local understandings and human agency. In sum, “[critical researchers] search for representations of social reality capable of providing social explanations sensitive to the complex relationship between human agency and social structure.” 2 Because most critical research in education is ethnographic in nature, including my case study, I will emphasize critical ethnography in my methodological considerations. 3