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The professional knowledge base for teaching : a philosophical justification for a plurality of ways of knowing

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  • Education
  • Philosophy


This thesis discusses how the related fields of educational inquiry and teacher education have been captured by a foundational view of what constitutes acceptable research methodology and adequate professional knowledge for teaching. The positivistic paradigm of educational inquiry employs the scientific method to obtain general laws explaining classroom phenomena. These generalizations are then taught to teachers as technical rules for sound pedagogy. This positivist/technicist paradigm has maintained its hegemonic status in education despite recent-challeages from competing research paradigms, and charges that general rules often fail to guide practice in unique contexts. I begin by demonstrating how the foundationalism of the positivist/technicist paradigm in education is a manifestation of the modern rational-scientific quest for certainty: a movement which cleaned the slate of 'unscientific' propositions, and advocated the utilization of rational synthesis and scientific method to build a systematic body of positive knowledge. Next, I show how logical empiricists have misrepresented the beginnings of modernity and the development of science in order to sustain this modern worldview. Following that, three 20th century versions of scientific rationalism are examined to show how each successive tradition weakened the certainty of scientific knowledge. Next, insurmountable impediments to certain knowledge are discussed to demonstrate how rationalism has recently been challenged by a more humanistic view of science and philosophy. Finally, the postpositivistic philosophy of science is examined as a justification for the existence of a plurality of paradigms in educational research, and a multitude of knowledge forms to guide teaching practice.

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