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College essay writing serviceKeywordsassumptions; concepts; ideologies; mental map; metaphors; models; perspectives; theoriesIn Part Two, we further develop the ideas from Part One by demonstrating how to critically analyse texts in greater depth. As you embark on reading a range of literature using the Critical Synopsis Questions in Part One, you will probably identify a small number of texts as being particularly central for your topic. These are the texts with the greatest potential to inform your thinking and your subsequent writing. So it will be a good investment of time to scrutinize these texts in greater depth. Doing so successfully and efficiently requires a refined grasp of how academic enquiry works and a more extensive array of questions to guide your critical engagement.To help you sharpen your in-depth critical analysis skills, we show you how to develop a mental map that can guide your thinking as you explore the social world. The map will enable you to find patterns in the ways that authors discuss their topics and in how they develop their argument in trying to convince their target audience. For many of our illustrations, we draw on the abridged version of the journal article by Wallace (2001) in Appendix 2.The present chapter introduces the mental map, which consists of a key and four components, by exploring the key in detail. Chapter 7 discusses the first component: the detailed warranting of arguments. We pay special attention to checking how well the claims made in the conclusion of an argument are matched by the warranting employed to try and make them convincing. Chapter 8 sets out the three other components in turn: the main kinds of knowledge that authors may claim to have, the types of literature they produce and their ‘intellectual projects’ or reasons for studying the social world. We show how, in principle, they can be used to inform an analysis. Then, in Chapter 9, the mental map is put to work on a real example. We use it in demonstrating a structured approach to the Critical Analysis of Wallace’s article, inviting you to try it out for yourself. In Chapter 10, we provide our own completed Critical Analysis of this article as an illustration. It includes an accompanying commentary explaining our reasons for each step we have taken. Finally, in Chapter 11, we begin by exploring how a Critical Analysis of this kind can be used as the platform for writing a Critical Review of a particular text. By way of illustration, we offer our own Critical Review of Wallace’s article, drawing on the earlier Critical Analysis. Thus, we mirror, with an in-depth analysis, the procedures we illustrated in Part One using the five Critical Synopsis Questions to create a less-detailed Critical Summary. As in Part One, the approach that we first describe and illustrate for one text can be expanded to cover multiple texts. We end the chapter with structured advice on how to conduct a Comparative Critical Review, making the transition from one text to several at the in-depth level. We suggest you turn now to Appendix 2 and read the abridged article by Wallace once through, before you tackle Part Two.A mental map simply means a way of thinking about the social world, so that different aspects can be considered and evaluated independently. You can use the mental map we describe to explore and account for patterns in what you read, and also to understand the nature of your own work. The map has a key and four related components (which elaborate on ideas introduced in Part One). Between them, the key and components help you see not only what authors have done in their research and why but also how they are attempting to convince their readers about it.Of course, no mental map is definitive and a philosopher could offer something much more detailed and discriminatory than we use here. We offer an approach that is sufficiently defined to navigate by, while being streamlined enough to be usable. Here we focus on the key (leaving the four components to subsequent chapters).Tools for thinking are necessary for understanding the social world because our experience of it, and our ability to communicate that experience, do not rest on our senses alone. The social world is only ‘real’ in so far as we create a conceptual reality that gives meaning to interaction between people and the social structures that they create to facilitate or control that interaction. Furthermore, we can share these concepts only through language.The notion of ‘education’, for example, is a social construct. ‘Education’ is an idea employed conventionally to refer to various experiences and activities, and even to the state of being of an educated person. There is no one-to-one correspondence between whatever social world might exist ‘out there’ and people’s interpretation of it in their minds. It is common to find that other people understand a social phenomenon differently from the way that we do. One person’s ‘valuable educational activities’ (say, opportunities for children to learn through play) might be another person’s ‘deplorable waste of time’ (if such activities are interpreted as merely playing around without learning).The tools for thinking that we describe are embedded in the language of the literature you read, as they will also be in the literature that you produce when writing for assessment or publication. Therefore, what we are introducing here is not new but a way of focusing your attention onto something that you have already encountered and used. By becoming more conscious of concepts that you have an implicit familiarity with, you will be able to ask questions that reveal hidden features of a text, including unspoken assumptions, logical flaws and unwarranted conclusions.TOOLS ARE CONSTRUCTS TOO!Be warned – these tools are themselves constructs