Marilene Proença Rebello de Souza and Silvia Helena Vieira Cruz
Access to education has generally been recognized as a human right. There is a consensus among the various sectors of civil society and government regarding the importance of schooling from the earliest years of life. But only recently have the fields of humanities and education begun to consider the importance of children’s perceptions, representations, and meanings attributed to the school and the educational institutions offered to them. Listening to children at school has drawn the attention of researchers when the right to a democratic school has been extended to more children, aiming at assuring them access to the knowledge socially constructed by mankind as well as access to social and cultural activities. Knowing what children think and feel during the process of schooling and in educational practices is today an important aspect of educational research. The qualitative approach has been shown to be fundamental in listening to very young children on various aspects of their school experience, thus promoting the expansion of knowledge about differing school contexts. However, this listening process presents several challenges for research, including the development of strategies that favor a child’s multiple ways of communicating and the search for solutions related to potential ethical issues. Researching children’s perspectives can provide a basic foundation for better pedagogical practices and public policies with regard to children.
Shibao Guo and Yan Guo
China has experienced major shifts from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, from centralization to decentralization, from state ownership to privatization, and from a decisive state to a weakened state. Despite China’s economic miracle, the country also faces unprecedented challenges, including rising social inequality, rural-urban divide, regional disparity, environmental degradation, declining health and education conditions, and polarization between the rich and poor. China’s profound socioeconomic and political transformations have led to significant fundamental changes to education in China, as manifested in its decentralization, marketization, and privatization. One significant paradigm change relates to the devolution of education power and policy from a centralized governance model to local governments. With the privatization and marketization of its education system, China has adopted a market-oriented approach with the orientation, provision, student enrollment, curriculum, and financing of education. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that there has been a withdrawal of the mighty state from its paternalistic role in the provision and subsidy of public education. Unfortunately, the market economy has further increased education inequalities. The maldistribution of resources and education opportunities raises important questions about issues of social justice and equity regarding who gets how much education as the social good.
Marina Schwimmer and Kevin McDonough
Mindfulness meditation is a growing social phenomenon in Western countries and is now also becoming a common part of life in public schools. The concept of mindfulness originated in Buddhist thinking and meditation practices over 2,500 years ago. Its original purpose was mainly to alleviate people’s suffering by providing a path to inner wisdom and vitality, which implied the development of compassion, patience, and forgiveness, as well as other values conducive to inner peace. In the 1970s, this practice was popularized in the West as it was adapted to and integrated with secular intervention programs aimed at reducing stress and dealing with chronic pain.
Packages promoting mindfulness practices are disseminated commercially, backed by research in neuroscience and developmental psychology, for use in schools through programs like MindUp and Mindful Schools. In recent years, there has been a marked uptick of interest from educational researchers in mindfulness education. Several distinct research orientations or approaches can be discerned—mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), an instrumental approach that views mindfulness practices in clinical or therapeutic terms; a spiritualist approach, which emphasizes the rootedness of MBIs in ancient religious traditions and focuses on the benefits of mindfulness practices for individual spiritual growth; and a political approach, which highlights the potential benefits of MBIs to develop students’ capacities for democratic deliberation and participation.
Contemporary mindfulness education in schools also sometimes reflects the cultural influence of New Age values, an orientation distinct from the instrumental, spiritualist, and political approaches, and whose impact may raise troubling questions about the purported educational benefits of MBIs. Accordingly, the alliance between New Age values, neoliberal economic and cultural values, and mindfulness practices in contemporary democratic societies and schools should be given due consideration in assessing the relative educational costs and benefits of MBIs. In particular, cultural and educational values at the intersection of neoliberal values entrepreneurialism and New Age values of personal and spiritual growth may have corrosive rather than benevolent effects on the pursuit of democratic values in schools.
