Change in the Field – Changing the Field – Bourdieu and the Methodological Practice of Educational Research

Bourdieu’s social theory offers a way of understanding some of the most important features of the field of educational research, while also providing educational researchers with a rich conceptual apparatus for their practice. This article addresses both of these methodological themes and the connections between them. We begin by outlining some key trends in educational research, mainly in Britain, over recent decades in terms of Bourdieu’s Field Theory. Special attention is given to the relative positioning of researchers and the formation of an `avant-garde’.  We refer to the impact of educational policy and attacks on educational research, with attendant effects on the field, and on the formation and legitimacy of knowledge about educational processes. This analysis is followed by an example taken from a contemporary research project in which principles derived from Bourdieu’s approach have been adopted in framing methodology. We give particular attention to the terms of the programme in which the project forms a part, and key aspects of it such as `user engagement’. Both methodological justifications and consequences are discussed, as well as tensions with dominant expectations of research processes and outcomes. Finally, we argue that, following Bourdieu’s own public strategies of sociopolitical action, educational research methodology that is radically reflexive has the capacity to found a critically effective discourse with practical consequences.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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