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Education Research in the Postmodern

 


Originally prepared by Alan Bleakley and now tutored by Ken Gale

A Bleakley, Peninsula Medical School, University of Plymouth, 2004

(links reinstated August 2006)


Contents

 

Part One: Introduction

 

Part Two: Modernism and Postmodernism

 

Part Three: Practices of Education Research in the Postmodern

 

Part Four: Education Research in the Postmodern - Illustrative Examples

Case Study 1: What is ‘reflexivity’ and what is ‘social constructionism’?: Writing in the postmodern as a research practice

Case Study 2: Postmodernism and subjectivity: utilising the research method of narrative life histories

Case Study 3: A postmodern critique of interviewing

Case Study 4: A postmodern approach to ‘policy studies’

Case Study 5: Discourse evaluation

Case Study 6: Rewriting notions of ‘validity’ through research in the postmodern

 

Afterword

Final exercise

Last gasp

 

PART FIVE: TASKS

 

PART SIX: COMPOSITE BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Part One:

Introduction

If you turn to a popular general text on educational research, such as Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000, 5th edition) you will find no index entry for ‘postmodern research’. There are no entries in the British Education Index for ‘postmodern’ between 1986 and 1991, and this creeps up to a meagre fifteen by 1994. Stronach and MacLure (1997, p.15) suggest that ‘educational research could not be said to be more than lightly touched by postmodernism before 1990’. Since 1990, however, ‘a rich body of work on postmodernism and educational research’ has developed (Pillow, 2000, p.2).

Paradoxically, while education researchers have yet to absorb the impact of postmodernism, they (and you, the reader), are already living it, as the cultural condition of postmodernity, characterised by:

  • globalisation: ‘McDonaldization’, multinationals, ease of global communication and travel

  • the return to local identity in the face of globalisation (the resurgence of interest in ethnic ‘roots’ in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Soviet Communism)

  • the everyday acceptance of cultural ‘pick and mix’ (a breakfast of muesli with Costa Rican coffee, dress in Italian and American designed clothes made in Singapore, drive to work in a French car whose parts are manufactured in several countries, sushi for lunch and Indian takeaway with German beer for dinner, watch an Australian movie on television, check emails on a Japanese computer)

  • the rapid development of technologies such as computers and bioengineering, the emergence of cyberculture and the promise of cyborgs (human-machine ‘cybernetic organisms’)

  • the rise of the information age (including the turning of education into ‘edutainment’ or ‘infotainment’)

  • acceptance of living with virtual worlds or representations of the real (largely through mass audience television)

  • the growth of mass surveillance

  • the shift from a culture of production to a culture of consumption, now characterised by the consumption of ‘signs’ such as information, entertainment and advertising

The good news, as Ian Stronach and Maggie MacLure (1997, p.16) claim, is that ‘It is easy to demonstrate that postmodernism exists in practice, whether or not it ought to in theory’. Patrick Slattery (1997, p.3) suggests that ‘Refusing to engage in the postmodern debate’ offers a futile attempt ‘to silence a cosmology that has already emerged.’

The bad news is that a group of intellectuals, academics and pundits - ‘postmodernists’ - have invented a number of competing ways of theorising the condition of postmodernity. They have coined a new and complex language (postmodernism), intertwining two theoretical strands: deconstruction and poststructuralism (including feminist poststructuralism). (Do not worry about these terms at this stage, they are defined later).

This ‘industrial strength’ theorising has turned many people away from postmodernism, who equate it with ‘theorrhia’ (the obsessive need to theorise anything that moves, largely from your armchair) and plead for a more pragmatic approach. As a self-confessed postmodernist, I have protective views about this – I hope to demonstrate that postmodernism is not an exercise in abstraction, but is interested in application. Paradoxically - and you are going to have to get used to such twists in postmodern writing - postmodernists claim that theory is a practice. I agree with Wanda Pillow (2000, p.2) who says that ‘As a teacher, researcher, and theorist I do feel I have a responsibility to help students "get it" when discussing and distinguishing between positivist, postpositivist, and postmodern research.’ Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre (2000, pp.1-2) suggests that ‘getting it’ is less about knowing specific ways of ‘doing’ research in the postmodern (technique), but more about a shift in attitude, towards learning ‘to hear and "understand" a statement made within a different structure of intelligibility.’ Learning to research in the postmodern is learning to sensitise to unusual and imaginative ways of what is traditionally described as data collection and analysis. She reminds us that critics of postmodern approaches paradoxically ‘expect postmodernism to be readily accessible and coherent within a structure it works against.’ Postmodern thinking requires a new literacy.

There is the possibility that those who reject postmodernism’s contribution to education research simply find that postmodernist critique raises too much anxiety, as it challenges so directly the epistemological and methodological basis of both positivist and postpositivist/ interpretivist quantitative and qualitative education research. Robin Usher and Richard Edwards (1994, p.24) offer a second possibility - that education as a discipline finds it difficult to accommodate the radical critique of postmodernism because education is so central to the post-Enlightenment, emancipatory, liberal-humanist project of modernism. Education is the ‘dutiful child’ of the Enlightenment, where ‘the project of modernity is deeply intertwined with education’. There is a deep commitment to the notion of a humanist subject capable of self-knowing, autonomy and agency, clear from social constitution, who will choose education to overcome ignorance and build a better world through progressive accumulation of knowledge and self development.

Postmodernism is the uninvited guest who will spoil the post-Enlightenment party by asking some awkward questions about the supposed benefits of ‘progress’, the means by which knowledge is legitimated and promoted as legitimate, and the assumptions concerning human agency and the nature of the ‘autonomous self’. Feminists of various persuasions had, in any case, earlier spoiled the party by pointing out that the Enlightenment project of the realisation of rational ‘Man’ through education was ‘his’ story, not ‘her’ story. Postmodern feminist ‘hybrid’ theorists such as Donna Haraway (1991, 1997) and Anne Balsamo (1997) have since shifted the ground away from a simplified gender argument to point out that the learning contexts of the future will be situated at the human/machine interface, producing identities of transgendered ‘cyborgs’. Education research has got a lot of catching up to do if it is to engage with this emerging world, already no longer that of postmodernity, but of the ‘posthuman’ (Badmington, 2000).

This component comes with a severe health warning: all serious writers on the postmodern condition treat ‘how to do postmodernism’ texts with scepticism. Where traditional methodological texts offer an instrumental programme implying that ‘better’ methodology will ensure more satisfactory research, postmodernism rejects such problem-solving, or efficiency solutions. Instrumentalism may lead to a lack of reflexivity, exhibited by conventional researchers who imagine that they are ‘uncovering’ social phenomena, patterns of behaviour, and identities, when, in the view of postmodernists, they are constituting such phenomena, patterns of behaviour and identities through their methods of research. This constructionist viewpoint is central to the postmodern project, and is the subject of Case Study 1.

Before looking at this case study, I suggest you do the exercise below.

Exercise 1

In Changing Teachers, ChangingTimes: Teachers’ Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age, Andy Hargreaves (1994) suggests that the world is shifting from a state of modernity to one of postmodernity. Yet, while society can be described as ‘postmodern’, he describes schools as ‘modern’ and in need of catching up by adopting some of the strategies of postmodernism, such as flatter hierarchies and new forms of flexibility.

We have not yet discussed the supposed transition from ‘modernity’ to ‘postmodernity’. At this stage, I invite you to scan the range of postmodern educational thinking, by doing something that itself is a postmodern activity – surfing the Internet. First, type into your favourite search engine ‘postmodernism’ and surf the results. Second, type in ‘postmodern’, ‘education’, ‘research’ and surf the results. Finally, go to the Amazon.co.uk website in the ‘books’ category and type in the same search words. Print out the results or make an electronic copy.

Note and reflect on:

  • the breadth and depth of sites you came across
  • the manner in which you surfed (how were connections, links, and so forth made?)
  • which articles strike you as being interesting enough to download?
  • anything you have picked up through this surf that illuminates your understanding or experience of the ‘postmodern’

Now describe in a paragraph note to yourself one major element of your education work that you would describe as ‘postmodern’ in character. Email this to me without delay, at:

kjgale@plymouth.ac.uk

 

Key texts

Here are my suggestions for four key texts, limited to those that deal with postmodernism and educational research:

  • Alvesson, M. and Skoldberg, K. (2000) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: Sage.

This text is useful for contextualising postmodern approaches in a wider setting of qualitative inquiry. See especially: ‘Introduction’, Chapter 5: ‘Poststructuralism and postmodernism: destabilizing subject and text’, Chapter 6: ‘Language/gender/power: discourse analysis, feminism and genealogy’. The authors come from a background of academic study of Business Administration and are based in Lund and Stockholm.

  • Scheurich, J.J. (1997) Research Method in the Postmodern. London: Falmer Press.

James Scheurich offers no apology for a radical reformulation of the research agenda. This is my main recommendation as key text. The author comes from a background of academic study of Educational Administration and is based in Austin, Texas.

  • Scott, D. and Usher, R. (eds) (1996) Understanding Educational Research. London: Routledge.

Robin Usher has been an innovator in postmodern readings of education (particularly post compulsory education) for many years. He was at the University of Southampton and is now based in Sydney. This collection of essays relates epistemology, methodology and research practice. It is not all ‘postmodern’, but includes chapters on emancipatory and action research, ethnography, and references to phenomenological method. There is an excellent chapter by Michael Erben on ‘biographical method’, a research methodology that I discuss later in this component as ‘life history research’.

  • Stronach, I. and MacLure, M. (1997) Educational Research Undone: The Postmodern Embrace. Buckingham: Open University Press.

