Education | Strategies for Educational Inquiry
Y520 | 5984 | Dr. Barbara Korth

Course Description: This is a course intended to introduce graduate
students to various practices associated with educational and social
inquiry. The course will prepare students to conceptualize social
research using the language of educational inquiry. Students will
explore generally accepted procedures for generating, analyzing, and
interpreting data and will begin to imagine

Required Text:

Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research. Second Edition. Oxford:

Electronic Reserve:

Articles and chapters on Electronic Reserve (ER). You can access
these through ONCOURSE.

•	Peshkin, A. (1988). In search of subjectivity—One’s own.
Educational Researcher. 17(7) 17 – 21.
•	Dykeman, C et al. (1996). Psychological predictors of school-
based violence: Implications for school counselors. The School
Counselor, 44, 35-47.
•	Weinfurt, K. Multivariate analysis of variance. In L.G. Grimm
and P.R. Yarnold, (1995), Reading and Understanding Multivariate
Statistics, DC: APA.
•	Peshkin, A. (2000). The nature of interpretation in
qualitative research. Educational Researcher. 29(9), 5-9.
•	Oakes, J (1995). Matchmaking: The dynamics of high school
tracking decisions. American Educational Research Journal. 34(4), 593-
•	Cohen, R. (1998). Class consciousness and its consequences:
The impact of an elite education on mature, working-class women.
American Educational Research Journal. 35(3), 353-375.
•	Tomchin, E.M. & Impara, J.C. (1992). Unraveling teachers’
beliefs about grade retention. American Educational Research Journal.
29(1): 199- 223.

Recommended Philosophical Text:

Benton, T and Craib, I. (2001). Philosophy of Social Science: The
Philosophical Foundations of Social Thought. London: Palgrave.

Class Schedule

Date	Class Topic				Readings	

1/12	Introductions,				Robson Chapters 1, 2
Science and Research, Truth and Ideology	
1/19	Martin Luther King jr. Day No Class
1/26	Epistemology, Ontology, Validity		Reading TBA
Objectivity, Subjectivity, Normativity	ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE
2/02	Researcher, Those Researched, and Data	Robson Chapters 3, 4
	Insider/Outsider relations and Hermeneutics	Peshkin, In
Search of Subjectivity (ER)
2/09	Designing Inquiry I: Deduction and		Robson
Chapter 5
Induction – Is there something to this	ESSAY 1 DUE
Fixed Designs				
2/16	Designing Inquiry II: Flexible Designs	Robson Chapters 6, 7
2/23	Data Collection; The Nature of data		No readings.
3/01	Data Collection				Robson Chapters 8, 10
3/08	Data Collection				Robson Chapters 9,
11, 12
3/22	Data Analysis: How meaningful is the	Peshkin,
Interpretation (ER)
distinction between descriptive and		ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE
inferential analyses? And revisiting the
induction/deduction distinction.
3/29	Data Analysis: Quantitative Data		Robson
Chapter 13
						Weinfurt, K. (ER)
4/05	Data Analysis: Quantitative Data Continued		
4/12	Data Analysis: Quantitative Data		ESSAY 2 DUE
4/19	Data Analysis: Qualitative Data		Robson Chapter 14
4/26	The Politics and Ethics of Research:	ASSIGNMENT 3 DUE
Panel Discussion
5/03	Final Exam Preparation/Course Review

Course Requirements

There will be several opportunities for you to demonstrate your
understanding of course content. There will be two exams (a take home
exam and an in-class final), homework assignments, and 2 essays.


Take-home Exam (15% of the course grade)

This exam will be comprised of approximately 5 questions and will
involve the philosophy and practice covered through February 16,
focusing on lectures and readings through that time period. The
content includes basic social science philosophy, concepts of design,
and the practice of designing studies. I am expecting that you will
use any materials available to you, that you might consult with
classmates as to their understanding of the requirements of the
questions and so forth, and that you might email me for any needed
clarification. I also expect that in the end, you will compose your
own responses and submit these electronically via ONCOURSE.

Final Exam (15% course grade)

This Exam will be taken during the regularly scheduled final exam
time slot for the class. You will need to bring a blue book (or two
if you anticipate being especially wordy) with you for the exam.

Homework Assignments

There will be 3 homework assignments given through the semester. It
would be best if you submitted these assignments electronically by
class time the day they are due. Taken all together, the homework
assignments are worth 35% of the course grade.

Assignment #1:	Truth?					Due January 26

Contemplate the meaning of truth. Choose two of the following quotes
to compare and contrast regarding the meaning(s) of truth in 2 – 3
pages. Assignment #1 is worth 5% of the course grade.

•	“If the inner truth of gender is a fabrication and if a true
gender is a fantasy instituted and inscribed on the surface of
bodies, then it seems that genders can be neither true nor false, but
are only produced as the truth effects of a discourse of primary and
stable identity” (Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion
of Identity, p. 136).
•	“At issue is not the real truth versus the ethnographic lie.
After all, the pragmatic concerns of everyday life can diverge from
those of disciplined inquiry. A person ‘falling in love’ speaks with
quite different desires and purposes than the psychiatrist who
describes the ‘same’ phenomenon as ‘object cathexis’” (Rosaldo,
Culture & Truth. The Remaking of Social Analysis, pp.50-51).
•	“In narrative inquiry, our field texts are always
interpretive, always composed by an individual at a certain moment in
time. . . Now, as we reread these field notes, we are reminded again
that there is no one true version of events that happened.”
(Clandinin and Connelly, Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in
Qualitative Research).
•	“Some argue that a ‘true’ view of reality allows us to
predict or control events. When we are able to do this, our view of
reality may be said to correspond with reality itself” (Eisner, The
Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of
Educational Practice, p. 44 – not indicative of Eisner’s view of
•	“The idea that truth exceeds belief is itself a belief in the
possibility of an ontological objectivity. Yet all that we can ever
know is the product of an active mind in commerce with a world” ”
(Eisner, The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement
of Educational Practice, p. 51).
•	It is “the evident fallibility of our knowledge—the
experience of getting things wrong, of having our expectations
confounded, and of crashing into things—that justifies us believing
that the world exists regardless of what we happen to think about it.
If by contrast, the world itself was a product or construction of our
knowledge, the our knowledge would surely be infallible, for how
could we ever be mistaken about anything” (Sayer, 2000, p. 2 quoted
by Robson, 2002, p. 29).
•	“Those who wish to ground solidarity in objectivity—call
them ‘realists’—have to construe truth as correspondence to reality.
So they must construct a metaphysics which has room for a special
relation between beliefs and objects which will differentiate true
from false belief” (Rorty, 1991, p. 22).

