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Article

Collaboration in Educational Ethnography in Latin America  

Diana Milstein, Angeles Clemente, and Alba Lucy Guerrero

There are epistemological, methodological, and textual dimensions of collaborative educational ethnography (CEE) in Latin America that have spread and consolidated over the last twenty-five years. The beginnings of CEE were marked by sociopolitical struggles (social resistance movements and repressive dictatorships) but also were enlightened by thinkers like Fals Borda and Freire, who foresaw social transformation through a theory/action/participation tie. The result was several educational ethnographic studies carried out by groups of researchers working in networks. To a large extent, they aimed to problematize contradictions between official school education and the sociocultural realities of teachers and students. This type of research also aimed to understand and intervene in social change processes, which encouraged the incorporation of teachers as researchers in ethnographic studies. Teachers’ participation in research processes opened debates about fieldwork, but more particularly about relationships between researchers and interlocutors. In short, the history of CEE in Latin America reveals a marked development of collaboration, from being enacted but not made explicit in the written ethnographic report to open, explicit, and declared participation of nonacademic collaborators of all sorts: teachers, children, youngsters, indigenous communities, and so on. The work of these collaborative teams not only differs in ways and degrees of research involvement (co-interpreting, co-investigating, co-authoring, and co-theorizing) but also in what a dialogic and sometimes contested research process entails in terms of knowledge production for counteracting Eurocentric, androcentric, adult-centric prejudices. Teachers’ participation, children/youngsters as active collaborators, and language as a topic of research and as a research tool are three main themes. The stance of the researcher in CEE inevitably connects with his or her interlocutors as situated others—subjects with agency and rights and capable of involving the researcher in a joint process of reflexivity. Moreover, collaborative experiences in educational ethnography create new and feasible possibilities for the development of knowledge not only in education but also in research approaches to ethnography.

Article

Collaborative Teacher Inquiry for Inclusive Education  

Sarah Schlessinger and Celia Oyler

Taking an inquiry approach for professional learning in support of inclusive education is both pragmatic and powerful, although it has certainly not been the norm throughout much of teacher education in North America. Much research in inclusive education has focused on teacher beliefs and practices, school structures, and service delivery models, and such foci often position teachers as technicians, implementing outside experts’ ideas about “best practices,” thus marginalizing educators as mere consumers of research and methods, rather than developers, designers, and architects of inclusive practices. To foster full participation and membership of all learners in their classrooms, teachers often engage in trial and error, puzzle solving, and creativity, to build productive and participatory communities of learning. Although consciousness, criticality, and questioning are the foundation of an inclusive stance, awareness alone does not necessarily generate practices of critical inclusivity. The work of moving recursively from framings (ideological and affective) to specific, embodied practices requires continuous action and reflection, which is well supported by practitioner inquiry. The practice of inquiry requires that teachers engage in persistent, reflective work; take risks; and use failures as points of departure for new learning and teaching approaches. The content of the inquiry, when focused on capacity and inclusivity, has the potential to work against the dominant discourses that marginalize and exclude particular students and populations, whereas the process of inquiry can position teachers as creative, intellectual problem-solvers, thus working against the dominant discourse of teachers as technicians. Inquiry for inclusivity is most often taken up as a collaborative practice, supporting educators to make their problem-solving public, gaining both friendly critique and affirmation. The collaborative inquiry group can also serve as a space for ideological and affective clarification, as striving to design teaching and learning for inclusion involves challenging many of the norms of schooling, including individualism; meritocracy; competition; and sorting, leveling, and ranking students.

