E-journal of All India Association for Educational Research (EJAIAER)

 

    VOL.20                            Nos:  3 & 4                 September & December, 2008

 

EPISTEMOLOGICAL ISSUES RELATED QUALITY RESEARCH IN EDUCATION

(Presidential Address at AIAER Annual Conference 2008)

 

S.P. Malhotra

Dear friends and colleagues, I welcome you all to this conference. Your presence in the conference shows your concern for research in the field of Education.

 

Friends! Research means investigating ideas and uncovering useful knowledge. It is personally rewarding and socially beneficial. Research quality is an epistemological issue (related to the study of knowledge). By quality knowledge is meant the knowledge gathered by appropriate tools and analysed without bias. The quality based knowledge is important to librarians (who manage information resources), decision-makers (who apply information), jurists (who judge people on evidence) and journalists (who disseminate information to a broad audience) and above all to the human beings for furtherance of development. That is why it is hammered on the scientists and analysts to create reliable information. The education scientists are therefore urged with concern that they should create such knowledge so as to draw out policies to shape the future generations. The present conference has been organised with this concern. It is hoped that the galaxy of scholars and experts will delve deep into the issues related to quality research.

 

Issue of quality in research in education has been pressurising the minds of the teachers and Researchers along with policy planners since the first Ph.D. in education was awarded by the Bombay University in 1943 to Dr. D.V. Chikermane for his thesis entitled “Factor Analysis of Arithmetic Ability.” To this date nearly sixty five years have passed and more than twelve thousand thesis and projects have been added to this area of study. Instead of one university, now there are more than hundred universities and research institutions who have been putting their might to promote educational research in Education. During these years, grammar of research has evolved with respect to research techniques and complex research designs. One can also observe a change in documentation process wherein many individuals and institutions have come forward to do the task of documentation. Even the concept of dissemination of research has been introduced in the area of education. Efforts have been made to interpret research findings for regular teaching learning process as well as policy planners under “What Research Says to Classroom Teacher”. Introduction of Internet (that makes unfiltered information more easily available to the researcher) has made the task of generating knowledge easier thus raising the concern for quality.

 

In such a situation,  I will like to touch upon five major aspects that can bring change in quality of research in the discipline of Education. The first and foremost thing is that let us accept the existing realities of the world. Privatisation has entered educational system, where the emphasis is on production and priorities are result oriented. Commitment of Private institutions to business has to be accepted. This has an implication that more people will opt for research at Ph. D. level. Obvious reason is that there are more job opportunities in the private sector than the government institutions. Again the chances of promotion are ample in the private institutions than the government system. Large number of men and women therefore will aspire to get doctorate degree for getting the elation of being knowledge workers. Added to it, is the enthusiasm of teacher educators, who in order to be the supervisors will be another addition to the army of researchers. The existing teacher education colleges or the University departments of education in the government aided sector may not be able to accommodate all the aspirant researchers and enthusiast supervisors. But the pressure of numbers cannot be negated. The obvious resultant would be mass production of Ph.D.s. Question is - “Does Mass production Necessarily Mean the End of Quality?” The answer to this question may be both “Yes” and “No”.  “Yes” in the sense that when large number of researches are taken up, the quality control measures become weak and monitoring does not remain feasible. On the other hand “No” to the said question means that if the process of discovering knowledge is streamlined, the mass production of Ph.D. or research dissertations will add to knowledge generation activities. There is a need to make the grammar of research quite simple and free from pedanticism. Several terms in research grammar should be well defined so that the researchers understand the meaning easily. The issues related to research grammar like research design, sampling process, hypothesising or statistical designs have to be made streamlined in such a fashion that the researchers do not remain confused. Along with quantitative research, qualitative aspects of research should also be made part of the research process. The research questions should be prompted through the process followed by the researcher. Analysis and synthesis should be made part of the routine teaching-learning process so that thinking becomes habit of the researchers. Like language grammar, research grammar should also be continuously hammered in the classrooms of Education discipline so that researchers get accustomed to the formalities of research methods. The objective should be to produce knowledge by quality research process and inculcating thinking process in the researchers. The role of thinkers today is to mend the existing system with vision to help the discipline of Education grow with the professionalism so as to produce quality research.

