Issues related to the aim of education, curriculum, teaching, and learning are perennial concerns in Confucianism. Within the Confucian canon, two texts, Analects (Lunyu) and Xueji (Record of Learning), are particularly instructive in illuminating the principles and practices of education for early Confucianism. Accordingly, the aim of education is to inculcate ren (humanity) through li (normative behaviors) so that learners can realize and broaden dao (Way). To achieve this aim, the curriculum should be holistic, broad-based, and integrated; students should constantly practice what they have learned through self-cultivation and social interaction. Supporting the curriculum is learner-focused education, where the teacher is sensitive to the individual needs of students. The “enlightening approach” is recommended, where the teacher encourages and guides students using the questioning technique and peer learning. The impact of Confucian education is evident in the creation and flourishing of “Confucian pedagogic cultures” in East Asia. However, a key question confronting a Confucian conception of education is whether such a paradigm is able to nurture critical and creative thinkers who are empowered to critique prevailing worldviews and effect social changes. A textual analysis of Xueji and Analects reveals that critical and creative thinking are valued and indispensable in Confucian education. Confucius himself chastised the rulers of his time, modified certain social practices, and ingeniously redefined terms that were in wide circulation such as li and junzi by adding novel elements to them. Confucian education should be viewed as an open tradition that learns from all sources and evolves with changing times. Such a tradition fulfills the educational vision to appropriate and extend dao, thereby continuing the educational project started by Confucius.
Roland W. Mitchell, Nicholas E. Mitchell, and Chaunda A. Mitchell
Spirituality and education have historically been tightly intertwined concepts. Spirituality is the timeless pursuit by humanity for certainty, understanding, and an abiding connection to each other and the cosmos. Education represents humanity’s efforts at grouping practices, insights, and often contested knowledges in such a manner that they are passed across generations, groups, and communities. The combination of the two reflects humanity’s pursuit at making sense out of the environment.
Nina Bonderup Dohn
What roles can (educational) philosophy have within educational research? This question concerns the ways in which one can do philosophy as philosophy, not as something else with inspiration or data from philosophy. Further, it concerns doing philosophy within the field of educational research, that is, with the deliberate intention of engaging with educational research. The question is not how to do “philosophy of” education as a separate, outside reflection on the domain of education; instead, what is at stake is delineating the forms of cooperation that philosophy can engage in with educational research on matters of common interest. This question raises the further question of what kind of endeavor philosophy is in comparison with other kinds of investigations. A traditional answer to this question has been the claim that philosophizing consists of conceptual analysis and that philosophical analyses are a priori, providing the conceptual framework for a posteriori empirical investigations. There are several problems with the clear-cut distinction between a priori and a posteriori, but it can be made sense of if understood in a more relative sense rather than as designating absolute categories. Four different views on what philosophy is as regards other kinds of investigations are delineated, and it is pointed out which role each view correspondingly ascribes to philosophy in its cooperation with empirical educational research. The four roles are philosophy as (a) provider of a priori conceptual analyses, (b) clarifier of educational research concepts and their implications, (c) interpreter of educational research results, and (d) dialogue partner with a voice of its own. The first view of philosophy is the educational variant of the traditional view that philosophy is “queen of the sciences,” acting as conceptual legislator on what it makes sense to say. Philosophy does the conceptual groundwork a priori, as a prerequisite for empirical study and practice implementation, and research and practice then a posteriori investigate the phenomenon delimited by philosophy. Philosophers often take on this role in practice through what they write: they provide analyses of concepts that are significant within educational research, such as “knowledge,” “learning,” “value,” “Bildung,” or “becoming,” and explications of the relationships of these concepts to one another or to other concepts. The second view of philosophy is the educational variant of the opposing traditional designation of philosophy as “handmaiden to the sciences.” Here, philosophy takes a posteriori state-of-the-art educational research as its premise and outset and provides help in clarifying a priori conceptual issues within these a posteriori bounds. The third view of philosophy also takes a posteriori state-of-the-art educational research as its outset but does not content itself with being a helper. Instead, philosophy’s role is to assist educational research in interpreting its results by engaging philosophical methods. In addition to conceptual analysis, this can involve, for example, phenomenological, hermeneutical, and critical-theory analyses. Both a priori and a posteriori philosophical investigations can be undertaken in intertwinement within the a posteriori bounds. The fourth view of philosophy sees the relationship between philosophy and empirical research as symmetrical. Each party can question, challenge, support, inspire, and develop the claims set forth by the other. In this view, philosophy and empirical research within education are concerned with the same subject matter, namely, the actual empirical phenomena of education, such as human knowledge and learning; educational practice; and design of education, curricula, and activities. The research aims of philosophy and empirical research do not coincide, however: Philosophy pursues normative and foundational questions that transcend empirical accounts, and engages intertwined a priori and a posteriori investigations, whereas the various strands of empirical research investigate empirical phenomena in much greater detail.
