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Article

Social Geography, Space, and Place in Education  

Aspa Baroutsis, Barbara Comber, and Annette Woods

Society is constituted by both historical and spatial elements; however, education research, policy, and practice often subordinates the spatial in preference for the temporal. In what is often referred to as the “spatial turn,” more recently education researchers have acknowledged spatial concepts to facilitate understandings and inform debates about identity, belonging, social justice, differentiation, policy, race, mobility, globalization, and even digital and new communication modes, amongst many others. Social geographers understand place as more than a dot on a map, instead focusing on the sociocultural and sociomaterial aspects of spaces. Space and place are core elements of social geography. Schools are comprised of architectural, material, performative, relational, social, or discursive spaces, all of which are socially constructed. Schools and education contexts, as social spaces and places, produce and reproduce modes of social interactions and social practices while also mediating the relational and pedagogical practices that operate within. Pedagogical spaces are also about the exercise of power—a spatial governmentality to regulate behavior. Yet pedagogy can focus on place-based and place-conscious practices that highlight the connectedness between people and their non-human world. A focus on the sociospatial in education research is able to foreground inequalities, differences, and power relations that are able to speak to policies and practices. As such, in this field there is often a focus is on spatial justice, where inequalities based on location, mobility, poverty, or indigeneity are analyzed using spatial understandings of socioeconomic or political characteristics. This brings together connections between place and space in a powerful combination around justice, equity, and critical thinking.

Article

Teacher Unions  

John McCollow

Teacher unions (or alternatively “education unions”) are organizations formed to protect and advance the collective interests of teachers and other education workers. What the collective interests of educators entail and how they should be pursued have been and remain active matters for debate within these organizations. Different unions at different times have responded differently to these questions, for example, in relation to the degree to which an industrial versus a professional orientation should be adopted, and the degree to which a wider political and social justice agenda should be embraced. Several ideal-type models of teacher unionism have been identified, as well as various strategic options that these unions might employ. A spirited debate is ongoing about the legitimacy and power of teacher unions. One perspective portrays them as self-interested special interest groups, and another as social movements advocating for public education. The status of teacher unions as stakeholders in educational policymaking is contested, and union–government relations occur across a spectrum of arrangements ranging from those that encourage negotiation to those characterized by confrontation and hostility. Internationally, education unions face significant challenges in the early decades of the 21st century. Neoliberal economic and industrial policies and legislation have eroded the capacity of unions to collectively organize and bargain, and the global education reform movement (GERM) has created a hostile environment for education unions and their members. Despite these challenges, education unions remain among the most important critics of GERM and of global neoliberal social policy generally. The challenges posed and the strategies adopted play out differently across the globe. There is evidence that at least some unions are now prepared to be far more flexible in adopting a “tapestry” of strategies, to examine their internal organization, build alliances, and develop alternative conceptions of the future of education. Researchers, however, have identified certain internal factors in many teacher unions that pose significant obstacles to these tasks. Unions face difficult choices that could lead to marginalization on the one hand or incorporation on the other.

Article

Theories of Complex Systems and Educational Change at Multiple Scales  

Wolff-Michael Roth

Theories of complex systems originated in the natural sciences, where it became necessary to move away from describing systems in simple cause–effect models to using descriptions that take into account nonlinearity, emergence, path dependence, the interrelation of continuous (quantitative) and discontinuous (qualitative) transitions, and the interrelation of phenomena at multiple scales. Although some educators have begun to explore the usefulness of complex systems theories for describing educational phenomena at the different levels of scale, the vast majority of educational research continues to be dominated by simple and simplistic (quantitative and qualitative) models. After definition and discussion of different conceptions of systems, this article presents constraint satisfaction networks, chaos theory, and catastrophe theory, as dynamic models for social processes in education. The different models are introduced with easily accessible phenomena from the natural sciences. The models not only are sources of analogies and metaphors for articulating a variety of phenomena in educational systems, including learning and development, conceptual change, decision making, categorization, and curriculum implication, but also can be used for studying real educational systems. Readers find how these models can be used to think about and predict the behavior of systems at scales as small as student–teacher talk to school systems as a whole. The concepts are used to show why educational systems tend to be stable even when policymakers intend change and why some classroom contexts do not provide the conditions for student development despite well-meaning efforts of dedicated teachers.

