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Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, for example, in education, medicine, psychiatry, and social policy. It is known as the “what works” agenda, and its focus is on the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results or prevent undesirable ones. We immediately see here that EBP is practical in nature, that evidence is thought to play a central role, and also that EBP is deeply causal: we intervene into an already existing practice in order to produce an output or to improve the output. If our intervention brings the results we want, we say that it “works.”
How should we understand the causal nature of EBP? Causality is a highly contentious issue in education, and many writers want to banish it altogether. But causation denotes a dynamic relation between factors and is indispensable if one wants to be able to plan the attainment of goals and results. A nuanced and reasonable understanding of causality is therefore necessary to EBP, and this we find in the INUS-condition approach.
The nature and function of evidence is much discussed. The evidence in question is supplied by research, as a response to both political and practical demands that educational research should contribute to practice. In general, evidence speaks to the truth value of claims. In the case of EBP, the evidence emanates from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and presumably speaks to the truth value of claims such as “if we do X, it will lead to result Y.” But what does research evidence really tell us? It is argued here that a positive RCT result will tell you that X worked where the RCT was conducted and that an RCT does not yield general results.
Causality and evidence come together in the practitioner perspective. Here we shift from finding causes to using them to bring about desirable results. This puts contextual matters at center stage: will X work in this particular context? It is argued that much heterogeneous contextual evidence is required to make X relevant for new contexts. If EBP is to be a success, research evidence and contextual evidence must be brought together.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Evidence-based teaching strategies comprise clearly specified teaching methods that have been shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes in a specified population of learners, in this case those with special educational needs. Educators could, and should, be drawing upon the best available evidence as they plan, implement, and evaluate their teaching of such learners. The past decade has seen a growing commitment to evidence-based education. This has been reflected in
(a) legislation: for example, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act in the United States, which encourages the use of specific programs and practices that have been rigorously evaluated, and defines strong, moderate, and promising levels of evidence for programs and practices;
(b) a growing body of research into effective strategies, both in general and with respect to learners with special educational needs; and
(c) the creation of centers specializing in gathering and disseminating evidence-based education policies and practices, brokering connections between policymakers, practitioners, and researchers,
Even so, in most countries there is a significant gap between what researchers have found and educational policies and practices. Moreover, some writers criticize the emphasis on evidence-based education, particularly what they perceive to be the prominence given to quantitative or positivist research in general and to randomized controlled trials in particular.
In 1982, Denny Taylor coined the term “family literacy” to reference the ways young children and their parents interact around texts. Since then, the term family literacy has generally been applied to the practices that occur in homes to support young children as they become readers and writers. However, 30 years later, this definition negates the full scope of possibilities that might inform our understandings of the literacy practices that occur within home spaces and among family members. These possibilities reflect two important trends increasingly recognized within literacy research communities. First, technological advances have affected the ways people read and write and the multimodal literacy practices that have come to define literacy in families and homes. These developments are often the focus of New Literacy Studies as defined by the New London Group and others. Second, while generally not addressed in terms of family literacy, a substantial and growing body of research has documented the out-of-school literacy practices of adolescents and youth. Many of these literacy practices are enacted and displayed in home settings. While connections between out-of-school literacy practices and family literacy are generally not explicit, homes and families provide significant social contexts that are critical to engaging in technological, peer-informed, and popular culture practices. In short, family literacy does not end once children learn to read. In contrast, family literacy assumes new forms and involves new modalities that both echo and extend the literacy practices found within families. This is significant, as it challenges conceptions of adolescent and youth literacy as being separate from the literacy practices of families.
To extend what is meant by family literacy, it is redefined as more than traditional activities that involve young children with texts. Instead, researchers are challenged to consider the full range of literacy practices that occur among family members and within homes across time. In doing this, family literacy and new literacy studies are brought together. Thus, the term family/home literacy is used to recognize not only the literacy practices that are enacted between children and parents, but the full range of literacy practices that occur among all family members—including siblings, extended family members, and friends. In short, family/home literacy practices are intertwined with home literacy affordances, which include the texts, opportunities, and technological resources that are available and used in homes. In order to explore family/home literacies over time, children’s literacy practices, including traditional and technological family/home literacy practices, are explored. Issues raised include parental mentoring of school-age children as they encounter new technologies at home, the adaptation of available resources by children as they move into and through adolescence, and transactions involving texts (both traditional and digital) among adolescents, young adults, and their parents.
