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Article

Phonics is a method of teaching people to read and spell (and therefore write) in an alphabetic writing system by associating symbols (letters/graphemes) with sounds (phonemes). The place of phonics in teaching children to read and spell is vigorously debated among researchers, often spilling over into the popular press. Advocates of principally comprehension-based (e.g., whole language) teaching have maintained that little or no phonics instruction is needed; others are of the view that it is essential and must be systematic. Analysis of the most rigorous evidence from research reviews and meta-analyses suggests that systematic phonics teaching is effective for teaching children to read and spell in English, and that the combination of systematic phonics teaching and comprehension-based approaches is probably more effective than either alone. Research has therefore begun on integrated teaching of literacy that incorporates both code and meaning emphases, but currently the requisite professional knowledge and teacher capacity are challenges for many school systems. The principal forms of phonics teaching are synthetic, where children are taught to sound out the letters of a word and to blend (synthesize) the sounds together to form a word; and analytic, in which sounding-out is not taught to start with, but children identify the phonic element from a set of words in which each word contains the element under study, for example, pat, park, push, and pen. There is not yet sufficient convincing research evidence to decide which of these is more effective. Systematic phonics teaching in general is effective across the primary age range, for normally developing and most at-risk children, and probably for children whose first language is not English; and its effects last, at least in the crucial early years. Nonetheless, government policy and reform interventions in this area are sometimes heavy-handed, frequently influenced by political and community pressure, and may face difficulties of scale, resources, and implementation that hamper their effectiveness and generalizability across school systems. A new, large systematic review may be needed to clarify various outstanding issues.

Article

Stephen Billett

This chapter aims to discuss what constitutes the project of vocational education through the elaboration of its key purposes. Although taking many and diverse institutional forms, and being perhaps the least unitary of educational sectors, vocational education stands as a distinct and long-standing educational provision premised on its own specific set of purposes. It has long been central to generating the occupational capacities that societies, communities, and workplaces need, contributing to individuals’ initial and ongoing occupational advancement and their sense of selves as working age adults. It also has the potential to be, and often is, the most inclusive of educational sectors by virtue of engaging the widest range of learners within its programs and institutions. Yet, because its manifestations are shaped by country-specific institutional arrangements and historical developments, it defies attempts to easily and crisply define or capture the singularity of its purposes, forms, and contributions. In some countries it is a distinct educational sector, quite separate from both schools and universities. This can include having industry-experienced teachers. In others, it is mainly enacted in high schools in the form of a broadly based technology education, mainly intended for students not progressing educationally beyond schooling, which promotes and reinforces its low standing. In others again, it comprises in postsecondary institutions that combine general and occupational education. These distinctions, such as being either more or less general or occupational educational provision, also change across time as policy imperatives arise and decline. Much of vocational education provisions are associated with initial occupational preparation, but some are also seen more generally as preparation for engaging in working life, and then others have focuses on continuing education and training and employability across working lives. Sometimes it is enacted wholly within educational institutions, but others can include, and even largely comprise, experiences in workplaces. So, whereas the institutions and provisions of primary, secondary, and university education have relatively common characteristics and profiles, this is far less the case with what is labeled vocational education. Indeed, because of the diversity of its forms and purposes, it is often the least distinguishable of the educational sectors within and across countries. In seeking to advance what constitutes vocational education, the approach adopted here is to focus on its four key educational purposes. These comprise of (a) preparation for the world of work, (b) identifying a preferred occupation, (c) occupational preparation, and (d) ongoing development across working life.

Article

In the rapidly changing world of the internet environment and social media expansion, the role of museum education has been revised and reformed to respond to the new digital and interconnected environment. In addition to academic publications, museum activities, and web and video materials, modern museums are developing new ways to meet current demands, including interactive exhibitions, integration with other disciplines, and virtual expositions. Museum professionals are encountering unprecedented challenges in engaging a diverse audience in vital and meaningful learning experiences. Executing new tasks in the achievement of the museum’s education mission takes interdepartmental teamwork and use of new technologies. It also requires new approaches to rigorous planning, implementation, and assessment. New terminology and strategies have been developed to substantiate new approaches to museums’ activities and reflect what is transpiring in modern museum studies and educational experiments. The focus is on integrative and communicative approaches rather than preservation of collections of artifacts. Modern museum curators are actively engaging in dialogue with educational practitioners and specialists at conferences, in academic publications, and through other forums. Museum education is evolving from a source of sacred knowledge to an open source for diversity and personal development.

