The Moral Foundations of Educational Research: Knowledge, Inquiry, and Values

By Pat Sikes; Jon Nixon et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction: reconceptualizing the
debate

Jon Nixon and Pat Sikes

The discussions from which this book has developed were a direct response to the changing pattern of doctoral research within which 'research training' is now seen as an essential component. The editors of this book were centrally involved in translating recent policy directives emanating, in particular, from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) into a coherent programme of doctoral study for use within the School of Education, University of Sheffield. The proposed pattern of four-year doctoral study, with a first-year stand-alone element focusing on methodological issues, necessitated some serious thinking as to what constitutes an adequate preparation for doctoral study and, indeed, for any independent inquiry within the field of educational research.

The most cursory of literature searches reveals a significant expansion over the past ten years in the publication of books on methodological issues within the social sciences generally and educational research in particular. Major publishing houses have developed whole series devoted precisely to this policy agenda. Although much of what is being written is useful and challenging, most focuses on particular approaches to educational research and the specific techniques of data gathering and analysis associated with these broad approaches. 'Method', it seemed to us, was being pluralized before being grasped in its conceptual singularity. What seemed to us to be lacking was any sustained attempt to address what is distinctive about educational research. There is little in the literature to suggest that it is anything other than just a conglomeration of techniques borrowed from the social sciences and applied to educational settings.

That, in the main, seems to be the prevailing view. What distinguishes educational research, according to this view, is its 'usefulness' and 'relevance' to those working in educational settings. We do not argue with this emphasis on the generation of 'useful' and 'relevant' knowledge, but would suggest that whatever it is that is educational about educational research requires a fuller and more rounded explanation: an explanation

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