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Engaging with postgraduate research: education, childhood & youth
Engaging with postgraduate research: education, childhood & youth

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3.6 So, is there a resolution to the paradigm wars?

Despite the paradigm wars, as Gage (2007) predicted, no one paradigm has ‘won’ and the influence of positivism has not disappeared. The political climate for education nationally and globally that demands we are accountable for how we educate our citizens, favours easily measurable outcomes such as student academic performance and completion rates. The same is similarly true for debates about the needs of children and young people more generally. This is why there is an appetite for measuring, in particular, the impact of initiatives which can be captured through evaluative designed studies that draw on positivistic approaches.

Government and local authority research funding is heavily weighted at the moment to such evaluative research. This driver for measured outcome can affect how children and young people experience the settings in which they find themselves – such as childcare, youth centres and so on – because of the emphasis on measured outcomes and the expectation that people believe a cause can be linked to an effect. In response, there is a tendency to look for evidence of practices which ‘work’ (Slavin, 2004), and the expectation that people believe a cause can be linked to an effect.

Randomised control trials which are considered the ‘gold standard’ for research in healthcare (Hariton and Locascio, 2018) are now being advocated in countries like the UK as the preferred model for educational research (Torgerson and Torgerson, 2012; Connolly et al., 2017). Psychological and neuroscientific studies, based on scientific, positivistic premises, also have a role to play in generating understandings about children’s development and learning (Goswami, 2006; Bruer, 2016; Juvonen and Gross, 2005). This leads to the question as to how these contributions to knowledge can be recognised in a post-positivist world of research?