America’s public educational system is under constant scrutiny concerning student performance on standardized tests. Some blame the teachers, others blame the students, and recently many have begun to blame the test. A clearer picture of the issues is important and by reviewing the traditional aspects for evaluating teachers and then analyzing how contemporary testing methods in today’s classrooms has evolved a clearer perspective can be accomplished. The advent of newer models and methods of teacher assessment that focus on the classroom performance of teachers and based on observable assessments, along with a more authentic measure of student capabilities, are central. Although many researchers praise this movement, others have found many pitfalls in the attempt to standardize performance assessments. Many critics advocate the use of performance assessments in the classroom but remain loyal to the multiple-choice assessment as the more reliable and valid measure for comparative standardized testing. All aspects of this debate are important however. Given the increasing usage of performance assessment in today’s classrooms, many believe and advocate the development of newer assessments to replace the more traditional assessments. Understanding the roles evaluation and assessment play in reforming teacher evaluation is vital. Different data sources, new social power relations, and new ways of thinking about teacher evaluation are all important. The link between these developments in teacher evaluation and school reform is hoped to bring about an increased focus on the most important resource for change: the best practices of current teachers.
Matching Performance Assessment to Teacher Capabilities: The Bridge Between Teacher Performance/Evaluation and Student Learning
Race and Student Evaluation
Historicizing implicit biases shrouding Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) course evaluations, this work draws on critical race theory to illuminate the experiences of faculty of color as members of historically marginalized groups teaching in the academy. In so doing, the work grapples with the following questions: How are student course evaluations typically biased against BIPOC faculty? Why do students question the authority and expertise of faculty of color, exhibit negative behavior, and evaluate faculty of color poorly? Why do BIPOC faculty who are also women experience “double-bind” syndrome (i.e., marginalized due to race and gender)? The work expands existing bodies of literature focusing on the correlation of likability and attractiveness with positive course evaluations to include conversations on the ways race and racism inform student evaluations of teaching.
Critical Qualitative Research and Educational Policy
Madeline Good and Sarah Diem
Critical qualitative research is full of possibilities and explorations that can assist in transforming systems for social change and the public good. It is an approach to research that at its core is concerned with the role of power; how it manifests in systems, structures, policies, and practice; and how contexts can contribute to and reify power and its deleterious effects. The use of critical qualitative methods and methodologies within the field of education has grown significantly since the 1990s. This is a large area of work that encompasses studies throughout the spectrum of educational topics, from early childhood learning to higher education and beyond. In the area of educational policy, while scholars use a multitude of critical qualitative methodologies and methods, critical policy analysis (CPA) has continued to grow in popularity. CPA provides opportunities for researchers to question policy in general––how it is formed, implemented, and evaluated, as well as its assumed impact. It is appealing because it gives space for scholars to not only critique educational policy issues but also offer new perspectives, approaches, and alternatives to the policy process. Critical inquiry, however, does not occur within a vacuum, so the dynamics of conducting critical qualitative research within a hyperpolarized sociopolitical context must also be considered. Contentious times make it increasingly important for critical qualitative scholars to (re)commit to the work of transforming education with the goal of creating a more just society. There are a multitude of hopes and opportunities for this burgeoning area of critical research, challenging us all to not only look toward creative approaches when studying issues of educational policy but also to persistently interrogate how our own positionalities and relations impact the work we do.
Education Research on Developmental Social Cognition in Children and Adolescence
Educational research on how children and adolescents make sense of the social world and how this social–cognitive ability develops across time and cultural contexts remains in its infancy. An important question for psychoeducators and developmentalists is how to best measure the diverse multidimensional and interconnected social–cognitive skills among children and youth. Research that explores social–cognitive skills such as theory of mind (ToM), self-regulation, and moral reasoning such as deception within the context of education explores this question. ToM refers to the ability to understand others’ mental states to explain behavior, and self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate or control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The measurement of multidimensional topics such as self-regulation and ToM is important for educators to help students learn important life skills such as perspective-taking and empathy. Such social reasoning skills will help students navigate the complex social landscape of the school. Multidisciplinary, transcultural, and mixed-method longitudinal studies provide fruitful investigations into the development of social–cognitive abilities and how this plays a role in children and adolescents developing a sense of self, relationships, and their understanding of others as intentional beings. Further systematic research is needed to explore the role of social–cognitive and metacognitive processes within young people’s personal, social, and educational worlds. In summary, future research needs to explore new interdisciplinary and dynamic developmental frameworks that aim to ignite new theories and empirical tests that build on extant models of neurobiological susceptibility and child and adolescent brain development. To advance research in applied developmental social neuroscience, interdisciplinary collaboration among developmental cognitive neuroscientists, educators, and clinicians must increase. For example, developmental scientists who work with cross-cultural, longitudinal samples could be recruited for scanning, whereas neuroscientists’ extant data sets could be made accessible to developmental scientists and educators. Such shared research could then be applied to the educational setting and provide opportunities for prevention and intervention models and assessment tools aimed to foster young people’s social–cognitive development.
