Mixed methods research can provide a fruitful line of inquiry for educational leadership, program evaluation, and policy analysis; however, mixed methods research requires a metatheory that allows for mixing what have traditionally been considered incompatible qualitative and quantitative inquiry. The purpose of this paper is to apply Jürgen Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action as that metatheoretical justification.
After reviewing the traditional quantitative/qualitative divide based on incompatible ontologies, the author argues for a pragmatist stance toward educational leadership inquiry. Such a stance allows for mixing methods because it privileges methodology and epistemology in social inquiry, rather than ontological theories of reality. Using Habermas’s metatheory, the author shows how truth claims are linguistically mediated; how they make reference to objective, subjective, and normative formal worlds; and how they are always fallible and revisable.
The author argues that Habermas’s metatheory allows (and requires) integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches to fully understand social phenomena. Such integration is possible if researchers attempt to make methodological decisions explicit by linking methodology (and thus methodical decisions) to all three formal worlds, and articulating the rationale for doing so. The author also argues that making the entire corpus of claims bound within a line of social inquiry subject to critical examination promotes the validity of inquiry.
This paper contributes to the discussion on mixed methods research by applying a particular strand of pragmatism. This is an advance in the extant literature, which argues for a pragmatist stance on mixed methods research, but has not yet conceptualized a metatheoretical position supporting this stance.
Whiteman, R. (2015), "Explicating metatheory for mixed methods research in educational leadership: An application of Habermas’s
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