This book works with a diversity of texts, life histories, education policy, and reflexive research upon research (interrogation of research as a social practice). It is concerned as much with writing as reading – careful thought has gone into producing an imaginative text. An essential read. Ian Stronach is based at Manchester Metropolitan University and Maggie MacLure at the University of East Anglia.

 

A note on title and content bias

The aim of this component is to get you thinking and doing in the postmodern, at the heart of its ideas and methods, reminding you that you live in the cultural and historical condition of postmodernity. Hence the title: Education Research in the Postmodern. You will undoubtedly find that some theoretical issues in this component are difficult to follow on first contact. ‘Postmodernism’ (recall that this is the theorizing of the condition of ‘postmodernity’, that itself arises from the post-industrial process of ‘postmodernization’) is not easy – it is an umbrella term for a complex of differing approaches.

The content of this component is necessarily highly selective. Two major areas have intentionally been omitted: the established and rich field of postmodern feminist research (especially French poststructuralist feminist approaches), and the developing field of research in, and on, cyberspace. A section on the latter should be added to this component in the near future. Postmodern feminist research needs a separate, dedicated component. Also, while I devote a section to life history as a research method, narrative methods in general deserve a separate, dedicated component. For an overview of narrative method, see Bleakley (2000a).

 

References (Part 1)

Badmington, N. (ed) (2000) Posthumanism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Balsamo, A. (1997) Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. London: Duke University Press.

Bleakley, A. (2000a) Writing With Invisible Ink: narrative, confessionalism and reflective practice. Reflective Practice. 1:1, pp. 11-24.

Cohen, L. Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2000 5th ed) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Haraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Haraway, D. J. (1997) Modest Witness at Second Millenium: Female Man Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. London: Routledge.

Hargreaves, A. (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers’ Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age. London: Cassell.

Pillow, W. (2000) Deciphering Attempts to Decipher Postmodern Educational Research. Educational Researcher, 29(5), pp.21-24.  Click here see a copy of this paper.

Slattery, P. (1997) Postmodern Curriculum Research and Alternative Forms of Data Presentation.  http://www.quasar.ualberta.ca/cpin/cpinfolder/papers/slattery.htm

St Pierre, E.A. (2000) The Call for Intelligibility in Postmodern Educational Research. Educational Researcher, 29(5), pp. 25-28.  Click here to see a copy of this paper.

Usher, R. and Edwards, R. (1994) Postmodernism and Education. London: Routledge.

 

Back to list of CONTENTS


 

Part Two:

Modernism and Postmodernism

This section offers a description of kinds of postmodernism, and differences between modernism and postmodernism. If you prefer to get straight to the praxis (theory and practice linked) of education research in the postmodern, without this theoretical background, please go straight to Part Three: Practices of Education Research in the Postmodern.

 

What is postmodernism?

There is a joke that has now circulated for many years about deconstruction, one of the main theoretical approaches to the postmodern: ‘Question: What do you get if you cross the Mafia with deconstruction? Answer: an offer you can’t understand!’ An anecdote circulating amongst postmodernists tells of a couple in the park, pushing their young baby in a pram. They meet some friends who have never seen the baby. The friends peer into the pram and say to the parents: ‘What a beautiful baby!’ The proud parents respond: ‘Yes, but wait ’til you see the photo’s!’ A third anecdote concerns a story told by the cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder (in Anderson, 1996, p.69):

a visitor to Japan … wandered into a department store in Tokyo, at a time when the Japanese had begun to take a great interest in the symbolism of the Christmas season. And what symbol … did the visitor discover prominently on display in the Tokyo department store? Santa Claus nailed to a cross!

What do these anecdotes tell us, and what has any of this to do with education research? The third anecdote reminds us that we live in times of globalism, where ‘pick ’n’ mix’ is the order of the day, resulting in some strange syncretic possibilities. This cultural condition and historical moment, as I have already noted above, can be called ‘postmodernity’ (Best and Kellner, 1991). It is also referred to as ‘high modernism’, ‘late modernism’, and ‘late capitalism’ (Rose, 1991). Thanks to the ‘information revolution’, we can cross cultural boundaries at ease, borrowing ideas from here and there, to discuss the nature of the world from our armchairs (Poster, 1990). This leads us into the second example above. The fact that we do discuss the state of the world without the need to leave home, due to ease of access to media such as television, radio and newspapers, draws attention to the peculiar fact that much of our experience is not ‘direct’, but ‘represented’. This has led to the interesting condition that Jean Baudrillard (in Anderson, 1996, p.76) describes as ‘precession of simulacra’. A simulation is a copy of an original. A simulacrum is a copy of a copy, where the original has now been lost. Baudrillard claims that we live in a virtual world of simulacra (such as televisual images) where we can no longer claim that ‘the map is not the territory’, but must realise that the map (the image, the virtual) precedes the territory (‘reality’). Hence, the parents above claim priority for the photographs or images of the child, which are the ‘true’ guide to how the baby looks!

My first anecdote above, the deconstruction joke, warns us that much of the theory that postmodernists employ, the theories that collectively may be called ‘postmodernism’, are often complex, and difficult to access because they demand a new literacy. Deconstruction and poststructuralism are the two main theoretical pillars of postmodern inquiry, and both schools give rise to research agendas that are just beginning to be used in educational inquiry. Within poststructuralism is a particular school of feminism, which also has a unique research agenda.

 

Structuralism, poststructuralism and deconstruction

Structuralism has been the alternative school of thought in the post-war era to the dominant view of empirical essentialism. Essentialism, drawing on Aristotelian tradition, suggests that objects and phenomena have essence or identity: they are things in their own right. Aristotelian tradition has had such a grip on our philosophical view of the world that it comes as a shock to many when its foundations are questioned. For the essentialist tradition, what is ‘real’ is that which is present to itself (it cannot have existence or reality as ‘absence’). Also, essential phenomena are free from contradiction (they are either one thing or another). Poststructuralist thinking, following in the wake of structuralism, challenges both these positions. Since Freud, we find it useful to posit an ‘absent’ reality such as an ‘unconscious’, to explore present effects, such as symptoms. Further, the Aristotelian position gives us no ground from which we can value things which are both ‘this’ and ‘that’, or ‘neither one thing nor the other’: ambiguity, paradox, contradiction, hybrid, transgressions, and indeterminacies.

Structuralists suggest that language gives us the ground for describing, giving meaning to, and communicating meanings about the world (this is usually referred to as ‘the linguistic turn’ in contemporary thought). In postmodernism, the paradigms of ‘language’ and ‘discourse’ have replaced the modernist paradigm of ‘consciousness’. However, as the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who died in 1913, suggested, words do not have meaning in their own right (essence or identity), but gain meaning only in difference from other words in a total pattern or ‘structure’ of relationships. Hence, we know ‘dog’ and ‘cat’ not from some intrinsic quality of the words, but from the difference between the terms. Where modernism sees meaning in the object itself (identity and essence), postmodernism sees meaning arising from difference between linguistic terms. This can be extended, and generalised, to meanings arising from differences between people, historical periods, cultures, social practices, and so forth.

Further, the word ‘dog’ (the signifier) is only related to the object ‘dog’ (the signified) in an arbitrary manner. Language, and the world to which it supposedly refers, are not symmetrical, or do not directly correspond. As language is the medium through which the world is given meaning, then such meanings are both interpretive and relative. Structuralism then describes a system of signs (the total structure of language) that refers in an arbitrary manner to a world of objects and phenomena, giving provisional meaning, while meaning is not ‘in’ signs, nor the objects to which they refer, but ‘in’ the differences between signs. In principle, education research that assumes a direct correspondence between observation and subsequent account has avoided all the representational pitfalls raised by structuralism’s legacy.

Further, signs operate as oppositional pairs. For example, there is no essential or intrinsic ‘thing’ as gender, but the difference between the oppositional descriptors man:woman ‘reveals’ gender. Possibly the best known structuralist of the post-war era, the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, analysed the structures of myth worldwide, to ‘discover’ a linguistic pattern: all myth can be reduced to a fundamental set of oppositional structures of which raw:cooked (nature:culture/ savage:civilized) is primary. Noam Chomsky suggested that language use is based on an invariant generative ‘deep’ structure of grammatical rules, from which all ‘surface’ expressions or cultural variants arise. Jean Piaget suggested that psychological development passes through an invariant, universal set of stages. Prior stages must unfold as a basis to the emergence of new structures. Kohlberg extended this model to invariant stages of moral development. Carl Jung described an invariant set of collective mental structures, or archetypes, from which all behaviour and experience derives.

A new school of thought developed in the 1960s in France which challenged some of the basis to these structuralist ideas: hence ‘post-structuralists’. They pointed out that:

  • while agreeing that ‘meaning’ emerges from differences between signs, why pair these as oppositional structures? Indeed, the pairing produces a new ‘violent’ hierarchy, in which one pole of the opposition is privileged over the other and comes to repress its opposite. Thus ‘civilized’ oppresses ‘uncivilized’, ‘masculine’ oppresses ‘feminine’, ‘white’ oppresses ‘black’, ‘human’ oppresses ‘animal’, and so forth. Oppositional thinking itself blocks other ways of conceiving the world and becomes oppressive. Paradoxically this offers a new kind of essentialism

  • structuralism has not ‘discovered’ an invariant and universal pattern of structures that gives meaning to experience, but has projected varieties of this model back on to the world

  • structuralism attempts to encompass all phenomena in a single theory. In this respect it offers a new ‘grand narrative’ following Darwinism, Marxism or Freudianism

  • structuralism is a rational system working largely to oppress the very indeterminacy and slippage that it describes in the relationship between signifier and signified. It is in this sense also a masculine system

The most significant voices to emerge in poststructural thinking have been Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Derrida first coined the (French equivalent of) the term ‘destructuralism’ or ‘destructuration’ to describe his challenge to structuralism, but this transformed into ‘deconstruction’. The method of deconstruction, which can readily be applied to the claims of research methodologists, is to point to logical contradictions in arguments or practices that come to infect the whole structure or edifice of such arguments and practices, and call for their downfall (Gasche, 1986; Norris, 1991). This is different from usual argument or critique that offers a view from the outside of the logical or propositional limitations of an argument or practice, and then proceeds to displace this argument or practice with an alternative. Derrida’s project is never to say that one thing is exposed as ‘wrong’ and can be replaced with its critique, which claims ‘insight’, ‘truth’ or ‘fact’.

