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Theories exist in number that concern how adults learn. Despite surface differences, these theories also contain common themes relevant to adult learning. They include self-direction, problem- or need-based motivation to learn, the ability to anchor past experiences to make meaning from current learning, and the skills to self-assess one’s learning experience.
Given the prevalence of technology in virtually all areas of personal and professional life, a solid understanding of how to use technology effectively is essential for 21st-century adults. At the same time, these adults are often hampered by anxiety and past negative experiences related to technology use, especially in the learning process itself. How can instructors leverage the best practices of adult learning theory to create meaningful learning experiences for adult learners? In order to address this question, it is important to understand the unique characteristics of adult learners as a first step. Instructors should also self-reflect and consider how their own attitudes and experiences can shape how they use technology with adult learners. With learning theories in mind, designing meaningful learning experiences with technology for adult learners can optimize learning experiences.
Brigitte Smit and Mapula Mabusela
Relational leadership and responsible leadership are important subjects in the literature, and more attention can be paid to these leadership practices in educational leadership. Most educational leadership studies focus on distributed, instructional, teacher, and transformational leadership using mostly quantitative research. The aim is to explore and describe relational and responsible leadership in the context of educational leadership. Qualitative research methodology such as narrative inquiry is not often used for inquiries into educational leadership studies. Moreover, the scholarship on narrative inquiry as a relational methodology for relational and responsible educational leadership is scant, and there is a need to broaden the discussion to include appropriate the concepts of relational leadership and responsible leadership for educational leadership in a context of relational narrative inquiry. Relational and responsible leadership theories can be appropriated through a relational research methodology using narrative inquiry. These scholarly lenses may add value to school leadership research and to school leaders who wish to transform and change leadership practices, specifically in diverse school communities with challenging and problematic educational landscapes.
Universal Design for Learning, widely known as UDL, is a framework for creating flexible curriculum and pedagogy that provides access for all students, giving the opportunity to build from their strengths. First introduced in 1998, UDL is centered on three principles: (a) provide multiple means of engagement, (b) provide multiple means of representation, and (c) provide multiple means of action and expression. In applying the framework in K–12 or postsecondary schools, educators first consider the diversity of students, their assets and needs, the barriers that interfere with their success, and then plan lessons that are widely accessible. UDL has close relationship with technology as it provides various ways to present content, engage students, and demonstrate their learning.
Research and policy, largely in the United States, support the growth of UDL. Research has created UDL tools like the Strategic Reader, produced recommendations for implementation, and measured efficacy. The National UDL Task Force, a coalition of stakeholder organizations has worked for the integration of UDL principles into local, state, and federal policies. Critiques of the framework note a dearth of empirical evidence and inconsistency in the research. They also help identify a path forward in designing new research and attending to complications in the framework that might better address diversity and bring students to the center.
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.
Therese M. Cumming
The use of real-time technology has caused the world to “shrink,” with society becoming more global and information- and communication-based. The amount of information that people are exposed to continues to increase exponentially, requiring a new definition of literacy that includes digital literacy and other 21st-century skills. However, the implementation of technology in education has not kept up with how it is used in peoples’ lives. The main role of teachers is to prepare students to become literate, globally informed citizens. Generation Z,d or the technology generation, are tech savvy and used to instant action and access to information due to their experiences with the Internet. Although students are proficient with and regularly use mobile devices and other information and communication technologies (ICTs), their teachers have difficulty integrating these technologies into their pedagogy beyond basic functional uses. The goals of educational technology are often not readily apparent in classrooms; this is problematic, as technology has the potential to be used for critical thinking, collaboration, and the dissemination of new knowledge.
Therefore, teacher education programs have a responsibility to ensure that teachers of the future are globally aware, proficient with current innovative technology tools and information resources, and have the ability to adapt to tools and educational strategies of the future. Supporting preservice teachers in their acquisition of digital literacy can widen their views of the world and strengthen their skills in locating, assessing, organizing, analyzing, and presenting information. Teaching preservice teachers to use the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model and embedding new technologies throughout teacher education programs can support preservice teachers’ global understandings and information literacy, as well as develop their expertise in the use of the technology itself. Instruction in digital literacies can help preservice teachers to hone their teaching skills and minimize the isolation and anxieties that are often experienced during their field experiences.
Heather Rintoul and Anthony H. Normore
Values-based leadership is, at its core, decisional leadership. Traditionally, educational leadership has tended to fall into a range of rationality dealing with consequences and consensus. This “do things right” approach has come under intense scrutiny by decision makers searching for more ethically justifiable responses through a new vision of education and schooling, a “do the right thing” style of decision making. Decisions based in principle—that is, morals and ethics—are commonly deemed as being authentic, fulfilling, and more justifiable than decisions based on rationality and preference. Embedded in this new moral urgency lies an inherent tension in that “to do the right thing” routinely begs the question “the right thing for whom?” Differences have arisen in terms of what values-based leadership and inclusion means—whose values, who is included, how to address leadership for inclusive practices, thus rendering conceptualization and implementation of inclusive practice qualitatively different according to context. The achievement of all students must be viewed both as an economic and values-oriented imperative consistent with inclusive practices. The term, inclusion is socially constructed and can carry with it stigmatizing and exclusionary effects that ultimately result in perpetuating oppressive forces on already marginalized individuals.
