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Epistemological Threads in the Fabric of Pedagogical Research


by Marylin J. Chambliss, Patricia A. Alexander & Jeremy N. Price 2012

Context: Over the past 15 years, a philosophical renaissance has emerged within the educational research literature, raising conundrums about the nature of knowledge and how to acquire it. To date, such philosophical conundrums have not been directly posed in relation to pedagogical research, particularly our understanding of what constitutes quality in teaching.

Purpose: Our purpose in writing this article is to focus a philosophical lens on quality teaching in general, and the High-Quality Teaching (HQT) study in particular, an examination of what teachers do to help fourth- and fifth-grade students succeed in reading and mathematics. Our intent is to demonstrate how such philosophical scrutiny can lead to a fuller understanding of high-quality teaching in its varied manifestations.

Research Design: This article is an analytical essay. We first identify multiple philosophical threads (epistemological perspectives on knowledge) that can be used to characterize education broadly, and teaching specifically. We next demonstrate how these epistemological perspectives have informed our understandings of quality teaching, the nature of mathematics and reading education, and the use of different research paradigms to investigate teaching and learning. Finally, we apply these epistemological threads to the HQT study retrospectively, highlighting how identifying them helps us better understand our own work and the effects of the decisions that we made.

Conclusions: Our philosophical scrutiny leads us to conclude that efforts to engage in meaningful and informative research on teachers and teaching would be enhanced if the epistemological threads of such research were explicit and valued components in the conceptualization, design, implementation, and interpretation of research results.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 4, 2012, p. 1-35
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16637, Date Accessed: 9/18/2014 1:41:34 PM

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About the Author
  • Marylin Chambliss
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    MARILYN J. CHAMBLISS is an associate professor emerita, College of Education, University of Maryland. Her scholarship focuses on promoting content area literacy for all children. Believing that educational issues are complex, she has pursued a mixed methodology guided by the questions she is asking. Recently, she has become interested in philosophical issues related to the question, How do we know? She has published her work in three books and numerous journals, including Reading Research Quarterly, Written Communication, Discourse Processes, Educational Psychologist, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and Contemporary Educational Psychology.
  • Patricia Alexander
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    PATRICIA A. ALEXANDER is a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and the Jean Mullan Professor of Literacy in the Department of Human Development at the University of Maryland. Her research interests include learning from in-print and online texts, expertise development, and epistemic beliefs. The director of the Disciplined Reading and Learning Research Laboratory, she is past president of Division 15 (Educational Psychology) of the American Psychological Association and the former vice president of Division C (Learning and Instruction) of the American Educational Research Association. The author or coauthor of eight books and more than 250 other publications, her writings have appeared in leading journals, including the Journal of Educational Psychology, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Review of Educational Researcher, Educational Researcher, and the American Educational Research Journal.
  • Jeremy Price
    Montclair State University
    E-mail Author
    JEREMY N. PRICE is a professor and department chair in the Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education and Human Services, Montclair State University. His research focuses on issues of equity and social justice in education, with a focus on culture and pedagogy in the contexts of teaching, teacher education, and schooling. His research has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Teacher Education, Youth and Society, and the Journal of Curriculum Studies. His current project examines the interconnections between action research and culturally responsive pedagogy.
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