Nidhi S. Sabharwal and C. M. Malish
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 complex nature of the higher education system in India demands a nuanced understanding of its functions, outcomes, and impact on various stakeholders, the economy, and society. Policy research aims to develop such an understanding through generating evidence-based perspectives for higher education planning and development in national contexts. Equity is one of the major domains of inquiry in higher education, and institutionalizing equity in the higher education process and its outcomes is therefore a major concern in policy discourse. A multi-sited study confirms that integrating quantitative and qualitative methods yields vital insights about the nature and forms of social exclusion and discrimination on campuses as well as about how institutional policies, structure, and practices contribute to the shaping of the lived experiences of students from diverse backgrounds. While a quantitative approach helps to assess the magnitude of the prevailing practice of discrimination and social exclusion on university campuses in an era of massification and increasing student diversity, a qualitative approach facilitates the understanding of how and why discriminatory practices continue to prevail on campuses. These insights are critical in developing an equity perspective in national and subnational contexts and formulating policies, strategies, and practices for institutionalizing equity in higher education.
The strength of the qualitative approach, including focused group discussions, has the capacity to generate evidence on collective experience and shared values, assumptions, and perceptions of the student body sharing common social belonging and life chances. It helps to unveil group-specific issues in a comparative framework. Because interviews with teachers and institutional leaders were conducted alongside focused group discussions with students, the contradictions and similarities of perceptions on each issue could be taken forward for further probing and cross checking. It was actually helpful to unravel multilayered narratives on diversity and discrimination in higher education contexts.
Focused group discussion, for example, helped to bring out the voices of the “invisibles,” or those who are not part of the mainstream. The contradiction observed between dominant narratives and counterculture further contributed to a nuanced understanding of the issues of diversity and discrimination. Issues like gender stereotyping and micro-aggression against marginalized social groups hitherto unknown to dominant discourse could not have been adequately captured with survey methods alone. Therefore, field work as a process not only generates experiential evidence but also serves a political purpose by giving voice to the silenced or to those student groups who remain on the margins of campus life.
It may be argued that qualitative and quantitative approaches are complementary rather than conflicting approaches, and the limitations of methodological monism in understanding social phenomena can be triumphed over by integrating quantitative and qualitative methods. Undoubtedly, there are challenges in integrating insights from data collected through quantitative and qualitative methods, and the overall research process is labor intensive and rigorous. One may, however, conclude that the critical insights developed through a mixed methodology are robust. While making a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on the system of higher education, a mixed methodology approach also makes a substantial contribution to developing new perspectives in policy discourses and directing transformations in the system to institutionalize equity.
Multi-sited global ethnography is a methodological contribution to educational research methodology, and more broadly, ethnography. This new methodological framework was designed specifically for the research project “Elite Independent Schools in Globalizing Circumstances,” which studied seven elite schools, one school in each of the following geographical locations: Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Australia, South Africa, Barbados, and England, over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014. The aim of this article is to give a detailed methodological rendition of the epistemologies, and theoretical and conceptual bearings that underpin multi-sited global ethnography. Drawing attention to how the methodology reinvigorates conventional ways of doing ethnography, “different strokes” is used to allude to the new methodological elements we introduced in multi-sited global ethnography. Overall, the article highlighted the insights, hindsight, and oversights gained during and after fieldwork, so that further research can enrich multi-sited global ethnography.
Petra Munro Hendry
Within contemporary, conventional, interpretive, qualitative paradigms, narrative and curriculum theorizing have traditionally been understood as primary constructs through which educational researchers seek to explain, represent, and conduct inquiry about education. This article traces shifting understandings of Western constructs of narrative and curriculum theorizing from a modernist perspective, in which they were conceived primarily as methods central to the representation of knowledge, to postmodernist perspectives in which they are conceptualized not as epistemological constructs, but as ethical/ontological systems of becoming through/in relationships. Historically, the emergence of “curriculum” and “narrative” (as phenomena) within a modernist, technocratic paradigm, rooted in an epistemological worldview, were constructed as “technologies” whose purpose was to represent knowledge. Current critiques of narrative and curriculum theorizing from the perspective of postmodern, poststructural, feminist, and new materialist perspectives illuminate understandings of these constructs as ethical-ontological-epistemological phenomena. From this perspective, narrative and curriculum theorizing have shifted from being understood as grounded in epistemology in order to provide “better” understanding/knowledge of experience, and alternatively are understood as ethical obligations to “be” in a web of relationships/intra-actions.
