Pragmatics is a philosophy that focuses on practical application of ideas. It is a philosophy that was founded in America and has been influential over the last century.
Pragmatism grew out of the idea that language is an important social institution, with words, phrases, and sentences being used to convey information in a context (Kaplan, 1989). This idea was introduced by philosophers such as Charles Peirce (1878), William James (1900-1960) and John Dewey (1859-1952).
The aim of pragmatic philosophy is to provide solutions that can be applied in everyday situations. This is based on the idea that knowledge is a dynamic, evolving process that has an impact on people’s lives.
A pragmatist approach to research is based on the concept that knowledge is a dynamic process and must be flexible. This is achieved by ensuring that any research study identifies the needs of its respondents and focuses on what they want to learn.
This principle can also be seen in a variety of other contexts, including the design and development of curriculum (Kempson 1988). In this sense, pragmatism is an effective way of creating a flexible and dynamic curriculum that is appropriate to children’s current and future needs.
It is also a helpful approach for evaluating programs because it encourages researchers to focus on ‘what works’ in terms of real-world applications. This can help in a variety of contexts, from the evaluation of policy to the improvement of organizational processes (Lorino et al., 2010: 778).
Another key principle of pragmatism is the need to connect the research question to organizational practice and emerging problems. This is achieved by examining how knowledge and experiences are linked through the actions of staff within organizations. By triangulating the interpretations and actions of respondents, pragmatist researchers can uncover ‘unseen’ processes in organizational settings that can be critical to understanding their effectiveness.
These principles also serve to strengthen the research inquiry process as they enable researchers to examine the interconnectedness of experience, knowing and acting in respondent organizations and their broader socio-cultural contexts. This is particularly useful in NGOs as the research problem typically involves a complex set of organizational issues and processes that are often not documented well or interpreted in formal ways by staff.
A third principle of pragmatism is the focus on actionable knowledge. This principle enables researchers to develop research agendas that are anchored in respondent experiences, which ensures that the results of the study are relevant and of use to practitioners.
The final principle of pragmatism is the integration of knowledge and action. This is a concept that is used in curriculum design and implementation as it promotes the development of children’s skills by integrating subjects and activities into an integrated scheme.
The term ‘pragmatism’ is actually derived from the Greek word ‘pragma’, meaning ‘deed’. This term reflects the fact that a person who follows the principles of pragmatism is one who is sensible and grounded in reality.