Article

For a long time, the French education system has been characterized by strong institutional disconnection between secondary education (enseignement secondaire) and higher education (enseignement supérieur). This situation has nevertheless started to change over the last 20 years as the “need-to-adapt” argument has been widely used to push for three sets of interrelated reforms with the official aim of improving student flows to, and readiness for, higher education (HE). The first reforms relate to the end-of-upper-secondary-school baccalauréat qualification and were carried out in two waves. The second set of reforms concerns educational guidance for transition from upper secondary school to HE, including widening participation policies targeting socially disadvantaged youths. Finally, the third set has established a national digital platform, launched in 2009, to manage and regulate HE applications and admissions. These reforms with strong neoliberal leanings have nevertheless been implemented within a system that remains profoundly conservative. Changes to the baccalauréat, to educational guidance, and to the HE admissions system have made only minor alterations to the conservative system of hierarchical tracks, both at the level of the lycée (upper secondary school) and in HE, thus strongly weakening their potential effects. Moreover, the reforms themselves combine neoliberal discourse and decisions with other perspectives and approaches aiming to preserve and even reinforce this conservative structure. This discrepancy is evident in the conflicting aims ascribed both to guidance and to the new online application and admissions platform, expected, on the one hand, to raise students’ ambitions and give them greater latitude to satisfy their wishes but also, on the other hand, to help them make “rational” choices in light of both their educational abilities and trajectories and their existing HE provision and job prospects. This mixed ideological and structural landscape is also the result of a significant gap in France between policy intentions and implementation at a local level, especially in schools. Several factors are responsible for this discrepancy: the fact that in order to ward off criticism and protest, reforms are often couched in very abstract terms open to multiple interpretations; the length and complexity of the reform circuit in a centralized educational system; the lack of administrative means through which to oversee implementation; teachers’ capacity to resist reform, both individually and collectively. This half-conservative, half-liberal educational regime is likely to increase inequalities across social and ethnoracial lines for two main reasons. The first is that the potential benefits of “universal” neoliberal policies promising greater choice and opportunity for all—and even of policies directly targeting working-class and ethnic minority students, such as widening participation schemes—are frequently only reaped by students in academic tracks, with a good school record, who are mostly upper- or middle-class and White. The second is that, under the traditional conservative regime, in addition to being the victims of these students’ advantages and strategies, working-class students also continue to be channeled and chartered toward educational tracks and then jobs located at the bottom of the educational and social hierarchy.

Article

Despite the ubiquity of categories of race, sexuality, and gender in K–12 schools in the United States, there is limited research documenting how these categories influence the experiences of students, reflecting constraints on knowledge production, particularly with respect to queer of Color theories in education. Within the research that exists, scholars have used varying paradigms of difference, some of which erase and others of which recognize and theorize the relationships between race and queerness. Many studies have described intersecting structures of domination in U.S. schools and the lack of attention to intersectionality in school-based supports for queer youth. Fewer studies document examples of student resistance and activism, suggesting needs for future theorizing, research, and practice. Although the bodies of students, educators, staff, and family members in K–12 schools have been and continue to be understood through categories of race, sexuality, and gender, there is limited empirical research discussing the ways that race and queerness are co-constitutive of people’s experiences in the U.S. schooling system. In part, scholarly knowledge production has been constrained because of schools’ hostility to queer research and critical projects more generally, with queer research, and especially queer of Color research, often producing oppositional knowledge in tension with schools as state-sanctioned institutions. When research has been conducted about race and queerness in U.S. schools, scholars have used three main paradigms to conceptualize, or problematically erase, the relationship between race and queerness: discrete, additive, and intersectional perspectives. Discreteness suggests that race and queerness are separate, disconnected identities. The other two perspectives recognize interrelationships. An additive perspective suggests that identities are a sum of parts, whereas an intersectional perspective suggests identities as co-constitutive and resulting in unique, qualitatively different experiences. Research attending to the relationships of race and queerness has revealed that U.S. schools are unwelcoming if not outright hostile to queer youth, resulting in negative consequences such as lowered academic achievement and poorer psychological well-being. The particular experiences of and reactions to such marginalization vary with respect to intersections of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and social class. Although school-based supports such as supportive educators, inclusive curriculum and policies, and extracurricular clubs are beneficial, too frequently these supports lack attention to intersections of race and queerness, limiting their beneficial impact. These tensions show the need for intersectional coalition building approaches to a key element of anti-racist queer educational activism. Importantly, queer youth enact resistance and activism in schools in ways that are individualized and collective. Some resistance has been school-sanctioned (such as writing) and other instances beyond what schools sanction (such as violence). Collective forms were most common as queer youth of Color often drew on embodied and community knowledges to advocate for themselves and peers. In the absence of broader support, queer youth often used privilege, such as whiteness, as protection and thus reified oppressive values and practices. Future educational research needs to focus further on the intersections of race and queerness to help inform educational theories and practices to help queer youth, both white and of Color, learn and flourish in U.S. schools.

