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Virtuous Educational Research

Conversations on Ethical Practice


Julian Stern

This is a book of conversations with researchers working across Europe, the USA and Africa. It aims to illuminate the lived reality of educational research on a wide variety of topics, including family life in rural South Africa, support for self-harming students in the UK, character development in the USA and Korea, educational leadership in the UK and China, philosophical analysis of education policy, and much more.
The book is for and about researchers and is built around a set of conversations with the author – a fellow researcher. Researchers work at the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding of the world, and frontiers can be dangerous places. How are the researchers’ personal qualities – virtues such as courage, honesty and kindness – tested and exemplified in their work? The conversations presented here explore the experience of research and ask what qualities are needed, or wished for, in order to successfully face its challenges. There are many books that include lists of what to do and what not to do when carrying out research. Here, in contrast, we find out what really happens and why – and what it takes to keep going.
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Chapter 12 Conclusion: Educational Research in Learning Communities


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Conclusion: Educational Research in Learning Communities


This chapter explores the place and the value of educational research work within universities, and proposes a theory of virtuous educational research, based on all the conversations and analysis already presented. The theory emerges from the conversations: the conversations do not test a theory. This approach has the characteristic of much ‘grounded theory’. Grounded theory was developed by Glaser and Strauss initially through a study in hospitals of awareness of dying (Glaser and Strauss 1965). Patients, their families, nurses, and doctors all had different levels of awareness, and only by listening to and observing those people could a good description and explanation be given of the situation. This, they called a ‘substantive theory’, ‘grounded in research on one particular substantive area (dying)’, which ‘might therefore be taken to apply only to that specific area’ (Glaser and Strauss 1965, p. 275). They continue that this ‘level’ of theory, which at that time was the kind of research that was most common in sociology, might yet have more ‘general’ significance and might ‘contribute to the formulation of new formal theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1965, p. 276). Some social scientists would describe ‘substantive’ theory work in terms of the validity of the account of a specific situation, whilst ‘formal’ theory work would be more generalisable. There are all too many binary divisions confronting researchers: empirical and non-empirical, quantitative and qualitative, scientific and interpretive,...

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