Bera 2009 methodological challenges to research in conditions of complexity


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Presentation at the British Educational Research Association Conference 2009

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Bera 2009 methodological challenges to research in conditions of complexity

  1. 1. Methodological Challenges to Research in Conditions of Complexity Donald Gray and Laura Colucci-Gray University of Aberdeen
  2. 2. A reflective account <ul><li>A major research and development initiative was launched in Scotland in 2004 to look at the design of a pilot Bachelor of Education programme </li></ul><ul><li>Some lessons to be learned about the meanings and perceptions of loosely defined concepts such as theory and practice usually equated to research and teaching </li></ul>
  3. 3. What is STNE? <ul><ul><li>Research and Development initiative funded by Scottish Government, Hunter Foundation and the University of Aberdeen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>6 year pilot project : opportunity for change. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developing Teachers: Increasing Learner Gains. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploring how best to prepare teachers to support learners and learning in the 21st century </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Design Principles <ul><li>Decisions driven by evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence is generated and used routinely within teacher education </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers (inc. beginning teachers) using and generating evidence of pedagogy to inform practice. </li></ul><ul><li>The engagement of Arts and Sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Student teachers gain enhanced subject knowledge through academic study and learning in Arts and Sciences Faculties/Departments. </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching as a clinical profession </li></ul><ul><li>To develop a model of teaching as a clinical practice which is integrated into an extended induction programme. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Policy <ul><li>Teacher education programmes should hold pervasive evidence of positive impact and increasing returns on educational investment. Experimentation grounded upon knowledge is to be encouraged with continual assessment of impact. (Scottish Government, 2004, p4) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Practice <ul><li>Former College of Education. Northern College was the last of Scotland's monotechnic colleges to be merged with an institution of higher education on December 1, 2001. Physical move to the main University campus June/July 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>No culture of research, although small group of researchers working largely separately from the teacher education staff. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Research <ul><li>A research team appointed to “support” developments. </li></ul><ul><li>Modelled on a scientific R&D approach. </li></ul><ul><li>Research and development seen as separate activities. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Data carriers” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Policy <ul><li>Positivism became the enemy of reason rather than its agent, and emerged in the twentieth century as a new form of social administration and domination. (Giroux, 1983, p.13) </li></ul>Policy tends to be rooted in a technical rationalist, or positivist, model of research – the search for “what works”. Increasingly we have become aware of the importance to actual practice of phenomena -- complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value-conflict- - which do not fit the model of Technical Rationality. (Schön, 1983, p39)
  9. 9. Global economy vs Knowledge economy <ul><li>the first of these gives rise to a standards-and-standardisation movement, and an attendant preferred pedagogy based on whole-class instruction. The new knowledge economy, by contrast, may require far less emphasis on whole-class instruction, and may be better served by a socioculturally-based pedagogy. (Hartley, 2002; p251) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Practice <ul><li>aims to challenge traditional views of learning and teaching </li></ul><ul><li>to develop approaches based on dialogue, reflection and quality of relationships. </li></ul>STNE B.Ed based on principles of socio-constructivism, Inner contradictions (Roth & Lee, 2007) Standards vs socio-constructivism
  11. 11. Questions to be asked <ul><li>Which image of research sits at the heart of the contradictions? </li></ul><ul><li>And which is the underpinning model of policy? </li></ul><ul><li>How do such models impact on teacher education? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Research <ul><li>This dialectic between the systemic and subjective-partisan views brings the research into a dialogical relationship with the local activity under investigation. The study of an activity system becomes a collective, multivoiced construction of its past, present, and future zones of proximal development (Engeström, 1987) (Engeström et al, 1999, p10) </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>The researcher as outsider, observer…. </li></ul><ul><li>… the need to be inside as participant to fully engage and understand… </li></ul><ul><li>The development of trust and the desire to strengthen and act at the level of human relations. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>I think that, people that have , been heading up research and Programme have worked extremely hard, especially in terms of trying to build relationships with partnerships with outside agencies, schools etc., and I don’t think that kind of work can be underestimated. In many respects however I think that, um, it’s been difficult to really get the team underlying that to pull together and to work for a common purpose and I think that there has been some disjointedness but I think that that can be worked on. </li></ul><ul><li>Tutor 2 interview </li></ul><ul><li>And well, at sometimes it felt like we were, it was difficult to trace back and I think that on reflection I think that if I were involved in this again, I think I would have liked to have seen much more in terms of the reading and the research that was currently available being put on the table for everyone to see where the starting point was and where our points of alignment and points of departure were. </li></ul><ul><li>Tutor 9 interview </li></ul>
  15. 15. Some lessons learned <ul><li>Working in a socio-constructivist framework means working on oneself: need to make one’s own practices, understandings, problems open for discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Data is not used to disclaim statements against criteria of truth, but to look for positive alignments between values and practices </li></ul><ul><li>Need to find creative ways of displaying data that are collegiate, participative and aimed at disclosing personal perceptions in non-threatening manner </li></ul><ul><li>Research for accountability should become a collective story, the account of an experience that is strongly methodologically based. </li></ul>