This is not an (a)moral relativist judgement, that any one perspective is as good as any other. It is, rather, based on the notion that within an oppositionalist structure, any privileged view (‘presence’) is dependent upon the existence of its opposite, repressed view (‘absence’), on the basis of meaning arising from difference between the views.

Deconstructive method focuses wholly upon exposing the flaws and contradictions already present in any argument’s striving to totalise or explain. Such a project is a reminder of the logical flaw in structuralism. If structures work through the differences between oppositional terms, what is the oppositional term to the overall defining structure claimed by Levi-Strauss of myth, Piaget and Kohlberg of intellectual and moral development, Chomsky of language itself, and Jung of archetypes? Derrida points out that any ‘system’ cannot be self enclosing, explanatory or totalising, but must have a ‘surplus’ which is beyond the explanation of the system. The structures of structuralism are encompassing, yet it is structuralism which suggests that meaning only arises out of the differences between terms. What then is the different term to the encompassing structure such as a system of language or myth? Structuralists then bring about the condition for their own downfall, from within the body of their own theory. It is precisely this unacknowledged surplus that is the haemorrhage in the system that will cause it to bleed to death, or the crack in the edifice that will eventually bring the whole building tumbling down. While frustrating to critics of deconstruction, Derrida insists that it is not the deconstructionists’ role to replace the crashed building, where this simply invites a new totalization. The deconstructionist’s job is permanent critique. In this respect, deconstruction provides a ready-made research methodology.

Derrida coins the term differance to refer to both the operation of difference between terms to create meaning, and to the notion of infinite deferral of total explanation, where the signifier is never directly connected to the signified. By this, Derrida means that where every conception, idea or exploration makes a claim for explanation (truth or fact), a direct link is forged between signifier and signified. However, such a link is a forgery - both arbitrary and temporary - for it cannot encompass all possible meanings. At best, the claim for truth is conditional, temporary or makes sense only in a particular context (knowledge as ‘situated’).

Again, Derrida’s contribution to epistemology (theory of knowledge) rests with his emphasis upon all presence claims (a theory, a derived fact, a truth claim) being dependent upon factors that are absent (deferred or silent). For example, where ‘masculinised’ language use becomes a habitual norm, our knowledge of its oppressive character rests with recognition of the ‘absent’ (marginalised) voice of the feminine. Further, the dominant term in the gender binary masculine:feminine serves to continue such oppression as a kind of ‘violence’ in thinking. Derrida, through deconstruction, wants to reveal such ‘violences’ as based upon privileged terms, not to reverse the binary (which would simply repeat the oppression from the other side of the binary), but to challenge the binary itself as the source of oppressive thinking.

 

Jean-Francois Lyotard

Lyotard occupies a significant position in postmodern educational thinking primarily because his (1984) book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (first published in 1979) was for many British readers their first introduction to the links between education and the postmodern condition. Lyotard’s manifesto in that book has turned out to be uncannily accurate: education has been commodified; performativity (‘it works’) has come to replace scholarship (knowledge for its own sake); information has replaced knowledge; and the computer has become the major shaping force upon educational practices. Lyotard is famous particularly for his assault on ‘grand narratives’ of modernism (Darwinism, Freudianism, Marxism) which attempt to ‘totalise’, or explain and encompass reality. Lyotard calls rather for ‘local narratives’, ‘small’ stories that explore particulars in a historical and cultural context. The proliferation of local narratives gives weight to ‘difference’ over ‘sameness’, in which we actively encourage and respect plurality. Lyotard’s main influence on education research in the postmodern derives from his challenge to the authority of science at the expense of narrative knowing. Also, his work encourages us to get researchers to focus on ‘local’, contextualised projects, and to entertain and broadcast plural voices and identities, even within single subjects. His other main contribution is to challenge the modernist desire for democratic consensus at the expense of creative ‘dissensus’. He believes that we have not yet developed an adequate literacy for difference (which may look as if it is conflictual), and so we either descend into open hostility or seek low level (re)conciliation. Neither is fruitful. I will take up this issue of the value of dissensus in research in a later section discussing life history research.

Reading

For those interested in researching issues in the postcompulsory education sectors (higher, further, adult, community), there is no better starting point as guide to the emergence of the ‘postmodern condition’ than Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. For an excellent set of commentaries on this book, see Michael Peters’ edited collection: Peters, M. (ed) (1995) Education and the postmodern condition. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

For a comprehensive account of links between the condition of postmodernity and theoretical stances of postmodernism, specifically as these relate to education, see Stuart Parker’s (1997) ‘manifesto’:

Parker, S. (1997) Reflective Teaching in the Postmodern World: a manifesto for education in postmodernity. Buckingham: Open University Press.

 

Summary definitions

I have made a distinction between:

  • postmodernisation, which refers to the technologising of society over the past thirty years in particular, and the interest in technological futures (human-machine interactions, cyborgs, bioengineering, biotechnologies, the roles of computers, robotics)

  • postmodernity, which is a historical and cultural condition arising from the post-industrial process of postmodernisation, including changes in patterns of production and consumption, leisure and work, and the phenomenon of globalisation

  • postmodernism, which is the intellectual study and theorising of postmodernity

  • postmodernists, who are the theorists, researchers and pundits who work in the field of postmodernism

I have suggested that we already inhabit the condition of postmodernity, whether or not we subscribe to its theorising as postmodernism, most obviously since the development of personal computers and the Internet over the past decade in particular. Consider:

  • the phenomenon of globalisation and its resistance in the anti-capitalist movement

  • the emergence of information as a commodity in a post-industrial climate where consumption has expanded from goods and services to signs (information, advertising, fashion)

  • a related economic shift from production of goods and services to production of information, in which education plays a central role, and where ‘lifelong learning’ offers a central metaphor and practice

  • the emergence of computer access and literacy linked to an information culture underpinned by the World Wide Web

  • the emergence of interest in ‘difference’, with its paradoxical effect of multiculturalism and ethnic tolerance on the one hand, and return to nationalisms and warring ethnic identities on the other

  • a related interest in pluralism and tolerance of plural possibilities, rather than a search for explanatory ‘truths’

  • the decline in interest in formal religions, but a growth of interest in New Age spiritualities and return to fundamentalisms and evangelisms

  • the emergence of ‘socitalism’ (weak socialist/democratic capitalism) as the primary force in politics, in the wake of the transformation of the Eastern European political landscape

  • the tendency to turn many facets of life, including the educational and therapeutic, into entertainment (for example, game shows, confessional TV, soap operas, advertising as art and story). This is often referred to as ‘spectacularisation’ – the growth of the ‘society of the spectacle’ (Debord, 1983), where even war becomes a spectacle for media consumption. Jean Baudrillard made an infamous claim that ‘the Gulf War never happened’, by which he meant that the Gulf War was the first wholly ‘televised’ conflict, consisting mainly of film of night vision missile traces, and thoroughly biased, rehearsed, accounts of the conflict, turning the war into a wholly media-ted, virtual event, one of macabre ‘infotainment’

  • following from the above point, the arrival of the precession of the simulacrum – where the virtual precedes, and is preferred to, the real

The idea that there is such a condition of ‘postmodernity’ that differs radically from modernity, is, however, contested (Jameson, 1992). While there is general agreement that the nature of the cultural world has shifted radically into an ‘information age’, due to the rapid development of information and communication technologies, how this shift may be described differs between schools of thought. At one extreme, those interested in simulation and surveillance (Baudrillard, 1993, 2001; Kroker, 1993), and cyborgs (human/machine complexes) (Haraway, 1997) suggest that even ‘postmodernism’ is a defunct term and could be replaced with ‘the posthuman’, which also reflects postmodernists’ interest in challenging the conventions of liberal humanism, such as the notion of agency based on a unified, constant ‘self’ offering a stable identity. (As rejoinder to this view, critics of postmodernism, such as Somer Brodribb (1993), usually focus on the supposed destructive aspects of the wholesale rejection of liberal humanism, denying the cumulative and hard won benefits of liberal humanism such as charters for human rights, the ground that ‘first wave’ political feminists have gained, and so forth). At another extreme, some theorists do not see a clear-cut shift from a modernist to a postmodernist condition, but see our current cultural condition as a logical development of modernism (‘high’ or ‘late’ modernism), or as an aspect of modernism’s ever-present avant-garde (Jencks, 1992).

There are two established streams of thought within postmodernism. One (deconstructive postmodernism) argues that there is a radical rupture between modernity and postmodernity, based on the ‘linguistic turn’. They argue that ‘reality’ is grounded in language and that the ‘natural’ world, taken for granted by empirical science as an object for study, is in fact the object of construction through language and discourse (the effects of language embodied in social practices and material artefacts). This phenomenon is generally referred to as the ‘crisis of representation’. The world is never known directly, but is constructed, or given meaning, through discourse. Such meanings are historically and culturally contingent, dependent upon the legitimation processes of dominant discourses embodied in differing communities of practice.

