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Educational Research Paradigms

Flying Fishes by Jorbasa on Flickr

One thing I like about learning new things is that as I investigate one problem, I discover whole areas of knowledge that I was previously oblivious too. Yesterday I was exploring the idea of student feedback and my concern about the validity of this feedback. So this morning I set out to read some of the papers I discovered yesterday. The first paper mentioned the positivisitic paradigm which I had never heard of before. Google led me to “Educational Research Paradigms: From Positivism to Multiparadigmatic” by Taylor and Medina. This work was published in a brand new journal from the Institute for Meaning-Centered Education in February, 2013. The authors use analogy of a fisherman studying fish to illustrate the different paradigms.

Continuing with the aquatic theme, as I wade into the paper, I am amused that my whole career is based on the positivist paradigm and I didn’t even know what it was called. The positivist paradigm or positivism refers to the scientific method that I am used to. In addition to now having a label for the paradigm I’m used to using, I also learned about other paradigms:

  • The post-positivism paradigm refers to the modified scientific method used by the social sciences. This modification allows for the researcher to interact more with his/her object of study than what is acceptable in the positivism paradigm.
  • The interpretative paradigm involves the researcher immersing herself into the environment of the object of study and attempt to experience that environment from the study object’s perspective by trying to be like the object.
  • The critical paradigm strives to identify social injustices and helps the object of study overcome these inequalities.
  • The postmodern paradigm uses various artistic means to represent thoughts and feelings which are unseeable to the outside world.

The end of this article emphasizes multi-paradigmatic approaches to educational research. I suppose that this blog represents my multi-paradigmatic approach to educational research. I’m interested in exploring all the different ways of thinking about education and using the best of each to improve my teaching.


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