Who is conducting education research, and why?

Year: 2012

Author: Bennett, Dawn, Erica, Smith

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Educational research has long been the subject of lively and, at times, agitated debate, not least because of its diversity. Indeed, educational research per se ranges from academic development and broad-scale policy research through to student engagement and discipline-specific research. It includes both traditional academic inquiries and investigations and also non-traditional modes of research such as those found within the arts. However, the topography of Australian education research, and the characteristics of the people who undertake this complex body of work, is less clear.

This paper shows how we attempted to unravel some of the complexities of the Australian educational research community. A national online survey was used to develop a reliable, up-to-date, comprehensive picture of who is involved in educational research, what their strengths are, and how they relate to one another. Specifically the paper elaborates the classification of Australian education related academics identified through the analysis of ERA data (paper 2) by drawing on the preliminary findings from the survey, in which we included a series of questions in order to identify characteristics associated with educational researchers and the way they are contextualised by Australia's socio-spatial ecology of education research. Where, for example, are these academics located, and what are the characteristics of their work? How do researchers' descriptions of their research areas relate to the Fields of Research required for government collections? How many researchers are located outside of an education faculty or school, and in what kinds of relationships do they engage through their research? What are the drivers of, and barriers to, educational research? And what do education researchers regard as their methodological strengths?

The paper attempts to make visible the broad community of academics whose research underpins the various debates about what constitutes educational research and how it can, or should be, supported. In so doing it questions whether our current understanding of the educational research community is sufficient for meaningful strategic capacity building.