Post-Positivism: An Effective Paradigm for Social and Educational Research

By Panhwar, Abdul Hameed; Ansari, Sanaullah et al. | International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Post-Positivism: An Effective Paradigm for Social and Educational Research


Panhwar, Abdul Hameed, Ansari, Sanaullah, Shah, Asif Ali, International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities


Introduction

Post-positivism stepped forward as a reaction of educational researchersto the limitations of positivism as a paradigm. Educational researchers discovered that positivism cannot fulfil the requirements for social sciences' research as it (positivism) bases itself on observable and empirical analytic facts. As a reaction to its orthodox nature towards quantitative empirical analytic based research, the researchers of social sciences and education came with the idea of mixed paradigm combining positivism and interpretivism and making a new paradigm named post-positivism (Petter & Gallivan and 2004 Deluca, Gallivan, Kock, 2008).

Post-positivism is 'a certain pluralism' which balances both positivist and interpretivist approaches. It focuses on researching issues in the context of involving experiences of the majority and announcing the results of what the majority says is acceptable (Wildemuth, 1993; Fischer, 1998; Phillips and Burbules, 2000), whereas postpositivism, along with quantitative analysis, includes the perspectives of historical, comparative, philosophical, and phenomenological analysis (Fischer, 1998). Although postpositivist research scientifically strives to explore the phenomena, it believes, unlike positivist research, that the absolute truth is nowhere to be found (e.g., Wildemuth, 1993; Guba and Lincoln, 1994; Phillips and Burbules, 2000). Post-positivism does not aim to disapprove the scientific/quantitative elements of positivism in the research, rather it emphasises a proper understanding of the directions and perspectives of any research study from multi-dimensions and multi-methods (Guba, 1990; Fischer, 1998).Furthermore Postpositivism is a form of justification for alternative paradigm after the failings of positivism/ neo-positivism. It is a revolt against the limitations of positivism which (positivism) solely associates itself with empiricism and rejects the existence of individual/subjective perspective of facts. Post-positivistic paradigm promotes the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods that explores the diversity of facts researchable through various kinds of investigations but respecting and valuing all findings as the essential components for the development of knowledge (Clark, 1998 and Fischer, 1998).

Methodology

This research paper aims to review and critically analyse the research on post-positivism and its relation to educational research. It, in fact, attempts to answer the following research question: Can pure scientific methods be used in educational research with the use of postpositivist paradigm?

Many educational researchers have limited education research to qualitative perspective only, and ignore the objective or quantitative side (e.g., Wolcott, 1992; Charmaz, 2008; McNiff and Whitehead, 2010). Many others consider education mixed methods where both quantitative and qualitative aspects are to be amalgamated with equal weightage (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2003; Morgan, 2007; Creswell and Plano-Clark, 2011; Teddlie, and Tashakkori, 2012). Some focus on the on mixed methods aspect wherequalitative aspect should predominate because they assume that educational inquiry should be also be scientifically conducted to find out the reliable and valid results (Guba and Lincoln 1994; Phillips and Burbules, 2000; Wildemuth, 1993). These researchers and educationist claim to be post-positivists (Philip and Burbules, 2000) and promote that educational research should be pluralistic and look into every aspect of educational phenomena being investigated.

Critical analysis and review

Pluralist Nature

Post-positivism is pluralist in its function which balances both positivist and interpretivist approaches. The post-positivist theoretical perspective is a flexible research perspective which allows the researcher to use multiple methods to carry out the research according to the nature of the research questions. Therefore, it tends to reduce personal biases and prejudices of the researcher and the participants because it offers the use of more than one research methods and techniques in a research study to make sure that the subject is studied from more than one angle (Phillips 1990; Wildemuth, 1993; Guba and Lincoln 1994; Clark, 1998; Miller, 2000; Phillips and Burbules, 2000). …

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