Meg Maguire – Keynote Abstract for #seraconf19

Doing things Differently: creative visions for trying to do socially just educational research

Meg Maguire, Centre for Public Policy Studies, King’s College London


In this presentation I want to think about a set of issues involved in trying to do creative, inclusive and socially just education research. I will draw on two education research projects. The first project, which has recently been completed, is an interview-based study of twelve Education academics who are ‘staying on’ post retirement. The second is a major ESRC funded investigation that has just started. “Opportunity, equality and agency in England’s new VET landscape: a longitudinal study of post-16 transitions”  (ES/S015752/1) will explore how England’s vocational education and training (VET) system could better support the transitions into further education, training and work of those young people aged 16-20 not taking the university route (c.60% of 18-19 year olds, DfE/ONS 2018). Drawing on these two studies, the intention is to ask questions about what is meant by socially just research – that is, research that is both socially just in the way it is carried out (for example, doing research with participants instead of to them and including marginalized voices) and that seeks to contribute to more socially just practices in the future.

Specifically, I want to explore some questions around designing and planning research in order to do things differently and produce more creative visions for trying to do socially just educational research. How do we respond to the complexities involved in paying attention to diverse intersecting marginalities alongside competing dimensions of social justice, such as distribution and recognition?  How do we engage in a more meaningful form of co-production with participants that avoids tokenism, given both time and resource limits?  And how, more generally, do we negotiate the tension between addressing ‘the concerns of efficiency and those of social justice’ (Ball 2006, p. 22)?

There is a danger in ‘ceding too much’ to the view that education research should have practical utility (Whitty, 2006. p. 172); there is also a danger in thinking that more socially just research, without any wider political commitment to social change, will ‘make education better’. But trying to do ‘research differently’ and taking a more creative approach towards our research methods and design may be part of  a prefigurative politics where we start to make more real ‘the world we want to see’ (Cornish, et al, 2016, p. 114).

Ball, S. J. (2006) Education Policy and Social Class, London and New York: Routledge.

British Education Research Association (BERA) (2013) Why Educational Research Matters. A briefing to inform future funding decisions, London: BERA.

Cornish, F., Haaken, J., Moskovitz, L. and Jackson, S. (2016) Rethinking prefigurative politics: introduction to the special thematic section. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 4 (1). pp. 114-127.

Department for Education/National Statistics (2018) Participation rates in higher education 2006 to 2017. DfE/ONS.

Whitty, G. (2006) Education(al) research and education policy making: is conflict inevitable?, British Educational Research Journal, 32 (2). pp. 159-176.

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