22 SES 10 B, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
This research project is rooted in my academic background as a philosopher of education, and in the practices of teaching research methods modules to postgraduate students in education and the social sciences. This experience strongly suggests that research methods training for postgraduate students tends to be concerned almost exclusively with empirical approaches. My experience is that students express surprise that non-empirical work constitutes ‘research’ as such; they ask if philosophy of education can inform their everyday work, or are concerned whether such approaches are acceptable in their academic work. This research adopts just such a non-empirical, philosophical approach; that is, its ‘method’ is through the force of its argument and its examples. In trying to understand the value of philosophy of education to researching practical concerns, it will consider two key questions: first, what might be the issues with teaching predominantly empirical approaches in the university?; second, what are the possibilities that philosophy of education can offer to postgraduate research students in this discipline, and why should students pursue them? The research will outline how the framework for discussion of these issues comes from the way that empirical research has been theorised within the philosophical literature, and how philosophers of education understand their (distinctive) contribution to the field. It will show how this is not just a debate confined to a particular geographical location, but how issues of method and methodology in research in higher education is increasingly a European discourse.
This is not merely a personal reflection, nor evidence of a desire to promote the field of philosophy of education as something of a panacea for what may be perceived as ‘wrong’ in research. Other scholars have pointed to how the dominance of certain approaches affects what is seen as appropriate, as evidencing quality and as constituting ’useful’ research that has impact in education. Judith Suissa writes of her experience of being a philosopher on an educational research training programme, and Naomi Hodgson and Paul Standish (2006; 2007) point to the orthodoxy of the induction into, and the processes of, research. But this also a broad issue: a European conference held in Belgium in the summer of 2013 reflected on the question: ‘Why “what works” doesn’t work in educational research’ (see Smeyers and Depaepe 2010 and Keiner and Smith 2013).
In answering the first question raised by this project, the research will ask to what extent there is a case to be made for ‘evidence-based’ research in education and what issues different European countries might have in ‘using’ such research to inform professional practice in educational settings. In turning to the second question, the research will consider how philosophical research can help in looking at the everyday practices within education, and what is at stake here beyond simply ‘what works’. In this respect, the research will draw on Gert Biesta’s (2010) ideas of how research can inform value-based rather than evidence-based educational practice. By rigorously concentrating attention on the very practical problems that higher education raises (such as how to support academic writing for postgraduates - see Fulford 2009), the research tends to move out beyond questions of ‘how to’, to ones about the nature of knowledge, how we live well alongside each other and to questions of ethics – the central concerns of philosophy.
In summary, then, this research, through a critical engagement with the literature, will make a case for the practice of philosophy of education as research, not as the technical application of a method or a methodology, but as enquiry that uncovers and brings clarity to our thoughts about the everyday concerns of education.
Bailey, R., (Ed.), (2010), The Philosophy of Education: London: Continuum. Biesta, G., (2010), ‘Why “What Works” Still Won’t Work: From evidence-based education to value-based education’, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29, pp. 491 – 503. Fulford, A., (2009) ‘Ventriloquising the Voice: Student Writing in the University’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 43, No. 2., pp. 223-237. Hodgson, N., and Standish, P., (2006), ‘Induction into Educational Research Networks: The Striated and the Smooth’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 563 – 574. Hodgson, N., and Standish, P., (2007), ‘Network, Critique, Conversation: Toward a re-thinking of educational research training’, in P. Smeyers and M. Depaepe, (Eds), Educational Research: Networks and technologies, Dordrecht: Springer. Keiner, E., and Smith, R., ‘Education, Science and Meaning’,(2013) Invited paper given at the International Conference: ‘Reviewed? Renewed? Revisited! Past, Present, and Future of Philosophy and History of Educational Research, KU Leuven, Belgium, 6th – 8th June 2013. Smeyers, P., and Depaepe, M., (2010), (Eds), Educational Research: Why ‘What Works’ Doesn’t Work, Dordrecht: Springer. Stone, L., (2006), ‘From Technologization to Totalization in Education Research: US graduate training, methodology, and critique’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 527-545.
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