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  • 1.
    Matta, Corrado
    Stockholm university.
    Actor Network, Ontic Structural Realism and the Ontological Status of Actants2014In: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 / [ed] Bayne S, Jones C, de Laat M, Ryberg T & Sinclair C., 2014, p. 195-202Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this paper I discuss the ontological status of actants. Actants are argued as being the basic constituting entities of networks in the framework of Actor Network Theory (Latour, 2007). I introduce two problems concerning actants that have been pointed out by Collin (2010). The first problem concerns the explanatory role of actants. According to Collin, actants cannot play the role of explanans of networks and products of the same newtork at the same time, at pain of circularity. The second problem is that if actants are, as suggested by Latour, fundamentally propertyless, then it is unclear how they combine into networks. This makes the nature of actants inexplicable. I suggest that both problems rest on the assumption of a form of object ontology, i.e. the assumption that the ontological basis of reality consists in discrete individual entities that have intrinsic properties. I argue that the solution to this problem consists in the assumption of an ontology of relations, as suggested within the framework of Ontic Structural Realism (Ladyman & Ross, 2007). Ontic Structural Realism is a theory concerning the ontology of science that claims that scientific theories represent a reality consisting on only relation, and no individual entities. Furthermore I argue that the employment of OSR can, at the price of little modification for both theories, solve both of the two problems identified by Collin concerning ANT. Throughout the text I seek support for my claims by referring to examples of application of ANT to the context of networked learning. As I argue, the complexity of the phenomenon of networked learning gives us a convenient vantage point from which we can clearly understand many important aspects of both ANT and OSR. While my proposal can be considered as an attempt to solve Collin’s problems, it is also an experiment of reconciliation between analytic and constructivist philosophy of science. In fact I point out that on the one hand Actor Network Theory and Ontic Structural Realism show an interesting number of points of agreement, such as the naturalistic character and the focus on relationality. On the other hand, I argue that all the intuitive discrepancies that originates from the Science and Technology Studies’ criticism against analytic philosophy of science are at a closer look only apparent.

  • 2.
    Matta, Corrado
    Stockholm university.
    Interpretivism and Causal Explanations: A Case from Educational Research2015In: Philosophy of the social sciences, ISSN 0048-3931, E-ISSN 1552-7441, Vol. 45, no 6, p. 543-567Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article criticizes a view about the interpretation of human action, labeled in the text as interpretivism. This view posits a sharp separation between the natural and social sciences, to the effect that the methods of the latter cannot be applied to the former. I criticize this standpoint by reconstructing a case of educational research. As I argue, the case I analyze indicates that the arguments in support of interpretivism are contradicted by what social researchers can actually achieve. I conclude that the interpretivistic claims lack support and that the general separation claim appears as problematic.

  • 3.
    Matta, Corrado
    Stockholm university.
    Methodological Naturalism and Teaching Research Methods2017In: NERA 2017 Abstracts: 23-25 March 2017: Learning and education – material conditions and consequences, 2017, p. 259-, article id 133Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Research topic/Aim: In this paper I discuss the consequence of a specific standpoint in the philosophy of social science, which I call methodological naturalism (MN), for teaching social research methods (and qualitative methods in particular)

    Theoretical frameworks:  The theoretical framework of MN can be summarized by its main claim, according to which, despite exhibiting diversity in concrete methods, social sciences share (both internally, and externally with the natural sciences) at least a basic set of methodological core principles. One of these is that all use data to support claims in order to empirically ground their conclusions.

    Methodology/research design: I start by summarizing the main current philosophical orientation in teaching qualitative research methods. This is retrieved from the analysis of 90 qualitative methods textbooks. The analysis of the textbooks provided a general picture of the philosophical orientation in qualitative research methods teaching as informed by a standpoint I call “paradigmatic approach”. According to this approach philosophical commitments that are shared within research community determine the researchers’ choice of methods. I therefore compare the standpoints of methodological naturalism with the paradigmatic approach and look for the claims in which the two standpoints diverge.

    Expected conclusions/Findings: From the comparison of methodological naturalism with the paradigmatic approach I derive three prescriptions about teaching qualitative research methods (and social research methods in general).

    (1)   MN discourages accounts of research methods that rest on the strong interpretation of methodological rules as inherently social.

    (2)   MN recommends a double movement, going from cognitive to social issues and from social to cognitive issues of methods, as a general structure for teaching research methods.

    (3)   MN recommends decomposing and problematizing stereotypes concerning the relationship between philosophy and methods, and favors differential reconstructions.

    Relevance for Nordic Educational Research: I conclude by arguing that these prescriptions can make a contribution to the practice of teaching social research methods, mainly by bringing to the surface a number of issues that have been overlooked in the literature, and by providing suggestion on how to combine different aspects of social research methods that have traditionally been kept apart.

  • 4.
    Matta, Corrado
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Pedagogy and Learning.
    Policy Evaluation and Mixed Methods2018Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this paper, I assess the claim that mixed methods are especially appropriate methods for evaluating policy. The aim of my discussion is to clarify in what way mixing different methods can be instrumentally beneficial when evaluating policy initiatives. 

