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Module 2

Reading educational research

This module is concerned with reading educational research and further thinking about the issues facing Australian schools, or in the case of students from other countries, the issues facing schools in their home country. There is no urgency to settle on an issue for you to explore but if you have one that’s fine.

There are four papers for this module which are intended to provide something of a broad context in which the issues facing schools can be located. 

Burbules, N. C., & Torres, C. A. (2000). Globalization and Education: An introduction. In N. C. Burbules & C. A. Torres (Eds.), Globalization and education: critical perspectives. (pp. 1-25). New York, London: Routledge.

Edwards, R., & Usher, R. (2008). Globalisation and pedagogy : space, place and identity (2nd ed.). London, New York: Routledge.

Miretzky, D. (2007). A View of Research From Practice: Voices of Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 46(4), 272-280.

Mirochnik, E. (2002). Celebration: the possibilities of passion. In E. Mirochnik & D. C. Sherman (Eds.), Passion and pedagogy: relation, creation and transformation in teaching (pp. 7-36). New York: Peter Lang.

First thing to do is give them a light read and as you do, ask yourself these questions (and make notes in your 1st notebook):

  • What is the point/purpose of the paper? What is it trying to argue? Chapters from books often don’t have an abstract which will often spell out the point of the text succinctly.  How would you explain what the text is trying to argue to a colleague or a friend who knows little of education speak?

  • Is the text an account of a research study, or a review or synthesis of research?

  • What are some of the key terms used in the text? 

  • What questions does it pose for you as a teacher? as a postgraduate student?

  • Does it help you think a little differently about the topic/question you are thinking about?

Making sense of a research paper or a chapter in a book is something like looking at a completed cake. You don’t see what has happened along the way to the finished product. This image  captures something of the idea.

The text will always leave clues, mainly in terms of references to other work. Some of this work may be criticised in the text this does not mean you ignore it because examining opposing views/research will often help you think a little more clearly about the topic being discussed.

The two papers concerned with globalisation and education are not easy reading. It is important though that you work through both and get some sense of the key ideas that are being written about. These ideas are important because increasingly, as you will realise, a lot of education policy and practice is being negotiated through the work of international agencies, i.e. bodies like the OECD which runs the PISA testing of students in many countries around the world.  It is also important because influences that might be described as global, e.g. the recent financial crisis, have important impacts on not only the conduct of education but also on the world for which education is purportedly preparing the young. 

You can read both papers in terms of the way a group of scholars have been working on the many questions and issues that have arisen as a consequence of what is termed globalisation. They are writing to connect to previous work and work that relates to the issues they want to consider. They are writing to a number of audiences but primarily to the group of scholars working in this area. This means that they can take for granted many of the terms they use. So while the paper is clearly written in English, it also has a kind of intellectual dialect which can be tricky to follow at times. The important thing is to make good use of your first notebook. This is part of mapping the terrain. Where you find an idea or term that is difficult you can try looking it up, a good opportunity to hone your searching skills1.  Alternatively you can ask a friend or colleague2.  It is important here to talk to each other as well as me. Sharing your thinking is an important part of coming to terms with something like research in education.

The other thing to do is to do a search on the authors. This will help you make sense of what they are interested in and the kinds of work they have done before and after these two papers were published. 

The other two papers are easier reading. Both papers are concerned with the relationship between professional practice and research findings. This is an area, also part of the research in education terrain, that you could spend many courses studying. The so-called theory-practice divide is one of the many phrases associated with this work. 

As many of you will realise, policy and practice in education are not simply a matter of applying the findings of research in education. As Bates (2002) and many others have argued, the relationship is complex. While you clearly won’t have the time to map this very large and interesting bit of the terrain, as with globalisation, you’ll need to develop a sensibility towards it. This will be particularly important when you come to draft a paper for a professional journal.

With the framing of these two bits of the education research terrain, you should be able to draw up a useful list of educational issues that currently face schooling in Australia3 and from there begin to think about the specific area you may want to explore in more detail in order to prepare the annotated bibliography and the paper.

Some initial thinking about research

Drawing on the metaphor of travel again, we can, perhaps having had a bit of a look around, ask where did all this stuff come from? Has research always been like this, i.e. done by researchers, published in journals and books? In an interesting piece about the future of science by Kelly (2006),4 actually being quoted by Stewart Brand in the Introduction to this piece, and in his recent book (Kelly, 2010, pp. 338-339), lists a series of steps that science has gone through that he argues contributes to a unity of knowledge in society. He begins with the first text indexes at about 2000 BC and continues up through the peer-review-refereed journal in 1752 to meta-analysis in 1974. 

