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Making Evidence-Based Practice Educational

John Elliott
British Educational Research Journal
Vol. 27, No. 5 (Dec., 2001), pp. 555-574
Published by: Wiley on behalf of BERA
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1501951
Page Count: 20
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Making Evidence-Based Practice Educational
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Abstract

The article examines David Hargreaves's ideas about the nature of 'evidence-based practice' and the future direction for educational research. The first section explores Hargreaves's attempt to free an 'engineering model' of educational research, aimed at the production of actionable knowledge, from a naive and crude positivism. It draws on McIntyre's philosophical account of the character of generalisations in social science to question whether Hargreaves has succeeded. In doing so, the assumptions which underpin his conception of actionable knowledge, and preference for generalisations couched in the form of statistical probabilities, are discussed and critiqued. The article argues that they are embedded in the prevailing ideological climate of outcomes-based education. The rest of the article develops a different account of educational practice from the one that appears to underpin Hargreaves's ideas about 'evidence-based' practice and the role of educational research in supporting it. It does so by revisiting the work of Richard Peters, on the aims of education, and that of Lawrence Stenhouse, on curriculum design and 'research-based teaching'. Central to both Peters and Stenhouse's work is a view about the relationship between educational aims and processes, which is neglected in Hargreaves's account of the role of educational research in informing educational practice. The explanation appears to lie in Hargreaves's unquestioning commitment to an outcomes-based view of education. The article shows how Stenhouse drew on Peter's educational theory to construct a more comprehensive view of educational research as 'research-based teaching'. Although the exposition of Peters and Stenhouse's work is set against Hargreaves's conception of 'evidence-based' practice and the role of educational research, the article develops a position of 'mutual accommodation'. In comparing Hargreaves's thinking with that of Stenhouse in particular, it indicates similarities as well as differences of perspective. One major theme in the article is that the current discourse about 'evidence-based' teaching is uninformed by an articulate educational theory, and therefore excludes a thoughtful consideration of the implications of such a theory for educational research. The major aim of the article is to make a contribution towards rectifying this situation.

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