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This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Inclusive education is now a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included clear statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to support inclusive educational practices. For example, Article 26 states that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later provided a basis for parent groups and educators to argue for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated.
The concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, in the United States in 1975, the United Nations’ International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN’s initiatives has been the right of people with disabilities to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious implications for the way education is provided to students with disabilities or other additional educational needs. Up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of societal participation. More recently, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, there has been increasing acceptance of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle underlying the education of students with disabilities.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
The study of educational administration in the United Kingdom began in a limited way in the 1970s, but it became much more significant following the 1988 Education Reform Act, which gave substantial powers to principals and school governing bodies. This led to the scope of leadership and administration being greatly expanded to include management of finance, staff, pupil admissions, and school site, as well as their traditional role as instructional leaders.
Provision for public education was disaggregated beginning in 1999, when education was devolved to assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as part of the government’s devolution agenda. In England, the government established the National College for School Leadership in 2000; this had a major impact on policy, research, and practice for the next decade, before its decline from 2013, and its eventual closure in 2016. School leadership preparation is now at a crossroads, within an increasingly fragmented schools system and without the national voice that the National College provided.
Sigamoney Manicka Naicker
Altering a dual system of education (special and ordinary) in South Africa to an inclusive system requires substantial change in terms of thinking and practice. After almost 20 years of implementing Education White Paper 6 (published by South Africa’s Department of Education in 2001), it is very important that theories, assumptions, practices, models, and tools are put under intense scrutiny for such an inclusive policy to work. Such a single system of education should develop the capacity to address barriers to learning if it wants to include all learners into the system. What are the main barriers that deprive learners from access to a single system of education and what changes should take place so that a truly inclusive system can be created? South Africa introduced seven white papers in education but all of them were implemented in ways that were not entirely influenced by the theory and practice of inclusive education. Inclusive education requires the system to change at a structural level so that mainstream education takes ownership of the ideology and practice of inclusive education. This change should bring about consistency in relation to other white papers; for example, curriculum development, early childhood education, and adult education. In implementing inclusive education, South Africa did not take seriously the various barriers to inclusion, such as curriculum, in providing access to learners who experience difficulties. Thus, an in-depth analysis of the history of special education is provided, with a view toward specifying recommendations for attempts to create the right conditions for a truly inclusive system of education in South Africa.
Anne Elrod Whitney and Yamil Sarraga-Lopez
The National Writing Project (NWP) is a network of professional development sites focusing on the improvement of writing across schools and communities. Its origins as the Bay Area Writing Project led to a professional development model of teachers teaching teachers, a concept that hinges upon recognition of teachers’ knowledge and their capacity to become leaders within their professional community.
In the ensuing years, with early financial support from the US government in the form of an initial grant and an eventual direct federal line item, the NWP expanded from one location to over 200 local sites across the USA’s 50 states and territories as well as international sites. These US and international sites, created in partnership with local universities or colleges, offer localized support to teachers of writing. The project’s model involves an intensive summer institute in which teachers spend their time writing, reading, and sharing their knowledge about writing practices and teaching.
While its focus is on the teaching of writing across all levels and disciplines, the project has become a model example of a professional learning and development network. As such, the NWP has created a legacy in teacher learning and development that many within the field of teacher professional development wish to emulate. An examination of this history, highlighting the project’s beginnings within the Bay Area Writing Project and its eventual expansion, speaks to the vision that has driven its success.
Kalwant Bhopal and Martin Myers
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Home schooling (often referred to as “home education” in the United Kingdom) is a decision made by many types of families to take direct responsibility for their children’s education rather than sending them to school. Home schooling is an increasingly popular choice for parents in Europe and North America. In many respects the ubiquity of schooling is a relatively recent innovation reflecting the increasing management of educational practices by the state. Traditionally, home schooling may have been the only option available to many families until the 20th century.
In the United States the return toward home schooling became an identifiable trend among disparate types of families in the late 1960s. On the one hand it appealed to conservative, Christian evangelical families who have argued that education is the responsibility of the family and who also wanted schooling to reflect their personal religious values. On the other hand, home schooling was the choice of radical and liberal parents who challenged both the pedagogical practices of schools and the types of knowledge prevalent in the curriculum.