Article

Community-Based Reforms in the Monitoring Architecture of Elementary Education in India  

Kiran Bhatty

Governance has emerged as a major factor explaining the decline in the quality of public education around the world, including India. Monitoring is an important element of governance, not just as a means of tracking performance but also for planning and policymaking. In recent years, it has gained greater relevance in light of the increased participation of the private sector in all aspects of education delivery. How the government monitors education depends on the structures and systems it has in place to collect adequate and appropriate information, process the information, and follow through with a feedback mechanism. However, for monitoring to be effective, not only is it necessary to get information to the government, but it is equally important to close the feedback loop by acting on the information in a timely fashion. The community can play an important role in this process by verifying official data and providing valuable information not collected by government sources on the functioning of schools in real time. What is required are platforms for sharing that information with the community and a mechanism for response from the government. The importance of community participation in monitoring education was given a boost in India with the passage of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, in 2009, which assigned the monitoring function to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)—a body answerable to the Parliament of India. This separation of implementation and monitoring functions created an opportunity for the community to participate directly in the monitoring of the RTE Act through an exercise of community monitoring undertaken by the NCPCR. The impact of this exercise was wide-ranging—from creating awareness about the right to education to mobilizing the community to voice their concerns regarding schools, creating platforms of dialogue between the state and the citizens, building trust with teachers, and bringing concrete improvement in the functioning of schools. Unfortunately, the inability to get the process institutionalized with state structures led to its early demise.

Article

Community Participation in School Management in Developing Countries  

Mikiko Nishimura

Community participation in school management has great potentials for removing mistrust and distance between people and schools by nurturing transparency of information and a culture of mutual respect and by jointly pursuing improvement of school by sharing vision, process, and results. Individual and organizational behavioral changes are critical to increase the level of participation. In countries where the administrative structures are weak, the bottom-up approach to expanding educational opportunity and quality learning may be the only option. Nevertheless, when community participation is implemented with a top-down manner without wider consultation on its aims, processes, and expected results, the consequences are likely to be conflicts between actors, a strong sense of overwhelming obligation, fatigue, inertia, and disparity in the degree and results of community participation between communities. Political aspects of school management and socio-cultural difference among the population require caution, as they are likely to induce partial participation or nonparticipation of the community at large. Community participation in school management will result in a long-term impact only if it involves a wide range of actors who can discuss and practice the possibilities of revisiting the definition of community and the way it should be.

Article

Comparative Case Study Methodology and Teacher Education  

Meera Pathmarajah

Case study researchers have traditionally focused on micro-level analysis of a “bounded” case, yet this approach has come under methodological scrutiny in a world where phenomena are rarely isolated from globalization’s expansive reach. Social science and policy-oriented research in particular are nearly always subject to local and global histories as well as socio-cultural, political, and economic trends. Furthermore, the experience of individuals, organizations, and institutions are often tangled in interconnected webs of influence, such that a case study that does not trace these underlying relationships is likely to be analyzing only the tip of a phenomenological iceberg. Hence critical scholars call for the need to repurpose traditional case study research methods to embrace shifting contextual factors that surround a research project at multiple levels. Comparative case study methods answer this call by making socio-cultural and political analysis an explicit part of the research process. They expand the researcher’s methodological lens by advancing the analysis of processes across three axes: the horizontal (through distinct research sites), the vertical (through scales; e.g., local vs national) and the transversal (over time; e.g., historically). The methodology is particularly useful for social science research and policy studies, where complex interactions between actors and institutions are tied to socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. Teacher education research is an area where comparative case studies can potentially contribute to policy formulation. Using the example of case study research on teacher education in India, the comparative case study methodology is shown to be an effective research tool. Through insights into the socio-cultural and political context surrounding pedagogical reform, case study research can generate corrective measures to improve policy effectiveness.

