A Critique of Experimentalism

Publisher: Qualitative Inquiry, 10 (4)
Page Numbers: 42-61

The concept of scientifically based research occupies a central place in the thinking of the newly formed Institute of Education Sciences and seems well on its way to becoming the dominant paradigm in educational research more generally. What interpretation becomes recognized as the correct one thus has important implications. This article identifies two versions of experimentalism that have emerged: neoclassical and mixed methods. Both versions of experimentalism are judged to be methodologically retrograde. Neoclassical experimentalism is little more than a throwback to the Campbell-Stanley era and its dogmatic adherence to an exclusive reliance on quantitative methods. Mixed-methods experimentalism, although incorporating an auxiliary role for qualitative methods, fails to understand the deeper epistemological roots of qualitative methods. The article briefly sketches the alternative of mixed-methods interpretivism, which elevates the voice of research participants to a primary position and thereby reverses the epistemological ordering of quantitative-experimental and qualitative interpretivist methods.