Article

Accountabilities in Schools and School Systems  

Bob Lingard, Sam Sellar, and Steven Lewis

This article surveys developments in educational accountabilities over the last three decades. In this time, accountability in schools and schooling systems across Anglo-American nations has undergone considerable change, including a move away from bureaucratic approaches that endorsed teacher professionalism. Educational accountabilities have evolved with the restructuring of the state through new public management and the emergence of network governance. Accountability can be understood in two senses: (1) being held to account; and (2) giving an account. Within the post-bureaucratic state, the former sense has become dominant in the work of schools, principals, and teachers, and has affected curriculum, pedagogy, and student learning. For instance, schooling systems in Anglo-American nations have introduced standardized testing to hold schools and teachers to account. Comparative performance data are now made publicly available through websites and the creation of league tables of school performance. These processes are central to the creation of markets in schooling, where comparative test data are deemed necessary to enable parental choice of schools and, in turn, to raise standards. This top-down, performative mode of accountability also moves the field of judgment away from teachers and the profession. There are now emergent attempts to reconstitute more democratic and educative modes of accountability, which are multilateral and multidirectional in character, and which seek to limit the negative effects of top-down data-driven accountability. These approaches reassert trust in the teaching profession and reconstitute parents and communities as democratic participants in schooling. We argue that accountability is a pharmakon that requires balancing of mechanisms for holding educators to account and opportunities for educators to give accounts of their work. The article reviews relevant literature to provide a brief history of accountability in schooling, with particular emphasis on Anglo-American contexts. Drawing on the work of Ranson, we examine four types of existing educational accountabilities before concluding with a discussion of three alternative approaches.

Article

Alternative Education  

Martin Mills and Glenda McGregor

Alternative schooling has a long history. However, defining alternative schooling is difficult because it necessitates an answer to the question: “alternative to what?” It suggests that there is an accepted schooling archetype from which to differentiate. However, just what that model might be is likely to vary over time and place. In one perspective, alternative schools challenge what Tyack and Tobin, in 1994, referred to as the traditional grammar of schooling as it pertains to conventional forms of schooling developed in Western societies since the Industrial Revolution. Alternative schools challenge the taken-for-granted grammar of schooling variously through their organization, governance structures, curriculum, pedagogy, type of students, and/or particular philosophy. Certain types of alternative schools, including democratic schools, developmental and holistic alternative schools (e.g., Montessori and Waldorf/Steiner), and flexi schools, might offer lessons to the educational mainstream on how to be more inclusive and socially just. However, there are also ways in which they can work against such principles.

Article

Gender, Justice, and Equity in Education  

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.

Article

International Cooperation for Education in Developing Countries  

James H. Williams

This article looks broadly at the intersection of education, development, and international cooperation. It discusses trends in international cooperation in education for developing countries as well as ongoing challenges. Education has expanded rapidly throughout the world. Even so, the industrialized nations are decades if not generations ahead of parts of the developing world in terms of enrollment and learning attainment. For reasons of equity and economic development alone, it is imperative that all efforts be put to the task of achieving universal school enrollment and learning. To achieve such a goal in the context of what some researchers have termed a 100-year gap requires efforts on the part of national governments and international cooperation on the part of all nations of the world. International cooperation in education includes: (1) the institutions and architecture of international organizations; (2) development assistance, which is closely related; and (3) international agreements to promote education and other development goals. In a broad sense, these initiatives can be seen as moving toward increasingly cooperative relationships between wealthier nations and developing countries. International institutions involved in education include various agencies of the United Nations (UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNHCR) as well as multilateral development banks (the World Bank, IMF, IDA, etc.); regional development banks (Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc.); and bilateral development agencies. Development assistance is provided in the form of technical and financial assistance to national governments by bilateral development agencies, the multilateral development agencies, UN agencies, as well as an increasing number of non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The UN Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are foundational documents laying out the rights of all children to education and the obligation of governments to ensure children have access to quality education. Several global initiatives have led the way toward increasing educational participation in developing countries, including Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Global Education First Initiative, and the Sustainable Development Goals. The article concludes with a listing of trends in educational development.

