A Critical analysis, within the interpretive paradigmatic stance, of a paper by Sammons et al. (2006) investigating variations in teachers’ work, lives and their effects on pupils

Annie Fisher 

It seems that for some time there has been a tension in the academic world about ways in which to judge the quality of research, particularly qualitative inquiry (see, for example, Furlong & Oancea, 2005, 2007; Hammersley, 2007, 2008; Hillage et al., 1998; Klein & Myers, 1999). Following sustained criticism in the late 1990s by, for example, Hillage et al. (1998) and the Tooley and Darby Report (1998), all of whom suggested there existed a widespread concern about its quality and poor value for money (Hargreaves, 1996), there has been a proliferation of frameworks which propose criteria by which to evaluate its quality. This work analyses Sammons et al.’s (2006) paper and attempts to ascertain to what extent it may be counted as ‘good research’, particularly when viewed through the stance on ‘quality’ taken by Klein and Myers (1999) and Hammersley (2007, 2008). Further, it also attempts to demonstrate that the analysis has offered some lessons on the conduct of interpretive research.

Sammons et al.’s (2006) complex paper reports on a study commissioned by the DfES (1999) into teacher effectiveness. The VITAE (Variations in Teachers’ Work, Lives and their Effects on Pupils) project was a longitudinal investigation which drew on a purposive sample of 300 teachers from 100 schools across 7 local authorities which was intended to represent both the national teacher profile, and that of schools; issues relating to the selection of teachers will be discussed later in this assignment, however the authors, in a further paper (Day et al., 2006:102), state “the results indicated that the final sample was indeed representative”. From the data collected through the use of mixed methods, Sammons et al. defined six ‘professional life phases’ of teachers, then, using categories of perceived identity, motivation, commitment and effectiveness, participants were further categorized into sub-groups with defining key characteristics, such as self-image. From detailed iterative examination of the data, four scenarios were finally drawn up; this allowed the researchers to situate teachers in relation to the dominant influences upon their professional lives at that time.

 According to the abstract, the authors purport to investigate variations in teachers’ work and lives, and their effects on pupils. There is, however a contradiction between the abstract, and the first page of the article itself, which claims it will “describe and analyse influences on teachers’ professional and personal lives” (p. 682). Whilst these two aims may not be mutually exclusive, they are not the same. This investigation appears to link directly to the Hillage Report (1998:15) of the previous year, responding to a concern expressed by policy makers and practitioners as “job satisfaction, morale and motivation among teachers and their impact on pupil performance” (p. 15); this is clearly closer in spirit to the aim expressed in the abstract. The overarching purpose, drawn from the original bid, appears to be an attempt to understand how teachers become more effective over time. This assumption is questionable, and the researchers themselves conclude by acknowledging that this is not necessarily the case. What they do suggest is that there are a number of complex factors which may influence teachers in different phases of their work; these, in turn, impact on performance.

A range of methodological literature (for example, Denscombe, 2003; Flick, 2006; Silverman, 2000, 2006; Wellington, 2000) suggests that conducting interpretive research is inextricably bound up with collecting multiple versions of ‘reality’ or ‘truth’. Understanding methodological approaches is, however, not straightforward. Pring (2000: 43) refers to the perceived difference between qualitative and quantitative research as “false dualism”, cautioning that making distinctions between ontological debates on the nature of reality, and the epistemological notion of different sorts of truth, is also problematic. Wildemuth (1993), however, suggests the argument regarding the relative merits of contrasting paradigms is sometimes clouded by a focus on methods, rather than on the underlying ontology and epistemology, whilst Crotty (2003) believes  the distinction to be concerned with methods, rather than epistemology. Sutton (1993) offers a deceptively simple answer, suggesting it is the relationship between the researcher and the researched which is defining: the objective researcher focuses on the respondent in order to understand objective reality. In qualitative research, which views reality as subjective and socially constructed, the subjective researcher contextualises the question in order to understand it.

In an increasing blurring of paradigmatic features (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003; Schwandt, 2000), the multidimensional phenomena used in this study make it difficult to situate within pure positivist or interpretive enquiry. As Hammersley (2007:293) posits, there is a “complex landscape of variable practice” in interpretive research. Perhaps Denzin and Lincoln (2005: 4), in their oft-cited introduction to qualitative research, come closest to explaining the approach taken as ‘bricolage’: the piecing together of “a set of representations that is fitted to the specifics of the situation”; although Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003: x), in the preface to the Handbook of Mixed Methods claim that mixed methods research is now a “separate methodological orientation, with its own worldview”, and that it sits within a pragmatist paradigm.

