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During the 1930–1940s, the Progressive Education Association’s Eight-Year Study ushered in an era of secondary school experimentation, establishing an organizational process (the cooperative study) and introducing a research methodology (implementative research) for educational renewal. Cooperative studies embraced a democratic ideal that participants would work together for a greater good and maintained a fundamental belief that a diversity of perspectives, coupled with open discourse, would serve to better develop educational practices. Although no unified theory was established for cooperative study, activities focused on problem-solving were intended to expand teachers’ abilities rather than to establish a single method for the dissemination of educational programs. Implementative research was grounded in a faith in experimentation as an “exploratory process” to include gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and discussing data, and sought to determine the validity (in contrast to reliability) of programmatic interventions. Drawing on 1930s progressive education high school practices, more than a hundred selected secondary and post-secondary schools throughout the United States—public and private, large and small, Black and White, rural and urban—participated in national and regional cooperative studies, funded primarily by the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board. Experimental projects included the Progressive Education Association’s Eight-Year Study (1930–1942), consisting of 30 sites with 42 secondary schools (and 26 junior high schools) throughout the United States; the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States’ Southern Study (1938–1945), consisting of 33 White secondary schools in the American Southeast; the American Council of Education’s Cooperative Study in General Education (1938–1947), consisting of 25 colleges throughout the United States; and the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Negroes’ Secondary School Study (1940–1946), consisting of 17 Black secondary schools in the American Southeast. These cooperative studies served to explore and further develop progressive education practices at the secondary and post-secondary school level. The intent of the 1930s–1940s cooperative study projects was to develop school programs that would attend to the interests and needs of adolescents without diminishing students’ chances for further education. Guided by “Eight-Year Study progressivism,” cooperative study staff placed great trust in the ability of teachers to address complex issues, belief in democracy as a guiding social ideal, and faith in thoughtful inquiry to create educational settings that nourished both students and teachers. Based on these fundamental themes, many cooperative study schools adopted what became a distinctive view of progressive education with correlated and fused core curricula, teacher–pupil planning, cumulative student records, and summer professional development workshops. Notions of “success” for these projects prove difficult to ascertain; however, innovative forms of curriculum design, instructional methodology, student assessment instruments, and professional development activities arose from these programs that served to influence educational theory and practice throughout the mid- and late-20th century. Perhaps equally important, cooperative study, along with implementative research, displayed the importance of educational exploration and school experimentation, implicitly asserting that a healthy school was an experimental school.

Article

Influenced by Piagetian and Vygotskian research, science educators in the 1970s started to pay attention to students’ ideas in science. They discovered that students had deeply held beliefs that were in conflict with scientific concepts and theories. In addition to misconceptions, other terms such as preconceptions, alternative frameworks, and intuitive beliefs or theories have been used to characterize these ideas. One of the first interpretations of misconceptions is that they are faulty intuitive theories, which must be replaced by the scientifically correct ones. Another dominant interpretation is that they represent category errors—concepts assigned to the wrong ontological category. Both of these views proposed that refutation and cognitive conflict are instructional strategies that can be used to extinguish misconceptions. A different approach to misconceptions is expressed by researchers who argue that misconceptions have their roots in productive knowledge elements. According to this view, misconceptions are productive in some contexts but not appropriate in others and in these latter cases more carefully articulated scientific knowledge is necessary. Yet other researchers argue that misconceptions are often hybrids—constructive attempts on the part of the students to synthesize scientific information with intuitive beliefs and theories. Recent research has shown that misconceptions are not supplanted by scientific theories but coexist with them even in expert scientists. As a result, attention in science instruction has shifted from attempts to extinguish misconceptions to attempts to strengthen students’ epistemic knowledge, and their model building, hypothesis testing, and reasoning skills. Cognitive conflict and refutation continue to be important instructional strategies not for extinguishing misconceptions but for creating awareness in students that their beliefs are not accurate from a scientific point of view. Overall, the discovery of misconceptions has had a tremendous influence in science education research and teaching because it demonstrated that students are active and creative participants in the learning process and that their ideas and understandings need to be taken into account in instruction.

