Researching Education: Perspectives and Techniques

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Practice in this sense can be approached as the act of doing something.

Education – ReviseSociology

Thus, for many workers and informal educators, theory is what you learn in college and then apply to the situations you find in your work. The result is practice. In a similar way, community educators may talk of, for example, the failure of a group they have worked with to practice what they have learnt. From theory can be derived general principles or rules.

Evaluation Strategies in Qualitative Research

These in turn can be applied to the problems of practice. In many ways, this is a legacy of Aristotle and his threefold classification of disciplines as theoretical, productive or practical. Implicit within this are notions of thoroughness or of system.

In this sense a theory can be seen as an attempt to bind together in a systematic fashion the knowledge one has of some particular aspect of the world of experience in Honderich ; This binding together is seen as bringing with it:. In other words, it helps us to make sense of phenomenon; and to say what it is likely to happen if the same relationship applies. A classic form of this approach to theory is the notion of hypothetico-deductive systems. Deduction involves beginning with a set of theories or a theory.

From these are derived hypotheses. In turn these hypotheses are tested via prediction and observation. Hypotheses, predictions and testing can be seen at the heart of this approach. Successful theories in this light are those that can bind or connect togetherinformation from many different and often disparate areas.

They bring out the relationships between things. Deduction can be set against induction.

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Induction begins from particular observations from which empirical generalizations are made. These generalizations, in turn, can form the basis for theory building. They are then turned into hypotheses and tested — and the circle moves on. This is the classical view of science — but it has not gone unchallenged — for example in the work of Thomas Kuhn.

We could argue that the actual practices of scientists differ from this model. The way we generate hypothesis can extraordinarily haphazard. Understanding theory in this way, argues Layder, is helps to redirect our attention to the fact that theory construction in social research is always undertaken against the background of more general, underlying, assumptions.

Sometimes people get models and theories mixed up. As Cohen and Manion 16; comment, both can be seen as explanatory devices or schemes that have a broadly conceptual framework. However, models tend to be characterized by the use of analogies or metaphors to give a more visual or graphic representation. Their task is to simplify phenomenon as an aid to explanation and conceptualization.


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The process of simplification gives rise to a second characteristic often associated with models — that they operate at a more general level. Now much of what we have talked about in relation to looking at data — and coding it could be described as analysis. That is to say it has involved a process of naming and categorizing. We try to map the data we have: to develop core categories and from there to sort out sub categories. We follow a process of trying to break things down; to divide something that is apparently complex into relatively simple elements. Now part of this process of categorizing is trying to decide where the boundaries of one element finishes and another begins.

It also involves working out whether further variations fall under this heading or that. In the end we may end up with a sort of hierarchy of categories that looks like a picture of an organizational tree — with this sub-category answerable to that and so on. In making these linkages there is a form of theorizing — we are seeking to connect this with that.

In other words, we look for patterns.


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  8. At the same time we should be on the lookout for anything that is unusual or stands out; whether there are any conflicts and contradictions between the various results we have. In arriving at these categories we may well be picking up on words or phrases used by participants in our research. To make that reading though, we have to draw on our own repertoire of ideas and images — and to this extent our reading of a situation or naming of elements will always carry in it some theorizing; some vestiges of the theoretical and value frameworks within which we operate. Gadamer would call this the tradition that we inhabit.

    So we begin to make links, to see clusterings. Such sensitizing concepts can be an important starting point. As we get various analytical categories, we can then try to build or fit them into a theoretical scheme — we begin to integrate ideas. Put crudely theorizing involves connecting up the various elements involved in our research. However, many textbooks on research have little or anything to say about this area.

    Researching education: perspectives and techniques

    The way we approach the phenomenon we are exploring will be inscribed and influenced by our theoretical, moral and political dispositions. How is the imagination spurred to put all the images and facts together, to make images relevant and lend meanings to facts?

    He answers that he does not think he can really answer that; all he can do is talk about the general conditions and a few simple techniques which seem to increase his chances of coming out with something. The sociological imagination, he reminds us, in considerable part consists of the capacity to shift from one perspective to another. It can be cultivated but involves a great deal of routine work — graft.

    This shifting of perspective is something that Delamont ; picks up on. She claims that much of the force of qualitative argument comes from drawing attention to contrasts and highlighting paradoxes to make the audience look afresh at social phenomenon. In other words, we are encouraging readers to challenge the taken for granted. A classic approach here is to set out our assumptions e.

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    These are two things that the technician lacks, he claims. Mills comes up with a number of practical suggestions as to how the sociological imagination may be stimulated. The rearranging of the file. This simple and concrete move is one way to invite imagination — according to Mills. You simply dump out heretofore disconnected folders, mixing up their contents, and then re-sort them. You try to do it in a more or less relaxed way… Of course you will have in mind the several problems on which you are actively working, but you will also try to be passively receptive to unforeseen and unplanned linkages.

    An attitude of playfulness towards the words and phrases with which various issues are defined. Use a Thesaurus, look up synonyms for each of your key terms in dictionaries or in technical texts.

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    This simple habit will prod you to elaborate the terms of the problem and hence to define them less wordily and more precisely. For only if you know the several meanings which might be given to terms or phrases can you select the exact ones with which you want to work ibid. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"?

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