Implications of a critical realist perspective in education

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Publication details

Shipway, B 2002, 'Implications of a critical realist perspective in education', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright B Shipway 2002


This thesis explores the implications of a critical realist perspective for the field of education. Areas of consonance and divergence between two traditions of critical realism which have previously not referenced each other are outlined. It is argued that both theological critical realism and “Bhaskarian” critical realism are consonant in terms of their base tenets, and support the concept of a postfoundational, dialectical, stratified and alethic model of truth. The implications of this model and the potential of other critical realist doctrines for education are then examined. It is argued that the combination of critical realism’s epistemological relativism and ontological realism allows it to steer a course between the extremes of other dominant positions, which are ultimately susceptible to either the foundationalism of positivism, or the regression of idealism. It is suggested that critical realism is uniquely positioned to provide an antidote to the problems besetting contemporary educational research – especially in instances where modern and postmodern influences are involved in a recalcitrant, self-sustaining conflict. The postfoundationalist doctrines of critical realism enable it to appropriate deconstructionist research methods, but deploy them from within a realist framework. The implications of a critical realist perspective also go beyond educational research, indicating a conception of education as an emancipatory enterprise. By virtue of its evolutionary, stratified model of human rationality, critical realism raises significant challenges to dominant views of pedagogy and praxis in education. Given its concern with absenting constraints upon human freedom, it is claimed that critical realism reveals the real task of education as facilitating the emergent rationality of students towards emancipation. In light of this emancipatory mission, the possible contribution of critical realism to the field of education is too significant to ignore.

Additional information

Abstract only. Thesis published as

Shipway, B 2010, A critical realist perspective of education, Routledge, New York. ISBN: 9780415487467