Methodological fit : the glass slipper of classroom-based action research

Just as the handsome prince could not marry the mysterious Cinderella until he’d found the perfect fit for the glass slipper, educational researchers find it difficult to engage in practice based research in any meaningful way, until they find the methodological approach that best fits them and their way of thinking.

In my work supporting and supervising people who have chosen to engage in classroom-based research, I find that frequently, many are employing a research approach that does not suit them or how they experience the world. Many are shoe-horned into methodologies that don’t fit them by their programme provider and others choose methodologies that similarly, just don’t fit or suit them. Many of us already might have an idea how painful walking in ill-fitting glass slippers might be, but it is my belief that engaging in a research approach that is not commensurate with the researcher’s ontological and epistemological commitments might be equally as painful. It is sad that so many teacher/researcher’s efforts at gaining insight into their practice and doing some meaningful research, can be thwarted from the outset.

I think that much of the pain that is felt from an ill-fitting methodological choice can be pinpointed to a lack of ontological and epistemological awareness.

So, I wonder why all classroom research programmes cannot prioritise some study on ontology and epistemology and allow our educators to develop a self-awareness around their own sense of ontology and epistemology, before they commit to a research methodology for a post-graduate dissertation? (During my own masters studies, my class gasped audibly when the lecturer used the words ‘ontology and epistemology’ for the first time. The intrepid lecturer paused in his deliberations, peered over his glasses and said: ‘You pay the big bucks for a programme like this; you get to use the big words!’).

I also wonder why we can’t give our researcher/educators an opportunity to try out various research methodologies in terms of (tiny) small-scale, work-based projects to see how the various methodologies fit into their ontological and epistemological perspectives, before they commit to a research methodology for a larger and more long-term post-graduate dissertation?

Wouldn’t it make our researchers’ work more meaningful for them and more worthwhile for education in general?

So remember:
• It’s always a good idea to handle your glass slippers and get the feel of them, first and
• you should try all kinds of slippers on before you choose one pair.

But when you do find your perfect fit… all kinds of magic can happen!

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