The notion of pragmatism in the context of this study is interesting; not least because Robson (2003) locates such an approach centrally in the ‘what works’ agenda (p.43). Truth, he suggests, is seen as ‘what works’; the question being how feasible it is to conduct a study using both qualitative and quantitative methods concurrently. Reichart and Rallis (1994:85) suggest that the fundamental values of both approaches are, indeed, complementary, citing “the value-ladenness of enquiry and the theory-ladenness of facts”. This is endorsed by Cresswell (2007:22) who argues that researchers with a worldview which focuses on outcomes, and a “concern with application (what works)” are likely to select mixed methods to pursue a line of enquiry precisely because they are not committed to any one definitive system of reality and philodophical approach. Truth may be viewed as what works at the time, and the preoccupation with ‘what is reality?’ should be regarded as irrelevant. As Denzin and Lincoln (2003) posit, arguments about the scientific superiority of one research method over another are perhaps spurious. In a philosophical approach based on pragmatism, links are sought between theory and praxis with the core reflection connected to “manipulating the social factors in a given context” (p.147). It is possible to identify this underpinning in Sammons et al.’s list of “implications for policy making” (p. 699) offered at the conclusion of the paper, and appears congruent with the notion of validity as “warranted” (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003:147). Notwithstanding the proliferation of claims regarding the benefits of mixed-method studies, there are acknowledged problems; for example McEvoy and Richards (2006) suggest there is considerable scope for confusion due to the complex ontological and epistemological issues that need to be resolved. At a pragmatic level, Moffat et al. (2006) refer to the possibility of obtaining different and conflicting findings.

The research design comprised an ‘extensive’ literature review of the current position on teacher effectiveness, and a longitudinal study, using mixed methods, to investigate pupil and teacher voice, and multi-level statistical analysis of value-added data related to performance using SATs scores. Denzin and Lincoln (2003:147) suggest that in this approach to research “the research logic is constituted in the inquiry process itself, and it guides the knowledge generation process”. Here, the quantitative use of qualitative data and qualitative use of quantitative data was intended to allow a further layer of interpretation, and presumably to provide rich data for analysis. As Reichart and Rallis (1994:85) suggest, “reality is multiple, complex, stratified”, adding that any particular set of data may be explained by more than one theory. This methodological approach also has links with Denzin’s (1970) ‘between method’ triangulation where different methods are employed in relation to the same subject, and Faulkner’s (1982, in Wellington, 2000) notion of ‘triads’ in which enquiry rests on three ‘legs’, each of which represents a separate method of data collection; for example interviews, observation, and scrutiny of documents.

The researchers situate themselves within a broadly interpretive, constructivist epistemological framework, beginning with a broad research question; moving on to establish methods of systematic data collection and developing strong triangulated measures to create a series of multi-dimensional case studies. Creswell (2007) defines case study as:

a qualitative approach in which the investigator explores… multiple bounded systems (cases) over time, through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information(e.g. observation, interviews, audiovisual material and documents and reports) and reports a case description and case-based themes” (Creswell, 2007, p.73).

In creating a picture of variations in teachers’ lives and the resulting affect on pupil attainment, the project investigated perceived teacher effectiveness through the use of questionnaires and participant interviews; methods usual to interpretive case study (Creswell, 2007; Kelliher, 2005; Winegardner, 2000). Traditionally, interviews have been regarded as an opportunity to probe understandings, although they are inevitably bound within the participants’ own constructions of reality. Recent radical criticism of the use of such data (Murphy et al., 1999, in Hammersley 2007) suggests, however, interview data cannot provide a sound source of information, or be used to generalize. According to Hammersley (2007:299), a constructionist approach suggests that it is mistaken to assume that research can offer any “superior knowledge of reality”. In this study, we are not informed if participants understood that their effectiveness was being judged, and are not provided with an example of the questions asked; neither are we told whether the pupil and teacher data was accorded equal weight. It is, therefore, difficult to make an informed judgment about the construction the researchers placed on the data, or what might have been eliminated from the analysis.

