David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Philosophy of Education 42 (s1):63-86 (2008)
This paper attempts to take seriously the claim that we can look for causes in order to understand the reality we live (in), and focuses therefore primarily on 'the natural world'. It will be argued that even if we were to fully endorse the programme of looking for antecedents, a dominant driver for many educational researchers, this would still not solve the problems they commonly set out to address. It will illustrate the problem of contextualisation in using an example of educational research that uses the methodology of the randomised field trial. In these kind of studies the paradigm of causality and its experimental laboratory approach is modified to incorporate the exigencies of real life situations. The claim that these studies too do not put one in a position to derive straightforward conclusions for policy makers or more generally for educational practitioners will be substantiated. Finally, some concluding remarks will be offered that indicate what may be expected from large-scale population studies and what their epistemological basis is.
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