Smith, Schmidt, Edelen-Smith, & Cook, 2013

Pasteur’s Quadrant as the Bridge Linking Rigor with Relevance

Pasteur’s quadrant refers to a section of the Quadrant Model of Scientific Research introduced by Donald E. Stokes (1997). The model features the work and work-habits of 3 inventor/researchers: Bohr, Pasteur, and Edison.

Just to give you some background information, we are all aware of a tension between teachers and researchers. Even if you do not notice it in your own work, you might see it in other classrooms or with other researchers.

In this paper, the researchers explore the tension between teachers and researchers through the lens of discourse theory. Discourse theory is studied widely in communication because it recognizes the fact that “language alone cannot account for meaning” in communication. Discourse theory takes into account the discourse community, which describes a group of folks who use similar language to communicate. The researchers describe a discourse community as an “annointed guardian of the truth,” and thus, the language they use to describe and discuss knowledge and knowledge production–words, emphases, syntax, etc.–define them as a part of that discourse community. We use discourse communities to understand how people belong together. We are trying to understand who to include; however, when we include many people, we also exclude others.

Among the discourse communities of teachers and researchers, there is a sense that teacher knowledge/wisdom is a separate and lesser category of knowledge. This can create an indignation against researchers for excluding teachers from their discourse community. It may even give rise to a “resistance culture” wherein knowledge production is limited or even halted by the actions of members of both discourse communities. In these situations, it is important to recognize–it’s not that teachers don’t like research or evidence-based practices (EBPs), they simply value a different approach. Teachers tend to value practice-based evidence (PBE), which is relevant and externally valid while researchers value EBPs, which are rigorous and internally valid. Because discourse communities are closely linked to identity and trust, it is unlikely that logical appeals for everyone to “just get along” will be enough to integrate EBP and PBE.

Smith et. al say we don’t have to choose. They present the Stokes (1997) model, which introduces research as a synergystic model using a both/and approach rather than a either/or approach. In the model, we have Bohr (developed the modern model of the atom) as a quest for knowledge without consideration of usage. Edison (who invented lots of things) represents the view that deeper scientific knowledge is secondary to development and application of useful products. Pasteur brings these together with scientific efficacy and real-world effectiveness. In the model, practice and research are complimentary. This is a use-inspired basic research model.

So, how is this done? How can we implement this model? The researchers suggest we use Education Design Research (EDR) and implement it through Communities of Practice. This is not suggested as an actual methodology by the authors, but a “framework for a range of methodologies.”


External validity:  the validity of generalized (causal) inferences in scientific research, usually based on experiments as experimental validity. In other words, it is the extent to which the results of a study can be generalized to other situations and to other people.

Internal validity:  how well an experiment is done, especially whether it avoids confounding (more than one possible independent variable [cause] acting at the same time). The less chance for confounding in a study, the higher is its internal validity.

Education Design Research:  developed by Brown (1992) and Collins (1992). Suggests that “rigorous education research should take place in complex educational environments.”

Communities of Practice:  groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger-Traynor, n.d.).

EDR & Communities of Practice

Characteristics of EDR/CoP

  • Iterative
  • Does not ignore contextual variables, which are complex and unpredicatable (traditional research seeks to control these)
  • Flexible
  • Interaction occurs in a Community of Practice
  • Synergy through sharing
    • values
    • goals
    • practices
  • Common purpose for teachers and researchers
  • Internal motivation to solve problems
  • Participatory relationships

Stages of EDR

  • analysis/exploration
  • design/construction
  • evaluation/reflection



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