Researching the "taken-for-granted" in educational practice: Crossing methodological boundaries

Year: 1994

Author: Cusworth, Robyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The distinction is often made between quantitative and qualitative methodology when looking at educational problems, and the superiority of one is often promoted over another (e.g., Bulmer, 1978 cf Althusser, 1977). While it has been argued that a quantitative, outcome-based approach to research may be systematic in its control of individual differences (Palmiter, et al., 1993), it cannot examine or explore the variations and complexities of individual experiences. It must also be noted that these distinctions are fairly artificially polarised and that often within each paradigm a range of different approaches to and methods of research are included.

The current study of newstime aimed to develop a rich and layered description of this fragment of the curriculum-an everyday school practice which has wider implications for teaching and learning. It was therefore imperative to use a range of data-gathering methods crossing traditional methodology boundaries. Rather than begin with a theory or hypothesis, the intention was that the outcome of the research would lead to a clearer definition of newstime as a curriculum event.

The researcher has attempted to integrate both a careful study of observed practice on a small scale with patterns obtained from a larger sample of teachers about their newstime practices. Initial case studies led to examination of more general teacher practice which in turn led to ethnography. The whole research process was "constantly shaped and reshaped" (Burgess, 1984:9) during the investigation as the researcher tried to take up the challenge to subject a curriculum event often "taken-for-granted" to critical scrutiny (Delamont, 1991:197).