Serkan Koşar, Didem Koşar, and Kadir Beycioglu
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Family engagement and school leadership are among the most influential collaborations in schools, and family engagement is probably one of the most debated topics in educational research. Parental involvement can be considered as the active participation of parents in all aspects of their children’s social, emotional, and academic development. Parents may be involved in a wide range of issues in school and at home, such as discipline, the academic future of their children, homework, success, achievement, and school activities, among others. Researchers from different disciplines have recognized the importance of family involvement or parental engagement and attempted to determine parents’ influences on their children’s schooling.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Besides being protected by the First Amendment, the right of students and faculty to express divergent opinions—even discomfiting opinions—is central to the academic mission of schools, colleges, and universities. Two familiar Millian arguments underscore this point. First, the dynamic clash of contrary ideas offers the best prospect we have of arriving at the “whole truth” about any complex subject. Second, unless it is subject to periodic questioning and critique, any established and received bit of wisdom “will be held in the manner of a prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.”
These arguments notwithstanding, anyone who has ever spent time in classrooms knows that educators sometimes curtail student speech. Can such conduct be justified in educational institutions dedicated to free and open inquiry and the examination of multiple perspectives? In mundane cases, student speech is suppressed for the sake of minimizing disruptions and maintaining order and efficiency in the classroom—as when the teacher cuts off a particularly loquacious student in order to allow others to get a word in, or a tangent-prone student in order to keep the discussion on point and avoid protracted digressions, etc. Even the most ardent defender of free speech must concede that censorship, in such cases, is necessary for the effective functioning of the educational environment.
A more complex and philosophically interesting set of cases involves educators who silence students for the sake of civility. Granted, when the speech in question involves personally targeted insults, gratuitous put-downs, and the like, the rationale for censorship seems unassailable. But what about speech that is strictly relevant to the topic under consideration, doesn’t descend to the level of direct, personal invective, and yet, nevertheless, denigrates members of some widely stigmatized group—e.g., a student’s declaration, during a discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage ruling, that homosexuality is aberrant and a legitimate target of deterrent legislation? Is silencing this kind of utterance the appropriate course of action for educators? Or are the interests of all parties better served by permitting such views to be expressed and discussed openly in the classroom?
Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training.
While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.
Bethy Leonardi and Sara Staley
Generations of education scholars have positioned issues that affect LGBTQ youth as critical to conversations about equity, diversity, democracy, and social justice in schools. Those voices, for generations, have been relegated to the periphery of those conversations at best and have been silenced at worst. Relatedly, university-based teacher education programs have been remiss in their attention to issues of gender and sexual diversity, systematically sending teachers into the field largely unprepared to create contexts that are safe for LGBTQ youth and to affirm gender and sexual diversity. With growing attention to issues that affect LGBTQ youth, both in educational research and practice as well as in the larger sociopolitical discourse, teachers are on the front lines. They are charged with navigating the complexities of students’ identities, the contexts in which they teach, local politics, and their own deeply held beliefs—and they are often, unsurprisingly, doing so with little or no support. That support needs to start much earlier.
Teacher education programs—and teacher educators—are implicated as central in changing the discourse around what counts as (non)negotiable in learning to teach. By supporting preservice teachers’ learning around gender and sexual diversity, their processes toward that end, and their engagement in queer practices, teacher educators and teacher education programs can work toward paying down the debt owed to teachers in the field and to LGBTQ students and families who have long suffered the consequences of silence.
Discussion of sex and/or gender in education has a long history, raising the difference gender makes and questioning also whether gender should make a difference and even how gender comes to be constituted in diverse ways. Many of the theorists and researchers working in these related areas examine role education plays in creating and exacerbating gender differences. They also note that when gender differences are highlighted by institutions, the resulting hierarchy of value tends to work to the advantage of male privilege and heterosexuality. Gender and sexuality difference are then used to stabilize and justify both sexism and heterosexism.
