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Sociological Institutionalism and Education Scholarship  

Callie Cleckner and Tim Hallett

Research on schools has long been central to the development of institutional theory. Scholars from the tradition now labeled “old institutionalism” used historical case studies of educational institutions to examine how organizations pursue social values and how those values and the organization change in the process. The subsequent shift to new institutionalism entailed a more macro-level approach, as scholars began to view schools as organizations nested within a broader field or environment. Instead of analyzing how organizations pursue values, new institutionalists examine how organizations conform to macro cultural “myths” or “logics” to maintain legitimacy in their respective fields. For instance, national and global education reforms compel schools to adopt remarkably similar organizational forms, despite the diverse needs of schools and their divergent practices. Inhabited institutionalism, which explores the recursive relationships among institutions, organizations, and social interactions, provides a consolidated approach and incorporates a symbolic interactionist lens to examine the meaning and implications of institutions at a more local level. Educational settings have been important sites of empirical investigation in the development of inhabited institutionalism, specifically by showing how schools incorporate cultural mythologies such as “accountability” in context-specific ways.

Article

Critical Digital Pedagogy in the Platform Society  

Earl Aguilera and Christina Salazar

The term “critical digital pedagogy” has been used to describe a broad range of approaches to teaching and learning rooted in critical theory, digital cultural studies, and the liberatory education promoted within schools of critical pedagogy since the 1960s. References to critical digital pedagogy began to appear in published scholarly literature in the early 2000s as a response to the expansion of neoliberal ideologies and policies in an age of proliferating digital and networked technologies. These shifts in technological, economic, and social organization have since become collectively described as the “platformization” of society, driven by processes such as datafication, commodification, and algorithmic selection. In response to concerns about the neoliberalization, dehumanization, and platformization of education specifically, the emergent field of critical digital pedagogy has coalesced into a community of educators, designers, and theorists with an international scope, though the majority of published scholarship originates from the United States and the European Union. While the approaches and methods that the proponents of critical digital pedagogy engage with are varied, three broad families of practice include critical instructional design, humanizing online teaching and learning, and digital ungrading. Following earlier traditions of critical pedagogy, practitioners in the field of critical digital pedagogy find themselves grappling with critiques of their approaches as overly politicized, ideologically driven, and pragmatically limited. Open issues in the field include the expanding role of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the role of political activism beyond the classroom, and the addressing of intersections between race, class, and other dimensions of identity within a critical framework.

Article

Social Innovation Pedagogies and Sustainable Models for Future Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs, and Citizens  

Roisin Lyons and Rahmin Bender-Salazar

The use of innovation to address our social or environmental needs is now critical. Globally, we are faced with numerous challenges which require novel, robust solutions that consider multiple scenarios and stakeholders. Innovation education has often been siloed into enterprise, business, and engineering programs to bolster the innovative potency of startup ventures and internal corporate processes. However, social innovation education (SIE) has merit in all disciplines, and for all citizens, to address these emergent global challenges. Social innovation as a concept and field is related but independent from the concept of innovation, and the pedagogies currently in use in these domains are in early development and practice. Social innovation relates to the creation of new ideas displaying a positive impact on the quality and duration of life. Theories of significance to SIE are rooted in the fields of design, creativity, and education while continuing to expand and evolve. A fitting pedagogy for social innovation should foster socially aware students who have both critical- and systems-thinking skills, empathy and an appreciation for human behavior, and who can leverage innovative competencies to develop solutions for positive social impact. In order to successfully create effective learning spaces, we contend that the curricula elements of (a) empathy, (b) locus of control, and (c) speculative thinking, should be embedded into all SIE learning designs.

Article

Examining Challenges and Possibilities in the Objective of a Decolonized Education  

Marlon Lee Moncrieffe

This article examines challenges and possibilities in the objective of a decolonized education. Beginning with key referents to the term decolonized education, this article then provides a unique presentation of decolonizing the education of Eurocentric knowledge created through colonialism, empire, and racism. This process is shown as enacted through a decolonial consciousness framed by a historical, social, cultural, intellectual, emotional, and political disposition which takes action to reverse colonial knowledge. The article applies this decolonial consciousness in a review and analysis of the intergenerational educational experiences of migrant 20th-century African Caribbean people across the United Kingdom, and the ethnogenesis of their Black British children in the face of a White British-centric school system of epistemic inequality. The article provides a critical review on the challenges and possibilities in advocating for decolonized education for the greater inclusion of Black British experiences against national curriculum policy discourses given by U.K. government over the last few decades. The critical focal point of the article is on the aims and contents of the primary school history curriculum and the uncritical teaching and learning perspectives in the delivery of this curriculum. Challenges to decolonizing education and curriculum teaching and learning are presented, discussed, and analyzed through U.K. conservative/liberal democrat coalition government curriculum reforms of 2013 centered on restoring education and curriculum teaching and learning through an ethnic nationalist monocultural version of British national identity (whiteness) at the expense of multiculturalism (cultural diversity). This curriculum hierarchy of whiteness is contrasted by presentation and analysis of evidence-based research that decenters curriculum whiteness. Following this discussion is a review and analysis of debates and discussions in the U.K. Parliament held in 2020, forced by heightened public appeals for a decolonized curriculum. Finally, this article concludes by reviewing examples of continued professional development in teacher education and research that seeks to advance and extend decolonial praxis.