Relative teacher effectiveness was measured through statistical analysis of value-added data. This raises some concerns: firstly, although we are told that adjustments were made for pupil background, there seems to be no acknowledgement of pupil mobility and absence; similarly, there appears to be none of teachers’ absence, or experience of teaching SATs classes. It is not evident if the difference between subject-specific teaching in year 9, and teaching across the curriculum in years 2 and 6, was considered a variable. According to Day et al. (2006) teachers were designated as ‘maths’ or ‘English’ practitioners. Clearly in both Key Stage (KS) 1 and 2, this is a misconception: teachers in the primary phase are required to teach the full range of curriculum subjects, regardless of original area of specialism, expertise or interest. It might have provided a clearer picture of ability to raise attainment, and a closer match with the picture in secondary classrooms, if primary subject co-ordinators had been selected to participate. Neither was it possible to ascertain in what way the qualitative data obtained from pupil questionnaires contributed to the process of mapping and analysis. At this point, however, it is important to note that some criticisms of the research, for example a failure to explain clearly  the precise way in which the data were combined, are addressed in more detail in a further paper (Day et al., 2006) which elaborates the ‘methodological synergy’. For the purpose of this assignment, however, reference has only been made to Day et al. when it serves to illuminate a particular point.

This collection of data from multiple sources, using multiple methods, was inevitably ‘messy’, and the researchers acknowledge various challenges, including the lack of complete data sets. Perhaps a collaborative action research project (Greenwood & Levin, 2005, in Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) would have allowed participants to feel more involved, and led to a lower drop-out rate. The use of standardised tests (similar to optional SATs) would have allowed data to be drawn from a wider sample of years.

The central question raised by recent assessment frameworks (Furlong and Oancoa, 2006; Hammersley, 2007, 2008; Klein and Myers, 1999) is how research projects may be categorized in order to judge them against an appropriate set of criteria. As Hammersley (2008) argues, this is not a straightforward process. Sammons et al.’s work, arguably, may be considered to be situated within Furlong and Oancoa’s (2006: 9) category of “applied and practice-based research” which links policy makers, practitioners and a variety of interest groups, in a new contract; assessment of such studies, they suggest, will need to be “multi-layered and multi-dimensional” (p.10). Hammersley (2008), however, finds this an unhelpful definition, and somewhat disingenuous in that it fails to acknowledge the rise of educational accountability. He goes on to suggest the term “practical research”: funded inquiry carried out by (perhaps) someone other than a practitioner, with the aim of producing knowledge which informs practice. Hammersley considers that Furlong and Oancoa’s “applied and practice-based research” may be distributed between “practical research” and “inquiry subordinated to another activity” (p.752). According to Hammersley, in practical research, we need to ask whether it is relevant and valid; in subordinated inquiry, the only question to be asked is “whether it facilitates the activity it serves in whatever way” (p. 752).

 It is hard to judge exactly where to place Sammons et al.’s research, since it aims to improve practice, but is subordinated to the school effectiveness agenda. Any judgment of validity is also problematic since this is a contested notion in interpretive research; Guba and Lincoln (1989) for example, argue that ‘authenticity’ is a more appropriate term, and Maxwell (1993) adds that validity comes from accounts, rather than data and methods. If validity asks whether the research measures what it intends to measure, then the findings are of no help to the DfES, since they do not indicate “how teachers become more effective over time” (p. 682); they do, however, measure the factors which contribute to effectiveness, if effectiveness is judged to be an ability to raise scores.

If Klein and Meyers’ (1999) summary of principles for interpretive field research is applied to this study, it appears that it meets some of the criteria for efficacy. They state that ‘good’ research needs to follow the fundamental principle of the hermeneutic circle: that human understanding is dependent on a process of constant iteration. The researcher, therefore, moves in and out between data sets to note independent meaning situated both within small parts, and the recreated meaning in the whole. In Sammons et al.’s study, the linking of qualitative and quantitative data from a number of sources clearly demonstrates an attempt to arrive at a new understanding. The qualitative data were analysed and categorised, presumably through a process of coding, using Nvivo software. Through its capacity to import a range of data, this allows connections to be made; categories created and resorted in the light of new data; indeed, the literature review was extended as the study progressed. The hugely complex process of identifying themes and dimensions and scenarios was described in some detail. Literature suggests a number of iterative approaches to data categorisation, for example discourse analysis, conversation analysis and Grounded Theory (Glazer and Strauss, 1967; Strauss and Corbin, 1994). Although the researchers refer to their phases “being grounded in our empirical data” (p. 685), having begun with a comprehensive literature review, it is difficult to see how for categories were able to ‘emerge’ inductively through the process of axial coding.  Inter-coder reliability is not acknowledged. It was also not made clear how pupil views, and the ontology of the researchers, influenced the process. Although principles of the hermeneutic circle were followed, the circle was not completed. This principle is fundamental to all others, since it is the basis for building new understandings.

