Harvard Educational Review
  1. Winter 2005 Issue »

    Similarity and Superunknowns

    An Essay on the Challenges of Educational Research

    Ralf St. Clair
    In this article, Ralf St. Clair makes the argument that induction — the process of applying research findings from one setting to another — is logically unsupported, irrespective of method or methodology, due to the existence of superunknowns. Superunknowns are defined as factors that cannot be anticipated, not because of instrumentation defects, but because of their nature. On this basis, St. Clair asserts that we cannot increase the credibility of educational research by trying ever more strenuously to create general laws. Instead, St. Clair argues for educational research to be viewed as a means to generate empirical heuristics for thought and inquiry, and for wider recognition of the central — and essential — role of human judgment, as exercised by practitioners and researchers, in the research endeavor.

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    Winter 2005 Issue

    Abstracts

    Katrina and Rita
    What Can the United States Learn from International Experiences with Education in Displacement?
    From the Editors
    Interview: U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (full text)
    Gender Differences in Factors Leading to College Enrollment
    A Longitudinal Analysis
    Maria Estela Zarate and Ronald Gallimore
    Youth Radio and the Pedagogy of Collegiality
    Elisabeth Soep and Vivian Chávez
    Similarity and Superunknowns
    An Essay on the Challenges of Educational Research
    Ralf St. Clair
    Editor's Review: We Are All the Same by Jim Wooten
    Priya G. Nalkur
    Editor's Review: Adolescent Boys edited by Niobe Way and Judy Y. Chu
    Lionel C. Howard

    Book Notes

    The Edison Schools
    By Kenneth Saltman

    Vocabulary Instruction
    Edited by James Bauman and Edward Kame'enui

    The Trouble with Ed Schools
    By David Labaree

    Prairie Town
    By Jacqueline Edmondson

    Contested Policy
    By Guadalupe San Miguel Jr.

    Political Education
    By Christopher Cross

    Against Common Sense
    By Kevin Kumashiro