What Does Good Education Research Look Like? Situating a Field and Its Practices

By Lyn Yates | Go to book overview

2
History, fashion and academic research in
education

or, why hasn't education research discovered the magic bullet on

literacy?

and why did a lot of gender researchers go off into the airy-fairy

realms of postmodernism?

One reason medical research is so favoured as the benchmark for research activity (apart from its prestige and the fact that so many governments and corporations are willing to throw large amounts of money at it) is that, whatever the arcane debates that medical researchers may be pursuing in laboratories and academic journals, their activity overall does seem, to the untutored eye, to be making progress. Against this backdrop, education researchers seem to suffer a double burden. More of their theories and debates reach the public and are scrutinized along the way, not just by peers with similar expertise in that area of research but by bureaucrats, politicians and the wider community. And the question of whether this research activity has produced 'progress' seems as much to throw into question the value of what education researchers do, as it does to underwrite the value of this activity. In this chapter I take two examples of areas in which there has been a large body of education research by academic researchers, to discuss the shape of changes in them over time and to illustrate further some issues about the field of practice that constitutes education research discussed in the previous chapter.

The areas I have chosen for discussion are research on reading, and research on gender and schooling. I have selected these two examples because they highlight issues that are often at the heart of attacks on education research as a quality activity: respectively, that it is not making progress or that it is not relevant or rigorous. In both cases, what I want to suggest is that the research is engaging with its field or object of

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