More recently, however, a more heterogeneous and diverse range of families have increasingly turned toward home schooling. These include families from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, those whose children have special educational needs, and those who are dissatisfied with the education that schools offer their children. In tandem with the growth in numbers there has been widespread concern that parents who choose to home school are putting their children at risk of physical abuse, neglect, lack of interaction with others, and poor educational outcomes.
The identification of the risks of home schooling is often a controversial subject, not least because many home schoolers specifically choose this route in response to the risks they associate with sending their children to school. For many families, their decisions to home educate are often entangled within contested discourses shaped by ethnicity, religious, cultural affiliations, or a dissatisfaction with the education mainstream schools offer. For black and minority ethnic families, home schooling is often a strategy adopted to counter the racism, oppression or inequity their children experience in schools. For other families, such as those with children who have special educational needs, schools are simply unable to cater to their children’s needs. How parents manage the different risks associated with making this decision is key to understanding the complexities of home education and why some families chose to do it, while others do not.
The number of homeschooling families in the United States has been growing at a steady rate since the early 1990s. Attempts to make sense of homeschooling—including research—are inherently political. These attempts are, therefore, highly contested. It is impossible to provide an agreed-upon definition of homeschooling, much less a precise number of families that homeschool, why they homeschool, or what the learning outcomes of that homeschooling might entail. Instead, homeschooling is best understood as a set of educative practices that exists in and between institutional schooling and family life. As families and schools evolve and change, so will the meaning and significance of homeschooling.
Queer theory is a tool that can be used to reconsider sociopolitical, historical, and cultural norms and values. Similarly, in qualitative research, queer theory tends to analyze the narratives of LGBTQ+ people and groups in ways that seek to queer everyday experiences. Both the theoretical framework and the narratives collected and analyzed in qualitative research are significant to unpacking business-as-usual in and across sociocultural contexts. This is especially true for systems of schooling, whereby LGBTQ+ people and groups are marginalized through schooling and schools, a process of exclusion that is detrimental to queer youth who are learning in spaces and places specifically designed against their ways of being and knowing. The significance of qualitative research as it meets the framework of queer theory is that it offers a practically and institutionally queered set of voices, perspectives, and understandings with which to think about the everyday in schools. This becomes increasingly important as schooling has historically been a place in which LGBTQ+ students and groups have resided at an intersection, where the sociopolitical and cultural marginalization that keeps the status quo in place crosses with contemporary values that both interrupt and reify such histories.
One of the largest reforms in the school systems of European countries is inclusive schooling. All over Europe, enrollment of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular classrooms is rising, and at the same time, the proportion of students with SEN in segregated school settings is declining. Despite a significant push to implement inclusive education across the countries of the European Union, the concept of inclusive education still remains unclear, and the practical implementation of it is limited in most countries. There are huge variations across countries in the challenges they face and the way they are attempting to implement inclusion in their region. For example, whether a child with SEN will attend inclusive or special education is a decision made by different stakeholders in different countries. While in some countries this choice is typically made by parents, in other countries professionals decide which school is most appropriate for students with SEN. Moreover, the resources available to implement inclusive education differ widely across Europe.
Jayanthi Narayan and Nibedita Patnaik
Education is a fundamental right of all children, including those with special educational needs. Efforts toward achieving this right have resulted in focused attention from governments the world over, improving the quality of education in schools and thus leading to dignified social status for the students who were marginalized earlier and denied admission to schools. This worldwide movement following various international conventions and mandates has resulted in local efforts to reach rural remote areas with education by the governments in most countries. Although there has been significant progress in reaching children, the spread is not uniform. Children living in rural and tribal areas or in remote parts of countries still have many barriers preventing them from receiving education. The essence of inclusive education is to build the capacity to reach out to all children, promoting equity. While in the 1990s special needs education was a focus, the importance of it becoming part of the overall educational system led to reforms in regular schools resulting in inclusive education to address diverse learning needs of children. How successful are we in these efforts, particularly in the remote and rural areas?
