Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education
Challenging the Limits of Technocratic Methods
Published: March 2021
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Published: April 2021
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Published: June 2021

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Published: June 2021
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6" x 9"
Language: English

A 2022 SPE Outstanding Book Award Winner

Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education
challenges dominant educational research methods. It rejects the reductive binaries normalized in social science research—theory/practice, objective/subjective, quantitative/qualitative. Drawing from multiple fields and eras, the book opens third spaces between these artificial poles to help researchers expand interpretations and possibilities for research. Critiquing the current focus on the measurement of “student learning outcomes” and high-stakes assessment, the book offers conceptual tools and case examples to support educators in reconceptualizing research. The book critiques the modernist notion that learning is an individual mental process of acquiring knowledge or skills. It argues instead that learning is inextricably entangled with social relations and cannot be isolated or controlled no matter how scientifically rigorous researchers try to be in their study designs. This challenges the current goal of educational research instruction to design “valid and reliable” studies that provide evidence for “best practices,” and reimagines it as opening third spaces to expand opportunities and approaches for inquiry.

Perfect for courses such as: Foundations of Social and Cultural Analysis of Education | Agency, Resistance, and Identity in Education | Critical and Postmodern Pedagogies | Culture, Cognition, and Power Issues in Education | Modernity and Postmodernity in Social Thought and Education | Integrating Research and Practice in Social Justice Education | Cultural Studies in Education | Science, Technology, and Social Research after Eurocentrism | Critical Pedagogy | Language, Performance, and Power | Sociology of Education | Ideology, Racial Politics, and Public Policy: Sociology of Knowledge | Seminar in Cross National Studies of Educational Problems | Participatory Action Research and Programming

Table of Contents:



ONE Examining Scientism in Educational Research

1.1 Technocratic research and the commodification of knowledge

1.2 The dominance of positivism and behaviorism

1.3 Scientific paradigm shifts as social consensus

1.4 Phenomenology of the social world

TWO Challenging Binary Logic

2.1 Postmodern perspectives

2.2 Histories of dialectical thinking

2.3 Pragmatism

2.4 Agential realism

THREE Critiquing Standard Research Methods

3.1 The false binary of quantitative/qualitative research

3.2 Rethinking “researchable” questions and variables

3.3 Instrumentation and problems with validity and reliability

3.4 Institutional review boards and the cursory administrative determination of ethical practices

3.5 Research reporting conventions and constraints on research possibilities

FOUR Reconceptualizing Learning in Educational Research

4.1 Problems with specifying learning outcomes and the myth of transfer

4.2 Learning as legitimate peripheral participation

4.3 Learning as identity formation 

4.4 Learning as episodic, discontinuous, and nonlinear

FIVE Expanding Third Spaces for Research

5.1 Cycles of inquiry, lesson study, and archaeologies of knowledge

5.2 Multivocal narratives as third spaces 

5.3 Crossing contexts and moving into borderlands

5.4 Supporting democracy and imagination in research forums

5.5 Research as an entangled material-discursive practice


Author Biographies


Reviews & Endorsements:

“Blakely and Hemphill have written a methods book that our field desperately needs. They have taken to task the profound lack of ingenuity, courage, and challenge to longstanding racist, classist, homophobic, and patriarchal patterns in the field of education and, specifically, education research. This is worth reading for all researchers. It is essential reading for those aiming to develop research practices that disrupt the radicalized inequities in our field.”

Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Professor, Latina/o Studies & Race and Resistance Studies, San Francisco State University

“This text is one that any equity-minded education faculty teaching a graduate or upper level undergraduate class on research methodology should adopt. Blakley and Hemphill provide a valuable addition to our field by using an orientation rarely even discussed in other methods texts. Third space allows them to investigate intersectional identities and critical theory as it plays out in research design, analysis, and genres of representation. The book is joyfully well researched, crisply written, and brings together topics I often address in my teaching, yet never before with the support of a single text.”

Barbara A. Henderson, Director, Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership Graduate College of Education, San Francisco State University

Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education: Challenging the Limits of Technocratic Methods is a remarkable work. Extremely well written and richly rewarding. It contains a brilliant analysis of the problems haunting education today and it develops new ways of thinking and acting when it comes to educational research. A must read for anyone seriously interested in educational research today.”

Klaus Nielsen, Professor, Department of Psychology, Aarhus University, Denmark

Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education: Challenging the Limits of Technocratic Methods offers a powerful argument for shifting the focus of research away from the overly formalistic concerns with conducting research correctly towards research that is aligned with the subject matter in education. The book—spanning the philosophical underpinnings of different research traditions, the ways research as a subject is taught to students, and the concepts researched (e.g., learning)—enlightens the reader regarding the many alternative ways relevant research may be conducted in education. A highly recommended read for everyone planning to do research in education.”

Jacob Klitmøller, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Department of Psychology, Aarhus University, Denmark

“The brilliance of Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education: Challenging the Limits of Technocratic Methods lies in its being situated in colonial historicity that privileged Western psychological research models which have, by and large, colonized educational research under the pretext of protecting objectivity. By succinctly unveiling the falsehood upon which the foundational pillars that support the false binarism inherent in the derivative educational research models, Erin Blakely and David Hemphill, painstakingly demonstrate how the disarticulation between the interpretative discourse and the interests of the interpreter often denies the dialectical relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. That is, the blind embrace of objectivity found in most educational research, denies the subjectivity that determines why a particular area is considered worthy of research in the first place, and how certain knowledges are subordinated to the imperatives of number crunching which, by design, erases the human face always present in all research endeavors.

What the authors of Opening Third Spaces for Research in Education: Challenging the Limits of Technocratic Methods make abundantly clear is the high societal costs exacted through the Godfication of scientism, not science, and the blind celebration of methodological elegance. Given the unacceptable high rate of educational failure, particularly in urban areas populated mostly by non-white students, readers of this important book will understand that the predominance of the technocratic paradigm in educational research is an ideological trap that sacrifices human factors along the lines of gender, ethnicity, class, and culture at the altar of research objectivity. This insightful book must be read by all educators who consider themselves agents of change in the struggle to promote a less dystopian and more humane world.”

Donaldo Macedo, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston