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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Naturalising Education: A New Paradigm?

The release of John Hattie's Visible Learning research has heralded a new 'paradigm' of educational research. Though many commentators have stated this, I am yet to find any substantial research that elucidates what exactly the 'paradigm shift' is. More importantly, what is it a shift away from?

Whilst I have my own views, and hope to substantiate them through this blog, I wonder why little has been said about the paradigm shift itself. In truth, I find it infuriating (but not surprising) that commentators are willing to make such a bold conjectures without feeling the need to elaborate - we are left with confusion and ambiguity, which leads to exploitative 'programs' and 'developments' that contradicts the truth inherent within the paradigm shift itself.

It is not surprising for two reasons. Firstly, teachers and educators are busy. I don't mean to trivialise this point - I too am a primary educator and know the stresses and strains inherent within the teaching profession. Secondly, education in the most broadest sense has hitherto been considered a central pillar of Social Science research. In the opposite manner to which I did not want to trivialise the first point, I cannot overstate this point enough. Educational research has long been inseparable from the movements of social science and research (particularly prevalent in 20th century but also in the Industrial and 'Enlightened' 19th century correlating to movements in social biology and the beginnings of evolutionary biology). In particular, education has aligned with the humanistic and phenomenological bodies of research and, in particular, shared the same methodological frameworks of understanding. Its hard to imagine education in any other sense - but it has been imagined, and is only now starting to come to grips with the implications.

So what, in my opinion, is this new paradigm in educational research? Whilst I don't feel the 'revolution', or 'paradigm shift' has occurred yet, I believe we are moving away from the methodologies that have hitherto dominated the way we perform educational research, and are moving towards a naturalistic framework of understanding.

With all revolutions come counter claims. My aim is to not only elucidate this new paradigm but to anticipate and dispel counter claims against this movement. A naturalistic methodology fundamentally changes the way we talk about learning, learners, teaching, education and pedagogy. It has far reaching implications ranging from pre-service training and interactions in the classroom through to policy and encompasses a wide range of interest groups. Hattie's 'Visible Learning' has begun a movement that will eventually see massive changes to the way we conduct educational research which, in turn, will have powerful implications for teachers in the classroom.

Such are the aims of this blog:

1: Refute educational methodological research that is not consistent with a naturalistic methodology;
2. Explore what a 'Naturalistic Framework' means for education, and what we can anticipate within this new paradigm;
3. Undo what needs undoing; strengthen that which needs to be done;*
4. Revolutionise the way we understand all facets of education and learning.

Jesse Stephens

* no more quackery and pseudo-science in education - naturalise the system.