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Back to the Future: Implications of the Neopositivist Research Agenda for Adult Basic Education


by Alisa Belzer & Ralf St. Clair 2005

Federal educational policy, funding, and legislation are currently forwarding a research agenda described by the current administration as "scientifically based." We characterize this agenda, described in multiple official documents as "the gold standard," as neopositivist. We consider the ways in which this research paradigm and the methods that accompany it (i.e., randomized field trials) are particularly problematic for knowledge generation in adult basic education, an important subfield of adult education. We focus on three areas of concern that exemplify in significant ways the limitations of scientifically based research: the contexts of adult basic education, the ways in which practitioners use research, and the state of the knowledge base.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 6, 2005, p. 1393-1411
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11915, Date Accessed: 10/25/2014 10:28:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Alisa Belzer
    Rutgers University
    E-mail Author
    ALISA BELZER is an assistant professor at Rutgers University. Her research has focused on professional development, policy, adult learner perspectives on literacy and learning, and reading. She has recently published a monograph for the National Center on Adult Literacy and Learning on policy implementation and has two articles (one forthcoming) on professional development systems in adult basic education. Together with Ralf St. Clair, she is the author of Opportunities and Limits: An Update on Adult Literacy Education (ERIC Information Series).
  • Ralf St. Clair
    University of Glasgow
    RALF ST.CLAIR is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Glasgow. His research interests include adult education and policy, sociocultural approaches to learning, and the meaning of critique in late modernity. He has recently published on practitioner uses of research in Adult Education Quarterly and coedited the New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education volume From Critical Theory to Critical Practice with Jennifer Sandlin.
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