Susan D. Martin, Vicki McQuitty, and Denise N. Morgan
Complexity theory offers possibilities for thinking about the challenges and opportunities inherent in teaching, teacher learning, and many other networked systems in teacher education. Complexity theory is a theory of learning systems that provides a framework for those interested in examining how systems develop and change. It is transdisciplinary in nature, drawing on insights from diverse fields across both the hard and social sciences, and when applied to education may provide a complex rather than simplistic view of teaching and learning. Further, complexity theory has the potential to offer a powerful alternative to linear and reductionist conceptualizations, with implications for methodology of teacher education research as well as its analysis and design. This small but growing body of work has influenced teacher education in two ways. First, scholars have argued for complexity theory’s usefulness as a framework to understand and describe how teacher education functions as a complex system. The second category of work, smaller than the first, uses complexity theory to frame and analyze empirical studies. Much of the emerging body of research conducted from a complexity theory perspective is descriptive and largely confirms what has been theorized. Empirical work has confirmed that a variety of systems, at different levels, influence teacher learning and pedagogical decisions. Gaps in our knowledge still exist, however, as theorists and researchers continue to struggle with how complexity theory can best serve teacher education for the benefit of teachers and students.
Luis Sebastián Villacañas de Castro and Darío Luis Banegas
The juxtaposition of action and research conveys a sense of the richness and complexity of action research, yet it does not entirely translate its nuanced and sophisticated philosophy. In turn, an understanding of this philosophy is crucial for grasping action research’s radical originality. In this context at least, it may be more accurate to define action research by drawing on the term practice, even though it does not form part of the basic conceptual pair. Not only does practice make it easier for us to trace the constellation of philosophical influences behind the theory and practice of action research—from pragmatism to postmodernism, including Greek philosophy and Marxist and psychoanalytic schools of thought—but also to identify where these influences end and action research emerges as the bearer of a nontransferable view. Beyond this, at the heart of action research lies a structural affinity with singular social practices, which are its key ontological sites—that is, the context where action research in each case fills its epistemological and ethical dimensions with meaning. What kind of knowledge does action research aim to produce? What behaviors do action researchers engage in? Compared to other research paradigms in the social sciences—the field of education included—the specific quality of action research has to do with how its epistemological and ethical dimensions are shaped not from without but from within any given social practice. This is the key to its specific ecology. In action research, the epistemological and ethical realms do not stand beyond or above the situated social practices, with their values, principles of procedure, knowledges, and discourses, including their own literacies and modalities—in short, their own internal cultures. Action research conceives and presents itself as a rational and systematic way for members of the different social practices to build and rebuild their own epistemologies and ethics precisely by drawing on, and selecting from, their own internal cultures. How does this ecological perspective translate itself in education? Education is one of the key areas in which action research is generally applied, together with welfare and healthcare. Yet apart from the specific use of action research by educators, action research carries within itself a specific educational philosophy (and a political philosophy as well) which underlies its application, regardless of the specific social practice in which it takes place. In the same way that action research is politically democratic, educationally speaking action research is participatory, meaning that learning, improvement, or development can only be realized through a self-determining process in which people act and research freely upon and among themselves. This is precisely what action research facilitates in the different social practices. Action research is always educational, whether one develops it in education, welfare, or healthcare. As a result, action research has contributed a clear-cut pedagogical model that some critical educators have already imported to their own educational institutions and practices: youth participatory action research.