Educational research in Europe by James Calderhead

By James Calderhead

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There is clearly much to be done, however, in several European countries in convincing policy-makers in particular that educational research has an important role to play. Several of the contributors draw attention to the fact that a good deal of educational research is not disseminated beyond its country of origin, and, although there are a number of European associations that foster links amongst educational researchers, there appears to be relatively little collaboration, or attempts to coordinate European research efforts.

Any research team can apply, and the best proposals are granted. This approach is becoming more common and is seen as having many advantages: it stimulates competition amongst the researchers, and it helps research administrators to direct research towards priority themes and to evaluate research teams. As an example, one of the most recent 'appel d'offre' indicates the present research priorities of the Department of Education: (1) the study of the process and problems of learning drawing upon the cognitive sciences, and neuropsychology; (2) the analysis of the teacher's and pupils' classroom behaviour from a sociopsychological and a didactics perspective (didactics concerns the teaching and learning of particular subject matter); (3) the analysis of school practices outside the classroom; (4) the new roles and partnerships between schools, parents, local and regional authorities; (5) comparative research on the minimal knowledge base, the criteria of examination and the levels of qualification for people with low level diplomas.

Mats Ekholm writes about research in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) all of which have a similar educational system in common. These countries, and in particular Sweden, have a long tradition of educational research, especially in the area of evaluating schooling and curricula, with several well known examples of longitudinal studies of children throughout their school careers. Educational research is viewed as an important part of monitoring and improving the educational system and researchers are commonly appointed by central government to policy-making committees.

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