It would be easy to think that the various components, like journal articles, citing, refereeing and so on, and the various research methods you will come across have been around forever. That is not the case. All of these things have origins and, more importantly, reasons for being brought into being. You don’t need to know about this, even though it is an intriguing history, but I do want you to have a sense that research and the various elements of it are always evolving and building upon what has gone before.5  This means that there are likely to be, in your professional lifetime, new approaches to doing educational research. 

Building on what has gone before is a key characteristic of scholarly work. Connecting information is what gives us a kind of fabric6 or mesh of ideas that are consistent, support one another and allow new and better questions to be asked. New stuff when it appears has to fit in with or connect to what has gone before. It may not agree with what has gone before but the new always has reference back to what was done previously.

There is a useful point that Kelly (2010, pp. 335-336) makes about “discoveries”.7 He argues that many so-called discoveries  were actually known locally, but the knowledge of the people who had an intimate knowledge of what had been “discovered” was not integrated into the larger Western fabric of knowledge8 and so didn’t count. There are interesting reflections here about knowledge about schools, schooling, teaching and so on that is held “locally” by groups of teachers that may operate very well but may not yet be integrated into the fabric of knowledge that is the published literature. It’s a slightly different take on the complex relationship between published research work and the knowledge and beliefs that inform the day to day practices of teachers.


Bates, R. (2002). The impact of educational research: alternative methodologies and conclusions. Research Papers in Education, 17(4), 403-408. Retrieved from doi:10.1080/0267152022000031379

Kelly, K. (2006). Speculations on the Future of Science. Edge, np. Retrieved from

Law, J. (2010). The Double Social Life of Method. Retrieved from


  1. Wikipedia tends to have a pretty good coverage of many key scholarly terms across a broad range of disciplines. 

  2. I consider myself a colleague in the context of this course. 

  3. If your chosen field of work is not in schools then, of course, you simply need to nominate your issues for that field. The two framings though, globalisation and theory/practice will still be important and useful. 

  4. It is important here to read Science in two ways: 1, as you usually do, physics, mathematics and so on; and 2, as an important influence in the conduct of all kinds of research.

  5. In the first part of a recent paper by Law (2010), he outlines briefly the origins of some of the common methods in the social sciences.

  6. Yes, another metaphor!

  7. Like the discovery of America, the discovery of gorillas and the discovery of vaccines.

  8. Kelly (2010, p. 337) extends his argument about the cloth of human knowledge, suggesting that the strength of this fabric is what we call truth.

The Annotated Bibliography

There is no shortage of freely available advice about what an annotated bibliography is and how to prepare one. Here are some sites that provide good quality advice and information:

UNSW Academic Skills Resources
Cornell University Library
University of Canberra Academic Skills Centre
CalPoly Library Services
University of Toronto

This is a good example of what an annotated reference looks like and here is a long example of an annotated bibliography concerned with theories of educational technology.

Mind Mapping

As part of scoping out your issue, you are asked to make some use of Mind Mapping software.

There is a large number of mind mapping software tools both online and that run on your computer that you can locate by doing a search. Wikipedia has a useful list. There are many options for using this kind of software. In terms of this course it is probably best if you just choose something that works well for you. Here are some that you may like to try (they are all open source (i.e. free) software).






While you may find some of these useful, it will mean that to share a Map with another person, the other person will need to have the software that you are using. Some of the software does allow you to export your maps but you'd need to try that out before you put too much effort into building your map. A better solution for sharing is to use online mind mapping software. TheBrain is an interesting piece of software. The free version allows you to generate 'brains' or maps of your ideas. You can then upload these via WebBrain.

Online Mind Mapping software:

Mindomo (this is the tool I tend to use the most with students)


This interesting online app takes text and converts it into a Mind Map. Worth a play.

Mindmeister allows sharing and linking between maps and other external links.

and I'll include Prezi in here as well even though it is better suited for presentation it has a collaboration facility that allows real time editing by a group of users.

A useful review of the online software is worth a look.

Here is a YouTube clip which demonstrates the use of three pieces of mandmappingsoftware: CmapTools, VUE, and Mindmeister. Youtube has a good collection of screencasts that illustrate how to use various bits of mindmapping software. Simply do a search for mind or concept maps.

Jason Zagami,
16 Jul 2012, 22:40
Jason Zagami,
16 Jul 2012, 22:41
Jason Zagami,
16 Jul 2012, 22:42
Jason Zagami,
16 Jul 2012, 22:42