What Use is Educational Research: a debate
Educational Research could hardly be of greater importance for educational policy, as well as being difficult to resolve philosophically. Vast amounts of money are spent across the world on research into improving public education systems. Countries judge the effectiveness of their education systems on the basis of regular international comparative studies such as the ongoing PISA series and some even go into a kind of collective nervous breakdown if the comparison of their educational performance with those of other nations is thought by them to be unsatisfactory. Impact has, in the past, dealt obliquely with some of these issues: the pitfalls of assessment policy (Impact 1), the intractability of determining the effectiveness of teachers (Impact 2), difficulties in determining the effectiveness of different curricular initiatives (Impacts 5, 7 and 8) and last, but by no means least, the schooling of children with special educational needs. In all cases, the authors of Impact pamphlets have been concerned to identify the philosophical issues that need to be clarified before a process of empirical investigation may take place (if, indeed, one is appropriate). Impact 12 raises the question as to whether any such investigations may tell us anything useful.
This pamphlet takes the form of a debate between Robin Barrow and Lorraine Foreman-Peck. Robin Barrow is Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Classics, Education and Philosophy. Dr. Lorraine Foreman-Peck is Reader in Educational Research at the University of Northampton. She has written extensively on higher education and philosophical aspects of educational research.
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