Values-based leadership has an emphasis on school settings that are welcoming and affirming to all students, especially those most at risk for failure. Its underlying beliefs and assumptions guide practices and policies of inclusive practices and sound moral decisions. Moral decisions are made, not in isolation, but rather through a journey of interaction and association with others. Unfortunately, this interpersonal journey is often fraught with anxiety because everyone’s experience is sourced in a different worldview. Unravelling the intricacies of resolution possibilities has become increasingly complex because often there may be several equally appropriate responses to any dilemma; therefore, the decisional challenge becomes how to adjudicate between and among possibilities. Values-based leadership for inclusive practices concerns various marginalized groups including English-language learners, those who experience gender discrimination, those who are in the foster care system, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. The broader conceptualization of inclusive schools adds to extant discourses about students with exceptional needs and provides effective strategies that school leaders operating from a social justice framework can implement to create more inclusive school environments for all students.
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.
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 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 the next age period. Vygotskians have described the leading activities of children in industrialized societies thus:
• first year of life: emotional interactions with caregivers.
• ages one to three: object-centered joint explorations with caregivers.
• ages three to six: sociodramatic play.
• middle childhood: learning at school.
• adolescence: interactions with peers.
Vygotskian developmental theory has received strong empirical support from the studies of contemporary researchers. Its major strength lies in 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, which many alternative theories of development fail to do. Some of the Vygotskians’ notions, however, weaken their analysis and can be disputed (for example, their disregard 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.
Olga María Bermúdez and Marcela Lombana
Water is indispensable to life because all the functions of living beings rely on its presence: breathing, nutrition, circulation, and reproduction. Water forms part of all living bodies, both animal and vegetable. It is a natural resource necessary for human life.
This natural resource has been threatened by climate change and its scarcity has been reported in many locations worldwide. According to the FAO, in 2014 almost 50 countries were faced with water shortages: Africa is the continent with the highest percentage of water stress (41%), while Asia has the highest percentage of countries with total water shortage (25%). Confronted with this critical problem, it is necessary that people of all ages, races, and cultures become aware of the value that water represents and take action in both the individual and collective spheres. To ensure that the next generation understands water’s properties and functions, and learns to value and take care of it, this action should start in schools, which play a fundamental role in the education of children and young people.
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.
Stoo Sepp, Steven J. Howard, Sharon Tindall-Ford, Shirley Agostinho, and Fred Paas
In 1956, Miller first reported on a capacity limitation in the amount of information the human brain can process, which was thought to be seven plus or minus two items. The system of memory used to process information for immediate use was coined “working memory” by Miller, Galanter, and Pribram in 1960. In 1968, Atkinson and Shiffrin proposed their multistore model of memory, which theorized that the memory system was separated into short-term memory, long-term memory, and the sensory register, the latter of which temporarily holds and forwards information from sensory inputs to short term-memory for processing. Baddeley and Hitch built upon the concept of multiple stores, leading to the development of the multicomponent model of working memory in 1974, which described two stores devoted to the processing of visuospatial and auditory information, both coordinated by a central executive system. Later, Cowan’s theorizing focused on attentional factors in the effortful and effortless activation and maintenance of information in working memory. In 1988, Cowan published his model—the scope and control of attention model. In contrast, since the early 2000s Engle has investigated working memory capacity through the lens of his individual differences model, which does not seek to quantify capacity in the same way as Miller or Cowan. Instead, this model describes working memory capacity as the interplay between primary memory (working memory), the control of attention, and secondary memory (long-term memory). This affords the opportunity to focus on individual differences in working memory capacity and extend theorizing beyond storage to the manipulation of complex information. These models and advancements have made significant contributions to understandings of learning and cognition, informing educational research and practice in particular. Emerging areas of inquiry include investigating use of gestures to support working memory processing, leveraging working memory measures as a means to target instructional strategies for individual learners, and working memory training. Given that working memory is still debated, and not yet fully understood, researchers continue to investigate its nature, its role in learning and development, and its implications for educational curricula, pedagogy, and practice.
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.
James P. Lantolf
L. S. Vygotsky proposed that human consciousness entails the dialectical interaction between memory, attention, perception, emotion and motivation, imagination, and rational thought, organized in large part through language, or more appropriately, communicative meaning-making activity. The development of consciousness occurs more or less spontaneously (i.e., unplanned) in everyday life activity and in more systematically organized and intentionally planned educational activity. An important component of the developmental process is the conceptual knowledge that cultures make available to their through various types of social relations. In everyday life, this knowledge is largely empirically based, while in formally organized educational development conceptual knowledge is highly systematic and much more readily recontextualizable than is everyday knowledge. Academic concepts are derived from rigorous research and as such reveal processes and components of material reality that are otherwise hidden from direct empirical observation by our senses. The responsibility of presenting and explaining academic concepts to students in educational activity is carried out by specially prepared individuals—teachers—who engage students in intentionally planned and (hopefully) rigorous interactions, mediated largely, though not exclusively, through language. According to the pedagogical imperative, as it relates to instruction in world languages, relevant high quality theoretical and conceptual knowledge must be made pedagogically viable; that is, understandable to both teachers and learners and it must be useable by learners to mediate their generation of meaning in practical communicative activities. The knowledge must be presented in a memorable way, usually in a holistic visual representation rather than traditional verbally based rules of thumb and learners must be guided through appropriate prompts, clues, and hints provided primarily by teachers, but at times also by peers, to internalize this knowledge so that it becomes functional in communicative practices. Finally, recognition must be given to the fact that development of any kind, including that provoked by educational practice, must not only take account of the participants (students and teachers) intellect, it must also profoundly consider the emotional aspects of the educational process as teachers and learners engage in the dialectic process captured by Vygotsky in the Russian term, obuchenie, or teaching–learning, whereby teachers and learners engage in a process of mutual mediation.
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.