Volume 11, Number 1 (2016) Is “Best Practices” Research in Education Insufficient or even Misdirected?



For decades the research agenda for identifying “best practices” for reforming education has been structured around testing hypotheses of either effectiveness or prediction of outcomes.  Within the quantitative approach researchers have used a variety of traditional causal and correlational designs to examine relationships between specific measurable variables. Researchers have also used qualitative approaches to examine implementation of such practices in more depth through observations in the field, interviews with students and educators, and content analysis of curriculum and student work.
 However, educational research seeking the best practices can often ignore or minimize the mechanisms that generate the phenomenon studied.  From school-to-prison and mass incarceration, racial-gender disproportionality in special and vocational education, to school dropout rates, correlations abound, but they don't by themselves explain the phenomenon.  Good intentions frame much educational research, but can over-dramatize correlations at the expense of deeper explanation.

This volume seeks papers that exemplify the "paradoxical" nature of educational research.   Submissions should focus on two things: the intentions or motivations that (often) inform educational research, but where the results or outcomes are unintended or unanticipated.  We seek papers that go beyond descriptions of educational issues, however detailed, as well as beyond explanations that repeat initial intentions or motivations.  Papers should reveal and discuss the specific forces and mechanisms that generate the topic of analysis, be it educational practices (teaching, assessment), outcomes (achievement, court decisions, enrollments) or events (protests and emergent social movements, school shootings, drop outs) that are the subject of the paper.