Qualitative observation is an attempt to view and interpret social worlds by immersing oneself in a particular setting. Observation draws on theoretical assumptions associated with the interpretivist paradigm. Thus, researchers who engage in qualitative observations believe that the world cannot be fully known, but must be interpreted. Observation is one way for researchers to seek to understand and interpret situations based on the social and cultural meanings of those involved. In the field of education, observation can be a meaningful tool for understanding the experiences of teachers, students, caregivers, and administrators.
Rigorous qualitative research is long-term, and demands in-depth engagement in the field. In general, the research process is cyclical, with the researcher(s) moving through three domains: prior-to-field, in-field, and post- or inter-field. Prior to entering the field, the researcher(s) examine their assumptions about research as well as their own biases, and obtain approval from an Institutional Review Board. This is also the time when researcher(s) make decisions about how data will be collected. Upon entering the field of study, the researcher(s) work to establish rapport with participants, take detailed “jottings,” and record their own feelings or preliminary impressions alongside these quick notes. After leaving an observation, the researcher(s) should expand jottings into extended field notes that include significant detail. This should be completed no later than 48 hours after the observation, to preserve recall. At this point, the researcher may return to the field to collect additional data. Focus should move from observation to analysis when the researcher(s) feel that they have reached theoretical data saturation.
Parental involvement is frequently touted as a key part of any solution to the achievement gap in US schools. Yet the mainstream model of parental involvement has been challenged on the grounds that it neglects parents’ political agency, the cultural diversity of families, and the empirical evidence of limited efficacy. This article argues that to understand parental involvement’s promise and limitations, it is necessary to consider it in historical context. Accordingly, it traces the history of “parental involvement” as a policy goal through the past half century. It provides an account of the mainstream parental involvement research, as well as critiques. Ultimately, the article argues that parental involvement is neither boon nor bane. As an important aspect of the politics of public schooling, parental involvement has diverse effects, which can support or hinder equity and student success.
Anne Galletta and María Elena Torre
Participatory action research (PAR) is an epistemological framework rooted in critiques of knowledge production made by feminist and critical race theory that challenge exclusive academic notions of what counts as knowledge. PAR legitimizes and prioritizes the expertise and perspectives that come from lived experience and situated knowledge, particularly among those that have been historically marginalized. In education research, a PAR approach typically centers the wisdom and experience of students (or school-age youth) and educators, positioning them as architects of research rather than objects of study. This form of participatory inquiry and collective action serves as a countercurrent in schools, where democratic inquiry and meaning making contradicts the top-down knowledge transmission practices bounded by prescribed curriculum and high-stakes standardized assessments. Like all scholars, those engaged in PAR contend with questions regarding standards of scientific practice and what counts as evidence even as they co-generate knowledge and solidarity with communities in which they may be members or allies that are outside the academy.
PAR projects frequently emerge from a critique of dehumanizing structural arrangements and alienating, often pathologizing, cultural discourses. These critiques spark a desire for research that questions these arrangements and discourses, documenting and engaging critical interpretive perspectives, all with the hope of producing findings that will create cracks and fissures in the status quo and provoke transformational change. PAR builds inquiry in the spaces between what is and what could be, with the assumption that dissonance and/or clashes of meaning with ruptures are generative in the possibility for reframing social problems and reconfiguring human relations. When discordance within the research collective, or between the collective and the outside world, is engaged rather than denied or smoothed over, new and different ways of seeing and being emerge. More than simply a method, critical PAR reflects a philosophical understanding of knowledge as socially produced through history and power, an epistemology that recognizes the liberatory impulse of critique and its potential for transformation. PAR projects privilege standpoints that have been traditionally excluded and excavates operations of power within the research in order to inform analytical lenses necessary to understanding dynamics within the issues and experiences being studied.
