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José Ignacio Rivas-Flores
Teaching’s purpose is to build a society’s knowledge and skills through a group of students using a curricular proposal within a social and institutional framework. It therefore takes place in institutions specifically created for this purpose, which, as such, represents a culturally constructed environment that is in line with the conditions of the society in which this process unfolds. Thus professional cultures have been historically constructed according to the working conditions, the teaching experiences transmitted from generation to generation, and the evolution of the educational systems. In addition, institutional cultures are developed according to the particular history of each school. Student cultures also form as social groups within these institutions. This represents a complex system that goes beyond mere instruction by curriculum. Preparing the professionals who will go on to work in these institutions requires an understanding of these cultural frameworks and the competence to be able to act on them. Ethnographic research promotes an understanding of educational reality from a critical reflective perspective, and this is only possible if researchers themselves participate in those frameworks. Ethnography can be understood as a shared construction of places for reflection, aimed at comprehending the cultural, social, and political phenomena that involve participants in the processes of change and transformation. Teacher preparation must, therefore, be established with an ethnographic approach, which reconstructs the school experience from a critical reflective perspective. In this way, the conditions for developing a professional identity based on the reconstruction of this experience are created. The theories, in this case, offer the opportunity to pursue this critical dialogue, breaking away from the prescriptive role that they adopt from a positivist perspective. Ethnography contributes to the tasks through three basic dimensions. First, teacher preparation throughout is an object of educational inquiry: there are many research studies of an ethnographic nature that report teacher training methods in an attempt to understand the processes taking place. Second, ethnographies are a tool for preparing future teachers: in this case, this refers to a curricular use of ethnography aimed at future teachers’ understanding of the educational processes through research. Third is a way of understanding learning—in other words, ethnographic attitude as a learning strategy and the use of ethnographic inquiry strategies and tools as means of learning about educational processes. This last case generally entails staying and acting in schools, and it is what most clearly links research and teaching in a shared process.
Ethnographic research in innovative education settings and initiatives has shown the practical impact of modern digital life culture and conditions on both research and professional development of curriculum and teaching strategies.
Following the process of digitization, themes that are high on political and institutional agenda include “IT-enhanced learning” and the necessity of synergistic organizational and pedagogical development. Ethnographic methodology enables ongoing interpretation of school development as reflected and discussed by professionals and teacher teams, thereby facilitating elucidation of changes and consequences at technical, organizational and pedagogical levels. The general question addressed can be expressed as: How can a digital platform, associated on- and/or off-line learning processes, and the context be understood, described and explored in a practical sense?
Against this background, ethnographic research is challenged to go beyond the rhetoric to explore the practical implications of the digital transformation and associated discourse. The challenge has been approached in terms of practice-oriented research facing the digital culture and renewing the ethnographic approaches across the spectrum from policy- and organizational-level to practical learning-level ethnographic investigation. The challenge is also seen as embedded in research which illustrates the potentials for ethnographic multisite studies contributing to that which I express as mapping the field of practice or paradigm, and cross-case studies crossing different learning contexts. The common highlighted theme is that changes in educational systems and practices are necessitating changes in ethnographic practices.
Maropeng Modiba and Sandra Stewart
Postcolonial ethnographic studies in Africa and, specifically, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region tend to demonstrate varying sensitivity to local knowledge systems and culture. Ethnographers, both local and international, differ in the ways in which they engage with these aspects. Studies expose shifts, or lack thereof, in the mindsets of researchers. In general, researchers take for granted their cultural ideals and how to embrace broader responsibilities beyond the education or development initiatives they are studying. Although rhetorically supportive of the education/development of the subaltern, some studies selected and reviewed in this article indicate the researchers’ missionary dispositions and reliance on preconceived notions in making sense of the behavior and environments studied. To varying degrees fragmentations in perceptions, anthropological empathy, reluctance to acknowledge African contexts and ways of living as adequate in themselves stand out rather than deliberate efforts to preserve the internal cultures and knowledge systems of the communities and expand their knowledge and skills in sustainable ways.
