Positivist research as illuso: A critical examination of teacher effectiveness debates

Year: 2006

Author: Skourdoumbis, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is a discussion about the dominance of particular forms of research inquiry into education and provides a critique of educational research inquiry which utilises a totally positivist research methodology. The paper considers the basis for the positivist research tradition in educational inquiry and, in particular how this constructs the problem of teacher effectiveness. In considering this "problem" the paper advocates an inquiry approach informed by critical theory. The claim is that only a critical approach to the problem of teacher effectiveness can adequately identify dominant features of contemporary social interaction of an economic and political kind, whose intrusion into the education policy debate has manifestly affected the work of teachers. In pursuing this agenda, the paper examines the theoretical frameworks of Foucault and Bourdieu. It discusses a Foucauldian approach to critique, of 'governmentalization' (Foucault, 1997, p.32), and uses Bourdieuian analysis with its emphasis on 'reflexive objectivity' (Grenfell et al, 1998, p.11) in order to establish an argument for an alternative approach to the study of classroom teacher effectiveness.