This entry explores how the early philosophical theorizing that brought attention to the difference gender makes and the problems with gender-related hierarchy, setting the stage for later discussions of how and why schools need to challenge gender inequity. Exploring Anglo-American educational and related research, this entry distinguishes among theories that stress gender difference (e.g., arguing for women’s particular educational needs and strengths), theories that explore how gender differences are produced by institutions, how intersections of race challenge stable notions of what gender means, and finally, discussing how poststructural theories disrupt the normative gender binary, opening new possibilities for transgender students and other challenges to gender norms.
Significant research telling the stories of women’s experiences in the superintendency has been conducted only since the 1980s. Much of that research has been focused on white women, with fewer studies of women leaders of color. By the beginning of the new century, there were more women in the pipeline for the superintendency—more women in graduate educational leadership programs, more women in the elementary principalship, and more women in central office positions. Data from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 2015 Study of the American Superintendent show that while increases have been made throughout the years, females make up only 27 percent of the superintendency, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force. Given that the position of teacher is the first step in the pathway toward the superintendency, women are clearly underrepresented as superintendents across the country. This problem has been a topic for many researchers, practicing academics, and doctoral students who choose the topic as research for dissertations.
The schooling of girls has, across different times and places, often been a matter of heated public debate. From the 1800s to the present, contentious issues such as the purpose of girls’ education, curriculum content, and the meanings given to girls’ bodies within educational sites have led to varying discussions, opinions, and policies. At the center of these debates are the questions of how gender is understood; how it is used in a given place and time in the division of labor, the economy, and the family; and how it is assumed that young girls and women should be instructed for eventually taking up the positions deemed appropriate for their time and place. It is impossible, however, to simply talk about girls’ schooling as if this refers to a singular group of people. Differences in class, race, ethnicity, region, citizenship, sexuality, and other characteristics shape both the contours of the debate and the experience of schooling. Thus, any discussion of the issue of gender, girls, and schooling needs to take an intersectional approach—one that takes into consideration the ways in which identity categories work together within and across differences to produce experience, identity, and meaning.
Currently, the question of girls’ education finds its strongest articulation in relation to the Global South. International organizations and major corporations alike have used their platforms to advance the cause of educating girls in the interests of national and global development. This has proved to have consequences that do not always take into account the complexity of girls’ lives in their local contexts. Issues of gendered inequalities in the Global North are sometimes mistakenly assumed to have been resolved, things of the past. However, girls in schools continue to face issues such as sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As a result, their issues are often misunderstood or marginalized within school communities.
Elisabet Öhrn and Gaby Weiner
The field known as gender and education emerged in the 1970s, and currently addresses a range of issues of equity and justice in education with the widespread incorporation of “intersectionality” (i.e., the interlocking nature of gender and other categorizations such as social class, race, ethnicity, sexualities, disability). The topics and practices constituting the field have changed over the years, as demonstrated in a survey by the authors of Gender and Education, the main journal of choice for those working in the field. Key topics addressed by researchers include patterns of examination achievement, curriculum and school practices, and the variety of femininities and masculinities produced with/in schooling and education. Overarching themes on the conduct of the field include decreased focus on practice and action, increased emphasis on theorization, critique of the dualisms on which the field is based (girl/boy, male/female, masculinity/femininity), and Anglophone and Western bias.
Few would deny that processes of globalization have impacted education around the world in many important ways. Yet the term “globalization” is relatively new, and its meaning or nature, conceptualization, and impact remain essentially contested within the educational research community. There is no global consensus on the exact time period of its occurrence or its most significant shaping processes, from those who focus on its social and cultural framings to those that hold global political-economic systems or transnational social actors as most influential. Intersecting questions also arise regarding whether its influence on human communities and the world should be conceived of as mostly good or mostly bad, which have significant implications for debates regarding the relationship between globalization and education. Competing understandings of globalization also undergird diverse methodologies and perspectives in expanding fields of research into the relationship between education and globalization.
There are many ways to frame the relationship of globalization and education. Scholars often pursue the topic by examining globalization’s perceived impact on education, as in many cases global convergence around educational policies, practices, and values has been observed in the early 21st century. Yet educational borrowing and transferal remains unstraightforward in practice, as educational and cultural differences across social contexts remain, while ultimate ends of education (such as math competencies versus moral cultivation) are essentially contested. Clearly, specificity is important to understand globalization in relation to education. As with globalization generally, globalization in education cannot be merely described as harmful or beneficial, but depends on one’s position, perspective, values, and priorities.
