Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Gore, J. M. Reconciling educational research traditions. The Australian Educational Researcher, (2017) 44:357–372

DOI 10.1007/s13384-017-0245-8

The field of educational research encompasses a vast array of paradigmatic and methodological perspectives. Arguably, this range has both expanded and limited our achievements in the name of educational research. In Australia, the ascendancy of certain research perspectives has profoundly shaped the field and its likely future. We (are expected to) identify ourselves in relation to particular theorists, theories, and methodologies, reconciling who we are as education academics with what we do as educational researchers. In this paper, I explore how we might reconcile seemingly incommensurate traditions. The analysis is anchored in my own experience, having traversed the terrain from poststructuralism to randomised controlled trials, and is elaborated through research conducted with colleagues on student aspirations and teacher development. I argue that it is critical to reconcile differences within educational research if we are to ensure the strength of the field and support the next generation of researchers to make a more profound impact on schooling and society.

Educational research Traditions Methodologies Randomised controlled trials

My father, a Highways Department surveyor, asked a similar kind of question when he read my thesis and summarised my 3-years-in-the-making Foucauldian analysis in one sentence—which was shockingly accurate. He asked: ‘‘Jenny, why didn’t you do something useful—like in Special Education?’’ It sounds harsher now than I remember and, with an intellectually disabled sister, I want to believe he spoke from a caring place.

Not much later, upon returning to Australia, I was invited to give a seminar on my PhD at a Queensland university—my first-ever significant speaking engagement. The usual seminar structure unfolded; a 45-min presentation in which I articulated my argument, post-PhD, with a growing sense of authority over the ideas, followed by the obligatory question-and-answer time. I recall none of the questions posed. But in the mingling afterwards, I was asked a question that has stuck with me ever since. It was 1991 and she asked: ‘‘Jenny, how do you reconcile wearing lipstick with your work on feminist pedagogy?’’ This time, the request to reconcile meant aligning my ideas with a certain physical presentation of my self. My intellectual response came readily, drawing on Foucault’s (1988) notion of technologies of the self and critiques of the unified rational subject (Henriques et al. 1984). But at an emotional and bodily level, the question cut deep, such that I continue to think, for example, about how to style myself appropriately for different contexts—how to dress as the Radford lecturer, how to reconcile my ageing body with the hip person inside!

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