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Urban charter schools are public schools located in major metropolitan areas with high population densities. The majority of urban charter school students identify as Black or Latinx and often live in under-resourced communities. Urban charter schools are touted as high-quality educational options in the school choice market, yet debates about the merits of charter schools versus traditional public schools yield mixed results that substantiate arguments on both sides of the political aisle.
However, even high-performing urban charter schools have a bad reputation as mechanisms of school segregation and cogs in the school-to-prison pipeline. Higher than average test scores and graduation and college enrollment rates do little to mollify those who complain about severe discipline, racial segregation, unqualified teachers, teacher attrition, rigid scheduling, and a narrow curriculum. Urban charter schools’ emphasis on standardized testing and college preparation may overlook the culturally relevant educational experiences that low-income, racially diverse students need to compete with their wealthier, White peers.
As such, education reformers have offered a myriad of suggestions to improve urban charter schools. Most prominently is the need to racially and economically desegregate urban charter schools to enhance the social and material resources that supplement students’ learning. This includes increasing teacher diversity, which research demonstrates minimizes the frequency of suspensions and expulsions of racial minority students. Urban charter school teachers should also be knowledgeable about the sociocultural landscape of the community in which their school exists so that they understand how students’ out of school lives affect their learning processes. Finally, curricular revisions are necessary to support students’ post-high school goals beyond college enrollment. Enacting such reforms would facilitate equitable, rather than equal, learning opportunities that may help narrow racial and economic achievement gaps in the United States.
In the United States, policymakers have exhibited a resilient confidence in the idea that reforming urban schools is the essential key to improving the life chances of children, especially African American and Latino youth. Since the mid-1960s in particular, this resonant belief, as articulated in different forms by politicians, interest groups, local communities, and the broader public, has served as motivational impetus for small- and large-scale school change efforts. Despite such apparent unanimity regarding the importance of city schools, disputes have emerged over the proper structural and systemic alterations necessary to improve education. Often at issue has been the notion of just who should and will control change efforts. Moreover, vexing tensions have also characterized the enacted reform initiatives. For instance, urban school policies created by distant, delocalized outsiders have routinely engendered unanticipated local effects and fierce community resistance. In addition, particular urban school reforms have manifested simultaneously as means for encouraging social justice for marginalized youth and as mechanisms for generating financial returns for educational vendors. Regardless of such tensions, faith in urban school reform has persisted, thanks to exemplary city schools and programs that have helped students thrive academically. For many reformers, such success stories demonstrate that viable routes toward enabling academic achievement for more children living in urban areas do indeed exist.
Namita Ranganathan and Toolika Wadhwa
Evaluation studies typically comprise research endeavors that are undertaken to investigate and gauge the effectiveness of a program, an institution, or individuals working in educational contexts, such as teachers, students, administrators, and other stakeholders in education. Usually, research studies in this genre use empirical methods to evaluate educational practices and systems. Alternatively, they may take up theoretical reflections on new policies, programs, and systems. An evaluation study requires a rigorous design and method of assessment to focus on the specific context and set of issues that it targets. In general, research studies that attempt to evaluate a program, an individual, or an institution place emphasis on checking their efficacy. They do not seek to find explanations that have led to the level of efficacy that the variables under study may have achieved. Thus, quite often, they are contested as not being full-fledged research.
Evaluation studies use a variety of methods. The choice of method depends on the area of study as well as the research questions. An evaluation study may thus fall within the qualitative or quantitative paradigms. Often, a mixed method approach is used. The purpose of the study plays a significant role in deciding the method of inquiry and analysis. Establishing the probability, plausibility, and adequacy of the program can be some of the main aims of evaluation studies. This implies as well that the programs, institutions, or individuals under study would have an impact on the course and direction of future programs and practices. An evaluation study is thus of vital importance to ensure that appropriate decisions can be made about efficacy, transferability to different contexts, and difficulties and challenges to be faced in subsequent applications.
Evaluation studies in India have been done in a vast range of areas that include program evaluation, impact studies, evaluations of specific interventions, performance outcome assessments, and the like. Some examples of studies undertaken by the government and the development sector in this regard are the following: assessment of interventions for adolescence education; impact studies of interventions, programs, and policies launched for education of minorities, including girls; and evaluation of performance outcomes stemming from programs for education of the marginalized.
The key challenges in evaluation studies are to gather accurate data in order to establish reliable outcomes, to establish clear relationships between the outcomes and the interventions being studied, and to safeguard against researcher bias.
