A rationale for mixed methods (integrative) research programmes in education

Journal of Philosophy of Education 42 (2):287-305 (2008)
Abstract
Recent research shows that research programmes (quantitative, qualitative and mixed) in education are not displaced (as suggested by Kuhn) but rather lead to integration. The objective of this study is to present a rationale for mixed methods (integrative) research programs based on contemporary philosophy of science (Lakatos, Giere, Cartwright, Holton, Laudan). This historical reconstruction of episodes from physical science (spanning a period of almost 300 years, 17 th to 20 th century) does not agree with the positivist image of science. Quantitative data (empirical evidence) by itself, does not facilitate progress (despite widespread belief to the contrary), neither in the physical sciences nor in the social sciences (education) A historical reconstruction shows that both Piaget and Pascual-Leone's research programs in cognitive psychology, follow the Galilean idealisation quite closely, similar to the research programs of Newton, Mendeleev, Einstein, Thomson, Rutherford, Millikan and Perl in the physical sciences. This relationship does not imply that researchers in education have to emulate research in the physical sciences. A major argument in favor of mixed methods (integrative) research programs is that it provides a rationale for hypotheses, theories, guiding assumptions and presuppositions to compete and provide alternatives. Similar to the physical sciences, this proliferation of hypotheses leads to controversies and rivalries, and thus facilitates the decision making process of the scientific community. It is concluded that mixed methods research programs (not paradigms) in education can facilitate the construction of robust strategies, provided we let the problem situation (as studied by practicing researchers) decide the methodology.
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