Examining the potential of PAR in education requires particular attention to the context of what children and youth encounter on a daily basis. Schools have been and continue to be spaces of struggle and contestation for students, in terms of learning and development, mental health and well-being, and physical safety. Federal policies have hollowed out protections for the most marginalized students, particularly youth of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth; and immigrant and undocumented youth. The rampant privatization of public education, narrowing of public governance, and the deceptive branding of corporate reform as “equity” is sobering. PAR in education troubles this very context, offering a research praxis of countervailing power, agitation, and generative ways of knowing, and being in relation. This encyclopedic entry details the ways in which participatory spaces bring people together, through inquiry, across a continuum of privilege and vulnerability to make meaning of the conditions under which we are living, with each other, for our collective liberation.
Photography has had a close association with anthropology from the beginning of the discipline. However, this proximity has not been as evident since the 1960s. Despite this seeming discomfort with photographs in contemporary social anthropology in particular, they can play a useful role in social research in general and social anthropology in particular as both sources of information and objects of research. This is not to about using photographs as a decorative element in a written text as is often done. What is useful is to see how photographs can become audible taking into account when and where they were taken and by whom. To do this however, methodological considerations of photography needs to travel from the sub-disciplinary domains of visual sociology and visual anthropology into the mainstreams of these disciplines as well as into the midst of the social science enterprise more generally.
Education was a strategy in the colonization of large parts of the globe by European colonial powers. Postcolonialism, a diverse school of thought, demands that the ongoing destructive consequences of the colonial era be exposed, analyzed, and addressed through action. Postcolonial literature, while illuminating the dehumanizing effects of colonization, has understandably focused on the hegemony of Western culture and its effects on education, but it has been vulnerable to criticism that it ought also to pay attention to colonialism as the capitalist exploitation of colonies and former colonies, for their wealth and labor and as markets for manufactured goods. Postcolonial education addresses cultural imperialism by recognizing and unsettling its legacy in the school curriculum and the Western assumptions about knowledge and the world that underpin it, fostering a pedagogy of critique and transformation in the metropole and the periphery. Globalization in the 21st century has intensified interactions between the metropole and former colonies, in an increasingly integrated world system in which neo-liberal influences have created a new form of empire that embraces education. While demands for the restoration of indigenous forms of education are understandable as a response to cultural dispossession, new directions in postcolonial educational thought will also need to accommodate hybridity and to attend to the material conditions of global inequality.
Radhika Viruru and Julia C. Persky
Although there have been attempts to relate postcolonial theory to teacher education, those attempts have been somewhat limited. Analyses of the corpus of research on teacher education reveal a focus on defining how to become a teacher, how to judge whether what teachers are doing is effective, how to ensure that theories of learning guide what teachers do, and how to ensure that the teaching profession becomes more diverse and more like the population of children they teach. Although these areas are certainly important, what is striking are the losses they conceal and the absences that are revealed. Postcolonial theory has offered powerful commentaries on how most of the world has yet to engage with its colonial past and with endemic issues such as racism. Issues such as how the production of knowledge has been carefully restricted and defined to privilege Western ideologies, the creation of binaries that have systematically marginalized groups of people, the marriage of racist and colonial ideologies, and the creation of institutional structures such as schools that have imposed flawed knowledges on children have yet to be widely acknowledged in teacher education research.