Article

Comparison in Qualitative Research  

Lesley Bartlett and Frances Vavrus

Comparison is a valuable and widely touted analytical technique in social research, but different disciplines and fields have markedly different notions of comparison. There are at least two important logics for comparison. The first, the logic of juxtaposition, is guided by a neopositivist orientation. It uses a regularity theory of causation; it structures the study by defining cases, variables, and units of analysis a priori; and it decontextualizes knowledge. The second, the logic of tracing, engages a realist theory of causation and examines how processes unfold, influenced by actors and the meanings they make, over time, in different locations, and at different scales. These two logics of comparison lead to distinct methodological techniques. However, with either logic of comparison, three dangers merit attention: decontextualization, commensurability, and ethnocentrism. One promising research heuristic that attends to different logics of comparison while avoiding these dangers is the comparative case study (CCS) approach. CCS entails three axes of comparison. The horizontal axis encourages comparison of how similar policies and practices unfold across sites at roughly the same level or scale, for example across a set of schools or across home, school, religious institution, and community organization. The vertical axis urges comparison across micro-, meso-, and macro-levels or scales. For example, a study of bilingual education in the United States should attend not only to homes, communities, classroom, and school dynamics (the micro-level), but also to meso-level district, state, and federal policies, as well as to factors influencing international mobility at the macro-level. Finally, the transversal axis, which emphasizes change over time, urges scholars to situate historically the processes or relations under consideration.

Article

Complexity Theory as a Guide to Qualitative Methodology in Teacher Education  

Fiona Ell, Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Mary Hill, Mavis Haigh, Lexie Grudnoff, and Larry Ludlow

Qualitative teacher education research is concerned with understanding the processes and outcomes of teacher preparation in ways that are useful for practitioners, policymakers, and the teaching profession. Complexity theory has its origin in the biological and physical sciences, where it applies to phenomena that are more than the sum of their parts—where the “higher order” form cannot be created by just putting together the pieces that it is made from. Complexity theory has moved to social science, and to education, because many social phenomena also seem to have this property. These phenomena are termed “complex systems.” Complexity theory is also a theory of learning and change, so it is concerned with how complex systems are learning and changing. This means that methods to investigate complex systems must be able to identify changes in the system, termed “emergence,” and must also account for change over time and the history of the complex system. Longitudinal designs that involve the collection of rich data from multiple sources can support understanding of how a complex system, such as teacher education, is learning and changing. Comparative analysis, narrative analysis, extended case studies, mapping of networks and interactions, and practitioner research studies have all been used to try to bring complexity theory to empirical work in teacher education. Adopting a complexity theory approach to research in teacher education is difficult because it calls into question many taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of research and what is possible to find. Linear, process-product thinking cannot be sustained in a complexity framework, and ideas like “cause,” “outcome,” “change,” and “intervention” all have to be re-thought. A growing body of work uses complexity thinking to inform research in teacher education.

Article

Core Reflection Approach in Teacher Education  

Fred A.J. Korthagen and Ellen E. Nuijten

The core reflection approach aims to deepen teacher reflection and development. The approach takes teachers’ core qualities and ideals as the starting point for reflection, and links the professional and the personal in teacher development. Core reflection can also be applied to other professional groups, and to students in primary and secondary education. It is based on a model of levels of reflection, briefly named the onion model, which includes the following levels: environment, behavior, competencies, beliefs, identity, mission, and “the core,” which refers to personal strengths. The onion model helps to differentiate between behavior-oriented reflection and a deeper kind of reflection, in which attention is given to three goals: (1) building on strengths and ideals (called “the inner potential”) of the person, (2) helping the person deal with inner obstacles limiting the actualization of the inner potential, and (3) preparing the person for using their potential and dealing with obstacles autonomously. In order to reach these goals, people can be coached using specific principles, which are partly based on positive psychology: 1. Focusing on personal strengths; 2. Giving balanced attention to cognition, emotion, and motivation (thinking, feeling, and wanting); and 3. Giving attention to inner obstacles. These principles are brought together in a phase model for core reflection, with five phases: (1) describing a concrete situation; (2) reflection on the ideal, and on a core quality or qualities; (3) reflection on an obstacle; (4) using the inner potential; and (5) trying a new approach. Core reflection is being used around the world, both in teacher education programs and in schools. Several research studies into the processes and outcomes of core reflection have shown that it leads to in-depth professional development and improved behavior, in both the short and the long term. However, more research is needed, for example research in which long-term outcomes of the core reflection approach are compared to those of other approaches.