The second stream of postmodernism is interested less in language and more in general cultural and historical phenomena such as art, politics, religion, science studies and ecology. This school (for example, Jencks, 1992) draws heavily on the ideas of ‘new science’ such as complexity and chaos theory, emergence of form, and principles of uncertainty and indeterminacy. They do not see a single rupture between modernism and postmodernism, but a ‘double coding’ (Jencks, 1992, 1995), in which both rupture and continuity coincide. They see deconstruction not as a form of postmodernism at all, but as part of the avant garde of modernism. They disagree with Lyotard’s definition of postmodernism as ‘incredulity towards grand narratives’, seeing rather the emergence of a new, inclusive grand narrative that is holistic, based on convergence of science, the humanities, the ecology movement, radical feminisms, and new religious movements. They see ‘tolerance of difference’ and pluralism as core values in such an emergent grand narrative, that borrows from new science the notions of ambiguity, paradox, indeterminacy and uncertainty and see these as basic features of postmodernity. Within this grand narrative epistemology, local narratives are explicitly honoured. Charles Jencks, the main spokesperson for this view calls for a return to public concerns, to postmodernism as a return to a ‘messy democracy’, in which populism replaces elitism, and tolerance of difference is the major virtue.

As an architect, Jencks argues for a movement away from modernism’s obsession with grand design as a soulless block display of corporate identity embodied in steel and glass high-rise. Indeed, he slyly suggests that modernism at one level died with a specific incident in 1972, when an ultramodernist housing complex in St Louis, Missouri was dynamited after it had turned into a slum through heavy vandalism by its residents. The original, multi-million dollar project was built on Le Corbusier’s modernist principles of functionalism and cleanliness, with high rise ‘streets in the air’ and efficient ‘boxed’ accommodation. The building famously alienated people (J.G. Ballard’s postmodern novel High Rise captures the tensions created by such buildings) forgetting that architecture should also look to comfort, and to retaining a sense of community and street life, rather than boxing people off in the air. Buildings and design in postmodern planning are eclectic in their borrowings, mixing and matching styles, and scaled down to accommodate local identities. The baroque and ornamentation returns as a challenge to the dominance of Le Corbusier’s austere and antiseptic square, white and functional living spaces, which are seen more as engineering social control along authoritarian lines than providing an appropriate aesthetic for a new age of complexity. Jencks calls for a new counter-Reformation of complexity and sensuousness to challenge what he sees as modernism’s brutal and reductive abstractions.

This school of postmodernism calls itself ‘reconstructive’. This is often shortened to ‘restructive’ or ‘constructive’, and is sometimes referred to as ‘affirmative’ (as opposed to ‘sceptical’) postmodernism (Rosenau, 1992). Reconstructive postmodernists see deconstructive, sceptical postmodernism as nihilistic and reductive, offering abstract intellectual approaches to concrete problems, focusing too much on language and discourse at the expense of material phenomena, and neglecting the contribution of the new sciences. Reconstructive/restructive postmodernists sometimes refer to deconstructive postmodernism as ‘eliminative’ or ‘sceptical’ postmodernism (Rosenau, 1992), because of what they see as its narrow and pessimistic focus of interest. While the deconstructionists’ and poststructuralists’ views have come to dominate educational research in the postmodern, reconstructive voices are present in the literature, mainly concentrated in the area of curriculum studies (Pinar et al, 1996; Slattery, 1995).

To deconstructive and reconstructive postmodernisms, I would add contemporary ‘cynical’ and ‘celebratory’ schools. Jean Baudrillard, a theorist who describes the postmodern but does not subscribe to it, seeing postmodernity in cynical terms, exemplifies the former. Baudrillard has also written one of the best available essays on ‘Modernity’:

Baudrillard, J. (1987) Modernity. Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, XI:3.

He sees the postmodern world as a swirl of virtuality, a confusion of signs, where individuals gain identity through overactive consumption of fashion and information. For Baudrillard, the world of ‘reality’ has imploded – we live in a world of representation, of hypereality (more real than reality), of pornography (more erotic than sex), of an obesity of information (more information than anyone could read), of simulation (more true than truth), of terrorism (more violent than war) and of catastrophe (more eventful than events).

‘Celebratory’ postmodernism, sometimes called ‘posthumanism’ (Badmington, 2000), is a kind of science fiction festival of futurism, in which the possibilities of human-machine interactivity and bioengineered futures is not seen as a technological nightmare denying the human spirit, but as an inevitable and welcome transformation of humanity. The ‘cyborg’ or cybernetic organism, is celebrated for its hybrid status, as living proof of the demise of the Aristotelian world of logic, based on oppositional (either/or) thinking. Disaster scenarios such as ecological catastrophe will be solved through imaginative science. While this model may seem speculative and distant from current education research, pundits of the posthuman see that many elements of that future are with us now, especially with the incremental, rapid development, and concurrent obsolescence, of information and communication technologies. Learning and research are focused on the potentials of cyberspace.

For a taste of this cyborg future, log on to the website of the Australian performance artist Stelarc: http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/

While it may seem trivial, you will notice differing conventions for spelling ‘postmodernism’. Deconstructive postmodernism tends to use lower case, and elided (postmodernism), where reconstructive Post-Modernists tend to use upper case, and hyphenated (Post-Modernism). I adopt the lower case, elided convention throughout, which also reveals my bias of interest towards poststructuralist postmodernism and the ‘posthuman’. A final note: while ‘postmodernism’ is considered to be a recent phenomenon, the term was first coined in 1926 to refer to a rise of interest in Britain in religions other than Christianity. American architects used the term in the 1940s to describe contemporary trends. In 1959, the sociologist C. Wright Mills described an epoch to come after modernism as the ‘postmodern’. The literary critic Leslie Fiedler described ‘postmodern’ writing in 1965. (Margaret Rose (1991) gives a comprehensive history of the various early uses of the term ‘postmodernism’).

 

What is modernism?

Modernity is a cultural condition that has its origins in the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance, based on a progressive economic and administrative rationalisation of society (culminating in the development of the capitalist state, and of state capitalism in communist countries). Industrialisation brings modernity to a peak, through modernisation. There is a parallel development of the ‘individual’ (also a capitalism, as ownership of the private property of ‘self’). Modernization as industrialisation focuses on production. In the post-industrial, postmodern world, as suggested earlier, production gives way to consumption, and consumption is largely of information and ‘signs’ (such as advertising).

The French poet Charles Baudelaire first used the word ‘modern’ in the mid-nineteenth century. Modernity can be seen to give way to postmodernity by the late 1960s. ‘Modernism’ is from the Latin modo, meaning ‘of the moment’ or ‘of the now’. Modernism has usually been described as a cultural movement embodying the ideals of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment, which saw the replacement of medieval superstition by a new spirit of inquiry that laid the foundations for rational science, informed by the philosophical position of positivism. ‘Progress’ entered the English language in 1603, with the meaning ‘continual improvement’. Francis Bacon published parts of New Atlantis in 1627, which calls for a rational, scientific worldview. The French thinker Condorcet described the perfectability of the human spirit through ‘progress’ in 1793. The French Revolution (1789) calls for ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’. The keywords for the Enlightenment project are:

  • progress

  • truth

  • certainty and foundationalism

  • humanism

  • emancipation

  • identity (essentialism)

  • ideology

  • presence (empirical fact)

  • universalism

Each of these ideals is questioned or problematised in the postmodern era, constituting a crisis of legitimacy (Lyotard, 1984) and suggesting that there has been a critical break with modernity (hence ‘post’modernity). However, each of these ideals is also plainly pursued in many quarters, and could still be said to offer a profile for the conservative educational project, suggesting a ‘dual coding’ model in which certain aspects of modernism have continuity, while there is a break with others, allowing the emergence of the postmodern, running alongside what is retained from modernism. For Lyotard, the ‘postmodern’ is that aspect of modernism which is also called the ‘avant garde’, the innovative, experimental face to the modern.

In the Blair era of politics, we constantly hear the call for the ‘modernisation’ of institutions, by which it is implied that institutions should be brought up to date. We do not hear a call for the ‘postmodernisation’ of the Labour Party, schools, universities or public services such as the NHS. This is partly because Blair’s main academic advisor and mentor on such issues has been the sociologist Anthony Giddens. While accepting that there is an emergent new cultural era, Giddens is one of the theorists who refuses the term ‘postmodernism’, preferring to characterise the new era as ‘the risk society’ and 'high modernism' (Hargreaves, 1994).

Research in the postmodern problematises each of the bullet-pointed factors above, asking us to suspend subscription to the values underpinning these factors as we entertain alternatives:

  • Progress: the key Enlightenment principle is questioned. Progress for whom? Towards what? The notion of cumulative progress has been reinforced by the paradigm of Darwinian evolution, and education has been seen as the central vehicle for such progress. Postmodernism retains a healthy scepticism for such claims in the face of contradictions such as a growing gap between the rich and poor, the ecological and population crises, the manipulative effects of globalisation, continuing racial, ethnic and religious conflicts, the inability to solve the world food crisis, the ethical questions raised by biotechnologies and advanced medicine. In terms of research, postmodernists ask conventional researchers to more closely scrutinise the conditions under which knowledge claims are validated, or the processes of legitimisation of knowledge, prior to the claim for ‘progress’.

  • Truth: postmodernists suggest that all claims to truth are relative to historical period, cultural and social context, and the manner in which communities of practice legitimise truth claims. For this reason, ‘truths’ are unstable.

  • Certainty and foundationalism: as above. How, for example, does one deal with claims for certainty in virtual worlds and in the indeterminate quantum world whose effects are governed by complexity and principles of uncertainty and indeterminacy?

