What works, for whom, and in what circumstances? Towards a critical realist understanding of learning in international and comparative education
International Journal of Educational Development Volume 40, Number 1, ISSN 0738-0593 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd
The article explores the potential for a critical realist approach to researching learning in international and comparative education (ICE) with a particular focus on the emerging post-2015 education and development agenda. It provides a critique of existing empiricist and interpretivist approaches to researching learning. It is suggested that whilst both have strengths, they are based on an ontologically reductionist view of learning with implications for research, policy and practice. As a ‘third’ research approach critical realism has the potential to build on the strengths whilst avoiding the pitfalls of both empiricism and interpretivism. Such an approach it is argued needs to start from an ontologically inclusive and laminated view of learning. Further, it is suggested that comparative research should focus on the development of theories of learning that are able to explain the natural and social structures and causal mechanisms that give rise to and inhibit learning at different scales and levels and in different contexts. The development of theory ought to embrace epistemological pluralism drawing critically on, cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary and mixed methods enquiry and making use of abductive and retroductive forms of inference. In this way it is argued it becomes possible to move beyond the dominant ‘what works’ agenda favoured by empiricists to critically consider what works, for who and under what circumstances.
Tikly, L. (2015). What works, for whom, and in what circumstances? Towards a critical realist understanding of learning in international and comparative education. International Journal of Educational Development, 40(1), 237-249. Elsevier Ltd.