Gauging the deliverable? Educational research in Northern Ireland



Gardner J & Gallagher T (2007) Gauging the deliverable? Educational research in Northern Ireland. European Educational Research Journal, 6 (1), pp. 101-114.

This article considers the landscape for educational research in the smallest country of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland. As elsewhere, educational research exists in political and economic circumstances that have considerable influence on its direction, nature and purpose and this article seeks to contextualise these influences. Northern Ireland differs considerably from the other three jurisdictions by virtue of it being very small (a population of circa 1.5 million), a fact that creates systemic difficulties such as capacity weaknesses in both numbers of researchers and the range of research skills available. Perhaps most importantly, however, Northern Ireland is uniquely distinguished from England, Scotland and Wales by having a proportionately large selective education system (grammar and non-selective secondary schools) and a politically and religiously divided population. This article argues that in combination with such national pressures as the Research Assessment Exercise, these contextual features result in a largely instrumental role for educational research - a tool to gauge what policy changes are deliverable. A strategic direction based on a dialogue between the government and the researcher community is therefore needed to prevent the continuation of a perceived ad hoc and fragmented system of educational research. The challenges of building a thriving research community in such circumstances also include the need to promote innovative ideas and related research, and to encourage greater inter-institutional collaboration. This in turn, it is argued, will help to create a community of practice capable of both sustaining itself in the future and making available a broader range of research competence.

European Educational Research Journal: Volume 6, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2007
PublisherSymposium Journals Ltd

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Professor John Gardner

Professor John Gardner

Professor, Education