Special and inclusive education in rural and remote areas has varied models and practices. Educating children with special educational needs in rural and remote areas is a challenge. Although there are schools in such areas, not all are equipped to address the needs of children with special needs. Further, the teachers working in rural areas in many countries are not trained to teach those with special needs nor are there technological support systems as there are in urban areas. Yet, interestingly, in some rural and tribal communities, the teachers are naturally at ease with children with diverse needs, as the schools tend to have heterogeneous classes, with one teacher having to teach combined groups of different grade levels. There is evidence that rural teachers show less resistance to include children with special needs when compared to urban teachers. Community supports in rural areas due to rural residents’ relatively homogeneous lifestyle is another supporting factor for smooth inclusion in some rural areas. While primary education is ensured in most rural and remote areas, the children have to travel long distances to semi-urban and urban areas for secondary and higher education, a hardship that is compounded further when there is a disability. It is observed in many rural areas that children with special needs tend to learn the traditional job skills pertaining to that area naturally, though such lessons are not always blended in the school curriculum. Teacher preparation for rural areas that includes the latest technological developments and vocation-focused education is bound to make education more meaningful and will encourage natural inclusion of the children in society.
The concept of inclusive education and the way it is considered within the educational policy frameworks of European countries have changed and are still changing. Inclusive education is increasingly being understood as a systemic approach to education for all learners of any age; the goal is to provide all learners with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers.
There is a need to examine the policy of inclusive education, both its recent changes and its future direction, that European countries are undertaking, highlighting implications for both practitioners and academic researchers. Such an examination should not focus on practice—that is, the actual implementation of country policy—or on academic research into policy or practice for inclusive education in countries. Rather, it should focus on recent policy developments that are shaping practice in European schools, as well as potential future developments. The key messages emerging from a consideration of the European experience are highly applicable to other global regions.
Inclusive school reform has been on the education agenda in many countries, including Swaziland. One of the forces that have shaped this reform agenda is the demands on transforming schools to cater to learners with special needs and disabilities. Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) is one approach to change that is currently being used with some success in general education. This approach has proved to have the potential of developing more inclusive schools. CSR provides administrators and teachers with a framework to develop successful, effective, and sustainable inclusive programs. There is a belief that sustainability of school reform is dependent on comprehensive approaches to school change. This is because they develop effective, sustainable programs that improve educational outcomes for all learners, and provide the necessary support. This in turn may result in general education classrooms being transformed to accommodate a broader range of learners. Inclusive school reform in Swaziland has also been strengthened by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprehensive school reform concept locally known as Schools as Centres of Care and Support strategy (SCCS) but regionally referred to as Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) and internationally known as Child-Friendly Schools (CFS). This program was initiated by Media in Education Trust (MIET) Africa in 2003, as a broader strategy of education support for vulnerable learners. SCCS provides a good framework for Swaziland; it addresses barriers to quality teaching and learning and hence even locally it is also referred to as CSTL. SCCS was adopted and launched in Swaziland in 2006. The siSwati name for the program is “Inqaba,” which means fortress—safe haven for all learners. Customizing the concept to Inqaba, through a national competition involving primary school learners, gave it a Swazi flavor and ensured ownership. The specific objective of the Inqaba is to create school environments that are friendly, safe, healthy, and conducive for inclusive quality teaching and learning. To achieve this objective, the strategy is based on seven pillars, namely, Protection and Safety; Psychosocial Support; Food Security; Health, Sanitation, Water, and Hygiene; HIV/AIDS; Life-skills; and Quality Teaching and Learning. At the heart of the program lies capacity building for school-community partnership to identify barriers to teaching and learning and provide inclusive schools that welcome every child. The inclusive school reform approach in Swaziland also involves applying principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) through provision of relevant classroom-specific tools to support in particular the pillar on quality teaching and learning. The integration of digital tools has also gained currency in the school system and is seen as an important element in reforming schools to be inclusive. Notwithstanding the challenges related to its implementation, the Inqaba concept brings a more comprehensive approach to inclusive school reform characterized by shared decision-making, collaboration, and teamwork. This approach presents a huge potential to develop successful and sustainable inclusive schools.
