The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

Cloud created by:

Alison Iredale
3 May 2010

Extra content

Just reading Archambault - Philosophical Analysis and Education.

The problem, as he seems to describe it is that Education is not a scientific discipline, and is not susceptible to theorising - mainly because we humans do complicated things. So we use a pragmatic, relativist philosophy, and Dewey tracks back to Plato in this respect. However this is fine until the context fails to follow the idealised situation/context that need to be constructed for any generalised principle/theory to take hold. Dewey's ideas rely on education as a democratic ideal, just as Habermas's theories rely on democracy, equality and equity etc. In my setting we are facing a managerialist, performative cuture, which shows no signs of abating. Transgression through cracking Dewey is possible though. The current debates on the evidence for ICT in schools is a case in point. There is no satisfactory established research method that will point definitievly for its economic justification. A reflexive methodology (see Alvesson 2009) is an exiting one to explore, and Dewey would have approved I am sure.

Alison Iredale
11:28 on 3 May 2010

Embedded Content


Gráinne Conole
10:58am 3 May 2010

Great topic for a Cloud - would be nice to get a debate going here on some of the key aspects of Dewey's work and how it still endures so miuch today.

Alison Iredale
11:07am 3 May 2010 (Edited 11:07am 3 May 2010)

Hi there. What a coincidence - I have just found you on Twitter via a circuitous route.

My interest in Dewey derives from my research into trainee teachers and routinised practices. I am using Dewey's ideas to illuminate the problem of mastery, perfomative and standards based traiining, currently prevailing in the lifelong learning teaching sector. I am arguing for maintaining a broad based and situated course to counteract the routinised nature of much of current practice in the sector and the funnelled nature of a standards driven emphasis on reflective practice for teachers. I am trying to finish of a paper for conference today, so trying out Cloudworks has provided a great distraction!

Thanks for the comment.


Will Pollard
1:56pm 3 May 2010

When you say "pragmatic, relativist philosophy" do you mean American pragmatism as in Peirce? See Wikipedia

I don't follow it all but it seems to be much more solid than people in the UK may realise. I am interested in Deming quality ideas and they also  relate to pragmatic ideas on knowledge. Worth a look as the take on standards and targets is not as routinised as quality is assumed to be. I think you could use Deming as a way to challenge some current inspection approaches. Also the "Out Of Crisis" methods could support ICT as an improvement. 

Alison Iredale
6:42pm 3 May 2010

Thanks for this. I have just checked out Deming. It reminds me of my reading of Hegelian dialectic, and the inherent problem with any sort of system building or cycle. To start with "plan", i.e to have an objective in mind, is to limit possibilities, with the problem of the funnelling that I have alluded to. Peirce was considered the more scientific of the three - James and Dewey being the other two, relying on a consequential perspective. I tend to prefer the emphasis on fallibility, and emboiment. For me there is a dichotomy between education as explanatory, and exploratory - context driven. I accept that quality systems are not inherently funnelling, but are often made so in an inspection driven culture. It is much easier to measure what is visible, but what is visible is quantifiable only by the use of language. When satisfactory becomes the new inadequate the whole premise of standards and targets is shown to be flawed.

Will Pollard
9:12am 4 May 2010 (Edited 9:16am 4 May 2010)

I agree with "When satisfactory becomes the new inadequate the whole premise of standards and targets is shown to be flawed". There seems to be the idea that there has to be a high reject level to prove that what is left is of high quality. This is the opposite of quality assurance as I understand it.  The idea is to get away from inspection and rejects, establish a process that .delivers high quality for the entire batch. (You may need to change some words for this to apply to education).

One aspect that I wonder about is how much Deming ideas are based on Japanese philosophy or values. It is the case that he and Juran offered the theory but it seems to have worked better in Japan than in the USA. Ishikawa has suggested that quality circles would not work in Christian countries because of ideas about the chosen and the others. Not sure I have represented this fairly. The book is Introduction to Quality Control , translation by J. H. Loftus who disagrees on this point in the introduction. Don't be put off by the word "control", the system can change. Also "check" and "study" may mean different things.


Will Pollard
9:15am 4 May 2010


Ruth Illman on globalisation and culture. There may be more of a mashup around quality ideas and practice. She has not said that but this is something I am thinking about.

Alison Iredale
7:58am 28 May 2010

Meanwhile, back to Dewey.

I am interested in this discussion on quality, and standards - and the prevailing discourse of the audit society, particularly in FE, and wanted to see what Dewey had to say. A society which not only changes but has the ideal of change will have different standards than that which seeks to perpetuate customs (DEmocracy and Education), so viewing this in  the light of the Ofsted phenomenom I there seems to be a link with Ruth's ideas from the link above - "So its not about crossing fixed boundaries between cultural monoliths but about human value-laden communication, interpretation, identification and change". The ideal, for Dewey is democracy, whereas the "cultural monolith" is manageralist and performative. For my trainee teachers this dilemma is a real one.

Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.