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A Multi-Level Model of Moral Functioning: Integrating Socio-Bio-evolutionary Science, Socio-Constructionism, and Constructivist-Developmental Theory  

Silvia Diazgranados Ferráns and Robert L. Selman

Tensions chronically exist in the research literature among bio-evolutionary scientists, constructivist-developmental psychologists, and socio-constructionist scholars about how to describe, understand, and predict our moral functioning. An analysis of the assumptions of each of these theoretical paradigms, the disciplinary fields that inform their conceptual models, and the empirical evidence they use to sustain their claims reveals the tensions that exist, as different communities of scholars assign different roles to nature and nurture, reason and intuition, and to the private minds of individuals and the social intelligibilities available to them in a given time and place of history. Using simple multilevel structures, it is possible to see that the divisions that exist within these scientific communities can be conceptualized in terms of their use of different levels of analysis, as they each focus on different populations and employ different underlying units of time and space. Bio-evolutionary scientists study humans as species, using slow-paced time units of analysis such as millennia, and their studies focus on the epigenetic dimensions of our moral sense, documenting inter-species variance in moral functioning. Socio-constructionists study humans as members of groups, using moderately paced time units of analysis such as decades and centuries, and their studies focus on cultural variations in what different groups of people consider to be good or bad, according to the social structures and intelligibilities that are available to them in a given time and place of history. Constructivist-developmental psychologists study humans as individuals, using fast-paced time units of analysis such as months and years, and their studies focus on the maturational dimension of our moral sense, documenting within- and between-individuals variation throughout their lifetime. Unfortunately, by focusing on different populations and time units, these communities of scholars produce research findings that highlight certain aspects of our moral functioning while downplaying others. Interestingly, complex multilevel structures can illustrate how different levels of analysis are nested within each other and can demonstrate how different scientific endeavors have been striving to account for different sources of variability in our moral functioning. The use of complex multilevel structures can also allow us to understand our moral functioning from a dynamic, complex, multilevel theoretical perspective, and as the product of (a) genetic variations that occur between and within species, (b) variations in the social structures, discourses, and intelligibilities that are available in the culture and regulate what social groups consider good and bad at different places and times of history, and (c) variations in the personal experiences and opportunities of interaction that individuals have in different environments throughout their lifetime. Researchers need to clarify the epigenetic, historical, and developmental rules of our moral functioning, and the ways in which different dimensions interact with each other.


Changing Perspectives on Adolescence(s)  

Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur, Paulo Padilla-Petry, Natalia Panina-Beard, and Surita Jhangiani

While descriptions of transitions between childhood and adulthood have existed for millennia, “adolescence” was first defined as a universal developmental stage characterized by instability, conflict, and risk-taking in the early 20th century in American psychology. Research has challenged this view of adolescence—as a biologically determined, universal stage marked by turbulence—and has exposed the assumptions underlying its characterization. Much of this scholarship highlights limitations in the theoretical and methodological assumptions that form the foundation for how research was and is conducted, as well as the claims made from research. The lack of acknowledgment of the ways in which history, society, and culture influence definitions of adolescence and the persistence of historical biases against young people may mask the needs and interests of particular groups of young people and individuals. Reviewing current research in the developmental sciences, with insights from various disciplines, highlights a growing awareness of the significance of interdisciplinarity and the limitations of the current body of scholarship. There is a significant need for theoretical and methodological perspectives that make visible the complexity of learning and developing into and through historical, social, and cultural environments, and the ways in which conditions specific to these environments impact children and youths. Even more urgent, however, is the need for approaches that attend to the ways in which dominant perspectives regarding culture, “race” and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender and sexuality are systematically woven into environments, creating different learning and developmental opportunities for youths. Conceptualizing adolescences and inquiring into variations in the lived experiences of young people requires conceptual and methodological innovation, attention to the ways in which the conduct of research affects the outcomes of research, critical reflexivity on the part of researchers, and balancing research foci to include conducting research with young people as a method for understanding the experiences of groups of young people and individual youths in studies of participation and meaning-making. Cultural-historical approaches, emerging for almost a century, offer both theoretical and methodological advances for making visible how children and young people grow into and through their historical, social, and cultural environments. As individuals and their environments are inseparable, these approaches describe and explain how young people both shape and are shaped by the ecologies within which they are entangled. Further, these approaches acknowledge—and inquire into—the ways in which dominant perspectives regarding culture, “race” and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender and sexuality frame ecologies and are accommodated, resisted, and/or transformed by youths.


