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Examining the epistemology of impact and success of educational interventions using a reflective case study of university bursaries

Harrison, Neil; McCaig, Colin

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Authors

Neil Harrison Neil.Harrison@uwe.ac.uk
Occasional Associate Lecturer - ACE EDU

Colin McCaig



Abstract

This paper engages with the continuing emphasis given to evidence-based policy and ‘what works’ approaches in educational research, highlighting some of the continuing epistemological challenges from a post-positivist perspective. To illustrate these, it uses the case of bursaries awarded by universities to improve outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds as an example of an education intervention designed to address structural inequality. The paper then discusses critical reflections arising from a project commissioned by the Office for Fair Access in England which aimed to enable universities to evaluate the impact of the bursaries that they award. These reflections provide a lens to explore the limitations of experimental and quasi-experimental designs in complex social fields. The paper concludes that we lack a strong understanding of the relationship between financial and educational disadvantage prior to and during higher education, and this undermines efforts to ‘prove’ that certain interventions will ‘level the playing field’.

Citation

Harrison, N., & McCaig, C. (2017). Examining the epistemology of impact and success of educational interventions using a reflective case study of university bursaries. British Educational Research Journal, 43(2), 290-309. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3263

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 10, 2016
Online Publication Date Jan 24, 2017
Publication Date Apr 1, 2017
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jan 24, 2019
Journal British Educational Research Journal
Print ISSN 0141-1926
Electronic ISSN 1469-3518
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 2
Pages 290-309
DOI https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3263
Keywords evidence; success; epistemology; what works; social justice
Public URL https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/888661
Publisher URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/berj.3263

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