Article

Criticality in the Field of Educational Administration  

Helen Gunter

The field of educational administration has a long and embedded history of taking a critical approach to practice, research, and theory. While there are a range of reviews from within and external to the field, there is no comprehensive contemporary historical overview of the meaning and actuality of critical approaches. A novel mapping and codification project aims to fill this gap by providing six approaches to criticality in the field. Three are professional self–focused—biographical, hierarchical, and entrepreneurial—and three are focused on professional and policy issues as primary research projects—functional, realistic, and activist. An overview is provided for each with examples of field projects/outputs, followed by an examination of the trends in the field. The state of the field is identified as a site for intervention from non-education interests (e.g., business), where non-research forms of criticality, often allied with functional research, tend to be dominant.

Article

Critical Literacy: A Case from Argentina and Its Implications  

Melina Porto and Graham V. Crookes

Second-language critical literacy refers to the application of the concepts and practices of critical literacy in contexts where individuals are using a language that is not the one they grew up with or were initially socialized into. “Second” means a language acquired either naturalistically or in instructed contexts that is somewhat distinct, at least conceptually, from a primary or so-called native language—learned in some sense earlier or better than a primary one (although these terms are at best simplifications of complex matters). Critical literacy is generally recognized as having evolved out of a line of work in the broad and comparatively long tradition of radical education associated with Paulo Freire. However, as different strands of critical literacy have become more developed, more established, and more visible, it is harder to determine lines of influence. It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that critical language pedagogy and critical literacy began to appear in reports from a range of countries. In Latin America, critical perspectives and pedagogies have a history of 200 years, existed before the Spanish conquest, and are not tied to Freire in particular, but result from a combination of social, cultural, political, and educational influences emerging in the region in the 19th century. These perspectives and pedagogies are multifaceted, polysemic, locally situated, and tied to each specific territory. This means that it is important to consider broad historical perspectives and to recognize the powerful macro-level factors that can eventually culminate in somewhat favorable conditions for critical literacy in specific contexts at the present time. Those conditions may not last, incidentally. Finally, to answer the question “How can practical instructional programs in the area of second language critical literacy be designed, developed, and implemented?” it seems that critical re-design can be a useful approach in the classroom. Critical re-design refers to the process, somewhat analogous to Freire’s emphasis on gaining distance from a problem, by which students analyze an issue so as to be able to act on it “to make a positive difference” in their social milieu. It is through detailed analysis of the issue and its connection to students’ lives, and the use of imagination, that the possibility of making a difference becomes actual.

Article

Critical Perspectives on Evaluative Research on Educational Technology Policies in Latin America  

Inés Dussel

In the past decade, ambitious plans for digital inclusion have been developed in Latin America. These plans included a strategy of massive and universal distribution of equipment at a 1:1 ratio to students at different levels of the education system (i.e., a computer for each student). The programs were accompanied by both policy analyses and independent studies hoping to account for the program’s successes and achievements. These studies can facilitate analysis of the orientations and dimensions of these investigations, considering them as practices of knowledge production that imply the construction of a perspective, as well as indicators and problems that make visible certain some aspects of policy and mask others. They constitute forms of problematizing the social, that is to say, the construction of themes or topics that return to a problem that requires attention, which many times are taken as a reflection of reality and not as the product of an predetermined evaluative perspective. It is also significant that among these evaluative studies, a number were conducted through qualitative perspectives, which facilitate more complex and plural approaches to the processes of technological integration and digital inclusion within the classroom. In these qualitative studies, the construction of categories was part of the research and covered a multiplicity of meanings that the policies took for the actors involved, thus opening a richer and potentially more democratic perspective on the construction of knowledge about educational policy in the region.

Article

Critical Perspectives on Positive Youth Development and Environmental Education  

Marianne E. Krasny, Tania M. Schusler, Jesse Delia, Anne Katherine Armstrong, and Lilly Briggs

Positive youth development (PYD) assumes that, when given appropriate support, all youth have the capacity to develop the assets that enable them to succeed in life. Such assets include competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to community, otherwise known as the six Cs of PYD. Environmental education (EE) programs that focus on youth action and empowerment offer the support needed for youth to develop these assets. Youth after-school, summer, and residential programs, often serving low-income and minoritized youth, increasingly are using environmental action and learning as a means to achieve PYD outcomes. Yet both PYD and EE have been criticized for not addressing the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. In response, critical traditions in PYD and EE have emerged, in which youth reflect and act on structural barriers to human and environmental well-being in their communities. As youth and their mentors seek to address systemic inequities impacting themselves and their environment, they develop additional “Critical Positive Youth Development/Environmental Education” assets including critical reflection, efficacy, the ability to take collective action, and community-level empowerment.