Article

Christopher B. Crowley

The study of the curriculum and educational knowledge is a study of ideology. The curriculum is never neutral. It always reflects or embodies ideological positions. Ideologies present within the curriculum are negotiated and formulated through multilayered processes of strategic compromise, assent, and resistance. And as such, the curriculum ideologies become operationalized in both overt and hidden means—constructing subjects and objects of knowledge in active as well as passive ways. Teaching is always a political act, and discussions and debates over curriculum ideologies have a long history within the field of curriculum studies. In terms of its function related to the organization and valuing of knowledge, it remains important to recognize not only the contested nature of the curriculum but also how such contestations have ideological dimensions in the framing of the curriculum. Curriculum ideologies manifest in terms of what might be thought of as values, visions of the future, and venues or forms. This is to say, the curriculum is imbued with processes for valuing assumed choices related to its design, development, and implementation. These choices draw from ideologically based assumptions about the curriculum’s basis in political, economic, historical, sociocultural, psychological, and other realities—whether they be discursive or material in effect. Additionally, these curriculum choices also pertain to the means by which the curriculum achieves these goals or objectives through the formulation of designed experiences, activities, or other forms of learning opportunities. The curriculum—in certain regards as finding principle in the conveying of knowledge through a system of organization related to an outset purpose—has, as a central component to some degree, a vision of a future. The curriculum is something simultaneously constructed and enacted in the present, with often the expressed purpose of having implications and ramifications for the future. The curriculum’s role and purpose in constructing both tested and untested or imagined feasibilities again has to do with some type of vision of learning inflected by ideology. This may even take the form of envisioning a future that is actually a vision of the past in some form, or perhaps a returning to a remembered time that may have existed for some but not others, or by extension a similarly romanticized remembering of a mythic past, for instance. Ultimately, the curriculum, whether translated into practice or in being developed conceptually, is in all likelihood never exclusively one of these, but instead is in all probability an amalgamation of such to differing degrees wherein a multitude of possibilities and combinations exist. Among the key questions of curriculum studies that remain central in terms of both analyzing and theorizing the curriculum are: Whose knowledge counts and what is worthwhile? These questions help to raise to a level of concern the ideological underpinnings of all curricula in ways that through sustained critical dialog might work to collectively build a more sustainably just and equitable world.

