Translating research findings into educational policy and practice: the virtues and vices of a metaphor by Martyn Hammersley

Thought this was quite an interesting paper by Martyn Hammersley relating to the “translation” of research into policy and practice. I don’t usually (or ever) BLOG other people’s work for no reason other than; I just haven’t. Now I have.


A variety of metaphors have been used in seeking to conceptualise the relationship between social and educational research, on the one hand, and policymaking and practice, on the other. One influential analogy is the idea that research findings can and should be translatable into policy, and thereby into practice.

This article will provide a conceptual analysis of the source meaning of «translation», and what is involved in this metaphorical use of it. It will be argued that many of the issues that arise in relation to translating text from one language into another have parallels in the task of communicating research findings to policymakers or practitioners.

However, the idea that research findings can then be «translated» into policy and practice is much more problematic. The metaphor of «translation» has been used in a variety of ways in the context of social and educational research. Of course, some research of this kind involves translation in a literal sense: the data or other source materials are in one language, or one language variant, and the research report is to be in another (Temple, 1997; Temple and Young, 2004; Tarozzi, 2013). More broadly, though, research that crosses cultural boundaries (and some writers argue that most research is of this kind) involves «cultural translation»: one culture has to be understood in terms of another (Turner, 1980).

Full text


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