that rely on the interpretation of language. As you will see, authors differ in what they mean when they talk about them: how they intend a term to be defined, how they employ it, how they conceive of the relationship between the tools. No idea, even a tool for thinking, has a fixed and universally agreed definition. All the same, since academic communication fundamentally depends on common understandings of the discourse, there is an area of general agreement and shared meaning for most terms, which we have aimed to capture in our descriptions. Compare your existing understanding of each term against the way that we define it. Any differences may shed light on things that have puzzled you up to now (for instance, where your understanding of a term has been rather narrower, or rather broader, than is customary in academic usage).The tools for thinking that comprise our key are: concepts, perspectives, metaphors, theories, models, assumptions and ideologies.Ideas like ‘education’ are concepts. The word (or term) education is used as the bridge between the abstract concept ‘education’ in the minds of the author and the reader. Using the term to refer to the concept, we can write about how we classify, interpret, describe, explain and evaluate aspects of the social world. One concept will be defined in relation to other concepts, so ‘education’ might be defined in relation to concepts like ‘instruction’, ‘creativity’, ‘training’ or ‘skill formation’.It follows that the extent to which concepts can be successfully shared by an author and a reader depends on the extent to which they both interpret the term in the same way. Suppose an author states an opinion about a concept (e.g., adult education is of little benefit to the economy) and the reader disagrees with it. This could be for one of at least three reasons:If no one has a monopoly on the definition of concepts, there is great potential for confusion. This will result in a failure to communicate, one major reason why authors may not convince a reader about some issue that seems obvious to them. In order to see things through the author’s eyes, the reader needs to find a way of working out what the author means by the terms used. What authors can do to help the reader is to offer an explicit ‘stipulative definition’ of the main concepts they are dealing with. In this way, readers can see where their own understanding is different and also make a deliberate, if temporary, change to their own conceptualization, so as to see things through the eyes of the author.EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT DEFINITION OF CONCEPTSWallace’s (Appendix 2) definition of power (page 228) is explicit:Following Giddens (1984), a definition of power as ‘transformative capacity’ – use of resources to achieve interests – is employed.Definitions can also be implicit, yet are easily detected if the first mention of the concept is followed by detail that contributes an account of what is meant by it. Wallace (Appendix 2) indicates what ‘senior management teams’ are by describing their role, typical membership and involvement in decision-making (page 223):… senior management teams (SMTs) in British primary schools, whose role is to support the headteacher in leading and managing the institution. Typically, they consist of the headteacher, deputy head and other teachers with the most substantial management responsibility. Team members are variably involved in making policy and routine management decisions on behalf of other staff, whose views are represented in some measure.Just as you, as a reader, need authors to define their key concepts, as a writer you risk confusing your readers unless you give a stipulative definition of the key concepts that you employ.Since the social world is infinitely complex, concepts are used by an author to focus the attention of the reader on particular features, while others are backgrounded. Furthermore, where several concepts are to be considered together, it is often useful to bundle them under a single label. A researcher interested in the impact on literacy of poverty, family instability and parental drug abuse might variously discuss them individually and also bundle them under the group heading ‘social problems’. There they do not need to be differentiated, because the earlier discussion has indicated what the term ‘social problems’ is intended to cover.Grouping concepts has the advantage of enabling us to attend to patterns in the phenomenon. But it will also obscure other patterns, which a different grouping would have drawn to our attention. This compromise is inevitable, since no one is capable of attending to everything at once. The key thing is to be aware when a group concept is being used and to expect the author to provide sufficient information for you to know what is encompassed within it.Sets of concepts are often combined to form perspectives. A perspective is a device for filtering an examination of social events and processes, so that certain things are excluded, while others appear particularly prominent. A cultural perspective, for example, brings to the fore facts, values, assumptions and codes governing what is, and can be done within, a culture. But the adoption of a cultural perspective will tend to push out of the way other factors, such as the individual’s psychological motivations, even though they, too, will determine how a person behaves. A writer can pick out different features of the social world using different filters but nobody can look at something from all possible perspectives simultaneously.The university degree ceremony provides an illustration. A behavioural perspective would draw to our attention the actions and words of the participants. A social relations perspective would examine the reasons why students elect to attend, perhaps in order to share one last special