Foskett_et_al_EMA_spec_issue.doc

Foskett_et_al_EMA_spec_issue.doc - Evolution or Extinction...

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Evolution or Extinction? Reflections on the Future of Research in Educational Leadership and Management Nick Foskett, Jacky Lumby and Brian Fidler Environmental Change and Challenge Reflecting on the current state of research in any academic discipline is an important part of its evolution and development. A consideration of the relevance and utility of research and the added value that accrues to society from its products provides key benchmarks for all in the research community. For those of us who work in 'second order fields’ (Murray, 2004) such as educational research where we are researching activity in 'first order fields’ (e.g. the professional world of education) these considerations become of especial significance. Without a clear payoff for our research in terms of enhancing policy and practice, however measured, educational leadership and management (ELM) researchers will surely be doomed to an existence that is marginal both in academic and professional arenas. The community of academics, practitioners, policy makers and commentators that constitutes the world of research in ELM represents a spectrum of perspectives on what that world is like or should be like (Gunter, 2005). There is limited unanimity in the critical reflection on our current location. There is even less shared perspective on what the most appropriate future directions might be. There is agreement though that the environment in which we operate is one of rapid change and that the status quo is not an option for us.
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This paper seeks to identify responses to some of the key questions about research in ELM and its future and to identify some of the ways forward. Specifically we shall address the following questions: What are the key criticisms of ELM approaches to research? Who are the key audiences for research in ELM? How do we identify high quality research? What should be the future methodological priorities in ELM research? What are the key criticisms of ELM approaches to research? Mulford (2005) and Gorard (2005) have provided a detailed reflection on the current issues facing researchers in ELM. During the 1990s there has been much interest in concerns about the quality of research and calls for more relevant research of value to schools and school teachers (Hargreaves, 1996; Tooley & Darby,1998; Hillage et al, 1998). The issues raised are those that underpin the concerns that have led to the government emphasis on evidence-based policy making in the United States and, more recently, in the UK (Slavin, 2004). In particular, the dominance of qualitative methodologies, single or limited multi-site case studies, and reflective critique of policy, rather than large scale quantitative studies underpinned by robust statistical analysis has led to the accusation that educational research is a fashion not a science.
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