Analyzing Everyday Life at School Through Lenses of Feminist Ethnography
Elina Lahelma, Tarja Tolonen, and Sirpa Lappalainen
Feminist ethnography in education has in so-called Western countries developed in the late 1900s into a research approach with its own identifiable characteristics. Starting points are in feminist theorizations that draw from perspectives of different marginal groups, raised in the context of cultural radicalization of the 1960s and 1970s. In Finland, feminist ethnography took the first steps in the 1990s and achieved a stable position in educational research in the early 2000s. This emerging research has provided possibilities for subtle analysis in educational institutions on gendered, spatial and embodied practices, which have impact on intersectional inequalities. A theoretical and methodological invention developed by the first Finnish feminist ethnographers in the 1990s is differentiation between the official, informal, and physical layers of the school. Teaching and learning, the curriculum, pedagogy, and formal hierarchies belong to the official layer. Interaction among teachers and students, including informal hierarchies and youth cultures, takes place in the informal layer. The physical school refers to temporality, spatiality, and embodiment. These layers are intertwined in the everyday life of the school; the distinctions between them are analytical. This differentiation is one illustration of nuanced ways to conduct analysis of gendered, classed, and racialized processes and practices in schools. This analytical tool was elaborated in the large ethnographic project, Citizenship, Difference and Marginality in Schools—With Special Reference to Gender (1993–1998). The project was conducted in schools in Finland, collaborating with a similar project in the United Kingdom. The collective project was conceptualized in comparative reflections on contemporary educational politics and policies in both countries and included cross-cultural ethnographic analysis. The layers were used as tools in constructing the theoretical-methodological layout of the project and in focusing the ethnographic gaze in the field, as well as in analysis, interpretation, and writing. Using the layers of the school as an analytic tool passed on to later studies and have further been developed in novel ways, demonstrating the usefulness of collaborative feminist work in national and international networks.
Facets of Quality in Qualitative Research
How to judge the quality of a piece of research is a question that permeates academic work. A clear conception of quality is the backbone of the design and conduct of research, as well as the basis for supervision, manuscript review, and examination papers. Qualitative methodologies justify their usefulness through the development of more sophisticated interpretations of specific study objects than can be achieved within other methodologies. However, it is difficult to arrive at a decision concerning the quality of a piece of research because there are many aspects or facets to consider. Academics develop their competence for reaching decisions through experience, coupled with taking part in ways of reasoning about quality in qualitative research. Within this reasoning process there are a number of quality facets that should be considered. Each facet is grounded in various ways in different research traditions, and each has a foundational meaning but must also be assessed in relation to limitations. From the perspective of the text as a whole, one must consider whether it shows an awareness of the consequences of the research assumptions and other aspects of internal consistency. Ethical considerations are yet another facet. From a narrower perspective, the quality of the interpretation of empirical data must be able to capture rich meaning and present it in a structured way so that the interpretation can be clearly discerned. Another facet is how the interpretation contributes to existing knowledge about the issue or phenomenon that was studied. A classic question concerns the relation between an interpretation and the empirical basis, its credibility or validity. Here there are various facets to consider: Is the interpretation well anchored in data, and how do specific data fit when they are put together? Another facet is whether the interpretation opens up new ways of understanding an issue or process and whether more sophisticated action can result from embracing the interpretation. A proper evaluation of qualitative research should consider all facets; however, the ultimate appraisal rests on professional wisdom of the judge developed through experience and participation in deliberations related to what constitutes quality in academic texts. Determination of quality in qualitative research is not a mechanical process.
Indigenous Knowledges and Methodologies in Higher Education
Indigenous knowledges (IK) are complex, intact, resilient, and adaptable systems generated by and through diverse Indigenous peoples with long-term ties to place and land. Key challenges include ongoing perceptions of IK as primitive, isolated, and/or static knowledge, in spite of research that confirms Indigenous knowledges as [w]holistic, dynamic, and scientific. Enduring methodological questions include how to effectively Indigenize or shape Indigenous spaces in higher education for the benefit of Indigenous students. As surface descriptions of IK and Indigenous methodologies are insufficient for an authentic understanding, specific examples are included that illustrate how Alaska Native knowledges and methodologies are presented in higher education. Concluding sections include a brief case study of the University of Alaska system’s engagement of Indigenous knowledges and content; this section also considers issues of control and constraints of authentic integration of Alaska Native knowledges in a Western higher education system.
