This set of slides has been prepared for a workshop “Interdisciplinary methods for researching teaching and learning”. It summarises some ideas about intellectual work across conventional (disciplinary) boundaries in education. A number of them draw on experiences working in the field of the learning sciences and writing the Epistemic fluency book. The main message is the paradoxical tension between what educational research is as practice and how educational research is organised and institutionalised as a formal research field (aka. discipline).
On the one hand, education conventionally has been looking for its intellectual foundation and, simultaneously, for ways for creating knowledge in other disciplines (psychology, sociology, philosophy, etc.). However, classical mono-disciplinary studies from these domains comprise only a small part of research that investigates educational phenomena. Much of the educational research is done on the boundaries of these disciplines or even outside them. Despite this, education has not become a discipline with its own intellectual foundation and methodological toolkit. That is, educational research is and for a long time has been an interdisciplinary field of research practice; and work across disciplines and other knowledge traditions for many educational researchers has been a “normal mode” for doing research.
On the other hand, formally, educational research, including higher degree research courses, has been organised as if education was a discipline that draws on several discrete and stable knowledge traditions. E.g., think about the majority of research method textbooks that clearly sort out boundaries between positivism, interpretativism and a few other (maybe more mixed, yet well-articulated) knowledge traditions. Learning to do research across disciplines and traditions, or outside them, has never been a priority; often it is genuinely discouraged. If the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge work in educational research were taken seriously, then teaching and learning to do educational research would need to look very different.