ERG SES E 11, Social Justice and Education
The focus of this paper is on research methodologies and methods for understanding attitudes towards diversity in education in an era of interculturalism and performativity. Applying a deconstructionist and cross-disciplinary lens, current research paradigms, methodologies and methods in the field are mapped and a diverse and integrated approach is proposed.
Two key trends dominate educational policy, research and practice today throughout OECD and European countries. One is the emphasis on intercultural understanding and inclusive quality education for all, reflected through numerous transnational initiatives and national policies and curricula. A parallel, and potentially conflicting, trend is the push for performativity and accountability in education through the normalisation of standardised tests and reporting frameworks, and public ‘league tables’ of academic performance, nationally and transnationally. This puts pressure on schools and students to perform well on relatively narrow measures, arguably leading to increased uniformity. These two trends, along with a third trend of continuous educational reform (Kelchtermans, Ballet, & Piot, 2009), exposes key ‘dilemmas of difference’ found in contemporary education between uniformity and diversity, conformity and difference (Norwich, 2008) and raises the question of how these are addressed in schools (Ball & Olmedo, 2013). In current educational settings, these dilemmas cannot be escaped (Norwich, 2008); however, we can become aware of, and thus influence, the choices we make around them. To this end, awareness and understanding of attitudes towards diversity are key and has been found to be more important for inclusion in education than using specific pedagogical strategies (Spratt & Florian, 2015).
Furthermore, it is increasingly recognised that appreciation of diversity in education goes beyond considering diversity in demographic composition, ability and learning of students and extends to appreciation of ontological, epistemological and axiological diversities (UNESCO, 2015). It is therefore argued that when studying attitudes towards diversity it is necessary for the research itself to employ a diverse approach, which engages with, and values, diverse research disciplines, paradigms, methodologies and methods. This builds on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s view of different theories as situated strategies (Danius, Jonsson, & Spivak, 1993, p. 4), which as such should be used strategically, and takes up the challenge by Schutz, Decuir-Gunby, and Williams-Johnson (2016) in their call for innovative multi-paradigmatic approaches using multiple and mixed methods to study the complexity of in emotions in education. To date, studies on attitudes in education using mixed methods are limited and mostly prioritise quantitative questionnaire surveys, with a secondary attention to qualitative focus group discussions or interviews without overt interrogation of the underlying epistemologies. Furthermore, attitudes are formed by both affective and cognitive processes (Breckler, 1984) and can be more or less implicit (unconscious) or explicit (conscious) (Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, 2009). However, studies on attitudes in education mainly focus on conscious cognitive responses. There is thus a need for developing an innovative integrated approach to studying attitudes towards diversity in education, which, in addition to using multiple mixed methods, specifies a multi-paradigmatic and cross-disciplinary approach.
The aim of this paper is to develop such an approach to studying attitudes to diversity in education. It does so through asking the following research questions: What research paradigms, methodologies and methods are currently employed across disciplines engaged with researching attitudes and diversity that are relevant to an educational setting? How can these be combined and extended to allow for a diverse approach to studying attitudes towards diversity in schools?
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