Doubly Reflexive Ethnography and Collaborative Research
Gunther Dietz and Laura Selene Mateos Cortés
Doubly reflexive ethnography is a collaborative research methodology developed in the social and educational sciences through a combination of classical ethnographic methods of participant observation and lifeworld-oriented interviewing, on the one hand, and participatory methods of co-interpreting, co-theorizing, and co-validating empirical research results together with the collaborating actors, on the other hand. Double reflexivity is defined here as the result of a dialogical, collaborative conversation between different actors involved in educational research processes, starting from the research design, problematization and delimitation, going on through a cyclical accompaniment via observations and interviews, and culminating in a dialogical, often collective data analysis, which leads to collaborative and diversified ways of assessing, validating, and evaluating research results. This doubly reflexive approach integrates and relates the researcher reflexivity with the reflexivity contributed by the collaborating actors, be they organizations or institutions active in an educational field. Doubly reflexive ethnography maintains close relations with the main features of ethnography and classical ethnographic methods; it has transited from originally and historically extractive ethnographic practices toward collaborative and participatory alternatives of research methodologies. The key semantic, pragmatic, and syntactic dimensions of doubly reflexive ethnography are identified and illustrated as those dimensions that allow for a spiral, cyclical research and collaboration process that includes visual, observational data; verbal, interview data; and textual, documentary data in an integrated system of collaborative-ethnographic methods. This system integrates and triangulates diverse sources of information, diverse degrees of data abstraction, and diverse degrees of researcher involvement, thus avoiding and overcoming conventional dichotomies of quantitative versus qualitative research and of unilateral, extractive versus proactive, participatory strategies.
Elite School Education Group Policy and Low-Performing Schools in China
Yu Zhang and Xuan Qi
Education inequality has been a challenging issue worldwide, and disparity across schools constitutes a significant proportion of total inequality. Effective policies to turn around low-performing schools (LPS) are therefore of great importance to both governments and students. The Elite School Education Group (ESEG) policy is an emerging one, and it has quickly become very influential in China, a country with one of the largest and most diversified education systems in the world. Under this policy, elite public schools (EPS), which have exceptionally enriched educational resources (i.e., high-quality teachers, strong principal leadership, excellent school cultures, etc.), are encouraged by the government to build school groups with LPS. Within the school group under the elite school brand, branch schools (i.e., the previous LPS) can share all kinds of resources from the EPS (including teachers and principals), and they may even utilize the prestige of the brand itself as a means to attract high-performing students. The ESEG policy enables the delivery of multiple turnaround interventions to LPS in an autonomous way, through building partnerships between EPS and LPS. While some LPS are successfully turned around, some are not. It depends on the effectiveness of the reforms undertaken in the branch schools. Of particular importance is the access to strong principal leadership, excellent teachers, and the school cultures from EPS. Incentives for EPS to participate in this reform include obtaining flexibility in personnel management, expanding school scale and influence, and mobilizing other resources. Despite the potential positive influence on the branch schools, the ESEG policy may have a more complex influence on the entire education ecology than initially expected. Indeed, there are now some concerns that the ESEG is creating new LPS, because more and more high-performing students are drawn out of normal schools and attracted to the ESEG-partnered schools during admission. Thus, the effectiveness of the ESEG policy should not be solely based on attracting high-performing students, but on improving overall education quality.
Ecologically Sustaining Research Partnerships
Melissa M. Jozwiak and Karen L. B. Burgard
It is essential that universities and local or government agencies begin to work together to do unconventional and impactful research that is mutually sustaining to both partners. When done well, the partnerships will strengthen the positions of each institution to continue to do their work and create new opportunities for equity and advancement. The challenges associated with building these types of partnerships are numerous, but even more challenges exist when the partnerships are committed to working in solidarity. To create partnerships that are examples of solidarity leading to mutual sustainability, partners must be intentional about using an ecological-systems model to shape the decision-making process. In doing so, the partners enact an Ecologically Sustaining Research Partnership (ESRP), which ensures that both partners are strengthened by and exist beyond the life of the partnership. Importantly, ESRPs are committed to equity and empowerment and use the ecological-systems model to shift the basis of power in favor of commonly oppressed groups. This emancipatory approach to research is essential for the field of early childhood, but it can also be expanded to guide partnerships between universities and communities across disciplines.