  • Humanism: the displacement of the human from the centre of nature (the challenge to anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism) is a key element of reconstructive, ecological postmodernism (Bleakley, 2000). Poststructuralism’s key concern is to map ‘identity’ as plural, unstable social construction and product of discourse, thus challenging the modernist view that personhood is stable, unitary and transparent, offering active agency and open to investigation through introspection (Badmington, 2000).

  • Emancipation: postmodernists are especially sceptical of the claims for emancipatory research. There are dangers that the conditions for emancipation are dictated by a privileged group, to which the researchers belong, leading to paternalism. The question ‘emancipation into what?’ is often overlooked, where focus rests with the issue of liberation from oppression. Where the researchers are also the participants, this type of research typically assumes uncomplicated personal agency, with little or no reflexivity about the constitution, plurality and stability of that supposed agency.

  • Identity (essentialism): positivist models assume that the objects of their inquiry are stable and have constitutive identity. This offers insulation from the possibility that the objects of inquiry are produced or constituted through the methods of inquiry. The danger here, as pointed out by postmodernist researchers, is also insulation against the principle of difference and plurality. ‘Difference’, as I have already outlined, is a key term for postmodernism. It describes a social condition of tolerance for ‘otherness’, underpinning racial and gender tolerance and mutual respect for example. Difference is also used to describe how identity is constructed through the presence of ‘other’ (Hegel’s master:slave dialectic suggests that there is no ‘master’ without the presence of ‘slave’, and no ‘slave’ without the presence of ‘master’. As I have described earlier, Saussurean linguistics suggests that terms have no identity in themselves, but are known through their differences from other linguistic terms).

  • Ideology: modernist research is explicitly ideological, although rarely described or acknowledged as such. It is also explicitly rhetorical, persuading an audience into its world-view. Research in the postmodern may be described as reflexively ‘post-ideological’ (Alvesson and Skoldberg, 2000). The ‘reflexivity’ concerns a concerted attempt to situate research discursively, or to point out how the research itself conforms to a particular discourse, or complex of discourses (for example, it may be explicitly ‘instrumentalist’), or constitutes a discourse in its own right, as a social act (for example, a piece of narrative research may ‘story’ an identity into existence).

  • Presence (empirical fact): as I have outlined previously, deconstruction has as one of its main principles the notion of the persistence of the ‘presence of absence’. While the world is researched ‘as found’, deconstructionists, echoing Freud’s reminder about an unconscious life, remind postmodern researchers of the influence of the absent or the excluded, that is rarely acknowledged in modernist research. Derrida notes that presence and meaning is always dependent upon another factor (which is then absent). For example, in gender description, ‘male’ makes sense only in relation to ‘female’, and vice versa.

 

A ‘lock and key’ analogy

If we live in a postmodern condition (described above as the cultural condition of ‘postmodernity’ arising from the post-industrial process of ‘postmodernisation’), then (a) we should attempt to research it within its own emerging literacies, and (b) we will find that our pupils and students already fully inhabit this world, with which we may have limited engagement, due to our commitment to modernist ideals. Even if we live in a ‘double coded’ mix of modernist continuity and postmodern/posthuman emergence, we should still be committed to understanding and using the emerging research literacies of postmodernism for the sake of relevance. If we apply modernist codes to a postmodern condition, it would be using an old key to attempt to open a new lock.

 

Key texts: Education and postmodernism

Blake, N., Smeyers, P., Smith, R., and Standish, P. (1998) Thinking Again: Education After Postmodernism. London: Bergin & Garvey. (This would be my recommended text for schooling)

Briton, D. (1996) The Modern Practice of Adult Education: A Post-Modern Critique. New York: State University of New York Press.

Carlson, D. and Apple, M.W. (eds) (1998) Power/Knowledge/Pedagogy: The Meaning of Democratic Education in Unsettling Times. Oxford: Westview Press.

Doll, W.E. (1993) A post-modern perspective on curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press.

Halsey, A.H., Lauder, H., Brown, P. and Wells, A.S. (eds) (1997) Education: Culture, Economy, Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hargreaves, A. (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers' Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age. London: Cassell.

Kincheloe, J.L. (1993) Toward a Critical Politics of Teacher Thinking: Mapping the Postmodern. London: Bergin & Garvey.

McLaren, P. (1997) Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Pedagogies of Dissent for the New Millenium. Oxford: Westview Press.

Mourad, R.P. (1997) Postmodern Philosophical Critique and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Higher Education. London: Bergin & Garvey.

Paechter, C., Edwards, R., Harrison, R. and Twining, P. (eds) (2001) Learning, Space and Identity. London: Paul Chapman/ The Open University.

Paechter, C., Preedy, M., Scott, D. and Soler, J. (eds) (2001) Knowledge, Power and Learning. London: Paul Chapman/ The Open University. (The two Paechter et al collections would be my recommended texts for post compulsory education)

Parker, S. (1997) Reflective Teaching in the Postmodern World: a manifesto for education in postmodernity. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Peters, M. (ed) (1995) Education and the postmodern condition. London: Bergin & Garvey.

Peters, M. (1996) Poststructuralism, politics and education. London: Bergin & Garvey.

Pinar, W.F. and Reynolds, W.M. (eds) (1992) Understanding Curriculum as Phenomenological and Deconstructed Text. New York: Teachers College Press.

Pinar, W.F., Reynolds, W.M., Slattery, P. and Taubman, P.M. (1996) Understanding Curriculum. New York: Peter Lang.

Popkewitz, T.S. and Brennan, M. (eds) (1998) Foucault’s Challenge: Discourse, Knowledge, and Power in Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Slattery, P. (1995) Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era. London: Garland.

Stanley, W.B. (1992) Curriculum for Utopia: Social Reconstructionism and Critical Pedagogy in the Postmodern Era. New York: State University of New York Press.

Usher, R. and Edwards, R. (1994) Postmodernism and Education. London: Routledge.

Usher, R., Bryant, I. and Johnston, R. (1997) Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge. London: Routledge.

 

 

References (Part 2)

Alvesson, M. and Skoldberg, K. (2000) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: Sage.

Anderson, W.T. (ed) (1996) The Fontana Postmodernism Reader. London: Fontana Press.

Badmington, N. (ed) (2000) Posthumanism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Baudrillard, J. (1993) The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. London: Verso.

Baudrillard, J. (2001) Impossible Exchange. London: Verso.

Best, S. and Kellner, D. (1991) Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Bleakley, A. (2000) The Animalizing Imagination: Totemism, Textuality and Ecocriticism. London: Macmillan.

Brodribb, S. (1993) Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism. Melbourne: Spinifex.

Debord, G. (1983) The Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red.

Gasche, R. (1986) The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection. London: Harvard University Press.

Haraway, D. J. (1997) Modest Witness at Second Millenium: Female Man Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. London: Routledge.

Hargreaves, A. (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers' Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age. London: Cassell.

Jameson, F. (1992) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London: Verso.

Jencks, C. (1992) (ed) The Post-Modern Reader. London: Academy Editions.

Jencks, C. (1995) What is Post-Modernism? London: Academy Editions.

Kroker, A. (1993) Spasm: Virtual Reality, Android Music, and Electric Flesh. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Norris, C. (1991 2nd ed) Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Poster, M. (1990) The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Rose, M. (1991) The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial: A Critical Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rosenau, P.M. (1992) Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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Part Three:

Practices of Education Research in the Postmodern

Key theoretical underpinning

In order to fully understand the illustrative examples that follow this section, please read this theoretical introduction carefully.

Modernist researchers believe they are faithfully describing and uncovering the object of inquiry through ‘objective’ technique, even where the object is human subjectivity. Such objects are unproblematically (naively) accounted for through linguistic description, where language is taken as a neutral medium for such description. Researchers in the postmodern, however, suggest that such research may be constructing, rather than revealing, the objects of inquiry, including human subjectivity. Further, language is an active medium for such constructions, not a passive descriptor. Discourse is by definition particular, situated, biased and productive/constructive of identities and knowledge. ‘Objectivity’ is one amongst a number of key research discourses, leaving the ‘objective’ itself a social construction, and hence relative.

Mats Alvesson and Kaj Skoldberg (2000, pp.194-5) suggest ‘four central elements’ informing ‘pragmatic postmodern methodological principles':

  • research work and texts capture a plurality ‘of different identities or voices associated with different groups, individuals, positions or special interests’

  • single participants may convey multiple representations

  • phenomena can be presented using a variety of modes and media, including ‘the use of different sorts of descriptive languages’

  • ‘Command of different theoretical perspectives’ and ‘strong familiarity with the critique of … these’ on the part of researchers (reflexivity). This leads to the possibility of ‘openness and different sorts of readings to surface in the research’ (flexibility)

Such elements break the mould of traditional research patterns through subversion, inversion, irony, pastiche, innovative forms, humour, slyness, paradox, and so forth, that Janice Jipson and Nicholas Paley (1997, p.11) refer to as ‘daredevil research’: ‘to make the strange, familiar – and the familiar, strange.’ Patti Lather (1991, p.91) suggests that researchers in the postmodern fret less about ‘proving’ a point, or providing evidence to ‘support’ an argument, and concentrate more upon generating a ‘polyvalent data base that is used to vivify interpretation’. Patrick Slattery (1997, pp.1-2) calls for ‘alternative forms of research presentation … such as fiction, art installations, dance, and readers theater (sic)’ Postmodern curriculum research lends itself particularly to exploration through ‘arts-based inquiry’. Slattery (1997, p.6) notes that in the Education Departments of a few American Universities, ‘the novel has been approved as a research methodology’. The ground for research rigour is thus shifted from traditions of validity and reliability to aesthetic and ethical interests. (The nature of such interests will become clear through illustrative examples later.)