    Social researchers concerned with the issue of evaluation have claimed on many occasions that mixed methods are especially appropriate for the aim of building program theories (Chen 2006; White 2008, 2009). A program theory is a model of a policy intervention that represents the intervention, its context and its outcome as a causal chain. The primacy of mixed methods as a specifically appropriate methodological approach for program theory has been justified in a contrastive way. As it is claimed, evaluation based on statistical studies can only account for the effect of an intervention on a particular phenomenon (White 2008). In contrast, program theory requires understanding how the intervention generated the measured effect (Chen 2006). For this reason, it has been claimed that effect size studies must be complemented with studies that provide an account of the causal path or mechanism that leads from the intervention to the outcome in its original context. It is interesting to note that several philosophers have shared this concern about certain statistical methods (Cartwright 2007; Grüne-Yanoff 2016; Runhardt 2015). 

    However, the literature concerning mixed methods shows that the very term “mixed methods” is vague, covering a plethora of different techniques for the collection and analysis of empirical data. Therefore, it is implausible to think that the simple use of any mixed method is a sufficient condition for avoiding the limitation of statistical methods and for providing a good program theory. This poses a problem for the assessment of the claim of the superiority of mixed methods for program evaluation. 

    In order for circumventing this problem, I categorize the mixed methods in groups, according to their characteristic integration strategy. The literature on mixed methods typically distinguishes three such strategies: i) method integration ii) data integration iii) model integration. 

    The next step in my argument consists in the definition of a criterion for the explanatory aims of program theory. As it is claimed in the literature about program theory, an appropriate model of a program ought to describe some mechanism connecting the intervention to its outcome. Following Cartwright and Stegenga (2012), I define a mechanism as an answer to a how-question that accounts for the INUS condition (Insufficient but Necessary parts of Unnecessary but Sufficient conditions) that influence the outcome of the intervention. Therefore, the capability of the integration strategies to account for mechanisms can be assessed by comparing their capability of accounting for INUS conditions. Using examples from the evaluation of a large-scale professional development program for mathematics teachers recently introduced in Sweden, I proceed with the comparison of integration strategies. 

    References 

    Cartwright, Nancy. 2007. “Are RCTs the Gold Standard?” BioSocieties 2 (1): 11–20. 

    Cartwright, Nancy, and Jacob Stegenga. 2012. A Theory of Evidence for Evidence-Based Policy. Oxford University Press/The British Academy. 

    Chen, Huey T. 2006. “A Theory-Driven Evaluation Perspective on Mixed Methods Research.” In Research in the Schools, 75–83. 

    Grüne-Yanoff, Till. 2016. “Why Behavioral Policy needs Mechanistic Evidence.” Economics & Philosophy 32 (3): 463–83. 

    Runhardt, Rosa W. 2015. “Evidence for Causal Mechanisms in Social Science: Recommendations from Woodward’s Manipulability Theory of Causation.” Philosophy of Science 82 (5): 1296–1307. 

    White, Howard. 2008. “Of Probits and Participation: The Use of Mixed Methods in Quantitative Impact Evaluation.” IDS Bulletin 39 (1): 98–109. 

    ———. 2009. “Theory-Based Impact Evaluation: Principles and Practice.” Journal of Development Effectiveness 1 (3): 271–284.

  • 5.
    Matta, Corrado
    Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Pedagogy and Learning.
    Qualitative Research Methods and Evidential Reasoning2019In: Philosophy of the social sciences, ISSN 0048-3931, E-ISSN 1552-7441, Vol. 49, no 5, p. 385-412Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article discusses the concept of evidential reasoning in the context of qualitative research methods in the social sciences. A conceptualization of qualitative evidential reasoning is proposed. This conceptualization is based on the analysis of an example of qualitative methods applied to the study of music education. I argue that this conceptualization identifies specific and nontrivial conditions for qualitative evidential reasoning and, at the same time, supports the claim that there is no essential methodological separation regarding evidence between quantitative and qualitative methods.

  • 6.
    Matta, Corrado
    Stockholm university.
    Scientific Representation and Science Learning2014In: Open Review of Educational Research, E-ISSN 2326-5507, Vol. 1, no 1, p. 211-231Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this article I examine three examples of philosophical theories of scientific representation with the aim of assessing which of these is a good candidate for a philosophical theory of scientific representation in science learning. The three candidate theories are Giere’s intentional approach, Suárez’s inferential approach and Lynch and Woolgar’s sociological approach. In order to assess which theory is more promising, I will compare the three candidate theories to two aspects of scientific representation in science learning that emerge from empirical research on science learning. I label these aspects as the intentional and normative character of scientific representation in science learning. As I argue, whereas the other competing accounts of scientific representation can only capture one of the two aspects highlighted in this article, the inferential conception has the capacity to capture them both in a coherent way. Thus, I conclude that the inferential conception seems to be a fruitful philosophical theory of scientific representation in science learning.

  • 7.
    Matta, Corrado
    Stockholm university.
    The Role of Philosophical Theory in Qualitative Methods Textbooks2017Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In this paper I discuss the role of philosophical theories (intended as coherent sets of philosophical claims) in social research methods textbooks, and in particular in qualitative methods textbooks. The theses that I defend in the paper are two: (1) Qualitative methods textbooks typically contain the claim that philosophical theories determine research methods. (2) The determination relationship between philosophical theories and research methods that is typically assumed in qualitative methods textbooks is potentially problematic. In the first part of the paper I qualify and provide empirical evidence for (1). The empirical evidence consists of the analysis of a random sample of 90 qualitative methods textbooks. In the second part of the paper I critically assess the determination claim contained in textbooks and argue that this claim is both philosophically and educationally problematic

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