Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bringing Critical and Informed Connoisseurship to Educational Research

In Graduate Programs in Education, we are continually involved in new course design, and in therenewal and evolution of our current course and program designs. For example, I am working with a collaborative course design group right now to study and discuss the design of one of our research courses:  EDER 701.09 Participatory Methodology in Education.

Educational Research involves a range and diversity of research methodologies in the conduct of both basic and applied research. In our Faculty of Education, we offer graduate programs in seven specialized areas of study. There is diversity in the research methodologies in use across the seven specializations – however, these are most often related to the standards, literatures, research methodologies and approaches to analysis and presentation of research that are characteristic of those disciplines of study, rather than any differences in the quality, integrity and robustness of the research. 

Research in the Faculty of Education spans the range from basic to applied – our Faculty includes researchers and graduate students who emphasize basic research that is carried out in highly controlled contexts and applied research that delves into the complexities present in authentic contexts and populations.  Research and disciplined inquiry of all kinds, from experimental / correlational, to mixed methods and survey research, to historical inquiry, ethnography, interpretive and philosophical inquiry, to different types of action research, participatory action, community participatory action, and design based research is valued and relevant, and gets conducted by both Faculty and by Graduate students across the Faculty of Education.  

We have seven broad areas of specialization, and within each of the Educational Study Areas (EDSAs), we have faculty and graduate students who bring diverse perspectives and disciplinary expertise, along with different research traditions and expectations, to their research.   The range and diversity of research problems, research methodologies and different disciplines of study can be a bit overwhelming when new and experienced Education Faculty members, or even a faculty member from a discipline beyond our faculty, is asked to serve as an examiner for a thesis or dissertation. 

At the thesis oral exam, what examiners are asked to judge is the quality of a student’s research – which can be a challenge for an experimental researcher to feel qualified or informed enough to make a judgment on an interpretive study, and vice versa. It can also be a challenge for faculty who hold deep expertise in one discipline to feel qualified to make a judgment on a study carried out in another discipline. However difficult, that is the task that is before us as faculty members when we examine a student’s work.

So, in our research and specialization courses and across our masters and doctoral programs, our responsibility is to introduce and immerse masters and doctoral students in the complexity, range and diversity of educational research philosophies, methodologies and perspectives in order for them to develop and bring a critical and informed connoisseurship to their selection and use of research methodology in their own research.

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