Conceptions of Giftedness and Gifted Students  

Tracy L. Cross and Jennifer Riedl Cross

Giftedness, the ability or potential to achieve at an exceptional (i.e., superior) level, is a social construction. The concept has undergone many shifts over the years, in response to societal values and trends. Educational researchers should know about the varied conceptions of giftedness, the definitions that have been used to identify students, and the implications of these for providing an appropriate and equitable education. The predominant conceptualization of giftedness has long been through an IQ-based model, initiated by the early work of Terman and Hollingworth, whose research focused on students who achieved the highest scores on standardized IQ tests. As more comprehensive models that include more relevant factors, in particular, intrapersonal and environment variables, have emerged, educational practice has been slow to respond. The problem of underrepresentation of students from diverse populations (e.g., African American, low-income, etc.) in gifted education services stems from the adoption of conceptions of giftedness that identify well-resourced and demographically advantaged students. Newer conceptions of giftedness acknowledge the developmental nature of giftedness. The talent development paradigm assumes that giftedness manifests as potential in young students and achievement in older students. Taking this approach requires schools to offer ample opportunity for exploration to students, who can show their potential and interest when exposed to various talent domains. Opportunities to practice and hone the skills of a domain are necessary for achievement to be expressed. One talent development model proposes that the objective of gifted education should be to produce eminence among those who participate. The challenge to schools is to create a versatile and effective conception of giftedness that can provide the services and opportunities that make it possible for all students to reach their potential, including those who can achieve at the highest level. The conception of giftedness that is adopted will determine how effectively they will meet this challenge.


Critical White Studies and Curriculum Theory  

James C. Jupp and Pauli Badenhorst

Critical White studies (CWS) refers to an oppositional and interdisciplinary body of historical, social science, literary, and aesthetic intellectual production that critically examines White people’s individual, collective, social, and historical experiences. CWS reflexively assumes the embeddedness of researcher identities within the research, including the different positionalities of White researchers and researchers of Color within White supremacy writ large as well as whiteness in the social sciences and curriculum theory. As an expression of the historical consciousness shift sparked by anglophone but also francophone African-Atlantic and pan-African intellectuals, CWS emerged within the 20th century’s emancipatory social sciences tied to Global South independence movements and Global North civil rights upheavals. Initiated by cultural studies theorists Stuart Hall and Dick Dyer in the early 80s, CWS has proliferated through two waves. CWS’ first wave (1980–2000) advanced a race-evasive analytical arc with the following ontological and epistemological conceptual-empirical emphases: whiteness as hegemonic normativity, White identity and nation-building, White privilege and property, and White color-blind racism and race evasion. CWS’ second-wave (2000–2020) advanced an anti-essentializing analytical arc with pedagogical conceptual-empirical emphases: White materiality and place, White complexities and relationalities, Whiteness and ethics, and social psychoanalyses in whiteness pedagogies. Always controversial, CWS proliferated as a “hot topic” in social sciences throughout the 90s. Regarding catalytic validity, several CWS concepts entered mass media and popular discussions in 2020 to understand White police violence against Black people—violence of which George Floyd’s murder is emblematic. In curriculum theory, CWS forged two main “in-ways.” In the 1990s, CWS entered the field through Henry Giroux, Joe Kincheloe, Shirley Steinberg, and colleagues who advanced critical whiteness pedagogies. This line of research is differently continued by Tim Lensmire and his colleagues Sam Tanner, Zac Casey, Shannon Macmanimon, Erin Miller, and others. CWS also entered curriculum theory via the field of White teacher identity studies advanced by Sherry Marx and then further synthesized by Jim Jupp, Theodorea Berry, Tim Lensmire, Alisa Leckie, Nolan Cabrera, and Jamie Utt. White teacher identity studies is frequently applied to work on predominantly White teacher education programs. Besides these in-ways, CWS’ conceptual production, especially the notion of “whiteness as hegemonic normativity” or whiteness, disrupted whitened business-as-usual in curriculum theory between 2006 and 2020. Scholars of Color supported by a few White scholars called out curriculum theory’s whiteness and demanded change in a field that centered on race-based epistemologies and indigenous cosmovisions in conferences and journals. CWS might play a role in working through the as-of-yet unresolved conflict over the futurity of curriculum theory as a predominantly White space. A better historicized CWS that takes on questions of coloniality of power, being, and knowledge informed by feminist, decolonial, and psychoanalytic resources provides one possible futurity for CWS in curriculum theory. In this futurity, CWS is relocated as one dimension of a broad array of criticalities within curriculum theory’s critical pedagogies. This relocated CWS might advance psychoanalytically informed whiteness pedagogies that grapple with the overarching question: Can whiteness and White identities be decolonized? This field would include European critical psychoanalytic social sciences along with feminist and decolonial resources to advance a transformative shift in consciousness.


