Expressions of excellence and the assessment of applied and practice‐based research
Critics of education research in the recent years have pointed the finger at what they saw as its low quality, impact, and ?value for money?. In the context of the Research Assessment Exercise, particular concerns have been raised about applied and practice?based educational research and how best to assess its quality. This contribution refines the ideas originally developed as part of a project commissioned by the ESRC in 2004 and completed in 2005. It argues that quality in applied and practice?based research cannot be reduced to narrow definitions of ?scientificity?, ?impact? or economic efficiency. It proposes an account of quality in applied and practice?based educational research which encompasses methodological and theoretical solidity, use and impact, but also dialogue, deliberation, participation, ethics and personal growth. Drawing on Aristotelian distinctions between forms of rational activity and their expressions of excellence or virtue, our account emphasizes the synergy between three domains of excellence in applied and practice?based research: theoretical (episteme); technical (techne); and practical (phronesis). The thrust of the contribution is not to set any standards of good research practice, but simply to make progress towards recapturing a cultural and philosophical dimension of research assessment that had been lost in recent official discourses.