Uma Pradhan and Karen Valentin
From an anthropological perspective, (educational) ethnography is much more than just a method in terms of a set of techniques but a way of taking a place in and grasping the world that ethnographers aim to represent and comprehend. With an imperative of “being there,” the ethnographer travels to specific locations to establish some form of physical presence in the field site. The idea of “location,” therefore, is central to educational ethnography in several ways. Research on education among different categories of people in Nepal, and a vast body of ethnographic literature on education around the world, demonstrates the centrality of “location” in anthropological knowledge production. This article discusses “location” as a conceptual category in order to explore the different analytical levels at which it operates in anthropological knowledge production on education. It does so in three different ways. First, ethnographers’ locations in the field—their biographical trajectories, academic backgrounds, and social positions—lay the ground for the ways in which ethnographers ‘see’ education in the field. Second, the historical context and sociopolitical developments of specific geographic locations, in this case Nepal, draw attention to ways in which existing societal concerns foster particular research interests on education and consequently shape knowledge about a given geographical location. Third, conducting ethnographic fieldwork in a variety of spatial sites within and beyond institutions of schooling allows ethnographers to explore the multiple and often conflicting meanings of education. This awareness on the multiplicity of ethnographic locations in educational ethnography promises to deepen our understanding of education, broadly defined, through a rigorous and highly contextualized inquiry that highlights multiple and contested voices and presents subjective modes of perceiving reality.
Ethnography is about cultural representation, which implies a gaze and set of questions and assumptions about who is being represented, by whom, and what for. In this sense, ethnography always is conducted across borders where borders imply a set of differences to confront and understand, even while the ethnographer is expected to effectively overcome these through embedded practice in the field. If the enterprise of conducting these studies is always marked by border crossing, then what are the different ways in which border crossings happen in knowledge production through ethnography? How does the definition of “border” change the way ethnographic studies are performed? Potential shifts in the meaning of “borders” heightens the importance of interrogating cultural representation, the social locations that ethnographers occupy, see, and speak from, and how perspectives on cultural representation and actual representations will differ. These dynamics build up when, as here, ethnography across borders implies the presence of the nation-state, either as palimpsest or direct actor in the relations and daily lives of the community-participant in the ethnography.
Borders are necessarily evoked—geopolitical, social, cultural, national, regional, global, and personal ones, such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity. Ethnography across borders emerges in this instance as a methodology and a stance to deconstruct the ways in which ethnographers and ethnographies are radically situated in their own histories, and how radical contextualization of those histories is required to understand across borders and uncover the limits of cultural representation, language, and ethnography as a tool to understand the lives of people, their histories, and communities.
Alpesh Maisuria and Dennis Beach
As described in Beach and Dovemark’s 2007 book, Education and the Commodity Problem, critical researchers have identified two fundamental roles for modern-day schools within capitalist states. These are the ideological and material roles and function, where schools produce ideologically compliant workers and consumers for a corporatist economy on the one hand, this is partly through a teaching and a curriculum, which is often hidden and informal; and, on the other form part of a corporate business plan for the accumulation of private capital in the welfare sector through mass outsourcing of welfare-State education provision and the wholesale commodification of education as a public service. This article presents a research method for investigating education in these circumstances. It is a method with a philosophical foundation not only for understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism, but also for developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition toward a more just form of political economy and human existence.
This research method draws from critical realism and its concept of explanatory critique as a way to forge a scientifically robust Marxist critical ethnography. In relation to this, the description of the method accompanies an overview of some of the basic principles and broadly accepted possibilities of and for ethnography and critical ethnography, followed by a presentation of what Marxist critical ethnography is and how Marxist critical ethnography functions as explanatory critique, respectively. This entails description of what explanatory critique is, and how it can be used to develop a philosophy of social science and an ontological base for ethnography. The aforementioned components together expand on a historical, theoretical, conceptual, and political development of ethnography as part of a Marxist approach to research and practice for social transformation.
Ruth Mercado and Epifanio Espinosa
A specific comparative framework that incorporates an interpretive process dedicated to developing a more complex understanding of teaching knowledge incorporates the specific local contexts in which studies on teaching knowledge are conducted. Research on teaching knowledge within the region grew and diversified from the 1980s and 1990s. There are two key thematic contributions of this body of research: the nature of teaching knowledge and pedagogical approaches to teaching specific curricular content focusing on early literacy. Points of comparison between the different contributions of studies addressing teaching knowledge can be found. Additionally, institutional and social inequalities are manifested in schools and education in Latin American countries. Teaching knowledge, which teachers produce in and adapt to different social spaces (in other words, through practice), is crucial for fostering the development and learning of the students who attend school under the challenging conditions of the schools in these countries.