Allison Daniel Anders
Committed to research as an ethical and political practice, post-critical ethnographers work to center emic perspectives, local knowledges, and critiques in everyday languages in order to illuminate the exercise of power in the re/production of systemic inequities (e.g., economic, cultural, geographic, linguistic, political, racial, and social). Post-critical ethnographers underscore the importance of positionality and reflexivity in the practice of ethnography and pursue multiple, complicated understandings and complex representations, often experimental, in the writing and production of research. Informed by critical, interpretivist, and postmodern theories, post-critical ethnographers critique dominance, oppression, and inequity. In educational research, they choose schools, student, teacher, administrator experiences, and often local contexts to frame their research. Addressing both the particularities of experience and historical geopolitical contexts, post-critical ethnographers offer incisive analyses and ask their audiences to challenge systemic inequities and consider what could be otherwise in inequitable relations but is not yet.
Mark D. Vagle
Post-intentional phenomenology is a phenomenological research approach that draws on phenomenological and poststructural philosophies. In its early conceptualization, post-intentional phenomenology was imagined as a philosophical and methodological space in which all sorts of philosophies, theories, and ideas could be put in conceptual dialogue with one another—creating a productive and generative cacophony of philosophies/theories/ideas that accomplishes something(s) that these same individual philosophies/theories/ideas may not be able to do, in the same way at least, on their own. Although this desire remains, post-intentional phenomenology now serves as more of an invitation for others to play with and among philosophies/theories/ideas to see what might come of such playfulness—and to have the work of the methodology itself potentially produce social change, however great or small. The post-intentional phenomenologist is asked not only to identify a phenomenon of interest, but also to situate the phenomenon in context, around a social issue. An underlying assumption of this methodology is that all phenomena are both personal and social—that is, phenomena are lived by individuals and are in a constant state of production and provocation through social relations. Such a methodological configuration can be of use to studies of teaching—as the work of teaching (as a post-intentional phenomenon) is lived, produced, and provoked by all sorts of entangled complexities that may or may not be conscious to the individual.
The discourse on identity of the researcher is largely centered on epistemological concerns of representation, power, and positionality in the anthropological realm. In educational research, in the context of a complex field such as school, this has raised pertinent questions about the dynamic interplay of forces when researchers are in the field, including the problems with the traditional categories of insider and outsider. A vast range of scholarly works on ethnographic methodology, Muslim identity in South Asia, feminist research, and ethnographies on schools point out that the dichotomy of insider and outsider is insufficient in engaging with the nuances of field and representation. While nativity obscures the process of identity negotiation and legitimacy, tropes of representation can hardly ever be simplified through a shared ethnic, gendered, religious, and class background in anthropological practice. The need is to expand the boundaries of reflexivity in educational research, thereby treading beyond the polarities of insider and outsider and take into account the fluidity in between the two. In negotiating with identities and boundaries, researchers often end up occupying an in-between threshold space in the field. It is by taking into account flexibility and malleability of identities that ethnographers can deliberate on the efficacy of piercing intimate relationships in fields such as schools and other educational institutions. For ethnographers unraveling the complexities of educational processes, the creation of a fresh vantage point can therefore help make meaning of the everyday life from the lens of participants.
Amy Price Azano, Jayne Downey, and Devon Brenner
Preparing pre-service teachers for rural schools has been a challenge in the field of education for more than a century, and issues specific to the rural teacher workforce remain a persistent and salient challenge in the United States and globally. This task is complex and multifaceted, conflated with a wide range of contextual variations in salaries, community amenities, geographic or professional distances, technology access, health disparities, and poverty rates. Additionally, institutions of higher education have wavered in their interest in and commitment to rural teacher education, though there is a growing awareness of the need to attend to the experiences of students in rural communities and the educators who teach them. The literature and research on rural teacher preparation has typically been organized around the three challenges of preparation (post-secondary education), recruitment (youth aspirations to teach, would-be career changers interested in teaching, and division-level efforts to staff schools with effective teachers), and retention (providing pre-service and new teachers with learning experiences and support that increase the likelihood of remaining in the profession in rural schools).