Cleo Mees and Tom Murray
Visual and screen-based research practices have a long history in social-science, humanities, education, and creative-arts based disciplines as methods of qualitative research. While approaches may vary substantially across visual anthropology, sociology, history, media, or cultural studies, in each case visual research technologies, processes, and materials are employed to elicit knowledge that may elude purely textual discursive forms. As a growing body of visual and screen-based research has made previously-latent aspects of the world explicit, there has been a concomitant appreciation that visual practices are multisensory and must also be situated within a broader exploration of embodied knowledge and multisensory (beyond the visual) research practice. As audio-visual projects such as Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's Leviathan (2013), Rithy Panh's S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003), and Margaret Loescher’s Cameras at the Addy (2003) all demonstrate, screen-based research practices are both modes of, and routes to, knowledge. These projects also demonstrate ways in which screen-based visual research may differ from research exclusively delivered in written form, most specifically in their capacity to document and audio-visually represent intersubjective, embodied, affective, and dynamic relationships between researchers and the subjects of their research. Increasingly, as a range of fields reveal that the incorporative body works as an integrated “perceptive field” as it processes sensory stimuli, visual and screen-based research practices will fulfil an important role in facilitating scholarly access to intuitive, affective, embodied, and analytical comprehension.
Visual literacy was originally defined as a set of visual competencies or cognitive skills and strategies one needs to make sense of visual images. These visual competencies were seen as universal cognitive abilities that were used for understanding visual images regardless of the contexts of production, reception, and dissemination. More contemporary definitions suggest visual literacy is a contextualized, social practice as much as an individualized, cognitively based set of competencies. Visual literacy is more aptly defined as a process of generating meanings in transaction with multimodal ensembles that include written text, visual images, and design elements from a variety of perspectives to meet the requirements of particular social contexts.
Theories of visual literacy and associated research and pedagogy draw from a wide range of disciplines including art history, semiotics, media and cultural studies, communication studies, visual ethnography and anthropology, social semiotics, new literacies studies, cognitive psychology, and critical theory. Understanding the various theories, research methodologies, and pedagogical approaches to visual literacy requires an investigation into how the various paradigm shifts that have occurred in the social sciences have affected this field of study. Cognitive, linguistic, sociocultural, multimodal, and postmodern “turns” in the social sciences each bring different theories, perspectives, and approaches to the field of visual literacy. Visual literacy now incorporates sociocultural, semiotic, critical, and multimodal perspectives to understand the meaning potential of the visual and verbal ensembles encountered in social environments.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Russian followers of Vygotsky have elaborated his theoretical ideas into an innovative theory of development. In this theory, children’s development is viewed as the major outcome of adult mediation: adults engage children in the age-specific joint activity (the so-called leading activity) and, in the context of this activity, promote the development in children of a new motive, and teach them new tools of thinking, problem solving, and self-regulation. As a result, children outgrow their current leading activity and transition to the new leading activity, which is specific to their next age period. Vygotskians have described the following leading activities of children in industrialized societies:
- First year of life: emotional interactions with caregivers.
- Second and third years of life: object-centered joint activity with caregivers.
- Three- to six-year-olds: sociodramatic play.
- The period of middle childhood: learning at school.
- The period of adolescence: interactions with peers.
Vygotskian developmental theory has found strong empirical support in the studies of contemporary researchers. Its major strength relates to the fact that it integrates in a meaningful way motivational, cognitive, and social factors as resulting in children’s engagement in the age-specific leading activity. This theory also provides an explanation of the mechanism of children’s transition from one developmental stage to the next stage, which many alternative theories of development fail to do. Some of the Vygotskians’ notions, however, weaken their analysis and can be disputed (this relates, for example, to a disregard by Vygotskians of the role of physiological maturation in children’s development).
Ana Luiza Bustamante Smolka, Ana Lucia Horta Nogueira, Débora Dainez, and Adriana Lia Friszman de Laplane
Vygotsky’s approach to human development is profoundly intertwined with his methodological inquiry. This inquiry is related to his persistent quest for framing and understanding the problem of consciousness. His untiring search for a plausible explanation of the material basis of specifically human psychological functions pervades his theoretical, practical, and empirical work in the fields of psychology and education. Throughout this search, sociogenesis and semiotic mediation, at first investigative hypotheses, become explanatory principles. Excerpts from his seminal texts allow us to follow the elaboration of epistemological assumptions that anchor his process of theorization and evidence the interrelationships between object of study, explanatory principle, and unit of analysis in studies of cultural development. One of his major concerns had to do with the ways of teaching and the ways of studying teaching relations, as well as the results or effects of such relations. To talk about Vygotsky’s theoretical elaborations is, hence, to talk about method—of inquiring, of studying, of teaching. From the beginning through to the end of his theoretical endeavor, we find a deep concern about what it means to be human, what are the means to be human. Repercussions and contributions of Vygotsky’s approach to research in education, as well as their ethical and political implications, must be highlighted. His way of conceiving method escapes from rigidity, not from rigor, pointing to an instigating flexibility which approximates his efforts to the efforts of many contemporary authors in different fields.
