27 SES 03 B, Epistemologies of the Teaching Practices
The project Research about teaching - Systematic mapping and analysis of research topographies, , started out in 2017. The aim is to increase and refine our knowledge about teaching and teaching research. By mapping and analyzing research reviews in leading scientific journals, the project addresses three main questions: What topics and theoretical and methodological approaches dominate (second-order) research about teaching? What are the most important results? And, how has the knowledge of teaching developed over time and in different contexts, according to these research reviews? We have now completed the initial inventory of the field, which we will present in this paper, focusing the first (and to some degree the second) research question.
Our inventory includes 90 high impact reviews 1980-2017, i.e the most cited reviews (according to Web of science) from every decade published in international, English-speaking journals that specifically investigate the potential of different teaching (and learning) methods/approaches. We trace how this field of research varies with regards to: a) review methodologies, b) types of teaching methods/approaches investigated, c) claims on generality versus particularity (regarding specific subjects or differences between school levels etc.) and, d) how this research field has evolved over time. More specifically, we compare and analyze the reviews’ different substantial and methodological takes on teaching, in order to discuss possible epistemological contributions and effects of this meta-research. Which teaching methods and school subjects come into the foreground? How do the theoretical and methodological review designs correspond to specific findings and to the teaching methods and school subjects in question?
Our theoretical point of departure emanate from pragmatism (Danford, 2006) and we suggest that: a) there are different legitimate research traditions partly with their own valid knowledge criteria (Burrel and Morgan, 1979, Habermas, 1986) and b) social and educational research practices as well as findings have to be related both to the development of knowledge and to the specific socio-historical context for the knowledge building (cf Garrison, 1994). We are critically open (Bernstein 1983) towards different theoretical positions, analyzing them in terms of their values, usefulness and limitations in illuminating different aspects of the teaching processes and practices
Traditionally, it has been quite common for reviews in the field of teaching research to exclude explicit descriptions of procedures applied to the selection and analysis of studies, an approach which Gough (2016) referred to as an ad hoc review. The reasons for this approach could be the contextual and national-cultural specifications of the knowledge objects under scrutiny. In addition, the theoretical framing of the review object and design are seldom stated or problematized. More recently the evidence-wave has started to be discernible in review methodologies in the international field of teaching research. The current study aims at contributing to knowledge about how such standards for systematic reviews could be understood from a comparative and contemporary historical perspective and with what possible consequences (Hammersley 2008) More precisely, our analysis will comprise considerations on ‘Didaktik’ regarding which types of teaching are brought to attention (and which are not) in the field of teaching research reviews, and how this field of research correspond to classroom practices.
In many European countries new knowledge broker agencies (f.ex. National School Research institutes) have been set up in recent years where systematic overviews, designed according to international standards, play an important role in configuring and conceptually framing the field of teaching. And since European researchers increasingly publish in international Anglosaxon journals it is important to discern what kind of research these arenas cover and prioritize, and to analyze the consequences for European educational research and schooling from a critical and comparative perspective.
Our methodological approach is based on the SMART-format (Nilholm, 2017), stressing the importance of analyzing different kinds of recognized high-impact research on a specific matter, taking their different theoretical and epistemological standpoints, methodologies etc. into account. Our analysis follows a five-step procedure: 1) Discern relevant research arenas, where researchers interact, i.e. cite each other 2) Identify research with a high impact in each arena, i.e. numbers of citations 3) Assemble background data about the material (e.g. authors, gender, and institutional affiliation). 4) Categorize the material by genre (meta-analyses of effect studies, empirical research reports, concept reviews etc.) 5) Map and analyze central aspects of publications regarding: a) topics b) theoretical tradition c) theory d) method e) outcomes and f) use of central concepts. The review field including meta-analyses and other kinds of systematic overviews has literally exploded over the last 20 years, in education as in many other scientific areas. For example the number of reviews increased from n=1910 in the 1990s to n=3779 during year 2000-2010, i.e. with nearly 100 %. Our analysis include the 10 most cited reviews from the 1980s meeting our criteria and the 20 top-cited reviews from the 1990s, followed by 30 top-cited reviews from the 2000s and the 2010s respectively. We regard 1980-1999 as a formative era for research syntheses with a low, slowly increasing number of reviews, and a similar citation development. Our fixed selection of reviews per decade is mainly practical and not in proportion to the almost exponential review increase. Our searches are restricted to Web of Science, and accordingly we use their citation index. Web of Science covers far from all educational research, but it is a huge and prestigious search engine allowing for cross-disciplinary searches. By using a specific search string matched towards titles, abstracts and keywords we single out the most cited research reviews on teaching methods and approaches in K-12-schools from each decade. In the process, a number of reviews meeting our basic search criteria have been excluded: f.ex. reviews on teacher/student attitudes or reviews restricted to teaching in pre-school or higher education. Reviews with general claims on teaching are included, provided they take K-12-schooling into account. In other words, reviews on teaching forms and methods that may address teachers’ thinking and actions, student characteristics as well as aspects of teaching content, but mainly focus on the ways in which teaching is framed and performed.
The mapping of research topographies found in the data illuminates patterns of continuities as well as of change. First, the locus of the most well-cited research reviews is under the full time period (1980-2017) concentrated to the North-American and Great Britain arena, whereas European and Nordic research is under-represented. This patterns raises questions about how teaching phenomena are conceptually framed, theoretically substantiated and what teaching methods that are put in the foreground when taking different contexts into considerations. When it comes to format for reviews, meta-analyses are increasingly common whereof many make general claims regarding different kinds of teaching, while some are more subject-specific and in a few cases school level-specific. But a substantial number of reviews – from different time periods and with varying degrees of sensitivity to subjects and student ages - take alternative theoretical and empirical approaches. This raises questions about knowledge claims and the generalization of their results, and how general conclusions are related to certain subject knowledge traditions. While the topics covered in the reviews vary over time and different locus of the studies, the trend towards increased systematic features of research methodologies, i.e. formalization, is evident. This pattern raises questions about a potential narrowing of the range of theoretical frameworks, methodologies and formats of syntheses that are gaining impact. The number of research reviews has dramatically increased since year 2000 and the results indicate an empirical turn as to how researchers cite other reviews. The implication of this tendency is that other theoretical and conceptually orientated reviews as well as critical and historical reviews have become less frequently represented in the international research field. This tendency also has implications for how teaching is conceptually framed and understood as an educational practice (Andrews 2005).
Andrews, R. (2005). The place of systematic reviews in education research. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(4), 399-416. Bernstein, R. (1983) Beyond objectivism and relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis, Pennsylvania, USA: Pennsylvania University Press. Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis. London and Exeter: Heinemann. Danford, S. (2006) Epistomology to democracy: pragmatism and the reorientation of disability research. Remedial and Special Education, 27(6), 337-445. Garrison, J. (1994). Realism, Deweyan pragmatism and educational research. Educational Researcher, 23(1), 5-14.. Gough, D., & Thomas, J. (2016). Systematic reviews of research in education: Aims, myths and multiple methods. Review of Education, 4(1), 84-102. DOI: 10.1002/rev3.3068 Habermas, J. (1986). Knowledge and Human Interests. Cambridge: Polity. Hammersley, M. (2008). Paradigm war revived? On the diagnosis of resistance to randomized controlled trials and systematic review in education. International Journal of Research & Method in Education 31(1) , 3-10. DOI:10.1080/17437270801919826 Nilholm, C. (2017). Smart: ett sätt att genomföra forskningsöversikter (SMART: An approach to research reviews). Lund: Studentlitteratur.
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