The Myth of ‘Scientific Method’ in Contemporary Educational Research

Authors

  • DARRELL PATRICK ROWBOTTOM,

    1. Department of Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, Old Bewery, Aberdeen AB 24 3UB, UK and Sarah Jane Aiston, School of Education, University of Durham, Leazes Road, Durham DH1 1TA, UK
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  • SARAH JANE AISTON

    1. School of Education, University of Durham, Leazes Road, Durham DH1 1TA, UK
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Correspondence: Darrell Patrick Rowbottom, Department of Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, Old Bewery, Aberdeen AB 24 3UB, UK and Sarah Jane Aiston, School of Education, University of Durham, Leazes Road, Durham DH1 1TA, UK.
Emails: d.rowbottom@abdn.ac.uk; s.j.aiston@durham.ac.uk

Abstract

Whether educational research should employ the ‘scientific method’ has been a recurring issue in its history. Hence, textbooks on research methods continue to perpetuate the idea that research students ought to choose between competing camps: ‘positivist’ or ‘interpretivist’. In reference to one of the most widely referred to educational research methods textbooks on the market—namely Research Methods in Education by Cohen, Manion, and Morrison—this paper demonstrates (1) the misconception of science in operation and (2) the perversely false dichotomy that has become enshrined in educational research. It then advocates a new approach, and suggests that the fixation with ‘science’ versus ‘non-science’ is counterproductive, when what is actually required for good inquiry is a critical approach to knowledge claims.

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