Ways of Knowing

Having read quite a bit in the past few weeks on ontology, epistemology, and methodology, I was struck by the following quote:

Studies of school effects need a more grounded, realistic methodology to assess general, qualitative impact rather than a fragmentary, quantitative one.  Isolated research findings cannot be taken out of context and proposed as “quick fixes” to educational problems.  The study of indigenous knowledge forms is necessary.

– Vandra Masemann, “Ways of Knowing”, 1990

Research in the field of education can be mired in epistemological disputes over the right way of ‘knowing’ about the world.  But what is important with a discipline like education, is to remember its practical aims, which are, among other things: to understand the role of education (both formal and non-formal), to improve practice, and to address inequity.  This is not to say that methodologies or epistemologies should be any less rigorous than in any other field, but that we should not lose sight of our purpose.  Moreover, contextual understandings – and local experiences of education – are important.

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