This article examines the possibilities of a comparative approach for ethnographic investigations on teachers’ work. It draws on contributions from a study carried out from 2006 to 2010 in private schools in Buenos Aires. Due to the deep socioeconomic crisis in Argentina in the 1990s, those schools reorganized themselves into cooperative schools. From a holistic approach, the study develops a comparative analysis related to the presencias estatales (state presences) in schools and how teachers experienced this. As the investigation progressed, a series of correlations between theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches were unfolded, allowing teachers’ work, from their “lived experience” perspective, to be recontextualized. The article is organized in four sections. The introduction presents the aim, the methodology, and an overview of the international context for developing comparative ethnographic investigations. The next section provides an overview of studies on teachers’ work in Latin America and Argentina, as well as the possibilities of comparison in the particular thematic field. Moving forward, it describes: (a) the theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches in detail through comparative analysis about the presencia estatales in cooperative schools, and (b) the ways in which teachers experience this. The conclusion presents a synthesis of the comparative analysis and propose new inquiries for further investigations.
Ethnography is a qualitative methodology worthy of consideration for application in studies within the field of early childhood education. The long-term, immersive, relational nature of ethnography enables rich, detailed descriptions of the complex interactions occurring, and ongoing engagement with children, families, and teachers provides the opportunity for co-analysis of the meanings that underlie the observed activities and interrelationships. The foremost source of data for ethnographic research is the regular writing of in-depth fieldnotes over a lengthy period of time, which may be supplemented by photographs, videos, interviews, focus group discussions, and analysis of relevant documents. Issues to be considered by those intending to conduct ethnographic research in early childhood care and education settings include: their availability to be immersed in the site that is the focus of the study, on a regular basis over a long period of time; sensitivity to power dynamics between adults and children and to cultural differences; the ethical issues pertaining to gaining and maintain young children’s informed consent; and collaborating with participants, including young children, in co-analyzing the meanings underlying the data gathered. The ethnographic researcher in an early childhood care and education setting can attend to such issues through an ongoing receptivity to the messages, including body language, of participants, along with a commitment to self-reflexivity on an ongoing basis. The nuanced, culturally located understandings that are gleaned by ethnographic researchers offer potential for such research to inform policymakers in relation to delivering conditions that will enable teachers to offer high-quality, culturally responsive early childhood care and education pedagogies and programs.
The European Commission launched a renewed agenda for adult learning with the objective of ensuring access to high-quality educational opportunities to adult learners for the promotion of their personal and professional development. Thus, European researchers in this field are paying attention to lifelong learning actions in order to address this challenge. Studies in this area are exploring how adult education can strengthen adults’ skills, in particular those required in the current knowledge society (information and communication technologies, problem solving, foreign languages, etc.). Simultaneously, some investigations focus in depth on the role that adult education can play in overcoming social exclusion for the most underserved groups. This paper describes the contributions of these investigations as well as the steps carried out by programs and theories that have contributed the most to adult learning. Lastly, future developments and challenges on this field are explained.
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, for example, in education, medicine, psychiatry, and social policy. It is known as the “what works” agenda, and its focus is on the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results or prevent undesirable ones. We immediately see here that EBP is practical in nature, that evidence is thought to play a central role, and also that EBP is deeply causal: we intervene into an already existing practice in order to produce an output or to improve the output. If our intervention brings the results we want, we say that it “works.”
How should we understand the causal nature of EBP? Causality is a highly contentious issue in education, and many writers want to banish it altogether. But causation denotes a dynamic relation between factors and is indispensable if one wants to be able to plan the attainment of goals and results. A nuanced and reasonable understanding of causality is therefore necessary to EBP, and this we find in the INUS-condition approach.
The nature and function of evidence is much discussed. The evidence in question is supplied by research, as a response to both political and practical demands that educational research should contribute to practice. In general, evidence speaks to the truth value of claims. In the case of EBP, the evidence emanates from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and presumably speaks to the truth value of claims such as “if we do X, it will lead to result Y.” But what does research evidence really tell us? It is argued here that a positive RCT result will tell you that X worked where the RCT was conducted and that an RCT does not yield general results.
Causality and evidence come together in the practitioner perspective. Here we shift from finding causes to using them to bring about desirable results. This puts contextual matters at center stage: will X work in this particular context? It is argued that much heterogeneous contextual evidence is required to make X relevant for new contexts. If EBP is to be a success, research evidence and contextual evidence must be brought together.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Evidence-based teaching strategies comprise clearly specified teaching methods that have been shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes in a specified population of learners, in this case those with special educational needs. Educators could, and should, be drawing upon the best available evidence as they plan, implement, and evaluate their teaching of such learners. The past decade has seen a growing commitment to evidence-based education. This has been reflected in
(a) legislation: for example, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act in the United States, which encourages the use of specific programs and practices that have been rigorously evaluated, and defines strong, moderate, and promising levels of evidence for programs and practices;
(b) a growing body of research into effective strategies, both in general and with respect to learners with special educational needs; and
(c) the creation of centers specializing in gathering and disseminating evidence-based education policies and practices, brokering connections between policymakers, practitioners, and researchers,
Even so, in most countries there is a significant gap between what researchers have found and educational policies and practices. Moreover, some writers criticize the emphasis on evidence-based education, particularly what they perceive to be the prominence given to quantitative or positivist research in general and to randomized controlled trials in particular.