Josep Gustems-Carnicer and Caterina Calderon
Modern society has achieved levels of well-being linked to economic prosperity, better and more extended education, and greater life expectancy. For individuals, improvements in well-being impact positively on friendships and other social relationships, marriage, and work satisfaction.
There is no doubt that the future of society depends in great measure on the teachers who work with future citizens. Unfortunately, too many teachers in developed countries suffer from chronic, work-related stress, which negatively affects their health, life satisfaction, vocation, and professional stability in the education system. Ensuring the well-being of teachers is essential to ensure that future generations of citizens receive the best help in their intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal growth.
For teachers, certain personality traits can mitigate the effects of stress. Mindfulness and coping strategies can also help to minimize the negative effects of stress, but the most effective way to help student teachers deal with stress is to include specific programs throughout teacher education courses in universities.
Starting university is traditionally considered to be a period characterized by many changes that can cause stress among students, such as separation from one’s family, entering the job market, negotiating the student workload, changing address, and attempting to make new friendships. In teacher education, universities are in a position both to improve their students’ lives and to give them information about how to negotiate future professional difficulties. Teacher education programs must maintain constant interest in enhancing the academic performance of the students, and their affective conditions must enrich the exercise and development of students’ virtues and strengths, at the same time as students are offered tools for their working future.
The actions promoted to help students develop these virtues and strengths should be accompanied by an effective tutorial action plan, a psychological health service for students, activities to help students acquire self-awareness of character strengths, a mentoring plan, tutoring among students, teamwork, programs to develop coping strategies, the organization of educational material, discipline, full class control, programs to optimize students’ time management, guidance on negotiating the increasing levels of bureaucracy in education, creative exercises to compensate for the lack of resources, collective exercise (sports), artistic activities, programs of mindfulness, religious practice, and volunteer work. Education students need to have a university experience that provides them with numerous opportunities to develop values, competences, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, an identity, and coping strategies that will help them to be better professionals, more conscientious citizens, and happier individuals.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
World-systems theorizing has its roots in dependency theorizing and the critique of modernization theory, rejecting its claimed linear process of economic development for all nation-states. A founding premise of this work, established well before the advent of globalization studies, has been the need to take the world-system as the primary unit of analysis for understanding social reality and social change. As an approach for understanding systems of mass education, world-systems theorizing has taken on two broad trajectories. One of these, world-culture theory or neo-institutional analysis, has centered on identifying examples of global convergence at the level of education policy, explaining these in terms of a world culture of education that has spread across nation-states through their participation in international agencies and organizations. An alternative approach, world-systems analysis, takes the historical development and operation of the capitalist world-economy, across core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral zones of the world-economy, as the starting point for understanding the nature and function of mass education systems. This work includes the particular construction of knowledge structures and subject disciplines, and their function within the operation of the capitalist world-system. Where world-culture theory downplays the causal power of economic structures, world-systems analysis highlights the interaction between economics and an accompanying world cultural framework under historical capitalism, whose core features can account for the nature and purpose of education. Educational applications of contemporary world-systems analysis extend to work within the broader field of critical education to transform society. Specifically, these applications examine the potential for systems of mass education to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to understand existing social reality, to imagine more equal, just, democratic, and peaceful, alternative world-systems, and to take action toward their realization.
Danielle S. McNamara and Laura K. Allen
Writing is a crucial means of communicating with others and thus vital to success and survival in modern society. Writing processes rely on virtually all aspects of cognition (e.g., working memory, motivation, affect, self-regulation, prior knowledge, problem solving) and are naturally embedded in social contexts. Social factors include writers’ objectives, audience, genre, and mode of writing. For example, the increased use of the Internet has rendered writing for informal purposes more frequent, and writing mechanics (e.g., deleting, spell checking) and search for information more efficient. Research on educational interventions to improve writing points to the importance of providing students with instruction and practice using writing strategies, writing practice with feedback (e.g., instructor, automated), and collaborative writing (including peer feedback). Given the inherent complexity of writing, it is important to help students learn how to write across various situations with varying purposes and demands. This necessitates reading many types of text genres (e.g., narrative vs. informational writing), writing frequently, and revising based on feedback. Since the turn of the century, there has been a substantial increase in research on writing processes, including methods to improve writing. However, there remains a substantial need for additional experimental work to understand writing processes as well as more evidence on which types of interventions are most beneficial in helping students to improve their writing. Feedback from both cognitive and sociocultural researchers should inform future revisions of the standardized guidelines and assessments with the long-term goal of developing a clearly defined set of standards for academic excellence in writing.
