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Blog home | March 2009 »

February 2009

Linking Research and Practice in Education and Social Work: Some Implications for Methods of Inquiry

Presenter: Dr John Ainley, Deputy CEO (Research) of the Australian Council for Educational Research and Research Director of its National and International Surveys Program.

Respondent: Professor Raewyn Connell, University Chair in the University of Sydney.

Time: 4:30-6:30pm, 5 March 2009 (refreshments at 4:30pm for 5:00pm start)

Venue: 351, Education Building (A35), The University of Sydney

Abstract of the presentation, by John Ainley

The phrases “evidence-based policy” and “evidence-based practice” have widespread currency. The best interpretations of these terms are that both the fruits of systematic inquiry will be used as the basis for action and the tools of systematic inquiry will be applied in local contexts to evaluate policy and practice. This presentation starts from a perspective in which social inquiry is characterised in terms of the source of problems to be investigated (in practice or in scholarship) and the destination of findings of those investigations (for practice or for scholarship). It then considers the extent to which differences in the sources of problems and the intended destination of findings have implications for the way research questions are formulated (including links to theory), the methods used in investigations (including sampling designs) and the reporting of findings (including questions of effect size and significance). The presentation discusses examples from a number of studies in education to illustrate choices that are made in investigations.

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Approaching Research and Research Approaches in Education and Social Work

by Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney

The Faculty of Education and Social Work invites you to participate in a colloquia series on contemporary research approaches and inter-disciplinarity across the education and social work domains.

Context

The disciplines informing Education and Social Work face unique challenges in defining the nature and purposes of research. Both areas have applied research approaches from many, often apparently incommensurable, disciplines of inquiry — psychology, sociology, policy studies, anthropology, history, linguistics, and so on. The increasing complexity of applied research contexts and heightened expectations concerning the role of research in practice and policy formation have led some commentators to advocate for problem-based, outcomes-oriented, cross-disciplinary research, arguing that mixed approaches are better adapted to the study of practical ill-structured problems. Further, collaboration across disciplines of inquiry is considered an important feature of contemporary and future research agenda. Amid these collections of specialist interests, research designs and analyses must maintain scholarly integrity, robustness and trustworthiness.

This raises a number of questions, including:

  • How are research approaches governed or affected by demands on the researcher to produce certain kinds of knowledge?
  • What is the optimal level of commensurability of techniques, data and findings from different paradigms around shared applied problems?
  • What level of sophistication can mixed-method applied approaches achieve without losing integrity and legitimacy?
  • What is the ethical context attendant to different methodologies and their assumptions?
  • How can the Faculty’s research effort be more than the sum of these parts?
  • Finally, how can we provide research students with the knowledge and experience needed to understand, judge and integrate methods and techniques from multiple disciplines of inquiry?

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One of the main colloquia aims is to foster greater awareness of why certain methodologies are favoured in certain research contexts and to provide opportunities for Faculty to gain a greater appreciation of challenges and opportunities for “mixed” or “blended” approaches. One of the main objectives of the colloquia discussions is to tap into the opportunities for collaboration among social science researchers representing different schools of inquiry. Thus, the presentations and responses shouldn’t be solely descriptive of techniques and outputs, rather raise the fundamental questions and facilitate an open and constructive discussion around the critical conceptual, methodological and practical issues.

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