Article

Liberalism in Education  

Winston C. Thompson

The concept of liberalism has a wide influence on contemporary work within the field of education. Given this breadth of effect, it is not surprising that liberalism can be invoked in the service of multiple ends—many of which appear to be at odds with one another. As such, this article will trace liberalism’s fundamental commitments of “equality” and “liberty” in education in order to provide a general shape to the arguments that animate its goals. Taken in tandem, these commitments provide access to the arguments that populate various forms of liberalism in education, such that their careful study enables educational researchers and practitioners to better position their understandings and analyses in a conceptual context.

Article

Place-Based Education  

Gregory A. Smith

Place-based education is an approach to curriculum development and instruction that directs students’ attention to local culture, phenomena, and issues as the basis for at least some of the learning they encounter in school. It is also referred to as place- and community-based education or place-conscious learning. In addition to preparing students academically, teachers who adopt this approach present learning as intimately tied to environmental stewardship and community development, two central concerns of Education for Sustainability. They aim to cultivate in the young the desire and ability to become involved citizens committed to enhancing the welfare of both the human and more-than-human communities of which they are a part. At the heart of place-based education is the belief that children of any age are capable of making significant contributions to the lives of others, and that as they do so, their desire to learn and belief in their own capacity to be change agents increase. When place-based education is effectively implemented, both students and communities benefit, and their teachers often encounter a renewed sense of professional and civic satisfaction. In most respects, there is nothing new about place-based education. It is an attempt to reclaim elements of the learning processes most children encountered before the invention of schools. Throughout most of humanity’s tenancy on this planet, children learned directly from their own experience in the places and communities where they lived. They explored their world with peers, imitated the activities of adults, participated in cultural and religious ceremonies, and listened to the conversations and stories of their families and neighbors. Most of this learning was informal, although at important transition points such as puberty, initiation rites provided them with more direct forms of instruction about community understandings regarding the world and adult responsibilities. In this way, children grew into competent and contributing members of their society, able to care for themselves and for others in ways that sustained the community of which they were a part. This outcome with its focus on both individual and social sustainability is also the goal of place-based education. It is important to acknowledge that a range of educational innovations over the past decades have anticipated or included elements of place-based education: outdoor education, civic education, community education, environmental education, and education for sustainability. What differentiates place-based education from many of these is its explicit focus on both human and natural environments and its concern about equity and social justice issues as well as environmental. Not all programs that call themselves place-based incorporate these elements, nor do all include opportunities for students to participate in projects that benefit others and the natural world. This, however, is the aspirational goal of place-based education and what sets it apart from similar approaches.

Article

Social Inclusion  

John Smyth

Social inclusion is a well-meaning concept with something of a chequered history. Its beginnings were in the attempt by France to find a way of dealing with the social dislocation associated with transitioning from an agrarian to an urban society. The view promulgated was that some people were being pushed to the margins and thereby excluded in this process. From these origins the term was picked up and deployed in Europe, the United Kingdom, and other countries seeking to find ways of including people deemed excluded from participation in society as a result of social dislocation. Where the difficulties have arisen with the term is in conceptualizing where the “causation” resides—in individuals and their alleged deficiencies; or in the way societies are organized and structured that produce situations of inequality in the first place, where some people remain on the periphery. Where the former interpretation is adopted, the policy attempts that follow are reparative and designed to try and mend the bonds that bind people to society, and which are seen as having been disrupted. The attempt is to try and help those who are excluded to transgress the exclusionary boundaries holding them back. In the second interpretation, the focus is upon the way in which power is deployed in producing exclusionary social structures. Envisaging how structural impediments operate, as well as doing something about it, has been much more problematic than in the former case. When applied to educational contexts, there have been some major policy initiatives in respect to social inclusion, around the following: (i) school-to-work transition programs that aim to make young people “work ready” and hence obviate their becoming disconnected from the economy—that is to say, through labor market initiatives; (ii) educational re-engagement programs designed to reconnect young people who have prematurely terminated their schooling through having “dropped out,” by putting them back into situations of learning that will lead them to further education or employment; and (iii) area-based interventions or initiatives that target broad-based forms of strategic social assistance (education, housing, health, welfare, employment) to whole neighborhoods and communities to assist them in rectifying protracted historical spatial forms of exclusion. There remain many tensions and controversies as to which approach to social inclusion is the most efficacious way of tackling social exclusion, and major research is still needed to provide a more sociologically informed approach to social inclusion.