Educational research as a form of democratic rationality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Educational Research is commonly regarded as a rational pursuit aimed at the production of objective knowledge. Researchers are expected to avoid value bias by detaching themselves from the normative conceptions of education that shape practice in schools and classrooms, and by casting themselves in the role of the impartial spectator. It is assumed that, as a rational pursuit, educational research is not directly concerned with changing practice but simply with discovering facts about it.

This paper claims that it is possible to construct a view of educational research as a form of rational and disciplined inquiry that does not depend on any underpinning spectator theory of knowledge. Nor, the paper claims, does it imply any underpinning foundational principles of rational action and choice. Rather it implies a form of disciplined conversation in which reasons for action are scrutinised, critiqued and modified without resort to foundational principles of rationality. Drawing particularly on the work of John Dewey, Richard Rorty and Amartya Sen, the paper casts educational research as a practical science—a form of action research—that is underpinned by a democratic conception of rationality. In doing so, it contrasts educational research, shaped by a pragmatic theory of knowledge, with research on education that is shaped by a spectator theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-185
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2006

Cite this