The Sheffield Institute of Education is delighted to announce its new public seminar series exploring critical perspectives on the use of theory and methodology in educational research. Each seminar will offer an opportunity to discuss a particular theoretical or methodological approach, or how the work of key theorists is drawn on in educational research. Seminars will be held once a month, lunchtime or late afternoon, and there is no cost for attendance. They are open to all.

See full programme.

Suggestions for future events can be made to series organiser Dr. Richard Pountney r.p.pountney@shu.ac.uk

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  1. The seminar on 20th April – ‘Critical Perspectives on Feminist Narrative Research’ – was stimulating for me on a number of levels. The content of Jo Woodiwiss’s presentation ‘Critical Perspectives on Feminist Narrative Research’ was a critique of the ‘narrative frameworks’ most frequently taken up in work with women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. These, she claimed, rest on particular representations of the responsible individualist self, and on forms of narrative that foreground ‘damage’ and ‘repair’. What are very often taken for granted as ‘progressive’ and ‘supportive’ strategies can be viewed as ‘harm stories’ which place healing responsibility on the abused, without due attention to the material and life conditions within which childhood sexual abuse happens. Individuals can all to easily assume an identity in relation to the abuse they have suffered.

    Cinnamon Bennet and Lisa Buckner focused on ‘Critical Perspectives on Mixed Methods and Feminist Questions’. Their session drew contrasts between empiricism and constructivism, and quantitative and qualitative research, in order to probe their respective philosophical assumptions, wondering whether a ‘philosophical consensus’ is required in mixed-method research projects. They addressed their contrasts (and their similarities) across a range of philosophical variables to do with identity, the nature of knowledge, the role and position of the researcher, understandings of objectivity, questions of partiality, and so on. I realised that it is often too easy to attribute positions to researchers and to paradigms, when actually more nuanced unpacking is required. Some things are closer together than they seem. That said, there are some differences in perspective that are incommensurate e.g. the partiality to women’s knowledge and experience of the critical feminist researcher and the search for ‘the real’ of the positivist researcher.

    Both presentations led to a very interesting discussion around methodology, chaired by Laura Kilby. Some ‘variables’ began to be unpacked across positions and paradigms. Critical realism was mentioned as an alternative to conventional understandings of both empiricism and constructivism. What became apparent for me were links to earlier seminars in this series, to Sue Clegg’s work on critical realism, Michael Young’s work on social realism, and Zipin et al. on critical standpoint theory and funds of knowledge. The complexities inherent in our overall theme for the seminar series: ‘Critical Perspectives on Theory and Methodology’ are beginning to come into view. This is very exciting!


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