A Philosophical Perspective on the Utility of Quantitative Methods in Educational Research
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This chapter examines quantitative educational research methods with a view to identifying how the utility of this kind of research can be improved. The paradigmatic considerations of ontology, epistemology and methodology are viewed from a philosophical perspective. A combination of inductive and deductive logic is used to assay evidence, develop arguments and counter-arguments, and to substantiate claims made about quantitative and qualitative research. The substantive content of the chapter concerns information on philosophical inquiry, quantitative and qualitative research approaches in education, and the analytic techniques specific to quantitative educational research. The philosophical critique of quantitative methods contained in this chapter highlights limitations of the method in dealing with the temporal and socio-cultural nature of education. This focuses on a bias in the method where more attention is given to methodological issues than to those concerning ontology and epistemology. However, a detailed examination of specific aspects of the method as it is currently applied to investigate more 'subjective' (e.g. socio-cultural) educational problems suggests that the limitations and bias could be addressed without detracting from the inherent scientific rigour of the method. This is viewed as achievable in two ways. Firstly, by incorporating philosophical considerations in the conceptualisation of theoretical models and the specification of research hypotheses. Secondly, by exploiting fully multi-variate techniques, statistical modelling techniques, and other recent developments in the construction of attitude scales and analysis of rating scale data.
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