Literature on rural teacher preparation and evidence related to “preparation, recruitment, and retention” can be repositioned to offer new insights focused on solutions. Three focus areas—Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance—serve to answer the question: What makes a teacher preparation program rural? Curriculum serves as a core component for preparing rural teachers. A rural curriculum for a teacher education program includes introducing students to content and experiences, including field experiences, that have been designed to support their professional and personal success in rural schools and communities. Context is understanding the strengths and assets of the rural places, communities, and cultures in which pre-service teachers are preparing to live, learn, and teach. Context allows us to consider the unique environments in which rural teachers live and work. Conveyance is the means by which potential teachers have access to teacher preparation programs, that is, how programs are delivered and structured to provide access to potential teachers in rural communities (online, in person, alternative and traditional programs, etc.). A focus on Curriculum, Context, and Conveyance allows school leaders and education researchers to resist deficit ideologies and to consider how rural communities are asset-rich environments, ultimately increasing resources that prepare teachers for, and build from the strengths of, rural communities.
Troy A. Martin
The professionalization of education involves a modern, capitalist move toward securing a public market for schools and developing social status for educators. As a process that has produced knowledge, rationalized relationships, and controlled markets, professionalization of education has also defined an ethical discourse. Articulated in language, inscribed in state law, and embodied in conduct, professional ethics have been codified formally in “codes of ethics” and informally in professional identity and ways of thinking. The popular discourse of professional ethics in education narrows and constrains ethical possibility in practice.
Because of similar forms of codes of ethics across professions, interdisciplinary scholarship from education, social work, psychiatry, and medicine informs a critical examination of professional ethics. The codes, discourse, and standards of professional ethics are historically grounded in the framework of modern rationalism. As the field of education has developed to include a more diverse knowledge-base and new forms of empirical research, the rational order of prescriptive ethics has begun to slip. While regulatory codes of ethics continue to undergird public trust and provide legal insurance against malfeasance, educational scholars and practitioners engage a wider constellation of ethical perspectives and possibilities. Feminist care ethics, post-modern ethics, and phenomenological descriptive ethics present a few possibilities within emergent fields. As the ongoing effects of professionalization are critiqued and the possibilities of professional ethics are re-imagined, schools of education should look beyond the disciplinary enclosures of education to respond to an increasingly diffuse understanding of professional ethics.
“Progressivism” is a collective term used in historiography to characterize historical phases in which particular ways to think about progress are detectable. Hence, “progressivism” is more a historiographical label used by historians than a term used by those thinkers identified as being part of a progressive phase in history. Even though important scholars have argued that the idea of progress can be traced back to antiquity, others have argued that ideas of progress—as a more or less linear alternative to a cyclical way of thinking—are found for the first time in the transition from the early modern period to modernity (ca. 1700). These ideas of progress can be linked to the advancement of knowledge, to the perfecting of the soul or then of the social order, and they link the notion of “progress” with notions like “perfection” and “development.” As a rule, “progress” did not include notions of future chaos or imponderability but rather was understood as an ordered proceeding to the future that was interpreted either as the redemption or materializing of a more or less predetermined road (individually and/or socially), as a contribution to adjustment of social development understood as dangerous or wrong, or as resulting from a forecast and planned future. All of these attempts over the last three and a half centuries to conceptualize progress in one way or another were connected to research, and they affected ideas on education; most of them were even closely related to educational aspirations, methods, programs, and/or policy.
The two great and independent motives of “progress” can be identified first around 1700 in France and England with regard to advancement in knowledge and the sciences (1), and in Germany with regard to the perfection of the soul. The idea of human perfection and the advancement of the knowledge based on modern sciences were merged in the Enlightenment prior to the French Revolution and its philosophical legitimation (2), leading in the German realm to a philosophy of history that subordinated all of human and natural history to a great narrative from the past to the future (3). The emergence of sociology gave the narrative a national frame that was supported by the erection of modern schooling, but by the end of the 19th century, the modern conditions of social and political life as actual expressions of progress were perceived as not redeeming the promises of the Enlightenment and the philosophy of history, which led to a schism in the interpretation of “true” progress. These critical perceptions triggered a reaction labeled the Progressive Era, which aimed to readjust the modern conditions of life to particular, often religious ideals of social order in which progress was more tightly connected to (idealized) visions of the past (4). The educational ideas and ideals of this Progressive Era proved to be sustainable, but they were attacked during the Cold War period, which saw an emphasis on technocratic aspects of governance and specific ideas of economic and social development. The ramifications of this focus, which called for planning the future and adjusting education to these plans, can be seen in the case of the OECD (5).
