Introduction: Employing Paradigms in Education Research

Introduction: Employing Paradigms in Education Research

Peter Ling (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia) and Lorraine Ling (Victoria University, Australia & La Trobe University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1738-2.ch001


The title of this book refers to both methods and paradigms in education research. Both are addressed, but this book is distinguished from others in that the research paradigm, rather than choice of research method, is placed front of stage. The related field of study is education. The study of education intertwines with a range of disciplines in the social sciences so the research issues arising have implications beyond the education context. The research paradigms addressed in this book include the traditional positivist and post-positivist—here labelled neo-positivist—paradigms. The interpretivist, transformative and pragmatic research paradigms, which have also been nominated in existing literature, are included. A novel supercomplexity paradigm has been added here in acknowledgement of the “supercomplex” environment (Barnett, 2000a) in which education research now operates. Following chapters explore issues relating to the design, implementation and critique of education research in the light of this understanding of research paradigms.
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The Nature And Purpose Of The Book

The book is designed for researchers in educational institutions, for students undertaking post-graduate research and their supervisors, and for academics and students taking courses of study on what is often referred to as “research methods.” The book can be used by academics teaching education research methods to advance understanding of the centrality and power of the research paradigm. It can be used to describe, locate and compare alternative approaches to education research. It can assist students in identifying their own research interests and motivations and locating them within a paradigm. It can assist students and education researchers in the design of research proposals and interpretation of findings.

In approaching research design, implementation and findings, a central consideration is the basis for choices about the research topic, data collection strategies and data analysis techniques, and decisions about the nature and form of the findings and the conclusions that can be drawn. The purpose of this book is to foreground and reflect upon the power of the research paradigm to provide a firm and consistent basis for the design and implementation of research. In this book, this purpose is achieved through a variety of researchers reflecting upon their own research in education, and illustrating how the paradigm has either intentionally, or in some cases, unintentionally, influenced aspects of their research, including the methodologies selected and the data collection methods used, the data analysis and interpretation processes, and the types of conclusions reached.

Research methods refers here to the mode of procedure used in a research undertaking including selection of data, the forms of data gathered and the analytical procedures employed. Method is distinguished from methodology in this book, as methodology is regarded as the approach and the rationale for the research approach adopted; for example whether the research utilizes qualitative, quantitative or a mixture of both forms of data. The method then refers to the tools for gathering data, analyzing data and the means by which findings are generated such as surveys, focus groups, observation, or document analysis.

Paradigm as a term is used here to refer to a world view or to a high-order way of thinking about or categorizing the approach or logic that underpins all aspects of a research undertaking from the intent or motivation for the research to the final design, conduct and outcomes of the research. In both research practice and research literature research paradigms are often not a focal point. Many researchers do not consider the research paradigm in which they operate or indeed mention it in their research, considering it sufficient to describe the methodology and/or research methods employed. This book is focused on the criticality of selecting an appropriate research paradigm that can inform decisions regarding the design of a research study—including how either or both qualitative and quantitative methodologies will be used—and ensure consistency in the implementation of the research and in the nature of the research outcomes. In this book a model and framework for understanding the different research paradigms is provided, distinguishing underpinning theories from research strategies, data collection techniques and data analysis tools. Designating the paradigm provides a base for understanding the nature of findings appropriate to a particular form of research and for critiquing research conclusions. The categorization of paradigms employed here is presented in Table 1.

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