“Redressing Aboriginal disadvantage” through Indigenous education policy and studies has been on the policy agenda in Australian institutions for several decades. With notable exceptions, Indigenous studies programs have tended to position Indigenous peoples as objects of study. These objectifications still largely pivot around constructions of Indigenous cultures and peoples through deficit or essentializing discourses. The apprehension of these limiting discourses in Indigenous Australian studies for non-Indigenous learners contribute to the reproduction and reinforcement of contemporary justifications for Indigenous peoples’ colonial disenfranchisement. Often, limited attention is given to examining the relationality of knowledge, people, and ideas in (neo)colonial domains and, subsequently, to the deconstruction of the epistemological conditions under which Indigenous peoples were and are “known.” The Indigenist Standpoint Pedagogical (ISP) framework was designed to develop critical tools for all students to understand the epistemic forces that empower their worldviews and behaviors. The key question for an ISP framed learning space shifts is not, “What do students need to know about Indigenous peoples and experiences?” but rather, “Where does my knowledge come from and what is its purpose and impact on the way I relate to, and form, understandings about Australian history and Indigenous Australian peoples and experiences?” In the latter approach, students are exposed to opportunities to theorize and examine structural privilege. They engage in critical self-enquiry to interrogate the conditions that impact on their interpretations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian experiences throughout history and into the 21st century. In this sense, ISP is an inherently reformative, relational, and critically reflexive framework that supports and facilitates the reintegration of Indigenous knowledge perspectives in ways that interrupt the enduring impact of the colonial narrative.
Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Dustin W. Louie, Aubrey Jean Hanson, and Jacqueline Ottmann
The need to decolonize and Indigenize education stems from shared experiences of colonialism across the globe. In a world divided by ongoing conflict, and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to closely examine the ways that education has served hegemonic interests will help to inform future educational initiatives as well as serve as a form of reparation for those Indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. Present-day efforts to reclaim, restore, and revitalize threatened traditions are supported by international bodies such as the United Nations, in tandem with a range of approaches at national levels.
Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and working to unsettle colonial structures, systems, and dynamics in educational contexts. We use the term education in these descriptions broadly to name the sociocultural task of understanding ways of knowing and being (epistemological and ontological systems) and the ongoing formation and transmission of knowledges: for instance, we mean both formal education as structured through Western schooling and other forms of education such as those traditionally practiced within Indigenous families and communities. Decolonizing education fits within larger understandings of decolonization and Indigenization at socio-political levels. However, these undertakings address in particular the colonization of the mind, of knowledge, language, and culture, and the impacts of colonization at personal and collective levels of physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual experience. In this time of transition, the work of decolonizing schooling necessarily precedes that of Indigenizing education for most educators and learners; yet, in keeping with Indigenous knowledge traditions, education must remain in a state of flux as we come to know this work collectively.
Roseli R. Mello, Marcondy M. de Souza, and Thaís J. Palomino
Self-determination of the original peoples of any nation, preservation of their territories, preservation of traditions, and negotiation of customs facing national cultures are central themes in the debate about and among indigenous peoples in the world. School education is directly linked to such themes as an instrument of acculturation or self-determination and emancipation. As in other countries of the globe, throughout history, what happened and is happening in Brazil is not isolated fact. Current conditions are the product of colonization processes, the development of industrial society, and more recently of globalization. Such historical processes bring struggles, confrontations, transformations, and solidarity. In the legal sphere, international conventions, declarations, and treaties have influenced more or less directly the norms and laws on the subject: from the papal bull and treaties between colonizing kingdoms, to the Declaration of Human Rights, to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, the Brazilian indigenous issue, like that of many other countries, is also based on, supported by, or held back by actions, debates, and international interests.
But what makes the case of Brazil worthy of relevance for thinking about indigenous education? Two elements make up an answer: the specific way the governors establish relations with the original peoples, and the fact that Brazil has the greatest diversity of indigenous communities.
Celia Haig-Brown and Te Kawehau Hoskins
Indigenous teacher education has proven to be a powerful influence in the resurgence of Indigenous cultures and languages globally. In Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand, while there are numerous distinctions between the countries in size, linguistic and cultural diversity, and the histories of Indigenous peoples and colonization, an Indigenous commitment to schooling has shaped long-term and recent aspirations in both contexts.
Within Canada, the proliferation of Indigenous teacher education programs is a direct result of a 1972 landmark national policy document Indian Control of Indian Education. This document written by Indigenous leaders in response to the Canadian government was the culmination of a decades-long, relentless commitment to creating the best possible schooling systems for Indigenous students within the provinces and territories. In 2015, despite some significant gains, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed its work articulating Calls to Action that reinforce the original recommendations, particularly the focus on Indigenous control of education. In the Aotearoa New Zealand context, the establishment of Māori language schooling pathways and Māori medium teacher education programs has been made possible by activism focused on the recognition of Indigenous-Māori rights to language and culture guaranteed by the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Forms of constitutional recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi mean that New Zealand endorses a social policy of biculturalism.
