Understanding terminology

I’m taking a moment to share, and shape my understanding of key terms in educational research, as a result of reading parts of the book The Foundations of Research by Jonathan Grix. Since several of these terms came up in the course syllabus, I need to get them straight in my understanding.

  • Ontology: “what we can know” (course syllabus); “a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature of being”; from the Greek word “to be”; the “basic image of social reality upon which a theory is based”; “the way in which we view the world”; “claims and assumptions that are made about the nature of social reality, claims about what exists, what it looks like, what units make it up, and how these units interact with each other”; “ontological assumptions are concerned with what we believe constitutes social reality” (quotes from Grix p. 170); reading more on Wikipedia – e.g. pluralism, Plato, Aristotle;

The concept of ‘ontological formations’ refers to formations of social relations understood as dominant ways of living. Temporal, spatial, corporeal, epistemological and performative relations are taken to be central to understanding a dominant formation. That is, a particular ontological formation is based on how ontological categories of time, space, embodiment, knowing and performing are lived—objectively and subjectively.” (Wikipedia)

  • Epistemology: “how we know and value it” (course syllabus); from Greek terms – episteme – knowledge and logos – reason; the theory of knowledge (Grix); “depends on the beliefs about the nature of knowledge”; “assumptions about the forms of knowledge, access to knowledge, and ways of acquiring and gathering knowledge” (Grix, p. 166); these will alter the research process, data collection methods, and how it’s analyzed (Grix);
  • Axiology: “how we live and act in the world” (course syllabus); “Axiology (from Greek ἀξία, axia, “value, worth”; and -λογία, -logia) is the philosophical study of value.”; “Axiology studies mainly two kinds of values: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics investigates the concepts of “right” and “good” in individual and social conduct. Aesthetics studies the concepts of “beauty” and “harmony.”” (Wikipedia)

And at the end of this digging into terminology for deeper understanding, I serendipitously found Susan Sword’s video Beware of Nominalizations (AKA Zombie Nouns) which just puts it all in perspective.

More from Helen Sword can be found on her web site and links.