Article

Critical Realism for Ethnography  

Grant Banfield

While specific applications of critical realism to ethnography are few, theoretical developments are promising and await more widespread development. This is especially the case for progressive and critical forms of ethnography that strive to be, in critical realist terms, an “emancipatory science.” However, the history of ethnography reveals that both the field and its emancipatory potential are limited by methodological tendencies toward “naïve realism” and “relativism.” This is the antimony of ethnography. The conceptual and methodological origins of ethnography are grounded in the historical tensions between anti-naturalist Kantian idealism and hyper-naturalist Humean realism. The resolution of these tensions can be found in the conceptual resources of critical realism. Working from, and building upon, the work of British philosopher Roy Bhaskar, critical realism is a movement in the philosophy of science that transcends the limits of Kantian idealism and Humean realism via an emancipatory anti-positivist naturalism. Critical realism emerged as part of the post-positivist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. From its Marxian origins, critical realism insists that all science, including the social sciences, must be emancipatory. At its essence, this requires taking ontology seriously. The call of critical realism to ethnographers, like all social scientists, is that while they must hold to epistemological caution this does not warrant ontological shyness. Furthermore, critical realism’s return to ontology implies that ethnographers must be ethically serious. Ethnography, if it is to hold to its progressive inclinations, must be about something. Critical realism for ethnography pushes the field to see itself as more than a sociological practice. Rather, it is to be understood as a social practice for something: the universalizing of human freedom.

Article

Cross-Case Analysis of Changes in Teacher Role and Didactic Function in Denmark, 1980–2020  

Karen Borgnakke

During the 2000s the educational policy discourse was sharpened, and the dominant learning discourse set the agenda. Policy programs and educational reforms seek to optimize learning by focusing on the teacher and demands for “high professionalism.” High teacher professionalism, it has been argued, promotes learning and is combined with functions, often concisely expressed as, for example, “learning management” and “digital formation.” Although this much-hyped political rhetoric is criticized, it is necessary to define appropriate concepts of professionalism as well as clarification on the significations of teacher practice, teacher role, and didactical functions. The meaning and consequences of changing demands for teacher professionalism appear during the process of “didactization.” Based on research findings from long-term fieldwork, a cross-case analysis is presented, drawing on Danish examples from 1980 to 2020. The examples referred to are: (a) the interdisciplinary and project-oriented university environment (from the 1980s); (b) developments in elementary school (from the 1990s); (c) IT classes in upper secondary school (from the 2000s); and (d) online learning and e-pedagogy in a nursing education program (from the 2010s). An overview of the spectrum of changing teacher functions and contemporary challenges is provided.