The more adventurous end of education research in the postmodern asks ‘what counts as valid research evidence?’ ‘Inquiry’ is often used as a substitute for ‘research’, to undo expectations set up by normative, positivistic models for controlled experimentation, or by inductive mechanisms for ‘rigour’ through coding, classifying and deriving schemata from data. Reflexivity and flexibility are preferred to such classifications.

To scan a number of suggestions countering conventional data collection and analysis (including both modes of inquiry, and modes and media for presentation of data) see:

Jipson, J. and Paley, N. (1997) Daredevil Research: Re-creating Analytic Practice. New York: Peter Lang.

 

Research in the postmodern challenges modernist criteria for ‘effective’ research

Research in the postmodern:

  • does not start from a nave ‘realist’ position

James Scheurich (1997) explicitly challenges the assumptions of the realist position of modernist research on three counts:

  • that there is a transparent, autonomous subject (agency) who authentically ‘speaks’ the research (this is termed the crisis of identity of both researchers and subjects of research)

  • that there is a reasoning mind executing practices of reason, to which methodologies conform (the crisis of methodological certainty)

  • that the narratives or accounts of the autonomous, reasoning and authentic-speaking agency can be taken as direct representations of reality (the dual crisis of representation and validity)

  • does not seek essences or truths

  • data are not taken as ‘facts’, but as descriptive terms, both contextualised and relativised (placed in a historical and cultural setting)

Scheurich (1997) offers three informing guidelines for research in the postmodern. It must be stressed that turning such guidelines into principles, a prescriptive manifesto, or fundamental truths, is resisted by the postmodern sensibility. The guidelines are:

  • Research in the postmodern attempts to erase the distinction between research practices and the subjectivity of the researcher. It is recognised that the two are intertwined. Research practices, like all social practices, come to construct identities, of which ‘researcher’ is one. Moulding this identity, as an aesthetic and ethical project, is what Foucault (see Bernauer and Rasmussen, 1994) refers to as a ‘practice of the self’. Thus, what happens to the researcher in the social practices of research is considered to be as important as what happens to the subjects or objects (usually ‘texts’) of the research.

  • Research in the postmodern notes, reflexively, that modernist research is ‘disciplined’ by practices of reason, and wishes to subvert this while accepting its particular value. A paradigm case here is Derrida’s (1990) challenge to Foucault’s (1971) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Derrida claimed that one cannot write an account of the irrational (madness) from the point of view of reason.

  • Research in the postmodern notes the ‘crisis of representation’ of the ‘real’, as noted earlier. Following from the point above, Foucault represents ‘madness’ in his account, but this is not an account of the mad. Indeed, the account passes through several layers of representation. Foucault takes historical texts that already offer representations of ‘lost’ voices, and then re-represents these in his own research voice. Further, research accounts of the supposed ‘real’ (even through direct report: nave or transparent representation) are not seen to uncover a constitutive reality waiting to be described, but to constitute that reality through the acts and conversations of research itself. Scheurich (1997, p.175) suggests, provocatively, that ‘realist research will not survive postmodernism, not the philosophy but the era.’

I have suggested that research in the postmodern demands practices of ‘reflexivity’ and understanding of the possibility that ‘reality’ is socially constructed. Again, where modernist research assumes that there is a reality ‘out there’ waiting to be investigated, described, and catalogued, social constructionism does not abandon the notion of an external world to be investigated. Rather, it focuses upon how meanings are ascribed to a ‘reality’, thus constituting (constructing or producing) that reality through social conventions, discourse, conversations and negotiations within communities of practice. Where social constructionists such as Kenneth Gergen (Case Study 1) map the possibilities of research as socially- , historically- , and culturally-sensitive conventions, Michel Foucault and his school (Case Study 6) attempt to map how such conventions come to be established, researching the conditions of possibility for the emergence of social practices such as research activities, how practices come to form identities, and how practices are legitimated or illegitimated (included or excluded) and produce patterns of resistance, or change over time through gradual transformation or sudden historical rupture.

Go To Case Study 1

Go To Case Study 6

 

Reading

Each of my points in the summary paragraph above echoes particularly:

  • Robin Usher (2001), in an article stressing both the ‘constructing’ nature of research as a social act, and the need for the researcher to be reflexive about what the research is doing, where it is coming from, and with what is it implicated?

  • Robin Usher, Ian Bryant and Rennie Johnston (1997), in the closing pages of chapter 9, which stresses reflexivity (again), and the importance of the quality of the researcher’s text, which does not bear a symmetrical relationship of direct representation to what is researched

 

References (Part 3)

Alvesson, M. and Skoldberg, K. (2000) Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: Sage.

Bernauer, J. and Rasmussen, D. (eds) (1994) The Final Foucault. London: The MIT Press.

Derrida, J. (1990) Writing and Difference. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1971) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. London: Routledge.

Lather, P. (1991) Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy With/In the Postmodern. London: Routledge.

Scheurich, J.J. (1997) Research Method in the Postmodern. London: Falmer Press.

Slattery, P. (1997) Postmodern Curriculum Research and Alternative Forms of Data Presentation.  http://www.quasar.ualberta.ca/cpin/cpinfolder/papers/slattery.htm

Usher, R. (2001) Telling a Story about Research and Research as Story-telling. In C. Paechter et al (eds) Knowledge, Power and Learning. London: Paul Chapman, pp. 47-55.

Usher, R., Bryant, I. and Johnston, R. (1997) Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge. London: Routledge.

 

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Part Four:

Education Research in the Postmodern - Illustrative Examples

 

Case Study 1

What is ‘reflexivity’ and what is ‘social constructionism’?: Writing in the postmodern as research practice

This case study illustrates the key points above, that ‘realist’ research may not discover or uncover its ‘truths’ and ‘facts’, but constructs these through the research method itself. This does not mean that we abandon research because we are caught in a self-determining loop. Rather, it means that we develop reflexivity within, and towards, our research practices, just as we would towards our teaching and learning practices.

Click here to access this case study.

 

Case Study 2

The life histories of PE teachers

Theorising life history research: the problem of ‘subjectivity’ – humanistic vs postmodernist accounts

What does life history research achieve? Through rich, idiosyncratic (idiographic) accounts, we also reference difference and map the processes of construction of identities. Such research accounts may lead to appreciation of stories for their own sake, or may suggest changes in practice and policy. This case study notes the value of such research in mapping, and giving expression to, marginalised voices, within the project of ‘life writing’ (Smith, 1998).

Click here to access this case study.

 

Case study 3

A postmodern critique of interviewing

Click here to access this case study.

 

Case study 4

A postmodern approach to ‘policy studies’

Click here to access this case study.

 

Case study 5

Discourse evaluation

Click here to access this case study.

 

Case Study 6

Rewriting notions of ‘validity’ through research in the postmodern

Click here to access this case study.

 

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Afterword

Alvesson and Skoldberg (2000, pp.171-2) offer a rather pessimistic summary of the relationship between postmodernist thinking and research:

Postmodernist discussion of – or attempts at – empirical research are rather limited in character. There are a number of general arguments about how not to conduct, for instance, ethnographic research, but more concrete guidelines or examples of how it should be pursued are as yet few and far between. Most authors calling themselves postmodernists maintain a negative approach in this context … they are much more articulate and specific about what they are against than about what they are for.

They go on to note that as postmodernists tend to equate ‘the empirical’ with ‘text’, research is largely conducted on texts rather than ‘extra-textual reality’, and where research strays beyond the deconstruction of texts, it tends to focus on ‘narrow social phenomena or incidents that appear in textual form’. I hope that this component has convinced you that Alvesson and Skoldberg are being overly pessimistic in their judgement (which, of course, is bound by the time of writing their script). Ironically, their text is one of the best books to have appeared on qualitative research in recent times, and contains two excellent chapters on research in the postmodern.

Postmodern educationalists celebrated the title of Alvesson’s and Skoldberg’s text – Reflexive Methodology – because, finally, a major text on research has recognised that notions of ‘reflection’ and ‘reflective practice’ are stuck in an outmoded liberal humanist mindset that fails to be reflexive about its own (unacknowledged) theoretical standpoint, and its constitution through discourse (Bleakley, 1999). ‘Reflexivity’ moves beyond introspective musing to a more rigorous consideration of the nature of subjectivity that supposedly is doing the musing, and to consider what theory of knowledge drives assumptions about the nature of that subjectivity. (It should be noted that Robin Usher - in Scott and Usher, 1996, chapter 3: ‘Textuality and reflexivity in educational research’ - had already written about the need for reflexive research as a social practice).

Alvesson’s and Skoldberg’s remarks are then a little like looking for your keys not where you dropped them, but under the street lamp further up the road, because that is where the light is. If we interrogate their remarks more closely, we find that they have shifted the reader into an arena of false illumination, for they are looking for postmodern research where it does not exist (and in the process have overlooked key issues and key texts).

 

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Final Exercise

As a final exercise in postmodern critique, see if you can offer a challenge to each of the three sentences in the paragraph from Alvesson and Skoldberg quoted above. My breakdown is given below.


‘Postmodernist discussion of – or attempts at – empirical research are rather limited in character.’

I have suggested that ‘postmodernism’ is not a unitary view or a coherent movement, but is made up conflicting schools of thought typically grouped together only because they all have a common point of divergence – modernism. Of course, ‘modernism’ is also a contested notion, not a unitary view.

