First layer – research philosophy The outer layer of the onion is about research philosophy – the what and why. Research at undergraduate level tends not to look at this – it’s more about the ‘how’ – privileges action over philosophical perspectives. This is partly to do with the level but is also connected to the historical tradition of educational research. – (see de Landsheere)
Research philosophy Many variations on two main approaches – ‘engineering’ or ‘enlightenment’ The engineering approach is rooted in the scientific or ‘positivist’ perspective which privileges quantitative measurability. The enlightenment approach is more concerned with qualitative understanding of diverse social perspectives.
Positivism - the scientific approach The application of scientific methods can generate empirical evidence which may then be used to improve performance. The theory is based on the belief in social ‘facts’ which exist independently. These facts can be correlated to detect and identify predictable behaviour or ‘human nature.’
Facts Identify three social ‘facts’ (i.e. things that you know for certain about society)
The Engineering Model This became known as the engineering model in that it made possible human engineering. Early learning theories such as behaviourism are based on this belief. Its essence is ‘measurability’ Empirical observation generates ‘evidence’ which can be ‘quantified’ thus creating new knowledge.
Positivism This became known as ‘positivism.’ It is based on what is known as the ‘correspondence theory of truth’ in which there is a truth which corresponds with what can be known objectively. Scientific research, for example experiments are objective and can discover truths.
Thought experiment 1 In pairs discuss thought experiment 1
The Enlightenment Model As the 20 th century progressed the growth of sociology brought a new perspective on research methods. The old scientific model began to be seen as too mechanistic for dealing with human beings. Qualitative methods began to replace quantitative.
The Enlightenment Model The enlightenment model is more concerned with understanding than the improvement of skills transmission or ‘teaching’. In fact, qualitative methods were often seen as a development of critical social science which is concerned with transformation rather than perpetuation.
The contrast Both approaches are concerned with adding to knowledge. The engineering approach collects data to demonstrate facts. The enlightenment model explores meanings and perspectives to understand people and society.