Article

Lesson study (jyugyo kenkyu) is an approach to professional development that originated in Japan 150 years ago. It was first introduced to the United States in the late 1990s and is now widely practiced in over 50 countries. Lesson study is often perceived as an effective form of professional development aiming to improve mathematics and science instruction, motivated by the high performances of Japanese students as evaluated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). However, lesson study is more than a model for professional development. Lesson study has developed dynamically over time, accommodating educational contexts and the needs of practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. Nowadays, lesson study is used as an approach to lesson analysis, curriculum development, practice-oriented research, demonstration lessons, and various forms and levels of professional development. Lesson study continues to be practiced in the early 21st century as the practice is socially constructed and context-dependent; thus, lesson study is flexible in adapting to the local system. This flexibility and adaptability make it difficult to grasp the comprehensive picture of lesson study. Understanding the unique Japanese educational contexts that have supported lesson study is essential for foreign practitioners and researchers of lesson study as the lack of the necessary supporting conditions often poses challenges for implementing lesson study abroad. Lesson study continues to exist in the early 21st century as it has been facilitated by sociocultural norms in a Japanese educational context and has built upon the professional traditions of Japanese teachers. The focus is on discussing the sociocultural contexts that have supported the dynamic development of lesson study since the late 19th century. For this purpose, “sociocultural” refers to the theoretical space of social relations and cultural practice (Dowling, 2009). For example, a collaborative school culture is not a fixed state or end-product but negotiated through the social relations of the school system that regulates the daily responsibilities, actions, and interactions among managers, teachers, and students around the shared goals. Lesson study has developed under the influence of various factors, including educational theories, approaches, and ideologies, both domestically and abroad. Lesson study is supported by a holistic approach in terms of many aspects such as student learning, teacher-initiated inquiry centered on student learning, the culture of collaboration in professional development, collaboration between teachers and researchers, personal, contextual, and narrative reflection on teaching experience, and flexibility in the learning system that works to address the needs of the educational issues of the time. Nonetheless, contesting forces have contributed to the diversification of lesson study: (a) policymakers’ efforts to standardize lessons and bottom-up initiatives of teachers to experiment with practice; (b) top-down efforts to institutionalize professional development and bottom-up efforts on the part of teachers to work together to realize their educational ideals; and (c) scientific investigation by researchers and narrative, descriptive and subjective reflections on practice by teachers.

Article

Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi

Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.

Article

The way in which students are grouped or tracked for their learning in secondary school education (ages 11–18) can significantly impact on student experiences of learning and their self-confidence and trajectories as learners. Different tracking practices include tracking by attainment (e.g., different classes for low, middle and high attaining students), tracking by type of educational establishment (e.g., vocational vs. academic high schools), and tracking by curriculum differentiation (e.g., curricula oriented toward academic or vocational studies). There are considerable differences in the conceptualization and the organization of secondary school education in England, Finland, and France, yet tracking practices have been identified in each of these three European countries. Tracking by attainment practices is prevalent in English secondary schools, and there is also evidence of tracks emerging through, for example, choice of optional subjects or languages in Finnish and French schools. Tracking by educational establishment often operates in conjunction with tracking by curriculum differentiation as students in these three countries tend to be oriented toward either general academic or (pre-)vocational subjects for their upper secondary studies. Student movement between different tracks remains marginal. Movement between attainment tracks is often constrained by school organizational practices such as timetabling and pedagogic and curricular differentiation, which makes it challenging, for example, for students to move to a higher track. Research on tracking is of universal interest because of its prevalence and the mounting evidence of the inequity of tracking practices that raises important questions about the purpose of education and the role of secondary schools in potentially exacerbating social inequalities.

Article

All over the world, nations have spent much of the last 20 years scrambling to increase and improve access to basic education. Globally, the number of people without access to a basic education has fallen significantly in the years since the goals of Education For All (EFA) were announced in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and extended at Incheon, South Korea, in 2016. This is ostensibly very good news. While universal access to a basic education is certainly a worthy goal, one can raise significant questions about the orientation of these efforts and the manner in which they are being pursued. For example, very little attention seems to have been paid to what the schools are or will be like, or to how the nations and people they must serve may be different from those for whom they were designed. To understand the inevitable problems that flow from this potential mismatch, it is useful to examine education in nations that have achieved more or less universal access to basic education. Many of the educational, social, economic, and social justice disparities that plague those nations are today understood as natural effects of the educational infrastructures in operation. Examination of recent empirical research and practice that attends to the importance of social and cultural factors in education may allow nations that are currently building or scaling up access to head off some predictable and difficult problems before they become endemic and calcified on a national scale. Nations who seize the opportunity to build asset-based and culturally responsive pedagogies into their educational systems early on may, in time, provide the rest of the world with much needed leadership on these issues.