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This article was originally published as Wright, J, Reframing quality and impact: the place of theory in education research, Australian Educational Researcher, 35(1), 2008, 1-16. Copyright Association for Active Educational Researchers 2008. Original journal article available here


The various research assessment exercises in UK, New Zealand and now Australia have motivated discussions around the nature of ‘quality’ and the purpose of educational research. To a certain extent this is also a discussion about theory, although the word is unlikely to be mentioned, in that terms such as ‘value free’, ‘neutral’, ‘critical’, ‘practical’, ‘transformational’, ‘evidence-based’ all invoke particular ontological and/or epistemological positions, that are and can be contested. One of the questions educational researchers face in the context of such exercises, though again implicit, is what value is attributed to robust theoretically informed research and which theoretical positions will have value? This becomes particularly pertinent in questions of the usefulness of research, or, in the Australian Research Quality Framework (RQF) as proposed by the former Liberal Coalition government, the ‘impact’ of research .

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