Date of Award

Spring 1978

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Pendergast, Thomas L.

Second Advisor

Collins, Peter M.


The problem of conflicting educational aims has existed as long as formal education itself. Attempts to provide indisputable evidence that one aim is superior to another inevitably seem to result in the conclusion that conflicts over aims choices in education arise from disagreements over the ideals and values of the person or institution making the choices. In the midst of these philosophical debates some writers have pointed out that our understanding of the nature of 'aims' as a concept and the use of terminology relating to it is so confused that any profitable discussion of the values problem is difficult. The present study is based on a thesis advanced by several writers working within the logical-analytic perspective, that the conflicts seen in educational aims arise not only because of the differences in values, but on another level, often result from confusions and inconsistencies in understanding and use of terminology. Before we can adequately address the questions of values, we must first clear up these questions of concept. The purpose of this study was to assess the status of 'aims' as a concept, using the techniques of ordinary language analysis developed by John Austin. Following his methods, the study proceeded in four steps: First, an attempt to collect, as completely as possible, all the resources of the language pertaining to 'aims'. Free association by persons knowledgeable in the field, relevant items from the professional literature, and dictionary usage were all included as initial steps_in the analysis. Next, the resulting material was used to construct stories and dialogues giving clear examples of.the circumstances in which one aims-term would be preferred to another. Third, tentative descriptions and accounts of the various terms, expressions and their distinctions in ordinary language were suggested. Finally, ordinary language accounts were contrasted with educational use of the terminology and tentative conclusions were offered. The analysis resulted in several educationally relevant findings. It was initially noted that educational use of aims terminology differs significantly from its use in ordinary language. These differences take the form of broadening the family of terms through extended definitions; including terms with no recognizable ordinary language use or dictionary meaning related to 'aim'; and establishing definitional hierarchies among the terms, even though such use does not occur in ordinary language or dictionary sources. It was further concluded that, while each of the group of 'aims' synonyms has a distinct ordinary language use, they can reasonably be grouped into three logically distinct categories, based on their function in discourse. These functions were extensively explored. On the basis of these findings, it was recommended that use of the ordinary language distinctions in education could help lessen the confusion caused by extended terminology and definitional hierarchies. Examples of how this might be accomplished were offered. It was also suggested that the study provides considerable support for the use of Austin's techniques as one tool in clarifying problernrnatical concepts in education.



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