KAJA REEGÅRD: Instrumental use of socially constructed knowledge?
The intention of this essay is to prepare the ground for research through reflections on meta-theoretical assumptions that my research is based on and which underlie methodological decisions. I make use of the opposing perspectives of social constructionism and anti-social constructionism in order to elucidate and discuss epistemological issues, dilemmas and qualms related to my PhD-project*.
First, I discuss the relation between the knower (the researcher) and the known (the research object). Then, I discuss the relation between the knowledge product and the wider society in which it is embedded, understood as consumers and users of this research.
The overarching topic of my PhD-project is vocational identity formation among students in upper secondary Vocational Education and Training in Norway. I am concerned with understanding how students in vocational educational tracks come to develop a sense of belonging to their chosen vocation and occupation. Essential is then the interplay between agency and structure in which vocational identity formation as a meaning-making process is believed to takes place. In this philosophy of science essay, two main questions are to be discussed:
- Can the scientific knowledge say something true about how students’ vocational identities really are shaped and developed – or is knowledge of this rather a result of a social process, on the part of me as a researcher, of making sense of the world?
- Which meta-theoretical assumptions underlie consume and use of commissioned research in a context of application?
*These two opposing paradigms or perspectives have been labelled under different names, respectively i.e. social constructivism/interpretivism and realism/positivism. Even though most social researchers today distance themselves from a (strong) positivist perspective – and social constructionism has met tough critique, I will view them as two extremes on a continuum in order to reflect upon my own meta-theoretical assumptions.