Teachers as Researchers: Qualitative Inquiry as a Path to Empowerment

By Joe L. Kincheloe | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

What Constitutes Knowledge?

What we refer to as knowledge is problematic. Human knowledge, knowledge about humans, and knowledge derived from research about human education are constituted by a variety of forces. In this section let us contemplate the nature of this complex notion in light of its effect on educational research. We might start with the idea that any research strategy presupposes an epistemological stance. It is our charge to interrogate that stance.


Epistemological Crisis or Epistemological Opportunity?

One task of epistemology is to provide theories of the nature of knowledge, of its genesis and its justification. Traditionally, scholars have assumed that once we were conversant with theories of knowledge we would be better prepared to proceed with our research. These diverse theories of knowledge, of course, conflict with one another over the definition of true knowledge; indeed, some epistemologies deny even the possibility of true knowledge. Nevertheless, different epistemologies promote different forms of knowledge along with different methodologies and ways of knowing. Thus, we accept religious knowledge and ways of knowing, ethical knowledge and ways of knowing, and linguistic knowledge and ways of knowing.

In the social sciences and in educational studies scholars in the last three or more decades have been confronted with an epistemological crisis. The crisis has produced some difficult questions for researchers: What is the proper method of pursuing social and educational knowledge? What constitutes knowledge in these domains? Social scientists and educational researchers have grown more and more dissatisfied with the positivistic definitions of knowledge-though the discomfort is not by any means universal. Among the uncomfortable, no consensus has been reached on a new definition of social knowledge.

As students of metatheory in social science have in the last couple of decades become more and more aware of the social construction of what

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