Scott Eacott’s relational research program offers a distinctive variant of the relational sociology project. By not fitting neatly into any one field, the relational approach arguably charts new territory and promotes important dialogue and debate for understanding the organizing of society.
Beginning in studies of educational administration and leadership, the relational approach has since been mobilized to explore supplementary education, Indigenous epistemologies, and future focused learning, among others. It has been central to multiple successful grants, 45 publications, over 21 conference papers, 10 theses, and is taught in masters and doctoral programs in Australia and Canada.
The relational approach offers a methodological framework for the study of the social world. It provides a means to frame scholarly inquiry and structure an argument in a thesis, paper, book, or conference paper. Built upon a very Bourdieusian craft of scholarship, but without any great loyalty of reverence, A/Prof Eacott’s relational approach comprises five relational extensions:
- The centrality of “organizing” in the social world creates an ontological complicity in researchers (and others) that makes it difficult to epistemologically break from ordinary language;
- Rigorous social scientific inquiry calls into question the very foundations of popular labels such as “the organization”, “leadership”, “management”, and “administration”;
- Contemporary spatio-temporal conditions cannot be separated from the ongoing, and inexhaustible, recasting of organizing activity;
- Foregrounding social relations enables the overcoming of the contemporary, and arguably enduring, analytical dualism of individualism/collectivism, universal/particular, and structure/agency; and
- In doing so, there is a productive – rather than merely critical – space to theorize organizing activity.
New to the relational research program? An introductory overview can be found in: Eacott, S. (2019). Starting points for a relational approach to organisational theory in education. Research in Educational Administration and Leadership, 4(1), 16-45. Further background can be found in chapter two of the edited collection by Gabriele Lakomski, Scott Eacott and Colin Evers (2017). Questioning Leadership: New Directions For Educational Organizations (Routledge) and Eacott, S. (2016). Methodological notes on the study of educational leadership relationally. Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations, 25(2), 3-14.
The first book length treatment of the relational approach is Eacott’s (2015) Educational Leadership Relationally. The most comprehensive overview appears in Eacott’s (2018) Beyond leadership: a relational approach to organizational theory in education. There has also been two Special Issues dedicated to discussions on the problems and possibilities of the relational approach – Research in Educational Administration and Leadership (2019) and Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations (2016).
Using the relational approach in your dissertation, thesis, or a paper? A/Prof Eacott has developed an indicative guideline for structuring your writing. See here.
See also the Publications tab for many other papers and chapters using the relational approach. Ongoing work is being articulated at the moment in conference papers and empirical projects and will be published shortly.