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The Role of the Education Researcher

Japanese

In this article, the last of the series, I would like to consider the meaning of discussing education from the standpoint of the "education researcher." Everyone has his or her individual experiences, and based on them, many people hold "their own opinions" on the subject of educational issues. There is no shortage of people called "education critics" in the world. It is no easy task to draw the line between the theories of "experts" and "laypeople."

In such educational debates, what kind of role can be played by professional researchers? This question, looked at from the standpoint of the reader, may offer a clue as to how one should understand the writings and statements of researchers.

In order to make this discussion more concrete, I will try to define the question of "academic achievement" with which I have become concerned.

Following one line of debate, one example of the role played by the professional researcher is the work of collecting as much "objective" data as possible and transmitting it accurately. This leads to a supply of data different in quality from discussions based on individual experience or everyday educational practice, and for this reason, it transcends individual cases, and becomes an important criterion by which to judge overall trends in a situation. However, one reason the controversy that unfolded last year got so chaotic is that there was hardly any accumulation of even the most fundamental research. Although there was the problem of how to define and measure academic achievement, the data was altogether too deficient.

As a second example of this role, I can refer to the history of scholarly debate on the question of "academic achievement,"(GAKURYOKU)* and in this context, there is the work of clarifying the characteristics of the debate. After only a little investigation, I found ample evidence in debates starting with that between Katsuta Shuichi and Hirooka Ryozo over academic achievement in the 1960s, and later ones that referred to it that took place in the mid-1970s. In all of these debates, first of all, as opposed to the position that academic achievement is something which "may be measured,"** the viewpoint was emphasized that it is also important to understand it as "human academic ability" that includes attitude, desire, and personality. The former restrictive viewpoint is founded on the idea that assessment of academic achievement is necessary information which contributes to the improvement of education.

If we place today's problems within the history of the debate, how much does the discussion of the present situation--swinging like a pendulum between extremes contrasting "cramming" with "zest for living," "rote learning" with "experiential learning"--become a debate that forgets of the results of the past! If professional researchers do no more than point out this fact and sort through the issues, useless errors and theoretical misapprehensions can no doubt be avoided.

making available fundamental research on the relationship between the experience of students and the ways of organizing and delivering educational content, and beyond that, on the topic of what will be achieved as a result of learning. "Periods of integrated studies" will be implemented, and no doubt the creation and use of teaching materials and the development of teaching methods different from those used in the past will gain more and more ground. It is essential that we approach the questions of "to what extent this will actually raise academic achievement," and "what are the factors and conditions common to examples of success and failure," while relying on the specialized knowledge of disciplines like cognitive science. If the cultivation of "the ability to discover and solve problems,"--an aim of educational reform--is indeed a pressing issue, we should all the more expect fundamental research to be done in order to increase the possibility of making this a reality.

Of course, excellent research has already been conducted. At any rate, this is because there are nearly 10,000 education researchers throughout the country. We might be tempted to say, if we mobilize all of this accumulated information, solutions to the difficulties involved in educational reform should quickly be found...but what is the reality? Indeed, is the problem quality, rather than quantity of researchers? Or rather, what is it that society and the schools expect from education researchers? Surely those very expectations affect the quality of scholarship. We should not bring stereotypes, taboos, or myths to educational debate; instead, we should eliminate them, even if only a little. At the very least, we can expect such an attitude from experts. We can ask this of inquiries into educational problems. I would hope that this series has been of some help in the process.



*GAKURYOKU, in Japanese, refers to multiple meanings which often include both achievement and ability.

**According to Katsuta, "academic achievement" means "the ability to study and achieve organized educational content, as far as results may be measured."



This article is a translation of
Kariya, Takehiko. 2000. The Role of the Education Researcher (in Japanese). Gekkan shinken nyusu chugakusei ban Vol. 251 (published by Benesse Corporation): 6.

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Takehiko Kariya
Sociologist of education; Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. Books include "Gakko tte Nandaroo" (What is School?) published by Kodansha Publishing Company.
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