 

Secondly, the need of the time is to prepare road map for research issues so as to delve in to specialised areas of research in education. The researchers have to be trained to perceive the problems and find solutions. The existing scenario of education in the country as well as that of the world should be made clear to the researchers. The teaching learning system as well as curriculum in the discipline of Education should be designed in such a way that the researchers are sensitised to the problems of education. Liston et al (2008) in their editorial pointed out that “Teacher quality research emerges from different conceptual lenses, some less familiar to educators (e.g., labour economies). It is important to grasp varied theories of action implied and to analyze assumptions and values in different research designs.” Research process and research problems in education should be such that these solve societal problems from different angles. For example, the society in India at present is being  faced with problems like violence in schools, sex linked problems at primary stage of education, aspiration of parents that their child should lead the class in every activity, going for tuitions even at pre-primary level, etc. It is the duty of researchers in education to find solutions to these problems. Providing research answers to such problems and giving theoretical base to issues like these will help add quality to research.

 

The answer to such problems is not simple. It involves knowledge of sociology, psychology as well as economics. Therefore thirdly, it may be pointed out that the researchers should be made to explain the issues from various points of view: economic angle, political angle, administrative angle and social angle. The researchers in education have to be oriented to various disciplines so that they can explain their findings properly. Knowledge of various disciplines will help building theoretical base of educational problems and workable solutions will emerge out of these. A research providing solutions to the societal problems is quality research.

 

Fourth aspect to achieve quality in research is to change pedagogy of research. At present, the researchers are provided basic theoretical knowledge of research process at the Masters level and later they get in touch of the supervisors who without putting the researchers to learning research process help them in selecting problems and conducting research. That is why, as has been observed, most of the research problems of the researchers usually match the research thesis of the supervisors (Singh 2008). Further, the pedagogy of research in most of the cases remains up to counselling by the supervisor. There is a need to change this pedagogical process. The institutions will have to take up the challenge by formally introducing inter-scholar and teacher-scholar interaction. Regular seminars in the institutions on research need to be initiated where all research scholars and interested faculty should discuss research problem, methodological issues of research, various implications of findings etc. Each of the sessions in the seminars should be prolonged and well debated and followed by individualised feedback on performance in the seminar. Here, the supervisors have to be careful and should receive feedback for their scholars open mindedly. The interactive sessions may be extended for having views of the outside fraternity (if possible/available). The ideas of the outside faculty are also reflected in research publications. The researchers should be asked to plan their research in such a way that the research can bring out  two or three publications. The feedback received from the editors of the research journals will be most beneficial in improving quality of research. Peer review (critical assessment by qualified experts, preferably reviewers, who do not know author’s  identity) enhances research quality. This does not mean that only peer reviewed documents are useful (much information is distributed in working papers or reports), or that everything published in professional journals is correct (many published ideas are proven false), but this process encourages open debate about issues (Lee and Kamler 2008). Unfortunately, Indian research journals rarely reply back to the researchers for their publications. Even the research journals published by apex bodies of India rarely send back the research papers with feedback to the researcher. There is a need to upgrade research journals in Education.

 

Fifthly, the research institutions should identify their thrust areas or the areas of specialisation wherein the research issues would be identified. It should be left to the research scholars to know their areas of interest and then identify the institutions where they would like to get registered for research. The thrust area identification will provide specified pedagogy of research which will be easily understood by the researchers and reputed institutions will come forward to supply a manpower thoroughly oriented in research techniques. Further, the concentration of research in the selected areas will help in the formation of group of researchers who develop in to teams pursuing common goals. These teams and the inter-team and intra-team interactions will provide major input to bring quality improvement in research.

 

CONCLUSION

In short, it may be mentioned here that most of the universities and institutions in the country and world over are concerned about quality of research. One consequence is that doctoral students are now being encouraged to publish during (and as part of) their candidature. While thesis publication practices are relatively well established in the sciences, students and their supervisors in the social sciences are facing new pressures to produce a range of peer reviewed publications by the time dissertation research is completed. In the days of globalisation and Internet technology, it is required that the research scholars are trained well and the research is conducted in a pragmatic framework. The pedagogy of research needs to be harmonised with the research environment so as to develop a research culture. The research supervisors instead of criticising and finding fault with the system should come  out openly to create a research culture. 

 

REFERENCES

Buch, M.B. (Ed.) (1988) Fourth Survey of Research in Education. National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi,

Lee, A. and Kamler, B. (2008) Bringing pedagogy to doctoral publication. Teaching in Higher Education 13, 5, 511-524.

Liston, D., Borko, H. & Whitcomb, J. (2008) The teacher educator’s role in enhancing teacher quality-Editorial. Journal of Teacher Education 59, 2, 111-115.

Singh, R.P. (2008) Quality assurance in educational research: A quest for possibility. University News 46, 48, 10-18.