Education and educators’ impacts on globalization also remain a worthwhile focus of exploration in research and theorization. Educators do not merely react to globalization and related processes, but purposefully interact with them, as they prepare their students to respond to challenges and opportunities posed by processes associated with globalization. As cultural and political-economic considerations remain crucial in understanding globalization and education, positionality and research ethics and reflexivity remain important research concerns, to understand globalization not just as homogeneity or oppressive top-down features, but as complex and dynamic local and global intersections of people, ideas, and goods, with unclear impacts in the future.
Generally, as a result of the need for many schools to compete on a global level, the use of digital technologies has increased in teacher education programs as well as in U.S. public schools. The dynamics of globalization and digital technologies also continue to influence teacher preparation programs, with multiple implications for educational policies and practices in U.S. public schools. Rapidly emerging developments in technologies and the digital nature of 21st-century learning environments have shaped and transformed the ways learners access, process, and interpret both the general pedagogical content knowledge and discipline-specific content in teaching and learning. Ultimately, the roles of students and teachers in digital learning environments must change to adapt to the dynamic global marketplace. In practice, these changes reiterate the need for teacher educators to prepare skilled teachers who are able to provide social and academic opportunities for building a bridge from a monocultural pedagogical framework to a globally competent learning framework, which is critical to addressing the realities of 21st-century classroom experiences. Specifically, there is a need to equip teacher candidates with cultural competency and digital skills to effectively prepare learners for a digital and global workplace. The lack of cultural competency skills, knowledge, attitudes, and dispositions implies potential social and academic challenges that include xenophobia, hegemony, and classroom management issues. The development of 21st-century learning skills is also central to the preparation of digital and global citizens. The 21st-century globalization skills include communication skills, technological literacy and fluency, negotiations skills, knowledge on geography, cultural and social competency, and multiculturalism. To be relevant in the era of globalization, teacher education programs should take the lead on providing learners with knowledge that promotes global awareness and the 21st-century learning skills required to become responsible global and digital citizens.
Transnational flows of educational knowledge and research are fundamentally guided by the global geopolitics of knowledge—the historically constituted relations of power born out of the continuing legacy of modernity/coloniality. In the early nation-building stage of the 19th century, state-funded education was at the core of states’ pursuit for economic and social progress. Newly formed nation states actively sought new educational knowledge from countries considered more advanced in the global race toward modernity and industrialization. The transnational lesson drawing in education at the time was guided by the view of modernity as originating in and diffusing from the West. This created the unidirectional flow of educational influence from advanced economies of the West to the rest of the world. Central to the rise of modernity in Western state formation is the use of education as a technology of social regulations. Through the expansion of state-funded education, people were turned into the people, self-governing citizens, and then the population that was amenable to a state’s social and economic calculation and military deployment. But this development was embedded in the geopolitical context of the time, in which Western modernity was deeply entangled with its underside, coloniality in the rest of the world. Various uses of education as a social control were tested out first in colonial peripheries and then brought back to the imperial centers.
Today, the use of education for the modernist pursuit of perfecting society has been intensified through the constitution of the globalized education policy space. International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) act as the nodes through which transnational networks of education policy actors are formed, where the power of statistics for social and educational progress is widely shared. Both developed and developing countries are increasingly incorporated into this shared epistemological space, albeit through different channels and due to different factors. The rise of international academic testing such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has certainly changed the traditional pattern of education research and knowledge flows, and more lesson drawing from countries and regions outside the Anglo-European context is pursued. And yet, the challenges that PISA poses to the Eurocentric pattern of educational knowledge and research flows are curtailed by the persistence of the colonial legacy. This most clearly crystalizes in the dismissive and derogatory characterization of East Asian PISA high achievers in the recent PISA debate. Hence, the current globalization of education knowledge and research remains entangled with the active legacy of coloniality, the uneven global knowledge structure.
Gypsies are a minority community whose lives are often shaped by multiple oppressions. While their ethnicity can be linked to accounts of migration stretching back over 1,000 years, to Northern India, the historic details surrounding this movement are often contested within academic debates and largely unknown in public discourses. There are similar gaps in knowledge about important moments in Gypsy history, including their settlement, and often enslavement, in many European countries and the devastating impact of the Nazi Holocaust. This lack of knowledge has contributed to the persistence of racist stereotypes about Gypsies, who are often associated with dirtiness, itinerancy, and criminality. Within these stereotypes is a tendency to identify “real” Gypsies as a nomadic, traveling group of people. While movement and travel remain important elements of Gypsy identity, the reality for many families is that they lead relatively settled lifestyles. This should be unsurprising given the history of European settlement and slavery; however, one consequence has been for non-nomadic Gypsies to have their identity called into question.
