Education and educational research, according to the current fashion,
are supposed to be concerned with ‘what works’, to the exclusion of all
other considerations. All over the world, and particularly in the
English-speaking countries, governments look for means of improving
‘student achievement’ as measured by standardized test scores. Although
such improvements are often to be welcomed, they do not answer all
significant questions about what constitutes good education. Also the
research on which they are based is not the only legitimate way to do
educational research. Social research, and therefore educational
research, cannot ignore the distinctive nature of what it studies: a
social activity where questions of meaning and value cannot be
eliminated, and where interpretation and judgment play a crucial role.
In this book distinguished philosophers and historians of education
from 6 countries focus on the problematical nature of the search for
‘what works’ in educational contexts, in practice as well as in theory.
Beginning with specific problems, they move on to more general and
theoretical considerations, seeking to go beyond over-simple ideas
about cause and effect and the rhetoric of performativity that
currently has educational thinking in its grip.