Fernando Hernández-Hernández and Juana M. Sancho-Gil
Researchers from various disciplines collect and generate field notes as a strategy to describe and reflect (through texts, photos, drawings, diagrams, or recordings) the complexity they face when addressing entangled and many-faceted phenomena. Field notes are as common research strategy not only to capture and amass instantly what researchers listen to, observe, think, and feel, but also to make explicit their reflexivity process, based on their observations and experiences. Field notes are not only a method for generating evidence, but a reflection of the ontological, epistemological, methodological, and ethical positionality that guide the researcher’s gaze. Paradoxically, although field notes are something most researchers use and are fundamental in their reports and publications, they are generally the hidden and idiosyncratic side of academic field work.
The preparation of field notes is an extremely intricate issue, as the very same meaning, purposes, and roles of field notes heavily rely on the ethnographer’s onto-epistemological positioning. It is useful, then to contextualize field notes within the tradition of ethnography, without ignoring the fact that they are used in a wide range of disciplines (including anthropology, deology, architecture, geography, ethology, archaeology, and biology). It is also important to problematize the practice of taking, collecting, and generating field notes by taking into account the fact that the traditional vision of field notes as written (alphabetic) notes is being challenged by the availability of mobile applications that enable researchers to create and organize multimodal information. It is important to note the relevance of the so-called “headnotes,” as there are many impressions, scenes, and experiences that cannot be written down or can be difficult or impossible to document. In addition, the text goes beyond the reflection of interaction by introducing the notion of intra-action to overcome the metaphysics of individualism underlying conventional understandings of “interactions.” The growing multiplicity of languages, modes, and means of expression and communication must be examined alongside the strengths and limitations of multimodal field notes. Finally, the practice of keeping field notes requires a recognition of the reflexivity imbedded in this process. Field diaries can be seen as the first step toward ethnographic reporting, and here reflexivity becomes a fundamental part of the analyses involved.
Researchers who use qualitative methods, especially ethnography in educational settings, have to make conscious decisions about how to write about their results, their methods, and their experiences as investigators. Since the 1980s, initially in the discipline of social anthropology, but later across all the social sciences, there have been vigorous debates about how texts should be written and also about how they should be read. Before that, qualitative and quantitative educational research was written up in a similar way: reported in a passive or anonymous style designed to create an authoritative account. Over the course of 40 years, ethnographic writing has developed new literary forms, polyvocal texts, and authors have become visible and individual in their own texts. A wider range of texting genres is now published, and reflexivity is central to writing and reading. The causes and consequences of those changes are analyzed.
Writing qualitative dissertations represents an internationally recognized pinnacle for students of higher education. The pressures and incentives for students approaching the dissertation writing landscape are undeniable. Unfortunately, too many doctoral students are offered limited strategies to begin navigating it. Moreover, doctoral students seeking maps from Education and other social science literature to guide them will find limited peer-reviewed scholarship that addresses the complexity of writing defensible qualitative dissertations. Too many doctoral students instead turn to some of the most popular qualitative dissertation textbooks that tend to provide limited representations of the writing landscape, albeit unintentional. These students may begin writing only to find that such landscape representations prepare them inadequately for the complexity of the territory. It is a territory filled with a variety of evolving writing tasks and possibilities. Doctoral students may consider at least seven evolving sets of tasks (ESTs) as strategies for navigating the messy terrain of the qualitative dissertation writing territory.
Stuart R. Poyntz and Jennesia Pedri
Media in the 21st century are changing when, where, what, and how young people learn. Some educators, youth researchers, and parents lament this reality; but youth, media culture, and learning nevertheless remain entangled in a rich set of relationships today. These relationships and the anxieties they produce are not new; they echo worries about the consequences of young people’s media attachments that have been around for decades.
These anxieties first appeared in response to the fear that violence, vulgarity, and sexual desire in early popular culture was thought to pose to culture. Others, however, believed that media could be repurposed to have a broader educational impact. This sentiment crept into educational discourses throughout the 1960s in a way that would shift thinking about youth, media culture, and education. For example, it shaped the development of television shows such as Sesame Street as a kind of learning portal. In addition to the idea that youth can learn from the media, educators and activists have also turned to media education as a more direct intervention. Media education addresses how various media operate in and through particular institutions, technologies, texts, and audiences in an effort to affect how young people learn and engage with media culture. These developments have been enhanced by a growing interest in a broad project of literacy. By the 1990s and 2000s, media production became a common feature in media education practices because it was thought to enable young people to learn by doing, rather than just by analyzing or reading texts. This was enabled by the emergence of new digital media technologies that prioritize user participation.
As we have come to read and write media differently in a digital era, however, a new set of problems have arisen that affect how media cultures are understood in relation to learning. Among these issues is how a participatory turn in media culture allows others, including corporations, governments, and predatory individuals, to monitor, survey, coordinate, and guide our activities as never before. Critical media literacy education addresses this context and continues to provide a framework to address the future of youth, media culture and learning.