Mixed-methodology research in science education: Opportunities and challenges in exploring and enhancing thinking dispositions

Tamar Levin, Tili Wagner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Questions about the value of research in education, its paradigmatic orientation, and potential use and importance for advancing knowledge have resurfaced in the past decade, mainly as a result of the proliferation of standards-based reforms and highstakes accountability policies. The political agenda of accountability, manifested in such issues as the call for common standards, quality indicators, and evidence-based instructional programs, has created a demand for proven research strategies among educators, including literacy and science educators. Two acts in the United States- the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002) and the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA, 2002)-have prompted epistemological questions regarding the disciplinary profile of educational research, maintaining that education research can and should shape knowledge, policy, and practice. Their demand for research-proven strategies along with hopes of making education an evidence-based field (US National Research Council, 2004) have helped to challenge and encourage fresh and mindful dialogue on the nature of worthwhile research in literacy and science education and the relation of research to both theory and practice. For many decades, the quantitative paradigm has been the paradigm of choice for science education research-chiefly when investigating the relation between different types of instruction and student learning. More specifically, the dominant paradigm or Gold Standard for science studies and program evaluation has been experimental methodology. This standard is considered to have merit in particular because experimental research makes explanations possible as to cause and effect. This paradigm has often involved comparing instructional innovation with more traditional forms of instruction in an experiment building or drawing on theory-driven hypotheses, random assignment of participants to treatments, controlled manipulations uniformly applied to all participants under rigorously controlled conditions, and the use of quantitative measurement and statistical analysis (McCall & Green, 2004). The parameters of evaluating performance outcomes have also remained well within the empirical-analytic paradigm. This has involved assessing student responses and conceptions as right or wrong, giving little interpretation or consideration to the context. Scores have usually been standardized against such norms as statistical distributions or judgment by a panel of experts (Aikenhead, 1997).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQuality Research in Literacy and Science Education
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Perspectives and Gold Standards
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)9781402084263
StatePublished - 2009


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