The Interpretive Turn and the New Debate in Education

Publisher: Educational Researcher, 27 (8)
Page Numbers: 13-20

Over the last several decades, positivist-behaviorist approaches to social and educational research have been on the decline, whereas interpretivist approaches have been on the rise. As a result of this "interpretive turn," the old debate between positivism and interpretivism (and central to the quantitative-qualitative debate) has diminished in intensity only to be replaced by a new debate within interpretivism. This article characterizes the new debate in terms of postmodernists -- who would abandon the emancipatory project of modernity as fatally flawed -- versus transformationists -- who would modify this project and endeavor to see it through. Among the conclusions advanced is that the differences between these two general perspectives tend to be overdrawn, particularly when philosophical avowals are measured against the requirements of practice.