Educational research can be conducted at a number of different levels and this can create some difficult dilemmas.
When researchers look at people’s access to education, a good way to go about it is by considering how their local geographies may be impacting on the choices they have (I have already been on my soap box about that particular issue).
However, there is also great value in looking at people on an individual level, as learners. What are their experiences and how are they embodied? We can also look at the site of learning – whether that is formal or informal. Then there are regional, national and international comparisons to be made. But which level or scale do we select?
From a methodological point of view, all these different approaches have their own pros and cons. The benefit of focussing on the learner as an individual is that we are able to obtain very detailed insights into their experiences and the roles and identities they play out in education. Reviewing the impact of the way in which learning is delivered and where it is delivered can also be of significant use for understanding what makes effective teaching and learning. The neighbourhood level of learning and choice has obvious advantages in terms of policy interest in the marketisation of education. But are some levels too specific? are some too broad? Where should we be focussing our efforts to move forward thinking about what works in education? Should we be spreading ourselves on every ‘rung’ of the scale ladder so to speak? Perhaps it is a greater integration of levels that is required to provide a more comprehensive and actionable set of data…