Social studies, theoretically, examines the social dynamics of different groups of people within a particular society. The subject, as defined in the US education system, incorporates different disciplines, such as history, sociology, geography, and political science. The objective of social studies is the development of students as active participants in civic society. Since 2001, however, decreased learning time for social studies in elementary school grade levels and narrow interpretations of historical events in secondary school classes due to standardization efforts have threatened the viability of social studies in US schools. A critical social studies interpretation can redirect the current path of the subject. The concept of critical social studies scrutinizes three facets of the subject: curriculum, citizenship, and teaching. Critical teachers, curriculum writers, and students utilize self-reflection, critical theories, and active engagement in critiquing dominant concepts of citizenship. The open exchange of ideas with different individuals challenge standard explanations of citizenship in the United States. Critical educators use community development, student-centered dialogue, and transdisciplinary methods in expanding the learning of social studies. Critical social studies seeks to bring social studies back to its intellectual origins while pushing it into new peripheries.
In academic literature there is a multiplicity and proliferation of alternative curriculum definitions, and the matter of defining curriculum is in a state of disarray. Likewise, there are diverse ways of defining teaching in which curriculum is virtually invisible. Invoking Dewey’s idea of “reality as whole,” this article makes a case for rethinking curriculum and teaching as two interrelated concepts embedded in the societal, institutional, and instructional contexts of schooling. Curriculum is construed in terms of societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula that give social meaning, normative and operational frameworks, and educational quality to the practice of teaching. Likewise, teaching is thought of as sociocultural, institutional, deliberative and curricular practice with a bearing on the societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula. The article concludes by questioning the technicist and reductionist treatment of curriculum and teaching associated with the global neo-liberal movement toward standards and accountability and by calling for reenvisioning curriculum and teaching in view of the educational challenges of the 21st century.
Troy A. Martin
The professionalization of education involves a modern, capitalist move toward securing a public market for schools and developing social status for educators. As a process that has produced knowledge, rationalized relationships, and controlled markets, professionalization of education has also defined an ethical discourse. Articulated in language, inscribed in state law, and embodied in conduct, professional ethics have been codified formally in “codes of ethics” and informally in professional identity and ways of thinking. The popular discourse of professional ethics in education narrows and constrains ethical possibility in practice. Because of similar forms of codes of ethics across professions, interdisciplinary scholarship from education, social work, psychiatry, and medicine informs a critical examination of professional ethics. The codes, discourse, and standards of professional ethics are historically grounded in the framework of modern rationalism. As the field of education has developed to include a more diverse knowledge-base and new forms of empirical research, the rational order of prescriptive ethics has begun to slip. While regulatory codes of ethics continue to undergird public trust and provide legal insurance against malfeasance, educational scholars and practitioners engage a wider constellation of ethical perspectives and possibilities. Feminist care ethics, post-modern ethics, and phenomenological descriptive ethics present a few possibilities within emergent fields. As the ongoing effects of professionalization are critiqued and the possibilities of professional ethics are re-imagined, schools of education should look beyond the disciplinary enclosures of education to respond to an increasingly diffuse understanding of professional ethics.
African philosophies of education are multifold, depending on the specific geographic location in which a particular African philosophy of education is advanced. In northern Africa, African philosophy of education is biased towards Muslim understandings of education, whereas in western Africa, African philosophy of education is mostly attuned to Francophone thinking. In eastern Africa, Anglophone thinking seems to dominate an African philosophy of education. The focus on African philosophy of education is guided by thinking in the southern African region. In the main, African philosophy of education in the southern African region of the continent is considered as a philosophical activity that aims to identify major socio-economic, environmental, and politico-cultural problems on the African continent, and simultaneously to examine the educational implications of such problems for teaching and learning in higher education. It can be construed, for instance, that a military dictatorship is a major political and social problem on the continent, which implies that any form of democratic governance would be undermined. An educational implication of such a problem is that deliberative engagement among university teachers and students would not be regarded as appealing for higher education, as such a practice would be considered incommensurable with dictatorial rule. Identifying any other major problems or dystopias—such as terrorism committed by Boko Haram in western Africa (a violent movement undermining any form of Western education); children being used as soldiers in central Africa; and drug trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa—by proffering reasons why the latter instances are problems, and then examining how educational practices will manifest, are tantamount to enacting an African philosophy of education.
Don Carter and Gregory Martin
Collectively, terms such as dialogic education and dialogic teaching are used both interchangeably and pervasively in education contexts. No single agreed-upon definition exists for dialogic or combinations of terms such as dialogic instruction and dialogic pedagogy. However, such terms are inclusive of a desire to promote meaningful classroom dialogue where students learn to reason, discuss, argue, and explain; to develop higher order thinking skills; and to transform the world around them. Importantly, dialogue as a type of exchange between individuals or groups draws upon and is expressed through the rich legacies of numerous cultures. For example, literature points to diverse texts and traditions in India and China, continuing cultural practices of “yarning” and “talking circles” in First Nations contexts, the dialogues of Plato and Socrates, as well as more contemporary models in the Western tradition. Unfortunately, Western models of dialogue enjoy a dominance that has marginalized and eroded the value of “other” cultural traditions as well as the diverse ontologies and epistemologies that give rise to them. Under this set of circumstances, Western models of dialogue have been complicit with Eurocentrism, which may also present itself in the form of paternalism within the context of teacher and student relationships. As a counterpoint, the work of the French philosopher Jacques Rancière has been drawn upon to disrupt the logic of Western models of education, including those that claim to be critical or “emancipatory.” Rancière’s approach represents a departure from normative conceptions of dialogue because it promotes the presupposition of equality between the student and teacher. In Rancière’s conception of education, the elevation of student to co-learner is reinforced by both the teacher’s and the student’s focus on an external artifact—a book or text, for example—which provides the intellectual stimulus for student investigation and dilutes the teacher’s traditional authority as the “master.” In this way, Rancière is able to complement the aims and features of dialogic education and extend it by casting the student as the intellectual equal of the teacher.
Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.
Phonics is a method of teaching people to read and spell (and therefore write) in an alphabetic writing system by associating symbols (letters/graphemes) with sounds (phonemes). The place of phonics in teaching children to read and spell is vigorously debated among researchers, often spilling over into the popular press. Advocates of principally comprehension-based (e.g., whole language) teaching have maintained that little or no phonics instruction is needed; others are of the view that it is essential and must be systematic. Analysis of the most rigorous evidence from research reviews and meta-analyses suggests that systematic phonics teaching is effective for teaching children to read and spell in English, and that the combination of systematic phonics teaching and comprehension-based approaches is probably more effective than either alone. Research has therefore begun on integrated teaching of literacy that incorporates both code and meaning emphases, but currently the requisite professional knowledge and teacher capacity are challenges for many school systems. The principal forms of phonics teaching are synthetic, where children are taught to sound out the letters of a word and to blend (synthesize) the sounds together to form a word; and analytic, in which sounding-out is not taught to start with, but children identify the phonic element from a set of words in which each word contains the element under study, for example, pat, park, push, and pen. There is not yet sufficient convincing research evidence to decide which of these is more effective. Systematic phonics teaching in general is effective across the primary age range, for normally developing and most at-risk children, and probably for children whose first language is not English; and its effects last, at least in the crucial early years. Nonetheless, government policy and reform interventions in this area are sometimes heavy-handed, frequently influenced by political and community pressure, and may face difficulties of scale, resources, and implementation that hamper their effectiveness and generalizability across school systems. A new, large systematic review may be needed to clarify various outstanding issues.
Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland
Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.