A dialogue between phenomenology and realism in pedagogical and educational research

The workshop forms part of the activity to support our Social Sciences strategic priorities for 2013-14 and falls under the Teaching research methods stream. The workshop is free to attend for delegates from both subscribing and non-subscribing institutions but booking is essential to secure your place as numbers are limited.

The workshop aims to stimulate debate around the philosophical underpinnings of different research methodologies, whose shared terminology is often interpreted in radically contrasting ways, and in particular, to encourage dialogue between realist and phenomenological research traditions. It is intended for pedagogical and educational researchers looking to expand their methodological repertoire and to explore new ways of teaching research methods.

The seminar uses the example of education research, itself an interdisciplinary subject, to explore connections between social scientific research and enquiry in the humanities. The inter-disciplinary focus of the seminar is addressed by exploring how education research (usually housed within the social sciences) is transformed by being considered as a humanistic (philosophical and artistic) endeavour. The event will develop participants’

(a) methodological expertise – through exploration and discussion of philosophical terminology understood differently in different research traditions i.e. ontology, truth, phenomena

(b) self-understanding of research and teaching identity – through responding to the theme of education researcher as artist/ poet and identifying new pedagogical approaches to research training

(c) inter-disciplinary competence in research methods teaching– through engaging in dialogue with researchers with a range of different educational research perspectives and reflecting on different pedagogical practices in research methods teaching

The workshop will have a strong capacity building element, furthered by encouraging participation by early career researchers and advanced doctoral students.

It is widely acknowledged that the positivist/ interpretivist distinction in social and educational research has proven inadequate as a description of methodological approaches in these fields and as a heuristic for interpreting their historical development. However, among the descriptions of how this dichotomy can be resolved, transcended or sublated, two new ‘worlds’ have emerged, centring around a phenomenological perspective on the one hand, which claims that research into the educational experience has more in common with a literary or artistic endeavour than a ‘methodology’, and a perspective on the other hand that seeks to reconceive a social science in a ‘critical realist’ or ‘post-positivist’ light.

This event will provide opportunities for researchers at different career stages to engage in philosophical exploration of the points of departure or convergence between the two traditions. In particular, discussion will centre on the different ways in which each has appropriated key terms – ontology, epistemology, reality, truth and the phenomenon. It will also explore the spectrum of ‘phenomenologies’, which range from a technically developed empirical methodology to a poetic note of caution about the place of ‘method’ in educational research, and the range of realist proposals, with their associated debates. Questions to be addressed include: Can the two approaches find common ground through a hermeneutic exploration of their vocabulary? Does each play a different role within the research community, such that, for example, phenomenology might provide for an examination of the ‘questions’ to which the critical realist method can be applied? Is there the possibility, as some scholars have suggested, of the emergence of a ‘phenomenological realism’? What are the implications for research methods teaching in education?

Proposed programme

9:30-10:00 Registration

10:00-10:45 Phenomenological Inquiry and Phenomenological Pedagogy

10:45-11:30 Exploring Education Through Phenomenology

11:30-12:00 Coffee

12:00-12:45 Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach

12:45-13:30 Education, Epistemology and Critical Realism

13:30-14:15 Lunch

14:15- 3:00 Exploring key theoretical terminology in relation to phenomenological and critical realist inquiry (two parallel workshops)

3:00-3:45 Emerging understandings of the relationships between philosophical traditions, their methodological implications, and associated research methods pedagogies (panel discussion with the four key presenters)

3:45 – 4:00 Future collaboration and activity (plenary discussion)


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