Article

Current Issues and Trends in India’s School Education  

Vimala Ramachandran

Discussing the heterogeneous nature of Indian society and the management of school education is not only diverse, but it is characterized by inequality at all levels. The Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 attempted to address these inequalities, however, given the quasifederal nature of the distribution of powers to make laws pertaining to education and unequal access to financial and human resources, implementation has been uneven. The variations are particularly significant in dropout rates, secondary education completion rates, teacher deployment and in-school availability, inclusion/exclusion of children belonging to different communities/castes and religions, and most importantly, gender equality. There is considerable variation in school size and pupil–teacher ratios—with some states reporting a large percentage of single teacher schools and small schools with enrolment of fewer than 50 students at the elementary level. This is not the case in secondary and higher secondary schools. If all children entering grade one wish to move on to higher secondary, there are not enough schools to accommodate them. While there are over 814,000 primary schools, the number of secondary schools falls sharply to 22,700 and higher secondary to just 12,400. The systemic barriers to access beyond the elementary level remains a big concern in many states of India. Equally, there are also sharp rural–urban differences—with rural and remote areas reporting skewed ratios of elementary to secondary and higher secondary schools. Children drop out in different states for a wide range of reasons; however, in the last 10 years, it is generally accepted that poor learning at the elementary stage is one of the most important reasons. Evidence from qualitative research studies reveals that the cumulative burden of poor learning is carried forward from grade one, leading to the inability of many children to cope with secondary education. Several scholars have argued that embedded inequality and exclusion are serious issues—which are most evident in learning outcomes. The issues of teacher availability, teacher preparation and certification, and the persistent problem of nonavailability of teachers—including the problem of teacher absence—are also explored. Notwithstanding these challenges, the net attendance rates have been going up steadily since the 1990s—with some improvement in rural–urban gaps. Many more teachers have also been recruited. The gender gap has been closing, albeit less effectively in some states. Many of the issues discussed in this article have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 lockdown. As this article covers the period before 2020, these have not been captured.

Article

Current School Reforms in Transnational Policy Landscapes  

Ninni Wahlstrom

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) play an important role in forming transnational education policy. Based on the results of the PISA measurements and other evaluations, the OECD can claim that its policy proposals are evidence based and in accordance with international standards. There is growing interest from the national governments to adapt their national policy strategies to these international standards. However, the translation from the transnational to national policy is a complex process, whereby the national receivers of the policy are selective regarding the policy elements they borrow from those who create and influence transnational policy. Thus, discursive power regarding transnational policy can be understood as power through ideas, making national reforms similar but not identical, and promoting incremental or imperceptible reforms.

Article

The Curricular Insights of Ivan Illich  

Dana L. Stuchul and Madhu Suri Prakash

Ivan Illich’s curriculum vitae provides the frame through which to elaborate three insights—neither curricular, ideologic, utopian, nor messianic, yet penetrating contemporary givens: the institutionalization of values, the “ritualization of progress,” and the perversion of persons under the regime of scarcity. The former priest—whose challenges to the Church as it extended to similar corporate entities of the State rendered him a pariah—was arguably least understood at the moment he was most known. Yet, reviewing the entirety of his corpus, the judgment of Agamben resonates: “Now is the hour of Illich’s legibility.” This “legibility” reveals Illich’s project: his commitment to the struggle for both justice and freedom in the form of cultural, technological, and institutional inversion. His three insights—interculturality, the hidden curriculum of schooling, and a politics of limits—sought to contribute to a redirection of societies away from ecological, cultural, and social demise. His contributions address the following questions: What are the limits—ecological, technological, economic, political—within which pluralistic societies can exist? What do a society’s chosen “tools” say about what it means to be human? What are the terms—justice and freedom—within which the contemporary crises of global pandemic, of climate collapse, and of widespread immiseration and dispossession can be addressed?

