Qualitative Approaches to Policy Research in Education: Contesting the Evidence-Based, Neoliberal Regime

Monica Kerrigan, Ane Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This issue highlights problems with the neoliberal research regime in education policy—one that marginalizes, homogenizes, and dismisses communities, critical voices, and methodologies that could improve educational practice. We argue for greater methodological diversity in policy studies when engaging in research conceptualization, applying theoretical frameworks, collecting data, undertaking data analysis, and critiquing the researcher’s epistemological standpoint and positionality in order to redress these deficits in understanding and representation. Indeed, we suggest that qualitative research plays an important role in also contesting the positivist regime in that it empowers those affected by policy, particularly voices often placed in the margins of policy, and contests a methodological hegemony that privileges a neoliberal paradigm in education. Each article in this issue situates a methodological approach within the praxis of education research, describes an essential departure from the quantitative “gold standard” in policy analysis and research, and provides pedagogical evidence of its application to a specific policy. The introduction of this special issue underscores the need for diverse methodological approaches to understanding the complexity of education policy, provides overviews of the articles, and ends by considering the significance of the issue to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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