Sydney School of Education and Social Work events – 2015 Archive

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Working with theory in social research


20 August 2015

Research in education draws upon a wide range of methodological traditions. Perhaps this reflects the commensurately wide range of problems considered by educational researchers, and the diverse audiences for their work. While it is commonplace for research papers to include a description of theoretical underpinnings and approaches, it is less likely that the epistemic boundaries of the meaning-making processes that have been deployed are marked and mapped. By this, we do not mean a description of the strengths and weaknesses of the research method that is a standard element of experimental designs; nor the location of the researcher within the field of study that is a standard element of poststructural designs; but rather a discussion of the effects of epistemological choices on what is asked, how it is studied, how these choices will construct both problem and solutions, and the knowledge that is produced. In this paper, we argue that within a context of open and politicised contest over knowledge claims, it is necessary to expose that which is easily taken-as-read and hidden from view – meaning-making processes and their relationship to power and knowledge.

The global debate between skeptics and the vast majority of climate scientists is one example of a contemporary knowledge contest. In this contest, there is however strong agreement among climate scientists about their meaning-making processes and what counts as knowledge, whereas the same cannot be said of researchers in the field of education. Consequently, we claim educational research is more vulnerable to the criticism of skeptics and powerful interests, since our diversity means we can be easily divided into those worth listening to, and those who should be ignored. In this paper, we put forward a generative model of knowledge-producing processes in education that can both identify the repertoires of capabilities and habits of mind associated with each and encapsulate their epistemic diversity.

We suggest that the influence of educational research will be enhanced through the promotion of four “practices” that are each necessary but insufficient on their own. This model provides ways of examining educational research processes to ask whether all four practices are being addressed and made explicit. The model assumes that these practices will always be situated in authentic contexts and purposes. We provide a brief worked example of how the model might be applied to the evergreen educational issue of non-compliance.

Event details

  • When: 4–6pm

  • Where: Room 527, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
    Education Building A35
    Click image for interactive map.

  • Cost: Free

  • RSVP: RSVP by emailing the research student liaison officer.

  • Contact: Suin Jung
    Research Student Liaison Officer, Sydney School of Education and Social Work
    T: +61 2 9351 6268 | E:

  • More info:

  • Speakers: Dr Debra Hayes is Associate Professor of School Leadership, Management and School Partnership with the Sydney School of Education and Social Work. She is also director of the Education I, II, III and IV programs. Dr Hayes's area of research is equity in education, especially as it is influenced by pedagogical and leadership practices. Her current projects include an ARC-funded investigation into increasing school retention rates through the provision of alternative schooling.

    Associate Professor Catherine Doherty came to teacher education with teaching experience in adult literacy; migrant English; tertiary preparation and community-education settings; and policy and curriculum experience in the TAFE sector. Her doctorate examined how cultural identities were produced and performed in online internationalised higher education. She has since conducted research into the oracy demands in university pedagogy and assessment; curriculum and pedagogy for international students in Australian universities; the International Baccalaureate as a curriculum of choice in Australian schools; and the educational strategies of mobile Australian Defence Force families. Her current projects investigate:  how professional families reconcile career opportunities and educational plans in the context of school choice policies; and the moral order in TAFE and school contexts for students now retained till 17 years of age.

Working with theory in social research: missing in action

Where Room 527, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
Education Building A35
Click image for interactive map.


20 August 2015

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