In 1982, Denny Taylor coined the term “family literacy” to reference the ways young children and their parents interact around texts. Since then, the term family literacy has generally been applied to the practices that occur in homes to support young children as they become readers and writers. However, 30 years later, this definition negates the full scope of possibilities that might inform our understandings of the literacy practices that occur within home spaces and among family members. These possibilities reflect two important trends increasingly recognized within literacy research communities. First, technological advances have affected the ways people read and write and the multimodal literacy practices that have come to define literacy in families and homes. These developments are often the focus of New Literacy Studies as defined by the New London Group and others. Second, while generally not addressed in terms of family literacy, a substantial and growing body of research has documented the out-of-school literacy practices of adolescents and youth. Many of these literacy practices are enacted and displayed in home settings. While connections between out-of-school literacy practices and family literacy are generally not explicit, homes and families provide significant social contexts that are critical to engaging in technological, peer-informed, and popular culture practices. In short, family literacy does not end once children learn to read. In contrast, family literacy assumes new forms and involves new modalities that both echo and extend the literacy practices found within families. This is significant, as it challenges conceptions of adolescent and youth literacy as being separate from the literacy practices of families.
To extend what is meant by family literacy, it is redefined as more than traditional activities that involve young children with texts. Instead, researchers are challenged to consider the full range of literacy practices that occur among family members and within homes across time. In doing this, family literacy and new literacy studies are brought together. Thus, the term family/home literacy is used to recognize not only the literacy practices that are enacted between children and parents, but the full range of literacy practices that occur among all family members—including siblings, extended family members, and friends. In short, family/home literacy practices are intertwined with home literacy affordances, which include the texts, opportunities, and technological resources that are available and used in homes. In order to explore family/home literacies over time, children’s literacy practices, including traditional and technological family/home literacy practices, are explored. Issues raised include parental mentoring of school-age children as they encounter new technologies at home, the adaptation of available resources by children as they move into and through adolescence, and transactions involving texts (both traditional and digital) among adolescents, young adults, and their parents.
Serkan Koşar, Didem Koşar, and Kadir Beycioglu
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Family engagement and school leadership are among the most influential collaborations in schools, and family engagement is probably one of the most debated topics in educational research. Parental involvement can be considered as the active participation of parents in all aspects of their children’s social, emotional, and academic development. Parents may be involved in a wide range of issues in school and at home, such as discipline, the academic future of their children, homework, success, achievement, and school activities, among others. Researchers from different disciplines have recognized the importance of family involvement or parental engagement and attempted to determine parents’ influences on their children’s schooling.
Feminist theory rose in prominence in educational research during the 1980s and experienced a resurgence in popularity during the late 1990s−2010s. Standpoint epistemologies, intersectionality, and feminist poststructuralism are the most prevalent theories, but feminist researchers often work across feminist theoretical thought. Feminist qualitative research in education encompasses a myriad of methods and methodologies, but projects share a commitment to feminist ethics and theories. Among the commitments are the understanding that knowledge is situated in the subjectivities and lived experiences of both researcher and participants and research is deeply reflexive. Feminist theory informs both research questions and the methodology of a project in addition to serving as a foundation for analysis. The goals of feminist educational research include dismantling systems of oppression, highlighting gender-based disparities, and seeking new ways of constructing knowledge.
