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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