The nature, standards, and rigor of empirical social-science oriented educational research have sparked discord for at least a century. The relationship that does, or should, hold between the findings of such research and actual educational practice similarly has been contentious. Incompatible positions have been defended with vigor: On one hand there is the perennial charge that educational research is too “ivory tower” and should be oriented much more towards elucidating the problems faced by practitioners, but on the other hand research has its own trajectory and “never has the purpose of solving human or social problems” as a president of AERA, Fred Kerlinger, put it long ago (1977, p.6). Furthermore it frequently is claimed that there is great demand for “research-based practice”; but it has also been asserted that “there is no army of educational practitioners expectantly waiting to hear what the fundamental researchers have to say” (Jackson and Kieslar, 1977, p. 13), an assertion that is fueled from time-to-time by revelations that practitioners rarely read the research literature. Analysis reveals that a large amount of educational research is ideologically-laden, and that many of its so-called “findings” are not supported by the evidence that researchers offer for them (OFSTED Report, Tooley and Darby, 1998); yet it also has been claimed that “many features of educational research are today healthy” (Cook and Payne, 2002, p. 150).
Many university schools or departments of education with doctoral level research training programs have a long history of serious engagement with such issues, for of course they aim to produce researchers who are able to navigate around the dangerous reefs and do work that is both intellectually rigorous and has social and educational relevance. And although these institutions have had some successes in producing graduates who do “good social science”, as Kincaid put it in a quotation in the Frontispiece, often they have not been satisfied that in general their research training programs have met the relevant challenges adequately...Read more.
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