Tooley and Darby (1998) Educational Research: A Critique

Into the archives to look at the Tooley Report (1998), ‘Educational Research: A Critique’

The authors examined a sample of papers the four most-cited British educational journals in the mid-nineties and identified four major problems….

Problem 1: Partisanship

Many researchers were partisan in their research and its presentation, often uncritically incorporating contentious political statements into their argument.Tooley 4.png

Problem 2: Methods

Many papers did not triangulate but took individuals’ statements at face value; they also said nothing about sampling at all! Particularly worrying for the paper with a sample size of one.Tooley 5.pngTooley 1.png

Problem 3: Non-empirical research
Some of it valuable, but lots which was not, particularly papers which examine how ‘great’ thinkers’ ideas fit education, uncritically and unproductively.Tooley 6.png

Problem 4: Utility

Every piece could be argued to have some value (except the reflexive accounts), but not by much. The one paper by a teacher as researcher was thought particularly alarming.Tooley 7.png

And no replications whatsoever…Tooley 3.png

Most of the time, the authors go out of their way to demonstrate fair-mindedness. Every now and then, that slips, like this suggestion that, rather than changing a course when students are unhappy about it, you just publish an article analysing it in postmodern terms.Tooley 2.png

And are the authors biased? Well, they note that despite one being ‘Old Labour’ and another ‘New Right’, they agreed on almost every point of their analysis. Tooley 8.png

Tooley, J. and Darby, D. (1998). Educational Research: A Critique: A survey of published educational research. Ofsted.


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