Schools are one area where Gypsies and non-Gypsies encounter each other closely. Schools are also a field in which Gypsy children and families are under pressure to conform to wider educational policy making. Schools often appear to be a context in which the multiple oppressions experienced by Gypsies are foregrounded. Gypsy pupils regularly experience bullying and racism from their peers, other parents, and school staff. Gypsy parents fear their children will lose aspects of their cultural identity by engaging with schools, a concern exacerbated by beliefs that non-Gypsy adolescent culture is driven by risky behaviors such as promiscuity, drinking, and drug taking. At the same time policy makers have increasingly identified the nomadic Gypsy identity as a category through which to shape and understand Gypsy pupils’ educational experiences. This nomadic identity highlights some specific structural flaws in how education may or may not be delivered to Gypsy pupils. There has been widespread concern for many years that the biggest underlying factor making school attendance problematic for Gypsy children has been homelessness. Many families lack secure accommodation not because they persist with a nomadic lifestyle but because of a shortage of Gypsy and Traveler sites. Recent UK legislation has made the development of new Gypsy and Traveler sites much less likely by requiring Gypsy families to prove their “nomadic” identity. At a more local level, there is evidence that schools understand a distinction between delivering a sedentary and a nomadic education (often in order to demonstrate an awareness of policy making). However, this identification of pupils as nomadic both misrepresents the realities of their identity and also, more troublingly, is often used to explain why pupils no longer attend school.
Curriculum means complex relations between teachers and students. Discourse on health and illness involves these relations. Health and illness are phenomenological states of being that can be fragile. Health might mean longevity, while illness could mean finality. It is not so clear, though, where health slips into illness. Illness can return in a circular fashion. So the line between health and illness is not entirely clear.
When illness strikes, people’s narratives get interrupted; these narratives embody our identities. Narratives are stories that we tell ourselves. Narratives such as autobiography and biography have a long history in curriculum studies. In this field, autobiographies and biographies of teachers have historically been about happy occasions, occasions of triumph, and happy endings.
Narratives of critical illness—which few curriculum scholars have dealt with—are without happy endings. Critical illness narratives concern grief, loss, and unhappy endings. Grief, bereavement, and melancholy have no timeline, no frame of reference, and sometimes no ending at all. Curriculum scholars have written about melancholy in mental illness but have not written much about it in the face of physical illness.
During times of illness, some turn to the spiritual, some turn away. The spiritual can be put to use either to better understand endings or to avoid endings and deny what is happening. For some, avoidance helps the journey along. For others, facing head-on the catastrophe at hand becomes necessary.
For those who slip from health into illness, radical Otherness is at hand. Being very sick isolates. Alterity, then, is key when thinking about such experiences. A phenomenology of alterity is key when thinking about health and illness.
Chronic illness differs from a sudden onset of illness. People can be relatively healthy and yet suffer from chronic illness. People can be, on the other hand, very sick with chronic illness for many years. Some chronic illnesses are invisible. Grief over invisible illnesses tends not to be taken seriously by others because the illness is not visible. On the other hand, if there are physical symptoms that others can see, grief over that illness tends to be taken more seriously by others than illnesses which are invisible.
Curriculum, or lived experience, is about health and illness because this is life’s trajectory. One cannot become educated in a disembodied way. Education happens in bodies that exist on a continuum between health and illness.
Anna Saiti and Theodoros Stefou
With the hierarchical approach, duties are delegated from the upper to the lower levels of hierarchical structure. This system is known as “a pyramid organization” and is characterized by an echelon arrangement that gives the impression of a pyramid. This kind of structure is the simplest type of work distribution and is based upon the Fayol principles, namely, the unity of administration and hierarchical scale. Certainly, this system of organizational structure (as with any system) has both advantages and disadvantages. A hierarchical approach expresses the classical view of the organizational structure and may be implemented in any kind or size of organization. Although the extent of power delegation at the organizational level is dependent on the level of centralization and/or decentralization of organizational decision making and the level of division of the work, the hierarchical approach is a common managerial structure type for large organizations in the public domain. If organizations are to enhance employees’ motivation and team spirit then employees’ perceptions are an important element to work with. Within this framework, individuals in the military and educational sector are working in a rather sensitive working environment that is quite different from other sectors.
