Martinette V. Horner, Derrick D. Jordan, and Kathleen M. Brown
Academic optimism was developed in 2006 as a latent concept that provides insight into the improvement of student outcomes especially for those who, because of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other demographics, have historically been labeled as underperforming. The three main components of academic optimism (academic emphasis, collective emphasis, and faculty trust) underscore the reality that the teachers, parents, and students all play a critical role in the education arena when it comes to ensuring that students fully grow and stretch to the fullest extent possible. High academic optimism in a school suggests that academic achievement is valued and supported; the faculty has the capacity to help students achieve; and students and parents can be trusted as partners of the school for student achievement. Each of these can be controlled by the actions and decisions of school leaders and faculty so that schools can overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement.
Judith Meece and Charlotte Agger
Achievement motivation theories are used to understand gender discrepancies in motivation across various academic domains. Early on in the field of motivation research, researchers commonly used an attribution framework to study achievement-related outcomes among men and women. Self-efficacy theory and a revised expectancy-value theory of achievement-related choices dominate the current literature on gender differences and achievement motivation. Current trends in research on gender and academic motivation include the shifting and expanding of theoretical frameworks, a new focus on the motivation and achievement of male students, and the use of advanced methodologies and cross-national data to conduct comparative research on gender and patterns of motivation.
In South Africa, new legislation and policies on inclusive education in the post-apartheid era since 1994 have placed a strong emphasis on equity, equality, and human rights, as defined in the South African Constitution. As a result, a White Paper on building an inclusive education and training system was published in 2001. It acknowledges the failure of the education system to respond to the barriers to learning and development experienced by a substantial number of learners, including diverse learning needs caused by, for example, language, socioeconomic, or gender issues as well as disabilities. This policy document describes inclusive education as being based on the ideals of equity and equality and as a result recognizing and respecting learner and learning diversity within mainstream schools. As stated in the policy, in practice this means identifying and removing barriers in the education system to ensure that the full range of diverse learning needs are met in mainstream classrooms as well as providing support to learners and teachers in addressing barriers to learning and development.
Research studies on the implementation of inclusive education in South Africa, however, are finding that despite the development of a wide range of implementation guidelines since 2007, complex interrelated issues continue to complicate the development of successful inclusive schools. These issues include a continued divergence of views of inclusive education with a continuing strong belief in special education and separate educational settings by most teachers, therefore leading to a resultant lack of clarity regarding the implementation of inclusive education at the level of local practice in schools and classrooms. These differences in the understanding of inclusive education and its enactment in diverse school contexts also bring the question of power and agency into South African debates about inclusive education: who should decide which version of inclusive education should be the goal of the development of inclusive education in a specific school district or a specific school. Furthermore, contextual issues including the lack of financial and human resources, for example effectively trained teachers, effectively functioning district educational support teams for schools in specific school districts, lack of textbooks, and overcrowded classrooms, play a dominant role in the development of effective inclusive schools.
Pamela J. Bettis and Nicole Ferry
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the international bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013), argues that women need to engage more actively in the workplace and take the professional and emotional risks required in leadership. In many ways, Sandberg’s own story is the fulfillment of the promise of the “Alpha Girl,” Harvard psychologist Dan Kindlon’s name for the new face of girlhood. Kindlon maintains that contemporary young Western women have initiated a new era of female empowerment, with girls interested mainly in future careers and not romantic relationships. Meanwhile, the U.S. public discourse pertaining to boys frames them as troubled and in need of more attention. The popular press notes that girls outperform boys in school; that boys are more likely to repeat a grade; more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability; and more likely to be expelled, suspended, and disciplined in school. Furthermore, adolescents who do not adhere to gender normativity or who identify as transgender are continually neglected in mainstream considerations of youth, school policies, curriculum, and educational spaces. Over the course of recent decades, U.S. discourses of adolescence and gender, including those found in popular and academic discussions, have shifted. As girls become the new models of success, as boys are deemed worthy of extra attention, and as gender-transgressive students remain absent from the discussions altogether, it is imperative that educators keep abreast of these changing discourses that shape the way we talk about and understand youth.
Jennifer Hatten-Flisher and Rebecca A. Martusewicz
Ecofeminism is a theoretical, political, and educational movement that draws specific parallels between the domination of women and other marginalized groups, and the degradation of nature. While much of ecofeminist thought is focused on examining the interconnectivity between social and environmental injustices, ecofeminism is as vast and varied as its feminist and ecological roots. Yet, ecofeminism is not without its critics. After being widely accused of essentializing women’s relationship with nature, the term fell out of favor with a lot of scholars in the 1990s. Those who have remained loyal to the term have argued that this was an unfair mischaracterization of the larger foundational ideas within ecofeminist work.
Given the global environmental and social crises currently sweeping the planet, ecofeminism offers important, albeit diverse, theoretical, practical, and pedagogical perspectives for developing effective responses to such interrelated crises. As such, scholars across a variety of disciplines are revisiting (and reclaiming) ecofeminist thought. In the field of education, ecofeminism is influencing the ways that we approach questions of justice by offering an intersectional framework that insists on recognizing the interconnected roots of racism, sexism, poverty, ablism, and other social problems with ecological degradation. An ethics of care is woven throughout to form the basis of a pedagogy of responsibility whereby students learn to both critique these cultural foundations of violence and identify practices and relationships that help to create healthy sustainable communities.
