Educational Research for Social Justice: Getting off the Fence

By Morwenna Griffiths | Go to book overview

4: Facts and values: power/knowledge

Epistemological and methodological issues in research for
social justice

In Chapter 3,1 discussed the significance for epistemology and methodology of human agency, of social interactions (especially the effects of power) and of ethics. I discussed the significance of the way human beings use their agency to interpret their worlds, and I discussed it in relation not only to the subjects of research, though this was important, but also to the researchers, who are themselves human beings. All this was shown to be of great importance for educational researchers interested in social justice.

In this chapter I take these issues further by considering how - or how far - values enter into interpretations: that is, if - or how far - facts can be value free. This is a matter which is crucial for anyone interested in research for social justice. It is also a matter which is widely and hotly debated both in and out of educational research communities, though I shall draw on education examples and theories as much as possible. These debates are subtle and complicated. They draw on a range of theoretical frameworks, none of which deals in easy answers. Educational researchers do not have the luxury of remaining within just one of these theoretical frameworks: the questions that arise in educational research necessitate some familiarity with several of them. As a result, this chapter is, inevitably, more dense and difficult than most of the others in the book. So some readers might like to skip it at first reading. Others will find it exactly the one they want to start with.

As I shall explain in this chapter, some researchers argue that facts are objective and unbiased if, and only if, they are not contaminated by values. They say that once the facts are established, values are brought into play in order to use the knowledge well: to make progress and to improve things. Against this, others would argue that such facts do not, and could not, exist. A particular facet of this debate is the place of power in the construction of values and knowledge, including, in some Foucauldian versions, the ethics

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Educational Research for Social Justice: Getting off the Fence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Doing Qualitative Research in Educational Settings ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor's Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Part I: Introduction and Context 1
  • 1: Taking Sides, Getting Change 3
  • 2: Research for Social Justice? Some Examples 15
  • Part II: Theoretical Frameworks for Practical Purposes 29
  • Introduction to Part II 31
  • 3: Truths and Methods 33
  • 4: Facts and Values 44
  • 5: Living with Uncertainty in Educational Research 65
  • 6: Educational Research for Social Justice 85
  • Part III: Practical Possibilities 99
  • Introduction to Part III 101
  • 7: Getting Started 105
  • 8: Getting Justice 117
  • 9: Better Knowledge 129
  • 10: Educational Research at Large 141
  • Appendix: Fair Schools 148
  • References 149
  • Index 159
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