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Comparative Research

Presenter: Anthony Welch

Discussants: Nigel Bagnall

Time: 4:30-6:30pm, 27 August 2009 (refreshments at 4:30pm for 5:00pm start)

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

Thinking comparatively, byAnthony Welch

Thinking comparatively is a state of mind. For at least the last two centuries, scholars in fields as diverse as comparative religion, comparative anatomy, comparative sociology, and comparative politics, have grappled with the issue of how to develop a systematic science of comparison in their field. Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill also contributed significantly to our appreciation of the art of thinking comparatively. More recently, thinking comparatively in educational research has been influenced by diverse currents, drawn from positivism/scientism; dependency theory, post-colonialism, globalisation and studies of diaspora, (the latter two of which have problematised the taken-for-granted status of the nation-state as unit of analysis within the field). Common to many of these efforts is the ongoing effort to understand and articulate, as well as to refine, both the rationale for comparison, and appropriate theories and methods of comparative research. This presentation will review what it means to think comparatively, what it can contribute to educational research, and some of the major currents of thought on how to go about it.

Know Thyself: Culture and identity in comparative research, byNigel Bagnall

Undertaking comparative research is a risky business. The researcher is often working in a foreign country or making comparisons out side the comfort of their own culture. Making bad or good assumptions based on perceived cultural differences can bring any study unstuck. This response will look at the role of the individual researcher who may have the best intentions but realise the worst outcomes. As Kathleen Hall eloquently states (1999:136) ‘In the field of education, questions of identity, identification, and culture figure centrally within a range of debates, controversies and innovations’.

About the presenters

Professor Anthony Welch works at the University of Sydney, Australia. A comparative specialist, his work includes studies of reforms and policies, principally within Australia, and the Asia-Pacific region. Author of some ten books, and over 100 publications, Professor Welch has co-chaired the Theory and Methods section of the last several World Congresses of Comparative Education, contributed lead chapters on Theory and Methods to leading books in the field, and key articles to leading journals in the field. He is on the International Advisory Board of several key journals, including Comparative Education, and has consulted to international agencies such as UNDP and the Commonwealth of Learning, governments in Australia, Asia, as well as within Europe, and to US institutions and foundations. Project experience includes East and SE Asia, particularly in higher education. His work has been translated into numerous languages, and he has been Visiting Professor in the USA, UK, Germany, France and Japan. A Fulbright New Century Scholar (2007-8), his two most recent books are The Professoriate: Profile of a Profession (2005) and Education, Change and Society (2007). Two further books, on China SE Asia relations, and on SE Asian higher education reforms, will appear in 2009/10, and he is also completing a further joint project, on internationalising Chinese universities. Professor Welch also directs the ARC project, The Chinese Knowledge Diaspora.

Dr Nigel Bagnall is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. He has extensive research experience in comparative analysis and extensive professional and consulting experience in a wide range of educational settings. Nigel’s work in international schools and his research on the International Baccalaureate have established his reputation in the field of international curriculum in cross-cultural settings. His current research interests include youth transition and the role of international schools as agents for change. He has just written a book on international schools "International Schools as Agents for Change" Nova Science: New York.

Session archive

  • Session recording MP3 (NA).
  • Presentation slides PDF (TBA MB)

References & recommended readings

  • TBA