Leadership is without doubt the most essential part of any organization and is key for the efficient performance and continued development of an organization. Flexible networks, open communication processes, and leaders with vision and a creative, constructive, and positive spirit favorably affect employees’ feelings and enhance innovation and fluidity. Taking into consideration that a highly hierarchical system may adversely affect incentives to exert effort, as well as the efficiency of communication channels, one may consider the importance of the contribution of a leader and the development of leadership as an acute issue that significantly impacts staff morale and efficient performance, especially in the military and educational sectors.
China’s higher education system witnessed quite a few dramatic institutional changes in recent years. The state has been making a series of attempts to increase the quantity of higher education opportunities through massive expanding of higher education’s capacity (also referred to as the massification of higher education). Meanwhile, the system experienced marketization and privatization, in which the funding for higher education institutions (HEIs) increasingly depends on the non-state sector and student payments for tuition fees. The private (minban) HEIs and Sino-foreign HEIs began to develop in China. With a strong conviction to enhance the global competitiveness of top universities, master plans for developing world-class universities and disciplines were initiated, and talent programs were adopted to attract global high-skilled talent to HEIs in China to enhance the teaching and research capability of HEIs. In recent years, HEIs have been granted larger institutional autonomy with greater accountability. Higher education in China has experienced dramatic institutional changes in recent years and has made great achievements and gained international acclaim. Given such capacity, HEIs became one of the largest systems in the world. More and more higher education opportunities have been provided for students, and an increasing number of leading scholars in the world have been attracted to HEIs in China. However, the development of higher education has encountered several challenges—in particular, unequal opportunities for higher education attainment, difficulties for college graduates in finding employment, and the unequal development of higher education among disciplines, between universities, and across regions. Critical reflections on the development of higher education in China and the notion of broadly defined educational equality are required.
Robert J. Sternberg
High-stakes assessment is playing an increasingly important role in higher education at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. Such assessments are sometimes used for group purposes—to assess how well a university is doing in educating its students—and other times for purposes of evaluating individuals.
High-stakes assessment at the undergraduate level generally involves assessments of learning and reasoning at the end of the college experience. Sometimes, pretests are also given to compare cognitive skills before and after the college experience. There are several different approaches to measuring learning and performance outcomes: (a) standardized instruments and inventories; (b) indirect methods that focus on students’ perceptions of learning and engagement; (c) authentic performance-based methods, such as portfolios; and (d) locally designed tests and inventories. Each of these methods of assessment has different advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, standardized tests are normed, and thus it is possible to compare the performance of students at, say, one university to those at another. But standardized tests also measure outcomes that some scholars feel are less meaningful than the outcomes measured by other kinds of assessments. Indirect measures, such as of student engagement, look at students’ level of engagement with college but tell less about cognitive gains than some other kinds of measures. Performance-based measures such as portfolios have the advantage of measuring outcomes presumably relevant to each individual student; they are harder to score than some other kinds of measures, however, and they do not lend themselves readily to comparisons across colleges and universities. Homemade tests produced by individual institutions can be tailored to the goals of those institutions but generally lack the standardization and generality of some other kinds of measures.
Assessments of graduate and postgraduate students are of a different ilk. Generally, graduate, postgraduate, and hiring institutions are looking for presumed research and teaching competence. Publication records as well as letters of recommendation serve as primary bases for evaluating students going onto the job market. It is possible to entertain more sophisticated measures than just counting publications, such as various measures based on citations in the scholarly literature.
Inclusive education is now a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included clear statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to support inclusive educational practices. For example, Article 26 states that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later provided a basis for parent groups and educators to argue for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated.
The concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, in the United States in 1975, the United Nations’ International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN’s initiatives has been the right of people with disabilities to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious implications for the way education is provided to students with disabilities or other additional educational needs. Up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of societal participation. More recently, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, there has been increasing acceptance of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle underlying the education of students with disabilities.