Article

Systems Theory Approaches to Researching Educational Organizations  

Raf Vanderstraeten

In modern society, organizations are present in almost every social domain. From the end of the 18th century onward, education has predominantly taken place in school organizations. Of course, education still takes place within families, but to send a child to school was from around that time onward no longer seen to reflect unfavorably on its family. Schools are no longer a symptom of the family’s failure. The family and the school, rather, have become perceived as different but coexisting settings within which education takes place. Moreover, the way school organizations operate has generally come to be seen as more in accord with the needs of our modern “(post)industrial” society. Educational organizations, such as schools, build upon their own decision-making histories, but the organizational order which they produce is thought to be in line with the kinds of order that dominate in other social domains. More so than families, schools are expected to prepare children for the present and the future. Using systems theory, the consequences of the organizational framing of education can be examined more closely. Developments within systems theory draw particular attention to the relation between organizations and their environment. Informed by this literature, we discuss, on the one hand, how the relation between schools and society can be adequately conceptualized, and, on the other hand, how the growing societal status of school organizations is affecting nonorganized families. Rather than focusing on the ways in which school organizations adapt to their environments, the interest in systems theory approaches is shifting to the ways in which the environments of school organizations must adapt to the expansion of these organizations. Topics that may be fruitfully tackled in future educational research are also explored.

Article

Teach For America  

Spencer J. Smith

Since its founding in 1989 by then–college student Wendy Kopp, Teach For America (TFA) has influenced education policy and public perceptions of schooling both in the United States and abroad. By placing recent college graduates as full-time teachers in schools located in low-income communities, TFA attempts to solve educational inequity. This work has often met with resistance from teacher educators and traditional teacher preparation programs. Central to this resistance is the brevity of TFA’s training. TFA recruits, called corps members, undergo a 6-week training the summer before stepping into a K-12 classroom they control. Over 3 decades, TFA has responded to some of these criticisms and has changed. Even though TFA teachers make up a small proportion of teachers in the United States, scholars still study TFA since many elements of contemporary U.S. schooling are encapsulated within the TFA program. Understanding TFA’s history is necessary for the way scholars and educationists engage with the organization to think about issues in education, including the effect of teachers on student achievement, the standardization of neoliberal schooling, appropriate responses to academic achievement gaps, and the use of culturally responsive pedagogies and cultural competency in classrooms of historically marginalized students. Importantly, these issues are not just entirely theoretical when TFA actively influences public policy and TFA alumni create new school networks, lead large school districts, and become education scholars themselves. Additionally, TFA’s international expansion in 2007 means that TFA’s influence can be felt globally.

Article

Chicana Feminist Epistemology in Higher Education  

Christina Torres García

In the wake of the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack, an op-ed in the online publication Inside Higher Education questioned the mission of education for its focus on teaching only Western perspectives—perspectives that normalize racial hierarchies, legitimize epistemological racism, and reproduce white supremacy. The postulation of the education system as a motor of white supremacy is not a new suggestion. Black, Indigenous, and Chicana scholars have long articulated the need to diversify and therefore democratize Western epistemology by deconstructing decolonial knowledge. Positioning Chicana Feminist Epistemologies (CFE) as an alternative epistemic will disrupt the philosophical assumptions of colonial epistemology supporting white supremacy by decolonizing the structure of what knowledge is and how it is created in higher education, especially within research and pedagogy approaches. However, CFE work has faced strong resistance within the intersections of public intellectuals, the Western canon of thought, and the intellectual spaces of academia. Nevertheless, Latinx students’ enrollment has increased in postsecondary education for the past decade, emanating a growth in research studies utilizing CFE. A CFE framework urges scholars, educators, and students to move away from colonial research designs rooted in hegemonic procedures to build new inclusive, equitable, liberatory, communal higher education processes that benefit not only Brown and Black students, staff, and faculty communities but also the white population who are dismantling white supremacy. Validating CFE in research, instructional, and pedagogical practices as well as in policy and procedures within education may encourage other scholars to diversify the Western canon of thought and decolonize intellectual spaces in higher education for a more equitable and social just education.

Article

Centering Race Within Adult Education Theory in the United States  

Sydney D. Richardson

Higher education in the United States operates as it was originally designed: to benefit traditional-aged, middle-and upper-class White men. People of color and White women were meant to adapt to this structure and persevere through the higher education structure in order to succeed (i.e., graduate). This structure continues to exist. Institutions were originally designed for one student demographic; any student who does not fit this image is presented with barriers and obstacles as they matriculate, especially when the student is nontraditional (i.e., adult) and a person of color. As universities take on the challenge of creating diverse, inclusive campuses, one cannot help but realize how far education has to go to create this utopia for racially minoritized adult students. When reviewing many popular theories of adult education, it becomes easy to see that andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformative learning were not created with the Black and Brown student managing nonacademic adversities in mind. The theories were designed based on the ideal adult student at the time of development: White, young, middle or upper class, and needing education in the classroom. This ideal is very different from the Black or Brown student facing discrimination while walking to class due to societal microaggressions and preconceived stereotypes. However, reviewing adult education theories using components of critical race theory as a framework makes it possible to understand how racially minoritized adult students are at a disadvantage on college campuses.