Assignment #2:	Collecting Data			Due March 22

Choose one grouping to compare and contrast. Compare, for examples,
what the findings would look like, subject characteristics, types of
research questions well-suited for, and the conduct of the method.
This assignment is worth 10% of your grade.
•	Surveys, scales, interviews
•	Participant observation, tests, structured observations
•	Questionnaires, interviews, structured observations
•	Semi-structured interviews, participant observation, documents
•	Surveys, scales, tests

Assignment #3:	Understanding Published Research	Due April 26

This assignment has 3 parts. Its purpose is to put into application a
useful reference form for the review of research. It is worth 20% of
your grade in the course.

Part A: Develop a chart or form or rubric for taking notes on
research articles you review. This tool should reflect an
understanding of key aspects of making sense of the research so that
you are able to note important and critical information. (No longer
than a page.)

Part B: Use the chart to take notes on two of the following research
articles (found on ER):
•	Oakes, J. (1995). Matchmaking: The dynamics of high school
tacking decisions. American Educational Research Journal. 34(4), 593-
•	Cohen, R. (1998). Class consciousness and its consequences:
The impact of an elite education on mature, working-class women.
American Educational Research Journal. 35(3), 353-375.
•	Tomchin, E.M. & Impara, J.C. (1992). Unraveling teachers’
beliefs about grade retention. American Educational Research Journal.
29(1): 199- 223.
•	Dykeman, C. et al. (1996). Psychological predictors of school-
based violence: Implications for school counselors. The School
Counselor, 44, 35-47.

Part C: Reflect on how well the tool worked and whether or not it
needs adjustment. (Less than a page)


The essays are an opportunity for you to express an in-depth
understanding and exploration of core inquiry concepts. Essays should
be about 8 - 10 double spaced pages (5 - 7 single spaced pages). I
expect that you will cite references and develop a somewhat original
idea, argument, position. You will compose 2 essays. Both essays
together will comprise 35% of the grade.

Essay Number One

Choose one of the following. Essay Number One is due February 9. This
essay will comprise 15% of your grade in the course.

•	Subjectivity and objectivity are distinguished from one
another. Discuss how these epistemological differences impact the
conduct of research. What is the difference between having
an “object” of research and a “subject” of research? How do these
differences relate to the epistemological differences between
objectivity and subjectivity. Consider this: “Social analysis must
now grapple with the realization that its objects of analysis are
also analyzing subjects who critically interrogate ethnographers—
their writings, their ethics, and their politics” (Rosaldo, Culture
and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis).
•	There is a diagram in the text on page 31 that represents
Robson’s view of Critical Realism.  Discuss the explanatory value
of “mechanisms” and compare/contrast this with the explanatory value
of “articulating reasons” and “identifying conditions”.
•	Discuss the relationship between claims to truth and “truth.”
How might this relationship (of difference or similarity) be embedded
in one’s approach to social inquiry? You can make this more concrete
by discussing the relationship in light of a particular approach to
•	Discuss the ways in which social inquiry is similar and/or
different from social life.
•	Discuss the concept of “causation” and its implicit and
explicit inclusion in the methodological theory of social science

Essay Number Two

Choose one of the following topics to write an essay on. This essay
is due April 12. This essay will comprise 20% of your grade in the

•	What is the difference between descriptive and inferential
analyses? What is the difference between descriptive and explanatory
findings? One of my colleagues asked me if I thought all educational
research was causative oriented – that is oriented toward
establishing causal relationships. How does the question of causation
enter into the distinction between descriptive and inferential
analyses, descriptive and explanatory findings?
•	Discuss how the validity and reliability of data relate to
and/or doesn’t relate to the validity and reliability of analysis. Is
this the same across quantitative and qualitative research?
•	Identify and examine differences between quantitative and
qualitative forms of analysis. Develop an essay which explores what
these differences mean and what structures them.
•	There is a current trend in U.S. politics to suggest that
quantitative, fixed forms of research are most dependable, certain,
accurate, and legitimate forms of inquiry. Write an essay which
explores why the U.S. administration might believe this. Then propose
your own view either in agreement, disagreement, or moderation which
addresses this stance. At present the U.S. government is discouraging
qualitative inquiry through its funding practices and legitimation
mechanisms. What effect might this have on the field of educational
inquiry on the whole?

Course Grades

Grades are figured on all of the graded course requirements.
A	94% and above
A-	90 – 93%
B+	87 – 89%
B	84 – 86%
B-	80 – 83%

In addition to these requirements, I expect that you will attend
class, do the assigned readings, refrain from plagiarizing, and
participate in ways which encourage the intellectual and emotional
development of class members. If you have any questions about these
expectations at any point in the semester, please talk to me. I will,
in rare instances, assign an A+ to students whose work has been well
beyond exemplary as noted by an extremely high average and other
outstanding characteristics like taking on extra readings and so