The second interdependent principle of contextualization requires a thorough, critical reflection of the social and historical background of the research setting. This is intended to allow the audience to understand the genesis of the current position, and to locate it within an easily interpretable context. Firstly, although the authors assure us that the literature review was thorough and extensive, the paper itself makes detailed reference to few major studies (Huberman, 1993; Kelchtermans, 1993); this fails to provide a broad, researched-based, historical overview. Indeed, Sammons et al. (2006) provide the briefest of contextual information; although they explain that the study was conducted as part of a DfES investigation into teacher effectiveness, they do not acknowledge that this sits within a school improvement culture, and is located firmly in the government’s ‘what works’ research agenda. According to Hammersley (2008:750) this rise of “an evidence-based practice movement” is at the heart of increasing political control and challenge to the work of professionals – presumably both practitioners and researchers alike. Although Sammons et al. refer to the danger of teachers feeling they were ‘judged’ (p.685), they fail to place this in the context of Threshold Assessment: teachers have been required for some time to provide documentary evidence of the way in which they have raised pupil attainment. Although Bryman (2002) suggests that the use of mixed methods allows relationships to be established between macro and micro levels, Hammersley (2007:291) cautions, however, that it is not possible for research to be made fully accessible to the reader because of “the situated nature of the judgments” which transcend any framework for evaluating quality.

Klein and Meyers’ third principle, that of interaction between researchers and subjects requires further critical reflection on the social construction of meaning; it asks the researcher to acknowledge the way in which this interaction inevitably co-constructs the data. Bryman (1992) argues that fixed design research provides the opportunity to probe the ‘structural’ aspects of the social world, whilst flexible design is more effective in aiding understanding of processes: combining the two allows both to be interpreted. The attempt to make a creative use of quantitative data qualitatively, and qualitative data quantitatively, has, in this study, led to the creation of a socially constructed meaning; the findings, however, are presented as ‘truth’. As interaction was controlled by the researchers, and pupil views were neither fed back to teachers, nor discussed within the report, it suggests that the construction placed upon the data is that of the researchers alone. According to Mason (1995), the interpretive researcher can engage in a misguided search for a single truth through the use of methodological triangulation. Sammons et al., in seeking to address validity and reliability, and reach a ‘true’ understanding of the situation, have used a process of ‘overlaying’  to seek the intersection of data. Literature suggests (Flick, 2006; Webster and Mertova, 2007), however, that triangulation is not a tool of validation, but an alternative to it; the real test of validity, they suggest, is that readers find the account ‘believable’.   As Mathison (1998:13) posits, “there are three outcomes that might result from a triangulation strategy….convergence, inconsistency, and contradiction". This study seeks convergence.    

The principle of abstraction and generalization requires the application of principles one and two (constant iteration to reach understanding, and factors specific to the context) to the interpretation of ideographic data: that specifically relating to the case under study. In turn, this is related to the generalnomothetic’ concepts that describe the nature of human understanding and social action, in order to generalse to the big picture. Specificity is achieved in this report through an effective process of iteration to build new categories, concepts and understandings. Principle two is also applied, but to a lesser extent. The data is specific to the case study schools, and to year groups in which SATs are undertaken; the ‘what works’ agenda is not made clear to those unfamiliar with the English education system with its current preoccupation with testing and targets. There is, however, careful consideration of nomothetic generalization to the big picture in the key suggestions which conclude the article, and refer for example to the need for focused CPD.

