Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: SoTL as its Own Kind of Inquiry
Keywords:paradigms, disciplines, knowledge-constitutive interests, philosophy of science, Habermas
Although there is ample literature that explores what SoTL is and offers guidelines on how to do SoTL, we have not paid enough attention to the fundamental assumptions that underpin systematic scholarly inquiry itself, regardless of the context or the object of study. Instead, we seem to have a narrative that relates SoTL to the disciplines and/or educational research. In this paper, I challenge this narrative with the help of philosophy of science. Specifically, I argue that SoTL is at risk of being appropriated by disciplinary paradigms. This means we would do well to adjust how we conceptualize SoTL. To find a better way, I use Habermas’ concept of knowledge-constitutive interests to argue that we should start by recognizing the fundamental interests at play when we do SoTL, regardless of disciplinary context. I connect Habermas’ three interests (instrumental, interpretive, and emancipatory) to Hutchings’ taxonomy of SoTL questions (what works? what is? and what could be?) and to three basic paradigms of inquiry (normative, interpretive, and critical realist). These connections show how philosophy of science in the form of Habermas’ critical theory can combine with existing conceptual literature on SoTL and established paradigms of inquiry that exist independently of the disciplines. I aim to show that we can use philosophy of science to conceptualize SoTL in a way that allows it to stand fully on its own merits, as its own form of inquiry, with disciplinary perspectives only influencing it in appropriate and useful ways.
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