For some years both governments and Educational research associations such as AERA have subscribed to a view of the relationship between educational research and educational practices as needing to be linear and causal. The emphasis on RCTs and research informed decision-making and practice was going to shape educational rationally hence making it more effective. Central to this drive has been the psychology of education with its emphasis on transforming our understanding of brains and minds into sets of technologies. Increasingly it witnesses the superimposition of the neurological on the psychological. Such moves pay little attention to an inescapable and conditioning feature of education – that it is always a normative practice shaped everywhere by the kinds of things a society thinks or determines that it wants. While psychological and other forms of quantitative research are likely to offer important insight into the practices of education they will successfully do so only to the extent that they take seriously the contextual and related normative conditions of educational practices. In this edited volume Smeyers and Depaepe and their colleagues offer a timely intervention subjecting to serious interrogation the current passion to see particular, often aetiolated, impulses to reduce educational scholarship to a series of causal regularities immune to the complexities of actual lived educational encounters and practices. They argue carefully for the reinstatement of the central actor in education- the student as a complex, subtle, context located being whose education depends on more than statistical generalisations. Lest this volume be considered, in its turn, a collection of rhetorically freighted abstractions the essays here give considerable concrete expression to the concerns about the emergence of particular kinds of psychology and its attractiveness to the ‘modern’ mind. From Depaepe’s paper on the historical attractiveness of psychology, and its need for its grand theories to be modified by an attentiveness to everyday life, to Kraft’s challenge to educational theory, which has allowed the language of neuroscience to dominate it rather easily, the essays in this volume offer careful and consider attention to one of the most important issues in contemporary education. Anyone who wants to think seriously about some of the most pressing issues in educational research and practice will welcome this important and insightful collection. Smeyers and Depaepe are to be thanked for brining together this timely contribution.
James C Conroy, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
The attraction of psychology surpasses both in scope and in time the short and limited history of the science of education. Already during the 17th century – long before Pädagogik became an academic ‘scientific’ discipline – the approach of the child bears the mark of religious expectations cherishing ‘the treasures of her soul’. What covertly preceded or could precede, i.e., the turning of the soul towards the grace of God, shall impose itself in a normative sense on education. Modern educational discourses expect from psychology infallible absolute directions for and justifications of education and childrearing. In as far as contemporary educational science embraces the architecture of such a concept of education it sides with a theological cultural legacy and speaks the theological language of education. It is this language and its architecture that is critically discussed in this interesting collection.
Fritz Osterwalder, Universität Bern, Switzerland