From the 1970s and 1980s, responses to exclusionary and racist colonial policies and practices have led to the creation of teacher education programs in both Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand transforming universities and schools and establishing spaces of Indigenous authority, activism and expertise. While the pace of change varies radically from place to place and from institution to institution, and the specific contexts of the two countries differ in important ways, the innumerable Indigenous graduates of the programs make ongoing contributions to Indigenizing, decolonizing, and educating Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike. The growth and strengthening of an Indigenous education sector have led to significant policy and curriculum reforms across the education systems and to ongoing engagement in critique, advocacy, research, and practice. Throughout their development, Indigenous leadership and control of the programs remain the immediate and long-range goals.
Learning about the practice of teaching is a complex and ongoing business. While it may commence as initial teacher education, undertaken as tertiary study, it necessarily continues throughout a teacher’s professional career. This is recognized by employing authorities across many parts of the world as they make provisions for professional learning often characterized as “professional development,” mainly through short and longer generic courses. However, such provision may lack contextual coherence leading to an acknowledgement that the complexity of teaching may be better captured through systematic inquiry undertaken by practitioners into their own practices in the company of others. Such inquiry could investigate not only matters of significance in terms of actions and activities, but also take account of local and external relevant discourses and the arrangements of relationships with peers and students themselves mediated by a variety of factors, for example, social geography. Educational practice is best seen as a “living practice” constantly morphing and changing in accord with a dynamic world. It can be argued that inquiry-based learning is itself a practice-changing practice with a focus on a range of matters such as enhancing student learning outcomes through a profound understanding of how students learn via their agency as the consequential stakeholders able and willing to provide their teachers with honest and worthwhile feedback. As well practitioner inquiry may address what is worthwhile, fundamental and enduring, and seek to integrate current theories with practice.
Many so-called “improvements” and “reforms” in education are developed with little reference to that which teachers know and understand of their practice. They are developed for teachers rather than with teachers. As a redress it is essential that teachers themselves can articulate their practice and provide sustainable, plausible evidence of not only their achievements, but also the many matters that present ongoing challenges, for example: the impact of social media on classroom dynamics; technological innovation more generally; and state-wide testing regimes combined with international comparisons. Systematic inquiry can contribute not only to the professional learning of the practitioners who are so engaged, but also to the larger body of knowledge regarding professional practice. With this end in mind, it is essential that inquiry-based learning is both to the benefit of individual teachers as well as the broader profession itself and to act as an antidote to some of the less desirable features of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). Thus inquiry-based learning may be seen as a powerful reform in its own right.
Chris Forlin and Kuen-Fung Sin
Following the UNESCO initial statement in 1994 that inclusive schools were the most effective way to counter discriminatory approaches and attitudes toward students with a disability, international legislation and policy has evolved to challenge exclusionary practices and focus attention on equal opportunities for all learners. Inclusion in education is now accepted as a basic right and the foundation for a fairer and equal society. In opposition to earlier dual systems of regular and special education, inclusive education presents a changed paradigm in the way that learners with diverse needs are educated. Specifically, generalist teachers are now required to be able to cater to the needs of the most diverse student populations both academically and socially within regular classrooms.
In most regions, there has been a rather slow and lagging change in teacher preparation to support these new developments. It is frequently documented that new graduates and in-service teachers are not well prepared for managing inclusive classrooms and understanding differences among students. Many teachers will say that they require more professional learning opportunities about inclusive education than they currently receive. When teachers are appropriately trained, have positive attitudes toward including students with diverse abilities, and have access to appropriate resources and support, there are many good practices that become evident. Conversely, inadequate teacher education and a lack of suitable resources often inhibit teachers from developing the appropriate beliefs or attitudes necessary for becoming inclusive practitioners.
As the demand for better training of teachers about the inclusion of students with diverse abilities increases, the question that arises is what constitutes best-practice professional learning for upskilling teachers about inclusive education? While a variety of existing practices ranging from in-school support to system-wide approaches are employed globally, identifying which to use must be grounded in the context and specific needs of individual teachers and schools. This article provides a review of the range of models of whole-school methods, including focusing on teacher competencies, developing school and university links, engaging in collaborative scholarship, and establishing professional learning communities. System support is also examined, as this is critical to effective training. The Hong Kong model is cited as a good example of a collaborative government system/university partnership toward upskilling teachers about inclusive education. This model provides a realistic approach to addressing this issue when a longitudinal plan has been implemented to upskill regular class teachers in inclusive education, using initially an off-site training program followed by a school-based whole-school approach that may be of interest to many other systems. Consideration is also given to the training needs of education assistants who work in inclusive classrooms and their roles in supporting students. The importance of lifelong professional learning should underpin decisions regarding what model or approach to adopt, as student and teacher needs will undoubtedly change over time.