Klein and Myers’ (ibid) principle of dialogical reasoning calls for sensitivity to possible contradictions between the theoretical perceptions which may have informed the research design, and the story which is told by the data. Kellagher (2005) suggests reliability may be achieved through ‘dialogical reasoning’ by keeping a reflective diary. There is no indication that the researchers did this, but there is evidence of reconsideration in the discussion of the initial preconception that teachers become more effective in raising pupil performance as they gain experience. Due to a reduced teacher response rate, the final cycle of research was, however, ineffective in providing further insights which might have refined or altered perceptions. The key finding, that teachers do not necessarily become more effective over time, is a moot point. What needs further investigation, if the DfES are to receive an answer, are at least four other possible interpretations of the data. Firstly, whether these particular teachers have always been less effective than their colleagues; secondly, if they have either not been offered, or have avoided, support; thirdly; if primary generalists have the same capacity in personal subject knowledge per se, and pedagogical subject knowledge, to raise attainment in both English and maths, unlike their specialist secondary colleagues; fourthly; if it is possible to be effective – if we define effectiveness as the ability to raise levels of academic attainment - with every child in every cohort of children.

It is essential for the researcher to be sensitive to possible differences in interpretations among the participants. When working with multiple versions of the cases under study, differences are inevitable, since these are built on participants’ views of truth and knowledge; this sensitivity is a key feature of Klein and Myers’ principle of multiple interpretations. Sammons et al. work skillfully with multiple narratives, and acknowledge a wide range of factors impacting upon them. The quantitative use of qualitative data and qualitative use of quantitative data was intended to add a further layer of interpretation to this; however, although pupil voice was mentioned in the overview of the project, their perspective does not appear to be acknowledged. The final principle, that of suspicion, requires researchers to be alert to, and to acknowledge, possible ‘biases’ and systematic ‘distortions’ in the narratives collected from participants: there are always other possible constructions of the data. There is no acknowledgement of bias, and the construction that each of the participants places upon their own work and life experience is similarly unquestioned, and taken as ‘truth’. Distortions from incomplete data sets, and the focus on SAT classes, are, however, acknowledged.

Malone (2003) draws attention to the inherent nature of ethical dilemmas in all educational research, and literature is clear that situation-appropriate principles of action (see for example, Crotty, 2003; Malone, 2003; Pring, 2000, 2001; Small, 2001) need to be developed to avoid “moral relativism” (Wellington, 2000, 57). Ethical considerations in this paper are dismissed with one brief sentence; there is no mention of obtaining informed consent from participants, nor of methods of data storage, although Nvivo does provide an element of security by storing database and files together. In an inquiry of this highly sensitive nature, one might expect more acknowledgement of the issues;  the use of pupil views and SAT scores to judge teacher effectiveness, for example, are not given as much attention as might be expected. Although Pink (2004, in Silverman, 2006) suggests that consulting informants on their view of the analysis not only facilitates their reflection on initial informed consent, but also offers further insight into the data, given the sensitive, and highly personal, nature of the data collected, this would not have offered a solution. If professional judgment is central to educational practice, and judgments are essentially moral in nature, then, as Biesta (2007) suggests, education may be considered to be a “moral, non-causal practice”; decisions about ‘what works’ in improving teacher effectiveness should be set alongside considerations of what is desirable for the participants. The researchers suggest the reduced teacher response rate in the final year of the project might have been due to lack of feedback on the value-added assessment; this does lead to the question of what the teachers felt they gained from participation, and if this was simply a case of being ‘done to’. Sammons et al. acknowledge the limitation of their study in conducting no observations of teaching. In the current educational climate, inspection is moving from a joint focus on data and classroom observation, to one which privileges data and samples teaching. It is arguable, however, that if we seek to understand if teachers’ espoused practice equates to their enacted practice; and if we wish to ascertain what achievement looks like, then it is necessary to add a further layer to data collection: that of classroom observation.

