Long Line: Conceptual versus Empirical

This post is part of a series of posts pulled from a piece of writing I completed in November 2012. For more information on this series, see this post.

Context | Looking Back | Transformation | Looking Back at the Looking Back | Questions | On ethics | Letting Go of Nothing | Taking on Subject and Objects | On meaning making | Why the language of causality troubles me | Conceptual versus Empirical | Futuring | Temporality and Time | Brief Note | Back to Time | What to do with the Past | Some tools to help us be | An example from my past | Avoiding Labels | The educational turn | Being and curriculum | Curriculum of Being | Curriculum Futuring | On dispositions as ways of being | Being and pedagogy | Being and technology | Being and the body | References

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Conceptual versus Empirical

While I find Kieran’s piece relatively abstract, I can see the value and merit of his argument (observation?) in relation to my present inquiry. At the risk of offending him, I would summarize his position in this way: There has been an awful lot of “educational research” done that has not really revealed anything we did not already know. Or, if we did not already know it, if we had spent some time thinking through our questions, we would have realized that the answers (solutions) were already there, staring us in the face. Therefore, rather than spending so much time and energy on research that (apparently) needs empirical work, we should turn our attention to the conceptual first and spend our time and money there (I think he uses the word analytical, my preference is conceptual). Kieran’s argument (which repeats and evolves over the years but remains basically the same) resonates with me as I review educational literature and pose to myself questions such as: “As opposed to what alternative?” “What is this solution contingent on?” “Is this even a solution?” And while I will own that this next part is incredible cynical, I do not think it means anything. Honestly, I have come to participate in literature reviews as games. As I pick up an article I silently think to myself: “Alright, author so-and-so. Surprise me.” This “Research has shown that” game that Kieran names is shockingly evident.*

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* Egan, K. (2004). Getting it wrong from the beginning. Yale University Press.

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