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A paradigmatic map of professional education research

Humphrey, Caroline


Caroline Humphrey


This article maps out research in professional education with reference to a threefold typology of paradigms i.e. the positivist, interpretivist and critical paradigms. The rationale for such an endeavour is fourfold. First, it directs attention to the neglected territory of methodology which is essential for researcher reflexivity. Second, it shows that most research in social work education has been situated within the positivist or interpretivist paradigms, and the relative dearth of studies in the critical paradigm raises important questions about anti-oppressive practice in research. Third, a comparison of studies in different spheres of professional education indicates that research into social work education has often not been as rich or robust as research into medicine or teaching, and this deserves further reflection. Finally, there is a practical rationale – although this exercise casts doubt upon our current capacity to develop evidence-based educational reforms, it should also signpost fruitful avenues for future research.


Humphrey, C. (2013). A paradigmatic map of professional education research. Social Work Education, 32(1), 3-16.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2013
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Social work education
Print ISSN 0261-5479
Electronic ISSN 1470-1227
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 1
Pages 3-16
Keywords Social Sciences (miscellaneous); Education
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social work education on 16th December 2011 available online:


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