In defining the fourth generation of research, Guba and Lincoln (1989:8) state that findings are not facts, in the ultimate sense, but created through in interactive process; outcomes are not ‘the way things really are’ or ‘true’, but “represent meaningful constructions that actors, or groups of actors form to ‘make sense’ of the situations in which they find themselves”. The conclusions drawn from this research are, inevitably bound in the constructions placed upon them by the researchers; in the versions of ‘truth’ that teachers and pupils alike offered, and in the partial sets of quantitative data. Activism, according to Hammersley (2007) requires that another factor is added to the criteria for judging the quality of research. Beyond questions of epistemology lies “the relationship of research to politics, policymaking and practice” (p.299); the ultimate question here might ask if the research provided value for money. Denzin and Lincoln (2005) are clear that, in America, the scientifically based (SRB) research movement which has grown in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has created a “hostile political environment for qualitative research” (p. 8). Although they go on to argue that in mixed methods enquiry, qualitative data is often accorded lower status, Day et al. (2006) were clear that in the ‘synergy’ of their methodological approach, neither method was accorded dominance; both sequential (findings from one method were elaborated by another) and parallel (different methods of data collection occur at the same time) strategies were applied.

Interestingly, in the light of Klein and Myers’ framework (1999), Bloch (2004, in Denzin and Lincoln, 2005:9) asserts that “the NRC [National Research Council] ignores the value of using complex, historical, contextual, and political criteria to evaluate inquiry”. The lack of ‘hard evidence’ provided by qualitative research has, in this era of increasing political manipulation of research, led to the growth of mixed-methods experimentation: this can prevent participants from having active participation in the process. As Howe (2004:57) eloquently argues, the number of “rather influential” researchers who have aligned themselves to this (mixed) method of research might be reacting to “the perceived excesses of postmodernism”, or simply complying with the strictures of the current educational and political climate.

There are a number of important lessons for the novice researcher to learn from an analysis of this ambitious project. Firstly, the reality of research will always exceed our crude attempts to label it, and its outcomes are shaped by the values and beliefs that researchers bring to the situation: this should be acknowledged. Secondly, even for the most experienced researchers, epistemology and methodological approaches are inevitably compromised to a certain extent when a government-funded, ‘what works’ agenda acts as the driver. Thirdly, the publication of edited findings presents a partial picture; it may well be that pupil views were factored in to the analysis, and that ethical considerations were rigorously discussed with participants, but an abridged summary prevents us from knowing this; it was necessary to read the Day et al. paper of 2006 to gain a greater understanding of both the research design and the methodology, Fourthly, if quantitative data is to be used to add a rich layer of information, and generate new insights and understandings (Fry et al., 1984), it must be questioned if the two types of data are really able to capture the same phenomenon, or should be used instead to describe different facets of the case in question to avoid ‘befuddling’ the audience though the process of integration. Finally, the qualitative data by itself provided a breadth and depth of material which could be used to improve teacher effectiveness – if this is quantified as a sense of positive professional identity; a capacity for resilience, and a continuing commitment to the profession. I note that the VITAE report in the paper by Day et al. (2006:104) cites not only cognitive, but also “affective” effectiveness.

Although an essentially constructivist and subjectivist epistemology appears to underpin this enquiry, the use of mixed methods means that is not possible to locate it precisely within any particular paradigmatic and epistemological framework. The qualitative interpretation of quantitative data, search for links between theory and praxis, and focus upon outcomes for policy making, suggests a pragmatic position, although this is unacknowledged by the authors. Tashakkori & Teddle (1998:21) suggest that for pragmatists, the method is “secondary to the research question itself”. Paradoxically, they go on to state emphatically that pragmatists believe that, whilst there might be causal relationships between social phenomena, we can never be precise about them; if this is the case, then the research question seems unanswerable!

Perhaps the most significant factor which prevents my interpreting Sammons et al.’s paper as ‘good research’ is that, although one paper alone cannot tell the full story, I have not been able to locate evidence of an acknowledgement of the influence of their values and beliefs; the constructedness of their interpretation of the data, or that of participants. Research is inevitably concerned with collecting multiple versions of ‘reality’ or ‘truth’, and the addition of quantitative data does not make it less so. In postmodern research, a crystalline (rather than triangulated) approach, according to Richardson (1997, in Denzin and Lincoln, 2003) allows for shifts, changes and alterations in focus in an interweaving of “discovery, seeing, telling, storying and representation” (p.280) perhaps this offers a clearer picture of the process an interpretive researcher experiences as she struggles to present a representative rather than ‘accurate’ picture of the subject. As Silverman (2000:100) cautions, if we conceive reality as socially constructed, and context-dependent, then no one ‘phenomenon’ can be applied to all cases to provide a definitive and objective explanation; perhaps, as he suggests, “simplicity and rigour” are preferable to “an illusory search for the ‘full picture’”.  

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