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Toolkits, Translation Devices and Conceptual Accounts

Essays on Basil Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge


Edited By Parlo Singh, Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel

For over four decades, Basil Bernstein researched ‘the internal organisation and educational context of the school’ specifically, and educational systems generally. In particular, he was interested in the powerful forms of knowledge transmitted through schooling systems; who gained access to these forms of knowledge; how they did so; and with what consequences. His research began by examining the differences between language and communication patterns in the institutions of the home/family and of the school, and extended to examining the structuring of pedagogic discourse from the level of the state to the classroom.
This collection brings together chapters by researchers from South Africa, Portugal, the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, to build on the theoretical concepts developed by Bernstein to explore issues of access and acquisition to school knowledge. In addition, contributors explore the strengths and limitations of Bernstein’s work for understanding the structuring of educational institutions, as well as the potential of the theory for assisting educators to make a difference in the lives of students.


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Chapter 2: Basil Bernstein as an Inspiration for Educational Research: Specific Methodological Approaches 11


INTRODUCTION This chapter clarifies and discusses the research methodology inspired by Basil Bernstein that has guided the extensive studies carried out by the ESSA Group (Sociological Studies of the Classroom) at the University of Lisbon. We discuss how we have used Bernstein’s theory (1990, 2000) to develop this methodology and we highlight the characteristics of a ‘mixed methodology,’ which is applicable to var- ious contexts of educational research. We will start by presenting the epistemolog- ical positioning of the research and show the contribution of the methodology to knowledge production in the fields of both education and research methodologies. We will refer to philosophical and sociological aspects of knowledge construction and to the validity and reliability criteria we have used in our research methodology. We discuss the way we have used Bernstein’s theory in developing the research through a conceptual structure that explains the relations used in the construction of models and instruments of analysis of texts and contexts. We describe the paths we have followed in that construction and explicate the theoretical assumptions and the methodological procedures that have guided their conception. Finally, we pre- sent some exemplary cases to illustrate our procedures. Since the chapter discusses earlier research in some detail1, it may be of more interest to those acquainted with that research. However, we believe that the text C H A P T E R T W O ANA M. MORAIS AND ISABEL P. NEVES Basil Bernstein as an Inspiration for Educational Research Specific Methodological Approaches...

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