day with their friends and so that their parents can come and watch. A motivational perspective might reveal why individuals feel that it is ‘worth’ attending and how it affects their sense of identity and achievement to participate in the event. A cultural perspective could examine how, through ritual, the academics symbolically acknowledge their students’ achievements and the vice chancellor formally accepts them into the ranks of graduates of the institution.Although multiple perspectives are difficult to manage, it is possible to combine perspectives to a limited extent. A common approach is to examine a phenomenon first from one perspective, then from another. However, difficulties can arise when the two perspectives embody concepts that are incompatible with each other. If a cultural perspective on what happens in meetings emphasizes how people share beliefs and values to reach consensus, but a political perspective on the same meetings emphasizes how individuals use power to achieve their personal goals at others’ expense, which explanation are you to accept? A solution is to combine the different perspectives rather than deal with them independently by adopting compatible stipulative definitions of the key concepts. That is, the analyst makes a choice from within the range of possible definitions for a concept, in order to home in on one that is shared across the perspectives being used.COMBINING PERSPECTIVESWallace (Appendix 2) employs a combined cultural and political perspective on teamwork within the senior management teams that he researched. He justifies the combined approach as follows (page 228).The cultural and political perspective guiding the research integrates concepts about teacher professional cultures and micropolitics. It focuses on the reciprocal relationship between culture and power: cultural determinants of differential uses of power and uses of power to shape culture …In order to make the combined perspective work, Wallace has selected stipulative definitions of the core concepts ‘culture’ and ‘power’ that are compatible with each other. His stipulative definition of ‘culture’ is: ‘the way we do things around here’, and allows for the possibility that different people may hold overlapping or contradictory beliefs and values about the culture. Equally, his stipulative definition of power as ‘transformative capacity’ is neutral and so allows for power to be used collaboratively or conflictually.A metaphor is a way of describing one unfamiliar or complex phenomenon in terms of another, more familiar or simpler one. The characteristics of something familiar and easy to understand are used to explore, by analogy, the nature of the more difficult phenomenon. In the previous section, we likened the ‘perspective’ to a filter. A light filter selects certain wavelengths and excludes others. A particle filter holds back large particles while allowing small ones to pass through. Using these images, it becomes easier to think about the ‘perspective’ as something that allows certain aspects of a phenomenon to be seen while others are left aside.A GRAPHIC METAPHOR: THE ‘GARBAGE CAN’ IMAGE OF DECISION-MAKINGMarch and Olsen (1976) used the metaphor of a ‘garbage can’ to characterize how ambiguity and unpredictability feature in organizational decision-making. The ‘garbage can’ metaphor captures the idea of various types of input (such as individuals’ presence and interest, issues that need deciding or local conditions) being ‘thrown’ into the decision-making process in a rather haphazard, unpredictable way. What comes out of the decision-making process is a product of that mix.(March, J. and Olsen, P. (1976) Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget.)A metaphor maps onto the concept that it describes, but not exactly. There are aspects of the concept that lie outside the bounds of the metaphor and also aspects of the metaphor that lie outside the bounds of the concept. In our ‘garbage can’ example, the metaphor draws attention away from the possibility that decision-making will sometimes be orderly and predictable. Conversely, a garbage can is periodically emptied out, whereas decision-making tends to be built on accumulated past decisions.The boundaries marking where the metaphor and concept no longer overlap are important. Pushing at them can be useful for exploring the phenomenon in new ways, but over-extending them will lead to ‘shoehorning’ things into unhelpful images. Consider what would happen if one explored an aspect of garbage can usage that March and Olsen could scarcely have included back in 1976: recycling. Would it help us understand more about decision-making in organizations if we thought metaphorically about how some items in a garbage can could be rescued and recycled? Or would that be an unhelpful step too far?As a critical reader, you will often find yourself engaging with an account in which a metaphor has been adopted. It is important for you to reflect on which aspects of the social phenomenon being discussed are highlighted and which underplayed or ignored, and how the metaphor could be further exploited or is already being pushed beyond its usefulness.The terms ‘theory’ and ‘model’ refer to explanatory and often evaluative accounts of one or more aspects of the social world, incorporating a bundle of related concepts defined in a particular way. Theories and models may or may not be informed by research or practical experience.Theories are widely viewed as a coherent system of connected concepts, lying within one or more perspectives. They may be used to interpret and explain what has happened and to predict what will happen. In some fields, theories can be employed normatively, to prescribe what should be done to improve an aspect of the social world. Thus, a ‘progressive theory of education’ will make proposals about how education