Postmodernists challenge the notion of ‘empirical’ research. What does this mean? It seems to assume that there is a neutral, concrete or literal set of phenomena upon which the researcher merely sets his or her sights, and gets to work. This fails to recognise a central argument of social constructionism (and an aspect of research in the postmodern) - that the meaning of the world ‘out there’ is constructed, not revealed. The very notion of ‘empirical’ is just such a construction. Some of the best postmodern academic study is in the sociology of science, where a central concern is the social construction of ‘facts’ (Latour, 1996). In summary ‘empirical’ is a complex, problematic notion.

Education researchers in the postmodern work on ‘texts’, but ‘texts’, as I have explained, are ‘empirical’ as artefacts, and as practitioners’ lived identities embodied in social practices.


‘There are a number of general arguments about how not to conduct, for instance, ethnographic research, but more concrete guidelines or examples of how it should be pursued are as yet few and far between.’

I hope that the illustrative examples in this component show how to pursue, at a minimum: a constructionist inquiry, a life history emphasising identity constructions rather than personal-confessional modes, a postmodern interview, a postmodern validity check, and a discourse evaluation.


‘Most authors calling themselves postmodernists maintain a negative approach in this context: like the critical theorists, they are much more articulate and specific about what they are against than about what they are for.’

Postmodern inquiry of varying types does engage in a healthy criticism particularly of the unacknowledged assumptions of modernism, but this is a stereotype. That postmodernists avoid truth claims, challenge grand or explanatory theory, are acutely reflexive in their awareness, and follow Keats’ axiom of ‘negative capability’ (to avoid ‘irritable’ striving after certainty and reason, or to challenge ‘closure’ because alternatives will exist) does not constitute a ‘negative’ approach but offers a healthy scepticism as a rejoinder to modernism’s desire for totalising explanations.


As for only working on ‘texts’ or ‘narrow social phenomena’ in textual form, the critique of Alvesson and Skoldberg is here very skewed. The ‘linguistic turn’ that characterises the entry of postmodernist thinking is presaged in Nietzsche’s writings at the end of the nineteenth century. This view suggests that the meanings humans ascribe to phenomena are embedded in language and constructed and negotiated through discourse (the historically contingent and culturally contingent use of language as social practices, including the non-verbal and the world of material artefacts). Second, what passes as a claim for ‘truth’ or ‘knowledge’ is a disguised claim for power. Third, social practices do not so much involve ready made, stable identities getting stuck in to some activity, but produce plural and unstable identities through such practices.

Education research in the postmodern is concerned with production of meanings in social practices (of which research itself is an example) that are located in historical and cultural contexts. Such a concern with the widest possible definition of discourse does not support Alvesson’s and Skoldberg’s reductive view. To put it another way, postmodernists see persons as ‘texts’ (and are specifically interested in how their identities are ‘storied’ and may be ‘read’), social practices as ‘texts’ to be ‘read’, and material artefacts as ‘texts’ to be ‘read’. Education research in the postmodern not only offers various ways of ‘reading’ (such as exploring how knowledge and identities are produced, or meanings for phenomena are negotiated), but also ways of ‘writing’, where the social practice of research itself is reflexively interrogated.

 

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Last gasp

Postmodernism is often referred to amiably by its adherents as ‘Po-Mo’. Here is an extract from ‘A Po-Mo Quiz’ passed on to me by one of my students:

Q. How many Po-mos does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. (Pick one from three)

  1. None, because the lightbulb, which both typifies the weary technological inventiveness of a dead modernism and also serves as the iconic representation of modern thought (‘idea’) is utterly meaningless in a postmodern world

  2. None, they wouldn’t bother because it’s essentialist and ahistorical to think that you can’t see in the dark

  3. None, the Enlightenment is dead!

 

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Part Five:

Tasks

 

(NB: Only for those University of Plymouth students undertaking the ‘Research in Education’ module as part of the preparation for the submission of a MA dissertation proposal)

Tasks, once completed, should be sent to resined@plymouth.ac.uk, making clear:

  • which component it is from;
  • which task it is (B or C);
  • the name of your dissertation supervisor.

It will then be passed on to the component leader (and copied to your supervisor). The component leader will get back to you with comments and advice which we hope will be educative and which will help you in preparing your dissertation proposal once you are ready. (Remember that these tasks are formative and that it is the proposal which forms the summative assessment for the MERS501 (resined) module.) This email address is checked daily so please use it for all correspondence about RESINED other than that directed to particular individuals for specific reasons.

 


Before undertaking either of the tasks (B or C) you might like to tackle the introductory task below (though it is not compulsory) ...  

Click here to access, print off and read Alison Lee’s article:

Lee, A. (1992) Poststructuralism and educational research: Some categories and issues. Issues in Educational Research. 2:1, pp. 1-12.

Make critical notes on the following points:

  • Can Lee’s insights be generalised to your own subject/discipline area?
  • Note carefully each aspect of Lee’s research methodology, and how she links method with her chosen theoretical framework. How does poststructuralism inform her methods?
  • Lee offers a feminist research approach. To what extent does this illuminate her chosen topic for research, and to what extent does her feminist model construct rather than reveal a ‘reality’?

 


Task B (Data Collection)

This task will involve a life history approach (see Case Study 2).

  • Gain permission from a colleague to carry out a short (30 minute) life history interview. Decide whether the focus should be on the present, on a career scan leading up to the present, or a mixture of both. Decide on whether you want an open-ended interview with prompts, or a structured interview, in which case write out your prompt questions (a maximum of six).
  • Let your colleague know that the interview transcript will be confidential, kept in a safe place, is the property of the interviewee, and participation in the research can be withdrawn at any time. Carry out a short life history interview on the colleague (as this is an exercise, half an hour is adequate). Audiotape the interview.
  • Transcribe the audiotape (this will take you some time, but it will immerse you in the data). Read the transcript over several times.
  • Write out your reflections on preparing for and conducting the interview (gathering the data) focusing on how you questioned, how you collaborated, how the interviewee responded, where the interview was held, and any other factors you think were important.
  • In what sense, if any, were you imaginative as an interviewer? Note briefly a possible ‘new imaginary’ of interviewing – how might the interview in question have been conducted differently? Could there have been attention to the form of the interview, such as the quality of conversation and dialogue (the aesthetic dimension), or to the interviewer’s reflexive awareness (the ethical dimension)?

 

 


Task C (Data Analysis)

This task will involve a discourse evaluation (see Case Study 5)..

Using your life history interview transcript (from TASK B) as data:

How do you make sense of the interview transcript without resorting to coding or thematic analysis, but focusing upon:

  • the overall narrative not as a representation of reality but as a construction of identity (resisting treating the account as a personal confessional narrative but seeing how the account demonstrates construction of identity and identity management, with reference to socialised and marginalised identities)?
  • a rewriting of the transcript as a piece of imaginative research writing on your behalf?
  • a ‘communicative’ validity check on your rewriting of the interview in a subsequent collaborative meeting with the interviewee (note his or her responses to your representation of the life story)?


Task D (Data Collection & Data Analysis - counts as one RESINED component task, of either kind)

Discourse evaluation (see Case Study 5).

Your overall objective is to closely interrogate aspects of an education practice to make the familiar strange, asking ‘what are the conditions of possibility for the emergence and continuation of the practice’ and ‘how is the practice resisted’? Remember to focus – you cannot be comprehensive in a discourse evaluation and can only do what is feasible.

  1. Choose a central aspect of your practice, or characterise your practice in general. Write a paragraph on this.
  2. Now characterise your practice as if you were an anthropologist visiting an unknown tribe and attempting to get a picture of its daily life. In broad terms, write out what is ‘sayable’ and ‘do-able’, and what cannot be said and done. How is the boundary between the two ‘policed’? As you do this, check how much of what can be said and done has been rationalised, naturalised, or become habitual and has remained unacknowledged.
  3. Articulate the discourse(s) at work through identifying key metaphors offered in the rhetoric, and the key rules and regulations at work.
  4. How does the discourse construct or produce, and maintain (regulate) practice identities?
  5. Can you track to any extent how the discourse came to be established (historical context)?

 

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Part Six

Composite Bibliography

 

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Atkinson, E. (2000b) The Promise of Uncertainty: education, postmodernism and the politics of possibility. International Studies in Sociology of Education. 10:1, pp. 81-99.

Atkinson, E. (2000c) What can postmodern thinking do for educational research? Paper presented at AERA, New Orleans.

Badmington, N. (ed) (2000) Posthumanism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Balsamo, A. (1997) Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. London: Duke University Press.

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Bernauer, J. and Rasmussen, D. (eds) (1994) The Final Foucault. London: The MIT Press.

Best, S. and Kellner, D. (1991) Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Billington, T. (1996) Pathologizing children: Psychology in education and acts of government. In E. Burman et al (eds) Psychology, Discourse, Practice: From Regulation to Resistance. London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 37-54.

Blake, N., Smeyers, P., Smith, R., and Standish, P. (1998) Thinking Again: Education After Postmodernism. London: Bergin & Garvey.

Bleakley, A. (1989) Earth’s Embrace: Archetypal Psychology’s Challenge to the Growth Movement. Bath: Gateway Books.

Bleakley, A. (1998) Learning as an Aesthetic Practice: Motivation Through Beauty in Higher Education. In S. Brown, S. Armstrong and G. Thompson (eds) Motivating Students. London: Kogan Page, pp. 165-172.

Bleakley, A. (1999) From Reflective Practice to Holistic Reflexivity. Studies in Higher Education. 24:3, pp. 315-330.

Bleakley, A. (2000a) Writing With Invisible Ink: narrative, confessionalism and reflective practice. Reflective Practice. 1:1, pp. 11-24.