Article

Three key movements in the evolution of school science curriculum in the 20th century illustrate the complexity and difficulties of curriculum reform. Through social changes such as world wars, rising societal concerns about the environment, and the globalization of economies, the location for aspirations of national security, environmental responsibility, and, more recently, economic prosperity have come to focus on reformation of school science curricula. This hope springs from the hegemony of positivism. Each wave of reform, from the “alphabet science” programs as a response to the launching of Sputnik to the STEM-based programs in the 21st century, sheds light on the change process: the importance of involving teachers in curriculum change topics, the influence of societal factors, how feedback loops prevent change, how ethos and intentions are not enough for a successful change attempt, how a clever acronym can assist change, and the role of public truths in delimiting the extent of curriculum reform. These lessons on changing the curriculum illustrate how efforts to employ a school subject, in this case science, for social salvation is at best unpredictable and difficult but more usually unsuccessful.

Article

In this overview, we examine action research and curriculum development from the last 50 years in various national and educational settings. Both action research (AR) and curriculum development are explored in diverse ways, depending on academic traditions and national contexts and languages. Hence, curriculum is differently conceptualized in, for example, English vis-à-vis Nordic traditions. The concept of curriculum development may, in the tradition of action research as an orientation toward educational change, incorporate both planned and unplanned student learning and practices of teachers. Several international scholar contributions as well as 50 journal articles from all around the world are explored. The point of departure, is however, in the Nordic traditions and understandings of curriculum development and AR. In other words, we are partly “coming from the side” when exploring literature, not mainly in our first language (Swedish), but in English. In the first part, we start in the early 1970s to show how curriculum development is embedded within an action research tradition with a strong emphasis on change and teacher experiences and engagement. We shed light on how curriculum development is a collaborative practice (in AR traditions in, for example, the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries) as well as an exercise of authority (in AR used by educational policymakers in Sweden) and as part of a global “practice turn.” In part two, we turn to 50 articles from 2000–2020, found in one data base and one research journal, to scrutinize the explicit relation between “action research” AND “curriculum development.” The analysis revealed three descriptive themes, as well as three underlying questions in the AR community, of what contributes to curriculum development. The themes—and questions—are: (a) Transforming the content in programs and courses (the “What”), (b) Professional learning and development (the “Who”), and (c) AR as an approach for curriculum development (the “How”). Teachers are still, as in the 1970s, the key agents and owners of the process in many of these studies. However, there are examples of AR being used to govern teachers’ professional learning and change their teaching approaches, and to implement specific curriculum changes. Policies and discourses of sustainable development have a significant impact on the chosen topics of curriculum development all over the world. Is this a change in the professional or the political dimension of action research? Maybe both. One can ask, whether the professional autonomy is empowered or not, when the issues, underpinning the development work, have their origin in the society rather than in the actual classroom practice in the local site. Is there room for teachers’ critical voices and own queries? Education has, however, to respond to global and local questions and dominant challenges for all citizens. Researchers and teachers responding to this situation, by using action research for curriculum development, become an important and necessary part of the global strive to engage in social and environmental problems.

Article

The climate crisis calls for changes in all areas of human life. One such area is the education sector, which needs to be the target of urgent reform to be able to support these crucial changes. International sustainability policies call for transformative changes in worldviews that may inspire new ways of thinking and acting. Worldview transformation means a major change in deep-rooted ways of viewing the world that results in long-lasting changes in individuals’ sense of self, their perception of their relationship to the world, and even their entire way of being. Worldviews interface with perceptions of issues like climate change in ways that are frequently overlooked. The climate crisis demands a reorientation and transformation of worldviews, a change in which education can play a pivotal role. Therefore, the crisis also calls for rapid educational policy reforms. A central question is how to make worldview transformation related to sustainability visible in education policy. The general school education curricula in Finland (Grades 1–12) express sustainability as a core aim. However, it is debatable whether educational policy such as the Finnish curricula can promote worldview transformation. Contesting policy objectives and gaps between policy and practice can prevent education from dealing effectively with large worldview quandaries such as the climate crisis. In addition, unclear relationships between research and policy are fundamental obstacles during policy development. Finally, an overriding concern in policy is the lack of focus on urgent global dilemmas; consequently, it does not per se promote learning that could lead to radical change.

Article

Dilafruz Williams

Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training. While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.

Article

Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.