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Science, systems, and theoretical alternatives in educational administration: The road less travelled

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to offer a critical reflection on ideas that have been published in the Journal of Educational Administration over the last 50 years that present perspectives on the nature of educational administration and its various aspects, that are alternatives to the mainstream systems-scientific view of educational administration. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper employs a standard analytic philosophy methodology with a focus on argument structures found in epistemology. The approach is to argue that the content and structure of administrative theories is shaped significantly by background epistemologies that determine the nature and justification of administrative knowledge Findings ‐ Epistemologies for both the traditional systems-science approach to educational administration and a range of alternatives are identified and specified, and the most characteristic features of these approaches that follow from their epistemologies are described. The paper permits inferences about theory choice, and what approach is best, based on a discussion of the merits of the different epistemologies. Originality/value ‐ The principal value of the paper is to classify and demonstrate the most general features of the arguments that have been behind the large-scale theoretical differences in the field of educational administration.
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Keywords: Chaos theory; Coherentism; Critical theory; Educational administration; Empiricism; Epistemology; Ethics; Philosophy; Postmodernism; Science; Subjectivism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 27, 2012

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