Bleakley, A. (2000b) Adrift Without a Life Belt: reflective self-assessment in a post-modern age. Teaching in Higher Education. 5:4, pp. 405-18.

Bleakley, A. (2000c) From Lifelong Learning to Lifelong Teaching: Teaching as a call to style. Teaching in Higher Education

Bleakley, A. (2000d) The Animalizing Imagination: Totemism, Textuality and Ecocriticism. London: Macmillan.

Bleakley, A. (2002a) Pre-registration house officers and ward-based learning: a ‘new apprenticeship’ model. Medical Education, 36:1, pp. 9-15.

Bleakley, A. (2002b) Teaching as Hospitality: The Gendered ‘Gift’ and Teaching Style. In: G. Howie and A. Tauchert (eds) Gender, Teaching and Research in Higher Education: Challenges for the 21st Century. London: Ashgate, pp. 73-85.

Bleakley, A. (2003) Constructions of Creativity. (Forthcoming, Studies in Higher Education).

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Briton, D. (1996) The Modern Practice of Adult Education: A Post-Modern Critique. New York: State University of New York Press.

Brodribb, S. (1993) Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism. Melbourne: Spinifex.

Bruner, J. (1986) Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. London: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1996) The Culture of Education. London: Harvard University Press.

Carlson, D. and Apple, M.W. (eds) (1998) Power/Knowledge/Pedagogy: The Meaning of Democratic Education in Unsettling Times. Oxford: Westview Press.

Cixous, H. and Calle-Gruber, M. (1997) Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing. London: Routledge.

Clifford, J. and Marcus, G.E. (eds) (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. London: University of California Press. (Introduction by James Clifford: ‘Partial Truths’)

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2000, 5th ed) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Connelly, F.M. and Clandinin, D.J. (1999) Narrative inquiry. In J.P. Keeves and G. Lakomski (eds) Issues in Educational Research (2nd ed). Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd., pp. 132-40.

Cook, K.K. (1996) Medical Identity: My DNA/Myself. In: S. Smith and J. Watson (eds) Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography. London: University of Minnesota Press, pp.63-88.

Cox, C.B. and Boyson, R. (eds) (1975) Black Papers. London: J.M. Dent.

Debord, G. (1983) The Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red.

Derrida, J. (1990) Writing and Difference. London: Routledge.

Doll, W.E. (1993) A post-modern perspective on curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press.

Eakin, P.J. (1999) How Our Lives Become Stories. New York: Cornell University Press.

Eco, U. (1999) Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition. London: Secker & Warburg.

Eisner, E. (1991) The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practices. New York: Macmillan.

Elias, N. (2000, 2nd ed) The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.

Evetts, J. (1990) Women in Primary Teaching. London: Unwin Hyman.

Evetts, J. (1991) The experience of secondary headship selection: continuity and change. Educational Studies. 17:3, pp. 285-94.

Fairclough, N. (1992) Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Foucault, M. (1971) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (1974) The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock Publications.

Foucault, M. (1989) The Order of Things. London: Routledge.

Gallagher, K. and Greenblatt, S. (2000) Practicing New Historicism. London: The University of Chicago Press.

Gasche, R. (1986) The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection. London: Harvard University Press.

Gergen, K.J. (1999) An Invitation to Social Construction. London: Sage.

Gergen, K.J. (2001) Social Construction in Context. London: Sage.

Gherardi, S. and Turner, B. (2002) Real Men Don’t Collect Soft Data. In A.M. Huberman and M.B. Miles (eds) The Qualitative Researcher’s Companion. London: Sage, pp. 81-100.

Glesne, C. and Peshkin, A. (1992) Becoming Qualitative Researchers: An Introduction. London: Longman.

Goodson, I. (ed) (1992) Studying Teachers’ Lives. London: Routledge.

Halsey, A.H., Lauder, H., Brown, P. and Wells, A.S. (eds) (1997) Education: Culture, Economy, Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Haraway, D. J. (1997) Modest Witness at Second Millenium: Female Man Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. London: Routledge.

Hargreaves, A. (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers’ Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age. London: Cassell.

Hargreaves, A. (1997) Restructuring Restructuring: Postmodernity and the Prospects for Educational Change. In A.H. Halsey et al (eds) Education: Culture, Economy, Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 338-54.

Hatch, J.A. and Wisniewski, R. Life history and narrative: questions, issues and exemplary works. In J.A. Hatch and R. Wisniewski (eds) Life History and Narrative. London: The Falmer Press, pp. 113-35.

Hillman, J. (1983) Healing Fiction. New York: Station Hill Press.

Hillman, J. (1992) Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: HarperCollins.

Hunter, K.M. (1991) Doctors’ Stories: The Narrative Construction of Medical Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Illich, I. (1985) H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. Dallas, TX: The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

Irigaray, L. (1985) This Sex Which is Not One. New York: Cornell University Press.

Jameson, F. (1992) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London: Verso.

Jaworski, A. and Coupland, N. (eds) (1999) The Discourse Reader. London: Routledge.

Jencks, C. (1992) (ed) The Post-Modern Reader. London: Academy Editions.

Jencks, C. (1995 5th ed) What is Post-Modernism? London: Academy Editions.

Jipson, J. and Paley, N. (1997) Daredevil Research: Re-creating Analytic Practice. New York: Peter Lang.

Kendall, G. and Wickham, G. (1999) Using Foucault’s Methods. London: Sage.

Kincheloe, J.L. (1993) Toward a Critical Politics of Teacher Thinking: Mapping the Postmodern. London: Bergin & Garvey.

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Lather, P. (1986) ‘Issues of validity in openly ideological research: Between a rock and a soft place’, Interchange, 17:4, pp. 63-84.

Lather, P. (1991) Getting Smart: Feminist Research and Pedagogy With/In the Postmodern. London: Routledge.

Lather, P. (1993) ‘Fertile obsession: Validity after poststructuralism’, The Sociological Quarterly, 34:4, pp. 673-93.

Latour, B. (1996) Aramis: or the Love of Technology. London: Harvard University Press.

Lee, A. (1992) Poststructuralism and educational research: Some categories and issues. Issues in Educational Research. 2:1, pp. 1-12.  Click here to access, print off and read Alison Lees article

Marcus, G.E. (1998) What Comes (Just) After "Post"?: The Case of Ethnography. In: N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues. London: Sage, pp. 383-406.

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McLaren, P. (1997) Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Pedagogies of Dissent for the New Millenium. Oxford: Westview Press.

Measor, I. and Sikes, P. (1992) Visiting lives: ethics and methodology in life history. In I. Goodson (ed) Studying Teachers’ Lives. London: Routledge.

Mills, S. (1997) Discourse. London: Routledge.

Mourad, R.P. (1997) Postmodern Philosophical Critique and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Higher Education. London: Bergin & Garvey.

Munro, P. (1991) Multiple "I’s": Dilemmas of Life History Research. Conference paper presentation, AERA, Chicago.

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Paechter, C., Edwards, R., Harrison, R. and Twining, P. (eds) (2001) Learning, Space and Identity. London: Paul Chapman/ The Open University.

Paechter, C., Preedy, M., Scott, D. and Soler, J. (eds) (2001) Knowledge, Power and Learning. London: Paul Chapman/ The Open University.

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Pillow, W. (2000) Deciphering Attempts to Decipher Postmodern Educational Research. Educational Researcher, 29(5), pp. 21-24.  Click here see a copy of this paper.

Pinar, W.F. and Reynolds, W.M. (eds) (1992) Understanding Curriculum as Phenomenological and Deconstructed Text. New York: Teachers College Press.

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Poster, M. (1990) The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: Sage.

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Ryan, M. (1989) Politics and Culture: Working Hypotheses for a Post-revolutionary Society. London: Macmillan.

Scheurich, J.J. (1997) Research Method in the Postmodern. London: Falmer Press.

Schwandt, T.A. (1998) Constructivist, Interpretivist Approaches to Human Inquiry. In: N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) The Landscape of Qualitative Research: Theories and Issues. London: Sage, pp. 221-259.

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Sears, J. (1992) Researching the other/ searching for self: qualitative research on (homo)sexuality in education. Theory Into Practice. XXXI:2, pp. 147-156.

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Slattery, P. (1997) Postmodern Curriculum Research and Alternative Forms of Data Presentation. http://www.quasar.ualberta.ca/cpin/cpinfolder/papers/slattery.htm

Smith, L.M. (1998) Biographical Method. In: N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. London: Sage, pp.184-224.

Smith, S. and Watson, J. (eds) (1996) Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography. London: University of Minnesota Press.

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St Pierre, E.A. (2000) The Call for Intelligibility in Postmodern Educational Research. Educational Researcher, 29(5), pp. 25-28.  Click here to see a copy of this paper.

Stanley, W.B. (1992) Curriculum for Utopia: Social Reconstructionism and Critical Pedagogy in the Postmodern Era. New York: State University of New York Press.

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Usher, R., Bryant, I. and Johnston, R. (1997) Adult Education and the Postmodern Challenge. London: Routledge.

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Usher, R. (2001) Telling a Story about Research and Research as Story-telling. In C. Paechter et al (eds) Knowledge, Power and Learning. London: Paul Chapman, pp. 47-55.

Usher, R. and Edwards, R. (1994) Postmodernism and Education. London: Routledge.

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Winter, G. (2000) A Comparative Discussion of the Notion of ‘Validity’ in Qualitative and Quantitative Research. The Qualitative Report. 4:3/4.  http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR4-3/winter.html

 

Beginning Research | Action Research | Case Study | Interviews | Observation Techniques | Education Research in the Postmodern

Evaluation Research in Education | NarrativePresentations | Qualitative Research | Quantitative Methods | Questionnaires | Writing up Research

 

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