ought to be. It might be couched within a psychological perspective on individual development and employ the metaphor of ‘nurturing growth’.Models generally entail a small bundle of concepts and their relationship to each other. They tend to refer to a specific aspect of a phenomenon, which may form part of a broader theory. It is common, therefore, to see a specific phenomenon being modelled on the basis of the predictions or prescriptions of a more general theory.MODELLING INTERACTION: CLARITY VERSUS COMPREHENSIVENESSWallace (Appendix 2) develops a model of interaction between headteachers and other members of their senior management teams (pages 232–3). The core concepts are represented diagrammatically as a simple ‘two by two’ matrix of cells and arrows:The four cells contain descriptions of the different outcomes of each combination, and they fall along a continuum from no synergy between the headteacher and other team members (when the headteacher subscribes to a belief in a management hierarchy and the other SMT members do not), to high synergy (when everyone adopts the norm of equality in the contribution to teamwork). Moderate and low synergy outcomes are also represented in the other two cells.Note how Wallace has deliberately simplified even this quite specific aspect of teamwork by contrasting the headteacher’s position with that of all the other members of the senior management team lumped together. The advantage of clarity that is gained through this simplification comes at a price. It ignores the possibility that amongst the other SMT members, individuals may differ over which norm they subscribe to at any given time. A more realistic model would have to consider multiple subgroups of team members, more linkages and more positions – but doing so would sacrifice clarity.Any interpretation of the social world rests on certain assumptions: taken-for-granted beliefs of which the writer may be fully aware or quite unaware. The validity of any assumption is always open to question, often by considering whether there is evidence to support or challenge it, or by checking whether the assumption is logically consistent with the claims being made.IDENTIFYING AND CHALLENGING ASSUMPTIONSWallace (Appendix 2) identifies assumptions which, he claims, underlie normative theories of educational leadership (page 224).He challenges these assumptions, developing the argument that they are unrealistic for the context of schools in the UK. As his warranting, he draws on evidence from policy and research literature. Then he reports his own research findings and uses these as a warranting for his further conclusions (pages 234–5).Authors tend not to justify their own assumptions because those assumptions are the starting point for whatever argument they wish to develop. But critical readers may identify and challenge assumptions in the literature, in order to develop their own counter-argument, as Wallace does. (Whatever assumptions Wallace makes are, of course, just as open to challenge as those of the authors whose claims he criticizes.)The term ideology implies a system of beliefs, attitudes and opinions about some aspect of the social world, based on particular assumptions. An ideology guides action towards the realization of particular interests or goals. Ideologydriven action may prevent others from realizing their own interests. Many teachers and lecturers espouse an ‘educational philosophy’. This is an ideology built upon their beliefs, attitudes and opinions about education. One such ideology might be that ‘education is about developing a lifelong love of learning’. It is intrinsically value-laden because it cannot be based on facts alone. Rather, the ideology draws in addition upon views about the purposes, content and methods of education, and about the ideal balance of control between the different participants in deciding what should and should not be done.IDEOLOGY AS A NEUTRAL OR A CRITICAL TERMThe notion of an ideology is often employed neutrally, referring to any system of beliefs whether true or false. However, it is sometimes used critically to imply a false or distorted set of beliefs, representing a partisan interest that is not being made fully explicit. For instance, Marxists point out that the superficially neutral educational philosophy that ‘the purpose of formal education is to provide the skilled workforce necessary for our nation’s economic competitiveness in a global economy’ is not, in fact, neutral. The Marxist identifies this ideology as one that protects the employers’ position of advantage, by deflecting employees from a recognition that they could better their economic position.In your critical reading, it is important first to identify when authors’ claims about the social world reflect their ideology, and then to question the assumptions and values that underlie the ideology itself.We have introduced the prospect of developing your own mental map for making sense of the literature that you come across. Our metaphor of a map draws attention to the possibility that you can find your way around what can otherwise be a bewildering variety of material. So far we have concentrated on the key, the set of tools for thinking. As you engage with these tools, you will quickly see how authors use them to build up different arguments and how the tools’ limitations can affect the robustness of an argument. You will gradually sharpen your ability to question critically whether the tools have been put to convincing use or not (e.g., whether core concepts have been adequately defined). In the next chapter, we introduce the first of four components of the mental map to which the tools for thinking are applied in making and justifying claims to knowledge. It is time to get into an argument.Purchase the answer to view it.
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