There are three research paradigms in educational research: normative, interpretive, and critical theory. Each of those paradigms has advantages and limitation. The normative paradigm is one paradigm, which tends to control the research condition such as human behaviours through scientific methods (Douglas,1973). Because it is controlled, normative paradigm tends to generalize the findings with one truth. The advantage is easy to be objective in normative research because it is very structured and clear. The weakness is not all phenomena in education can be investigated as well as nature phenomena such behaviour, motivation, values, etc. Related to positivism and post positivism paradigms, normative related to positivism paradigm because it concern to find the truth with controlled condition, observable in scientific way. Even though it is very difficult to find the “one truth” in social context such as education, for example students’ achievement cannot be influenced by one factor. It is difficult to isolate people and control the result exactly as well as nature phenomena

However, Interpretative is one paradigm, which studies an individual with their characteristics, human, has different behaviours, opinions, and attitudes (Louis Kohen, Lawrence Manion, Keith Morrison, 2001). The advantage is finding meaningful observation of objects. The meaningful will be more valuable than one generalization. However, the weakness is the results can be more complex to analysis and interpret those objectively. In addition, it is more subjective to interpret the phenomena. However, it is more difficult to be objective in human research than science setting. Therefore, for post positivism paradigms, it tends to be subjective. In addition, data analysis have to use the logical reasoning (a thinking process) and explain those with generalization. In educational research, generalization is also difficult because of the complexity of educational phenomena. Related to positivism and post positivism paradigms, interpretive is part of post positivism paradigms, because it uses many perspectives to study the phenomena. Its very natural research, it can observe the situation with different view to solve the problems. Therefore, it results many solutions and interpretations.

Finally, critical theory is “explicitly prescriptive and normative, entailing a view of what behaviour in a social democracy should entail” (Fay, 1987:Morison 1995). It considers the power of social politics and ideology, which influence the educational research. The advantage is the improvement that it done. In critical theory, finding the issues is important and more subjective. Because the main objective is to improve the practical field, change the situation with the action such as action research. The action can be change everyday to improve the quality, change and solve the problems. Therefore, the solutions are constructed by the reality. The weakness is its also difficult to conclude many interpretations. It is also need great skills to aware about the changes which use as next actions. Related to positivism and post positivism paradigms, critical theory can use both positivism and post positivism paradigms, because it uses positivism to control the environment to observe the change and post positivism to interpreter their object.

see the overview of research paradigms

One thought on “Research Paradigms”
  1. Thanks for this great post. However, I disagree with the point that “normative paradigm tends to generalize the findings with one truth.”. the key problem with this explanation is that normative paradigm tends to encourage people to reach higher values by describing the norms (how the world should be or how the human should behave) . So, I guess it is not only one truth provided through this paradigm, but could be a set of truths/lies ! Do you agree?

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