Tooley put to the test

July 31, 1998

JAMES Tooley's Education Research - A Critique is a polemic masquerading as research, a triumph of inconsistency, incoherences and bad faith (THES, July 24). It is astonishing that the school inspectorate, Ofsted, should allow its name to be associated with it.

Tooley has great faith in "triangulation", although he has a rather rudimentary understanding of it. He seems to believe that writing with his colleague, Darby, offers a kind of triangulation because they hold different political views. But when they disagree, only Tooley's account is given. A case of strangulation rather than triangulation?

Tooley claims his research is modest and unambitious and that "it is not intended that generalisations about educational research can be drawn from this work" (our italics). He then claims that his findings are disturbing, in terms of the general health of the academic education research community, and he wonders "whether the work of some educational researchers is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burns". Nero is not the only one fiddling here.

We have gone through his report, taking him at his word and checking how well he has stuck to his own criteria. He turned out to be slippery rather than sticky, failing numerous tests of coherence and consistency that he had set up.

He does make some reasoned criticisms and some of the work is an attempt to be careful and fair. But we conclude that his research overall is second-rate and we doubt any of the journals he reviews would regard it as of acceptable quality for publication.

David Hustler and Ian Stronach School of education Manchester Metropolitan University

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