Emotions in Social-Historical Educational Contexts  

Paul A. Schutz, Sharon L. Nichols, and Sofia Bahena

After two decades of research on emotions in education we have come to understand little about the relationship of teachers and their instructional decision-making and students and their motivation and learning. Most of what we know about emotions stems from studies that look specifically at students and their approach to learning tasks as well as teachers and how they grapple with the stress of teaching and the emotional experiences of working with students. However, we know less about how emotions manifest in varying social-historical educational contexts. When it comes to students, we know that emotions can influence students’ adoption of self-regulation strategies and their subsequent learning outcomes. For example, pleasant emotions tend to be related with effective learning strategies, whereas unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and boredom can reduce motivation and academic achievement. Importantly, these relationships are not consistent throughout the literature, and evidence suggests that, in some cases, anxiety can be motivating for some students. When it comes to teachers, there are two types of research areas. First are studies about how teachers handle unpleasant experiences in an effort to better understand teacher burnout. Second are studies that try to understand the role of emotions and pleasant and unpleasant experiences for newer teachers and how they inform emergent professional identities. More research is needed to understand how emotions play out in the classroom so that we can better support teachers and students and create effective intervention programs aimed at reducing the emotional stress of teaching and learning.


Teacher Education and Whiteness and Whiteness in Teacher Education in the United States  

Cheryl E. Matias, Naomi W. Nishi, and Geneva L. Sarcedo

A litany of literature exists on teacher preparation programs, known as teacher education, and whiteness, which is the historical, systematic, and structural processes that maintain the race-based superiority of white people over people of color. The theoretical frameworks of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) are used to explore whiteness and teacher education separately; whiteness within teacher education; the impact of teacher education and whiteness on white educators, educators of Color, and their students; and cautions and recommendations for teacher education and whiteness. Although teacher education and whiteness are situated within the current US sociopolitical context, the historical colonial contexts of other countries may find parallel examples of whiteness. Within this context, the historical purposes behind teacher education and the need for quality teachers in an increasingly diverse student population are identified using transdisciplinary approaches in CRT and CWS to define and describe operations of whiteness in teacher education. Particularly, race education scholars entertain the psychoanalytic, philosophical, and sociological ruminations of race, racism, and white supremacy in society and education to understand more fully how whiteness operates within teacher education. For example, an analysis of psychological attachments found in racial identities, particularly between whiteness and Blackness, helps to fully comprehend racial dynamics between teachers, who are overwhelmingly racially identified as white, and students, who are predominantly racially identified as of Color. Whiteness in teacher education, left intact, ultimately affects K-12 schooling and students, particularly students of Color, in ways that recycle institutionalized white supremacy in schooling practices. Acknowledging how reinforcing hegemonic whiteness in teacher education ultimately reifies institutional white supremacy in education altogether; implications and cautions as well as recommendations are offered to debunk the hegemonic whiteness that inoculates teacher education. Note: To symbolically reverse the racial hierarchy in our research, the authors opt to use lowercase lettering for white and whiteness, and to capitalize “people of Color” to recognize it as a proper noun along with Black and Brown.