Article

Curriculum Ideologies  

Christopher B. Crowley

The study of the curriculum and educational knowledge is a study of ideology. The curriculum is never neutral. It always reflects or embodies ideological positions. Ideologies present within the curriculum are negotiated and formulated through multilayered processes of strategic compromise, assent, and resistance. And as such, the curriculum ideologies become operationalized in both overt and hidden means—constructing subjects and objects of knowledge in active as well as passive ways. Teaching is always a political act, and discussions and debates over curriculum ideologies have a long history within the field of curriculum studies. In terms of its function related to the organization and valuing of knowledge, it remains important to recognize not only the contested nature of the curriculum but also how such contestations have ideological dimensions in the framing of the curriculum. Curriculum ideologies manifest in terms of what might be thought of as values, visions of the future, and venues or forms. This is to say, the curriculum is imbued with processes for valuing assumed choices related to its design, development, and implementation. These choices draw from ideologically based assumptions about the curriculum’s basis in political, economic, historical, sociocultural, psychological, and other realities—whether they be discursive or material in effect. Additionally, these curriculum choices also pertain to the means by which the curriculum achieves these goals or objectives through the formulation of designed experiences, activities, or other forms of learning opportunities. The curriculum—in certain regards as finding principle in the conveying of knowledge through a system of organization related to an outset purpose—has, as a central component to some degree, a vision of a future. The curriculum is something simultaneously constructed and enacted in the present, with often the expressed purpose of having implications and ramifications for the future. The curriculum’s role and purpose in constructing both tested and untested or imagined feasibilities again has to do with some type of vision of learning inflected by ideology. This may even take the form of envisioning a future that is actually a vision of the past in some form, or perhaps a returning to a remembered time that may have existed for some but not others, or by extension a similarly romanticized remembering of a mythic past, for instance. Ultimately, the curriculum, whether translated into practice or in being developed conceptually, is in all likelihood never exclusively one of these, but instead is in all probability an amalgamation of such to differing degrees wherein a multitude of possibilities and combinations exist. Among the key questions of curriculum studies that remain central in terms of both analyzing and theorizing the curriculum are: Whose knowledge counts and what is worthwhile? These questions help to raise to a level of concern the ideological underpinnings of all curricula in ways that through sustained critical dialog might work to collectively build a more sustainably just and equitable world.

Article

Curriculum Proposals  

Edmund C. Short

Curriculum proposals are sets of visionary statements intended to project what some person or group believes schools or school systems should adopt and utilize in formulating their actual curriculum policies and programs. Curriculum proposals are presented when there is a perceived need for change from curriculum that is currently in place. The specific changes stated in a curriculum proposal can be either quite limited or very comprehensive. If a totally restructured curriculum is recommended, particular prescriptions are necessarily based on some overall conception of what curriculum is by definition and what its constituent elements are, and therefore what topics are to be addressed in a curriculum proposal. Attempts have been made to conceptualize curriculum holistically, as an entity clearly distinguished from all other phenomena, but no agreed upon conception has emerged. To provide a new theoretical and practically useful framework for how curriculum may be conceived, a 10-component conceptualization of curriculum has been stipulated, elucidated, and illustrated for use in designing curriculum policy, programmatic curriculum plans, or formal curriculum proposals. In this conceptualization, curriculum is defined as having the following interrelated components: (a) focal idea and intended purpose(s), (b) unique objective(s), (c) underlying assumptions and value commitments, (d) program organization, (e) substantive features, (f) the character of the student’s educational situation/activity/process, (g) unique approaches/methods for use by the teacher/educator, (h) program evaluation, (i) supportive arrangements, and (j) justifications/rationale for the whole curriculum. Any proposal for total curriculum change should make prescriptions related to all these components. Discussion of other aspects related to curriculum proposals include how to locate existing curriculum proposals, how to analyze them in relation to this new conceptualization of curriculum, how to choose suitable ones among them for possible adoption, and how to translate a curriculum proposal into actual curriculum policies or plans.

Article

Data Use in Recent School Reforms  

Sølvi Mausethagen, Tine S. Prøitz, and Guri Skedsmo

Typically involving the use of test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment in various educational contexts, the concept of data use has developed in parallel with the introduction of new managerial approaches to school governance, including performance management and accountability measures. This use of data for governance purposes is one way in which national authorities coordinate activities across administrative levels to improve education quality and effectiveness. Policymakers’ and researchers’ frequent use of the concepts of data and data use also usually parallels this development. However, based on systematic research mapping, the present findings identify differing ideas about data use in national and local contexts, including the role that data play and should play in school reform. Such differences relate to variations in school systems, teachers’ status, school governance traditions, curricular traditions, and research traditions. Moreover, characteristic of the literature on data use is an emphasis on the organization and development of effective data use practices. This is somewhat paradoxical, as both earlier and more recent studies emphasize the need for a stronger focus on the actual practices of the involved actors if data are to be of value in school development processes. Three important needs are important when considering data use in policy, research, and practice: the need for greater awareness of the epistemic aspects of data use; the need for context sensitivity, as data use is often presented as a universal concept across national and local contexts; and the need for researchers to communicate with other related fields to improve theory and practice.