In this section of the book, Nel Noddings (1998) discusses the main philosophical assumptions underlying education research as well as social science. This question is of great importance to scholars who examine the nature of scientific knowledge. The main purpose of this chapter is to show how theoretical views on epistemology can affect the activities of social or educational researchers. This paper will be aimed at examining various issues such as the concept of falsifiability and the use of various research paradigms.
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The understanding of these topics is important for designing empirical studies. This is why readers should not overlook these issues. On the whole, it is possible to argue that education research and social science cannot be judged according to the standards that are traditionally applied to naturalistic sciences like physics. It should be kept in mind that these areas of study incorporate questions that cannot be examined with the help of naturalistic research techniques.
Summary and the main arguments
Overall, Nel Noddings’ main point is that researchers should remember that theories and models, which are incorporated in social sciences or educational research, do not always enable scholars to make accurate predictions. In some cases, they should help scholars gain a deeper understanding of various behavioral social, or educational phenomena. The following bullet points give a brief over view of the chapter
- Karl Popper’s views on scientific knowledge;
- The notion of progress in science;
- Qualitative and quantitative methodologies;
- The complexities of narrative research.
At first, the author focuses on Karl Popper’s concept falsifiability. This notion implies that a hypothesis or a theory can be called scientific only if it can be confirmed or refuted in an empirical way (Noddings). As a rule, this requirement is critical for social sciences. Nevertheless, this standard is not always applicable to social sciences or psychology. For instance, one can mention Freudian views on the development of personality. Similarly, Piaget’s model of developmental stages cannot always be falsified. Nevertheless, they have been critical for the development of psychology as a science.
Additionally, the writer discusses the peculiarities of qualitative and quantitative methods. Overall, quantitative methods are primarily aimed at testing a specific hypothesis or a theory. This approach is helpful when it is necessary to make generalizations. In contrast, qualitative approach is more useful when one has to explore the opinions of people and understand their major concerns. Under such circumstances, one often has to adopt a narrative approach. Still, it is not consistent with the principles of fallibility. Furthermore, this approach is not suitable for testing a scientific claim.
Finally, it is critical to remember that the data generated in the course of a social or educational research may give rise to various interpretations. In many cases, this interpretation can depend on the personality of the researcher, especially his/her values and attitudes. In contrast, natural sciences include more objective criteria which prevent a person from the misinterpretation of data.
Overall, this discussion indicates that social and educational sciences differ significantly from other areas of knowledge. In many cases, conventional standards of validity may not be applied to various studies are supposed to explore the experiences and attitudes of respondents. This reading has enabled me to understand the difficulties that educational and social researches have to encounter. These are the main details that can be singled out.
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Noddings, N. (1998). Philosophy of Education. New York, NY: Westview Press.