Sarah M. Stitzlein
Public schools are intricately connected to the stability and vitality of our democracy in the United States. The important relationship between public schooling and democracy began as a foundational idea in our fledgling republic, and it grew slowly over the course of our country’s history. Along the way, the relationship has been tested and challenged, encountering significant problems and limitations over time, including some that continue today. Despite these struggles and the many ways in which we’ve failed to fully fulfill the relationship, it has become a key one for maintaining the strength of our society and our political system.
Unlike a monarchy and other forms of government, it is difficult to maintain a democracy. Democracies take work; they rely upon the ongoing effort of elected officials and citizens, because they cannot run themselves or rely on just one person to lead. While democracy may be a highly desirable political system, its benefits are not always self-evident to children, and the pursuant skills and work it requires do not come naturally to most people. This is the rather precarious position of democracy; in order to maintain it, we have to educate children about its benefits and rationale while also equipping them with the skills and dispositions they need in order to for them to perpetuate it well. This is why we must link education and democracy.
Democracy requires informed and active voters who seek information to make wise decisions on behalf of themselves and the common good. Such voters must understand their own rights and freedoms, as well as those of others, as they deliberate together to reach mutually agreeable policies and practices. They must be equipped to engage in free and critical inquiry about the world and the problems surrounding them. And, they need the imagination and creativity to construct, revise, add to, and share the story of democracy with others, including the next generation.
The relationship between public schooling and democracy is best understood and fulfilled when it is not just a unidirectional one, where public schools support democracy, but rather when it moves in both directions, with the formal and cultural elements of democracy shaping the governance, content, and practices of schools. In this way, democracy is not just the end of public schooling, but also the means by which we achieve it.
Aurora Chang, Júlia Mendes, and Cinthya Salazar
The study of undocumented students in the United States is critical and growing. As scholars increasingly employ qualitative methodologies and methods in studying undocumented students, it is important to consider the specific challenges, nuances, and benefits of doing so. Undocumented students have a right to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of immigration status, per the 1982 court case Plyler v. Doe. While the stress that undocumented students face during their K-12 years are real and consequential, this stress becomes particularly acute in their postsecondary lives when education is neither guaranteed nor readily accessible. Qualitative research gives insight into the complex obstacles undocumented students face and advocates for the institutional and social change necessary to best support them. Existing qualitative research on undocumented students employs various methodologies and methods including but not limited to narrative inquiry, testimonio, phenomenology, case studies, ethnography, discourse analysis, and grounded theory. Among the salient issues that scholars must take into account when engaging in such research are the ethical, logistical, and relational problems that arise when working with undocumented people; the politicization of researching undocumented students; and the power and privilege that researchers possess in the researcher–participant relationship. Within every stage of the research process, researchers need to take special care when working with undocumented students to ensure their anonymity, respect their lived experiences, and advocate for their human rights. Undocumented research participants are in need of extra protection due to their undocumented status, and this need should not be conflated with weakness. Often, undocumented participants are framed as illegal, powerless, vulnerable, fearful, and in the shadows. While it is true that undocumented people face intense, life-altering, and consequential struggles relative to their undocumented status, it is also true that their intelligence, resilience, and persistence are equally intense. Researchers have an obligation to bring undocumented students’ authentic experiences to the fore in ways that acknowledge their undocumented status and the related struggles while affirming their agency and resistance. How they employ methodological practices is central to this goal.