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How often do we hear the phrase “the research says” in our discussions about improving teaching and learning? What do we mean by the term ‘research’? For many of us, we use this concept under the assumption that something like the ‘scientific method’ has been used to describe educational reality in a way that can help us in our teaching.

This thinking, in turn, sits under our assumptions about the validity of education being part of the ‘social sciences’. But what do we mean, ‘social science’? For some of us, it means using statistical methods to help us discover cause and effects within teaching practice. This can be in the use of ‘qualitative’ as well as ‘quantitative’ methodologies.

Yet it is not uncommon to hear people use phrases such as “But what does the hard data show?” Or, “Was this a real / solid / large enough piece of research?” Such suggestions rely on the assumption that if we use the same scientific method as the physical sciences (which can be referred to as the ‘natural’ or ‘hard’ sciences), then the research is better. This article will review these assumptions with some suggestions for how to be more inclusive in how we conceptualise research with those involved in teaching and learning – i.e. the humans in our classrooms.

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