The following is part of a series of blog posts I wrote while taking an education PhD course on Epistemologies. A summary of all posts in the series is included in this paper: Developing an Appreciative Understanding of Epistemologies in Educational Research: One Blogger’s Journey.
This week’s topic in epistemology was post-positivism. The discussions surrounded both positivism and post-postivism. It has taken more longer than it should to get this post written, but I just don’t feel like I grasp the concepts well. I feel the need to read more, but alas, I must move on. So, this post includes my current reflections based on my current view of post-postivism, which I expect will change when I have had the opportunity to read more.
Positivists believe that science is about finding a single truth, and that the researcher does not have any bias in this truth. Post-positivism believe that science is about describing reality as closely as possible, rather than finding a single truth, and that scientists must take a responsibility to remove bias in their practice. Positivists seek to prove what is true, where post-positivism seek to disprove the opposite (that is, to reject the null hypothesis). This idea of rejecting the opposite is known as falsification.
Post-positivism is reductionist, in that it seeks to simplify the observed world in order to describe phenomenon. Once I heard this, I drew a parallel between quantitative research and software testing. As an under grad, I studied the theories behind software testing, and I spent five years working in software testing. One of the key ideas when you are testing is to create a “simplified” model of the software, and use that to compare against the real software. You create test cases (which could also be hypothesis tests) to validate the correctness of the software. So, quantitative research in many ways uses the same methods as software testing. Actually, software testing could be said to be a specific type of quantitative research.
One area that came up in the readings was an example of deconstruction. I had also seen this idea of deconstruction in an article on design-based research. A quick wikipedia search tells me that this idea of deconstruction comes from Derrida and is sometimes classified as post-structuralism. I’ll definitely be doing some more reading in that area in the weeks to come!