Alexandra C. Gunn
Formal early childhood education is a relatively modern institution to which increasing numbers of children are routinely exposed. Since the modern invention of childhood, the early childhood years have been increasingly established as a site for public and private investment in the name of individual and community development, the achievement of educational success, increased human productivity, and ultimately labor market productivity and excellence. As various forms of early childhood education have developed around the world, each has been imbued with values, perspectives, norms, and standards of its pioneers. They have also drawn upon and reinforced certain truths, knowledges, practices, and expectations about children, childhood, education, and society. As microcosms of society whose inhabitants are largely novice members of the communities of which they are part, teachers in early childhood education are routinely addressing issues of exclusion, injustice, and inequity with children and families. French historian and poststructural philosopher Michel Foucault’s (1926–1984) interests in the nexus of power-knowledge-truth and its consequences for life offer avenues for comprehending how modern institutions, such as systems of early childhood education, invest in and bring about certain forms of knowledge and practice. His methods of genealogical inquiry and discourse analysis make visible the workings of power as it moves on, in, and through human bodies. The perspectives made visible by Foucauldian analyses show how techniques, developed and applied within institutions, form humans in particular ways. Thus, it is possible to see the interplay between power-truth-knowledge, how things come to be, and how they may change.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Besides being protected by the First Amendment, the right of students and faculty to express divergent opinions—even discomfiting opinions—is central to the academic mission of schools, colleges, and universities. Two familiar Millian arguments underscore this point. First, the dynamic clash of contrary ideas offers the best prospect we have of arriving at the “whole truth” about any complex subject. Second, unless it is subject to periodic questioning and critique, any established and received bit of wisdom “will be held in the manner of a prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.”
These arguments notwithstanding, anyone who has ever spent time in classrooms knows that educators sometimes curtail student speech. Can such conduct be justified in educational institutions dedicated to free and open inquiry and the examination of multiple perspectives? In mundane cases, student speech is suppressed for the sake of minimizing disruptions and maintaining order and efficiency in the classroom—as when the teacher cuts off a particularly loquacious student in order to allow others to get a word in, or a tangent-prone student in order to keep the discussion on point and avoid protracted digressions, etc. Even the most ardent defender of free speech must concede that censorship, in such cases, is necessary for the effective functioning of the educational environment.
A more complex and philosophically interesting set of cases involves educators who silence students for the sake of civility. Granted, when the speech in question involves personally targeted insults, gratuitous put-downs, and the like, the rationale for censorship seems unassailable. But what about speech that is strictly relevant to the topic under consideration, doesn’t descend to the level of direct, personal invective, and yet, nevertheless, denigrates members of some widely stigmatized group—e.g., a student’s declaration, during a discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage ruling, that homosexuality is aberrant and a legitimate target of deterrent legislation? Is silencing this kind of utterance the appropriate course of action for educators? Or are the interests of all parties better served by permitting such views to be expressed and discussed openly in the classroom?
Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training.
While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.
Bethy Leonardi and Sara Staley
Generations of education scholars have positioned issues that affect LGBTQ youth as critical to conversations about equity, diversity, democracy, and social justice in schools. Those voices, for generations, have been relegated to the periphery of those conversations at best and have been silenced at worst. Relatedly, university-based teacher education programs have been remiss in their attention to issues of gender and sexual diversity, systematically sending teachers into the field largely unprepared to create contexts that are safe for LGBTQ youth and to affirm gender and sexual diversity. With growing attention to issues that affect LGBTQ youth, both in educational research and practice as well as in the larger sociopolitical discourse, teachers are on the front lines. They are charged with navigating the complexities of students’ identities, the contexts in which they teach, local politics, and their own deeply held beliefs—and they are often, unsurprisingly, doing so with little or no support. That support needs to start much earlier.
Teacher education programs—and teacher educators—are implicated as central in changing the discourse around what counts as (non)negotiable in learning to teach. By supporting preservice teachers’ learning around gender and sexual diversity, their processes toward that end, and their engagement in queer practices, teacher educators and teacher education programs can work toward paying down the debt owed to teachers in the field and to LGBTQ students and families who have long suffered the consequences of silence.
Discussion of sex and/or gender in education has a long history, raising the difference gender makes and questioning also whether gender should make a difference and even how gender comes to be constituted in diverse ways. Many of the theorists and researchers working in these related areas examine role education plays in creating and exacerbating gender differences. They also note that when gender differences are highlighted by institutions, the resulting hierarchy of value tends to work to the advantage of male privilege and heterosexuality. Gender and sexuality difference are then used to stabilize and justify both sexism and heterosexism.
This entry explores how the early philosophical theorizing that brought attention to the difference gender makes and the problems with gender-related hierarchy, setting the stage for later discussions of how and why schools need to challenge gender inequity. Exploring Anglo-American educational and related research, this entry distinguishes among theories that stress gender difference (e.g., arguing for women’s particular educational needs and strengths), theories that explore how gender differences are produced by institutions, how intersections of race challenge stable notions of what gender means, and finally, discussing how poststructural theories disrupt the normative gender binary, opening new possibilities for transgender students and other challenges to gender norms.