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.
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.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Significant research telling the stories of women’s experiences in the superintendency has been conducted only since the 1980s. Much of that research has been focused on white women, with fewer studies of women leaders of color. By the beginning of the new century, there were more women in the pipeline for the superintendency—more women in graduate educational leadership programs, more women in the elementary principalship, and more women in central office positions. Data from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 2015 Study of the American Superintendent show that while increases have been made throughout the years, females make up only 27 percent of the superintendency, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force. Given that the position of teacher is the first step in the pathway toward the superintendency, women are clearly underrepresented as superintendents across the country. This problem has been a topic for many researchers, practicing academics, and doctoral students who choose the topic as research for dissertations.
The schooling of girls has, across different times and places, often been a matter of heated public debate. From the 1800s to the present, contentious issues such as the purpose of girls’ education, curriculum content, and the meanings given to girls’ bodies within educational sites have led to varying discussions, opinions, and policies. At the center of these debates are the questions of how gender is understood; how it is used in a given place and time in the division of labor, the economy, and the family; and how it is assumed that young girls and women should be instructed for eventually taking up the positions deemed appropriate for their time and place. It is impossible, however, to simply talk about girls’ schooling as if this refers to a singular group of people. Differences in class, race, ethnicity, region, citizenship, sexuality, and other characteristics shape both the contours of the debate and the experience of schooling. Thus, any discussion of the issue of gender, girls, and schooling needs to take an intersectional approach—one that takes into consideration the ways in which identity categories work together within and across differences to produce experience, identity, and meaning.
Currently, the question of girls’ education finds its strongest articulation in relation to the Global South. International organizations and major corporations alike have used their platforms to advance the cause of educating girls in the interests of national and global development. This has proved to have consequences that do not always take into account the complexity of girls’ lives in their local contexts. Issues of gendered inequalities in the Global North are sometimes mistakenly assumed to have been resolved, things of the past. However, girls in schools continue to face issues such as sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As a result, their issues are often misunderstood or marginalized within school communities.
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.
While Marx and Engels wrote little on education, the educational implications of Marxism are clear. Education both reproduces capitalism and has the potential to undermine it. With respect to reproduction, it is informative to look at key texts by Althusser and Bowles and Gintis (and the latter’s legacy). As far as challenging capitalism is concerned, considerations are given to both theoretical developments and practical attempts to confront neoliberalism and enact socialist principles, the combination of which Marxists refer to as praxis. There have been constant challenges to Marxism since its conception, and in conclusion we look at two contemporary theories—critical race theory and its primacy of “race” over class—and intersectionality which has a tendency to marginalize class.
Queer pedagogy is an approach to educational praxis and curricula emerging in the late 20th century, drawing from the theoretical traditions of poststructuralism, queer theory, and critical pedagogy. The ideas put forth by key figures in queer theory, including principally Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, were adopted in the early 1990s by to posit an approach to education that seeks to challenge heteronormative structures and assumptions in K–12 and higher education curricula, pedagogy, and policy.
Queer pedagogy, much like the queer theory that informs it, draws on the lived experience of the queer, wonky, or non-normative as a lens through which to consider educational phenomena. Queer pedagogy seeks to both uncover and disrupt hidden curricula of heteronormativity as well as to develop classroom landscapes and experiences that create safety for queer participants.
In unpacking queer pedagogy, three forms of the word “queer” emerge: queer-as-a-noun, queer-as-an-adjective, and queer-as-a-verb. Queer pedagogy involves exploring the noun form, or “being” queer, and how queer identities intersect and impact educational spaces. The word “queer” can also become an adjective that describes moments when heteronormative perceptions become blurred by the presence of these queer identities. In praxis, queer pedagogy embraces a proactive use of queer as a verb; a teacher might use queer pedagogy to trouble traditional heteronormative notions about curricula and pedagogy. This queer praxis, or queer as a verb, involves three primary foci: safety for queer students and teachers; engagement by queer students; and finally, understanding of queer issues, culture, and history.
Jennifer C. Ingrey
A survey of key contributors and theoretical tensions in the applications of queer studies in education is purposefully partial namely because of the impartiality embedded in the nature of ‘queer’, a verb whose action unsettles, dismantles and interrogates systems of normalization, beginning with heteronormativity and heterosexism. Queer theory emerged in the 1990s before influencing education, including both elementary and secondary schooling; however, queer is complex in that it involves the signifier or signified term: it is both the integration of queer content in curriculum as well as the practice of queering educational practices (i.e., curriculum, pedagogy and practice). The queering of pedagogy involves the queering of the educational subject, both teachers and students. In such a survey of queer in education, the ontological groundings for queer are important to consider given the paradoxical nature of queer to unpack and unsettle whilst maintaining its hold on an identity category in order to do its unsettling work. Indeed, the consequent recognition of the subjecthood of queer in educational contexts is a significant note in this attention to queer’s application in education. Queer also moves beyond not only an inclusion of queer content, but also exceeds queer sexualities to cohere and contrast with trans-infused approaches. Queer theory considers that the future of queer may well exceed beyond sexuality and gender altogether to become a practice of unsettling or critique more generally. Its continuity in education studies as well as its potentially impending expiration are concerns of scholars in the field.