Article

Education Research Beyond Cyborg Subjectivities  

Annette Gough and Noel Gough

The term “cyborg,” as a combination of “cybernetics” and “organism,” was coined by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960 in a paper presented at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conference on space exploration as a representation of a particular challenge of space travel: physically adapting a human body to survive in a hostile environment rather than modifying the environment. Soon after, NASA commissioned “The Cyborg Study” to investigate the theoretical possibilities of incorporating life support–related technologies into future spacecraft design. From the beginning, cyborgs were seen as the realization of a transhumanist goal—liberating humans from the limitations of the body and its environment by means of mechanization. Outside of space exploration, the term “cyborg” has evolved to encompass an expansive mesh of the mythological, metaphorical, and technical. Initially mainly taken up by science fiction writers to create superhumans, the notion entered cultural studies in the 1980s, particularly through Donna Haraway’s feminist “cyborg manifesto,” which argues that we are all cyborgs. Since then, terminology has shifted, and cyborgs are more likely called “posthumans,” “more-than-humans,” “other-than-humans,” or “companion species.” Discussions of cyborg and posthuman subjectivities in educational research have taken two main directions. The first argues that with equipment like tablets, smartphones, and laptops, students and teachers are already cyborgs—hybrids of human and machine—accessing information, resources, networks, groups, personal relations, libraries, and mass media through the Internet. Other research has investigated how the construction of cyborg and posthuman subjectivities changes the relationships between humans and their surroundings, devising new social, ethical, and discursive ways of thinking and representation.

Article

Ontology, Epistemology, and Critical Theory in STEM Education  

Shakhnoza Kayumova and Kathryn J. Strom

The persistence of inequities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is at least partially due to Eurocentric ontological and epistemological perspectives. Eurocentric thinking foregrounds epistemology (knowing and what can be accepted as knowledge) and separates it from ontology (worldviews and assumptions about the nature of being and reality), while completely disregarding axiology (ethics). This obscures the background assumptions of those who produce knowledge by positioning a particular mode of existence (i.e., Western social, cultural, and historical ways of being) as natural and, in turn, reproduces it as truth. Historically, this logic constructed a hierarchized binary that positions Western ways of knowing and being as the norm, setting up non-Western ontologies and epistemologies as inferior and “other.” Ultimately, this perspective has served as a justification for colonialization and enslavement and maintained White supremacy. Science culture, broadly construed as STEM disciplines, continues to be constituted based on dominant Western epistemologies. Through curriculum and pedagogy, children and youth are socialized into the dominant cultural models of what it means to be a science person and do science, with disciplinary knowledge and practices grounded in epistemological and ontological positions such as objectivity, universality, and neutrality. Valuing particular forms of reasoning, culture, and scientific practice, combined with understanding all scientific contributions to have emerged from Europe, perpetuates White supremacy by ensuring the hegemonic reproduction of Western epistemology and ontology as dominant while positioning all other cultures as scientifically inferior. Youth from nondominant communities are in turn constructed from a dehumanizing, deficit stance, and they are left with only two options: assimilate into the dominant culture of science or be excluded from participating in science learning. However, many feminist, Indigenous, postcolonial, and neo-materialist scholars argue that epistemology and ontology are co-constituted—that is, they co-create each other—and therefore cannot be considered separately. This relational, nondualistic perspective sees reality in terms of heterogeneous mixtures, promoting a view in which the reality is not static and fixed but fluid, always in movement. And reality is not preexisting but constantly co-created through ongoing material-discursive, nature-culture relations that involve humans but do not center them. Consequently, this produces a view of knowledge that is situated, contingent, and partial because it is shaped by the knowledge maker(s) and the multiple social, political, cultural (and so on) systems in which they are enmeshed. Given that discourse, spaces, places, and other entities all shape the nature of relations and interactions, conditions for equity and justice in STEM classrooms do not preexist: Equity emerge as practices through just relations in specific times and places among the various actors and perspectives that must coexist for students to learn in productive ways. Creating the conditions for such emergence requires reconfiguration of relations from hierarchical and exclusionary to pluriversal. Pluriversal praxis requires embracing an ontoepistemological shift based on relationality, interdependence, embodiment, ethics, and care toward youth, diverse communities, and more-than-human collectives. While this may seem like a huge (and perhaps even impossible) undertaking, it is possible to think strategically about the ontoepistemological shifts that are needed. For example, teachers can engage in professional development that deliberately teaches a collectivist approach and emphasizes the joint construction of knowledge while helping them raise their sociopolitical consciousness and engage in critical reflection. Such entry points can help teachers and researchers develop more expansive and epistemologically heterogeneous views of STEM curriculum, teaching, and learning.