Troubling criteria: a critical commentary on Furlong and Oancea's framework for assessing educational research.
British Educational Research Journal, 34(6),
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Furlong and Oancea's influential framework for assessing the products of applied and practice-based educational inquiry raises some important issues about the criteria by which research should be judged. They begin by outlining the current significance of the issue, and some of the uncertainties surrounding the definition of applied and practice-based inquiry. They then present four sets of criteria by which such research can be assessed, covering, in shorthand terms, epistemic, technical, practical and economic dimensions. The issue of assessment criteria has recently been highlighted by public criticism of the quality of educational research, by attempts to incorporate qualitative work into systematic reviews, as well as by the continuing disputes generated by major methodological divisions among qualitative researchers. In this article, several aspects of the framework offered by Furlong and Oancea are examined. To start with, there is a discussion of the mode of argument they employ, and of how they define 'applied and practice-based educational research'. It is argued that explicit justification is not presented for some key, and controversial, elements of the argument. One of these is the idea that a new social contract is required between educational researchers and the funders and non-academic users of their work. The nature of the proposed contract is examined, through a discussion of to whom educational researchers should be accountable, how, and for what. It is argued that the typology of research offered by Furlong and Oancea is inadequate, and an alternative is proposed. The ways that the authors formulate the four sets of criteria by which research should be judged are also examined in some detail. It is suggested that there are potentially serious conflicts amongst these criteria, and that by no means all of them are appropriate standards in terms of which educational researchers, of any kind, should be held accountable.
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