The Importance of Pragmatic Research

Pragmatic is the approach to research and knowledge that emphasises action and practical understandings. In epistemological terms, pragmatism steers clear of metaphysical debates about truth and reality and focuses on’real-world issues that require immediate attention’ (Patton, 2005: 153). Pragmatism thus enables research to remain relevant as contexts change without being anchored in pre-determined theories. It also allows a strong element of interpretive research to be incorporated into studies, as it places a value on interrogating the value and meaning of a research finding through its examination of its practical consequences.

For pragmatic researchers, the way that we gain a deeper understanding of our world is through actions and interactions with other people. This is why a pragmatist approach can help to uncover human realities in more detail than traditional philosophical approaches that assume knowledge and action exist independently of each other.

The focus on action and interaction also makes pragmatism an appropriate framework for studying organisational processes. For example, in Project examples 1 and 2, pragmatism enabled us to design methodologies that made room for the multiple interpretations and agendas of diverse respondents and to explore how these were influenced by the organisational context. This flexibility, especially at the data collection stage, enabled these projects to respond to the evolving evaluative practices of their case study NGOs in ways that could not have been predicted or planned for.

As a result, this has led to the development of two different research traditions within pragmatism: ‘near-side pragmatics’ and ‘far-side pragmatics’. The former focuses on the properties of the’semantically determined content’ of an utterance, and the latter focuses on the factors that influence what is said: how an utterance is structured; what its speakers’ intentions are; and how they manage to communicate in conversation.

Pragmatic skills are critical to child development, and many teachers and psychologists work on pragmatics to develop children’s ability to express themselves, follow rules and interact with others. They also support children with autism spectrum disorder who often have difficulties with pragmatics.

The pragmatic theory of education has a more general significance as well, and is built around the notion that learning is a process of growing in experience. This is because, for a pragmatist, all experiences and activities are educative because they’re constantly reorganizing and reconstructing experience’ (Foster, 2003: 3). Therefore, it follows that any activity that a child engages in can be educative. This includes school, which is viewed as a miniature of society and the wider world, and provides real-life experiences that ‘inform the child’s personality and character’ (Foster, 2003: 3). This means that every activity that a child participates in can provide an opportunity for learning. This article has explored the seven key pragmatic skills that are necessary to enable children to function and interact effectively with their peers. The article concludes by discussing how the pragmatism framework can be applied to teaching and learning in order to develop these skills. By applying these concepts to teaching and learning, we can enable students to achieve more effective outcomes in their work.