Concerns about intellectual property in education typically involve administrative interest in improving institutional compliance with copyright and patent laws. The focus on compliance, rather than on intellectual property as an area of educational inquiry for students raises two questions: Are educational institutions adequately preparing students (a) to participate in a global economy that is increasingly driven by intellectual property and (b) for a future in which the creation and distribution of intellectual property is being reshaped by the emerging digital era? The educational value of intellectual property begins, however, with history of the concept in which learning played a strong role in giving shape to the idea of text as an intangible good associated with distinct properties, rights, and responsibilities, with all of this taking place well before the 18th-century introduction of the modern concepts of copyright and patent law. In light of this history and its contemporary standing, intellectual property has much to offer as a way for students and teachers to gain insight into the nature of creative work in relation to private property and the public domain. While education benefits from exceptions made for “fair use” and other exemptions in copyright law, the digital era has seen the introduction of new intellectual property strategies that support the collective educational enterprise, including Creative Commons licensing, open educational resources, open access to research, and open source software. While intellectual property has played a small part in business education and composition classes in the past, a number of innovative programs now involve students in different approaches to balancing the private and public interests associated with this concept, suggesting the value that intellectual property holds, as a teachable topic, for the curriculum and for thinking, more broadly, about education’s role as a public good.
The term “interculturality” acknowledges the complexity of locations, identities, and modes of expression in a global world and the desire to raise awareness, foster intercultural dialogue, and facilitate understanding across and between cultures. Intercultural arts is a critical component of interculturality.
One of many global educational imperatives is to further understanding and engage critically in what constitutes intercultural arts. Intercultural arts practitioners and researchers play a significant role in this undertaking. A close examination of intercultural arts work and encounters unravels complex relationships among arts disciplines and ways to conceptualize and understand intercultural arts travels. Intercultural arts research sheds new insights into shared cultural and intercultural futures that need to be reimagined and co-created with a sense of ethical obligations, exploration, openness, and reflexivity. This leads to embracing a multiperspective worldview that addresses and celebrates the embodied nature of intercultural arts practices across global contexts: a worldview that is continually constructed, dynamic, and fluid, existing both within and between locations, and that connotes a particular type of ethical educational space.
The study of interculturality in today’s society in general, and in actual intercultural arts practice in particular, is indispensable. For educators who want to engage in researching their professional practice in the “field” of intercultural arts, “field” is a useful agricultural metaphor for the various processes and tools used in researching intercultural arts practice. Social researchers talk, for example, about “entering the field” and “gathering” data as if venturing into the world to harvest material for processing (analysis) before its eventual distribution and consumption by a society hungrily seeking new information to build up its body of knowledge and increase its capacity for growth and improvement. However, for education practitioners researching their own professional practice, and their journey into and focus on “intercultural arts,” it will feel much more fluid and uncertain than being on dry land, and it will require them to locate and address the overlap of practice and ethical agendas in educational research.
Interdisciplinary curricula provide students the opportunity to work with knowledge drawn from multiple disciplines. Following suit, interdisciplinary learning requires interaction of knowledge from different disciplines; integration of knowledge from different disciplines; and an overarching topic, theme, or problem that shapes the learning experience. Since the university curriculum is commonly structured by academic disciplines, and faculty are socialized to their respective disciplinary norms, interdisciplinarity is a complex endeavor for colleges and universities. These endeavors include developing interdisciplinary courses, sustaining interdisciplinary initiatives, and financing interdisciplinary programs.
Given the multiple challenges facing 21st-century society, the question of interdisciplinarity is urgent. How knowledge is defined and disseminated; how and what students learn; and how higher education can be responsive to its external environment are crucial issues facing educators. Responding to these issues does not diminish the role of the discipline in education, but rather acknowledges that knowledge is unbounded and potential discoveries lie outside compartmentalized structures.