chapter  9
16 Pages

Critical and social realism as theoretical resources for thinking about professional development and equity


This chapter sets out some of the key tenets of critical and social realism and indicates why this theoretical framing provides us with resources for thinking about learning to teach and higher education more generally. Most readers will be familiar with simple forms of realism which claim that our ideas about the world refer to a world which exists independently of our constructions of it. For most of the twentieth century the dominant manifestation of this kind of realism was positivism. What distinguishes critical realism is a more sophisticated account about the nature of the social and physical worlds and how we can make knowledge claims about them. Critical realism also stands against forms of irrealism – that is views of the world which deny the possibility of a connection between our thoughts and sense making and the world beyond our constructions of it. Poststructuralism has been the dominant form of irrealism, or idealism, in the second half of the twentieth and into the twenty-fi rst century.