Educational research and policy: Epistemological considerations

David Bridges, Michael Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article is centrally concerned with the sort of knowledge that can and should inform educational policy—and it treats this as an epistemological question. It distinguishes this question from the more extensively explored question of what sort of knowledge in what form policy-makers do in fact commonly take into account.

The article examines the logical and rhetorical character of policy and the components of policy decisions and argues that policy demands a much wider range of information than research typically provides. Either the research task or commission has to be substantially extended or the gap will be filled by information or thinking that is not derived from research.

One of the gaps between research of an empirical kind and policy is the normative gap. In the final section the article points to the inescapably normative character of educational policy. Of course the values that inform policy can be investigated empirically, but this kind of enquiry cannot tell us what we should do. There is a role for research/scholarship and more rather than less intelligent and critical argumentation in addressing these normative questions as well as the empirical questions that underpin policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-62
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008

Cite this