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Article

Disciplinarity and Educational Research  

David Bridges

Inquiry is not honored as “research” unless it is marked by some kind of discipline in the sense of its systematic and sustained approach, the rigor of its methods, or perhaps its situated scholarship—its disciplined character. Historically and in the contemporary academy, such discipline has been differentiated and socially institutionalized in the form of disciplines—forms of knowledge distinguished (not always tidily) by their methods of inquiry, central concepts, and a body of scholarship. Interdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity presuppose disciplinarity, and if they are to stand as research, they require some kind of rigor or discipline. Education in itself is not a distinctive discipline in this sense; rather, it is a field of inquiry that draws on the wide range of disciplinary resources available in the academy including disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary approaches to its themes. At one stage educational research drew especially on the disciplines of history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, though this formulation has varied internationally and has evolved over time as new disciplines have joined the traditional disciplines and these have at the same time fragmented and hybridized. These developments, among others, have led to notions of postdisciplinarity, but discipline in research is a condition both of discerning what is most deserving of belief and of making a “community of arguers” possible, however its particular forms evolve and expand.

Article

Geographical and Environmental Education in School Curricula  

John Chi-Kin Lee

Geography is a school subject in some countries, for example, the United Kingdom, and an academic discipline that has strong relevance with environmental education, both as a field of study and a cross-curricular theme in the school curriculum. This article reviews the geographical and environmental education with reference to the key literature dated back to the 1990s. Since then, geography can be offered either as a secondary school subject or a field of study or as being part of a social studies curriculum. Different countries pay varying attention to geographical and environmental education because of its historical and sociocultural contexts. The United States, for example, has published national geography standards, whereas England and Australia have incorporated geographical inquiry into educational guidelines. At an international level, the International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education has exerted profound influence on the development of geographical education worldwide. For environmental education, its emphasis has gradually shifted to education for sustainable development under the backdrop of echoing UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals. It is noteworthy that geographical and environmental education has advanced its research and advocacy through different educational research paradigms, approaches, and environmental ideologies. Some emerging topics are discerned. One of them, linking with the concept of people–environment interactions in geographical and environmental education, is the topic of place. Another topic is environmental learning and significance of life experiences for learners. In addition, how geographical and environmental education links up with and contributes to citizenship education and global understanding under a globalized and transnational world becomes an increasingly important agenda. Moreover, the impact of technology, for example, the employment of the Geographical Information System as well as information and communication technology, has provided new insights to and extended the horizons of geographical and environmental education. Future educational development in such direction needs cross-disciplinary contribution and cross-sector collaboration.

Article

Action Research and Curriculum Development with Consideration of the Nordic Context  

Lill Langelotz and Anette Olin

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

Complexity Theory and Teacher Education  

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.

Article

Writing Qualitative Dissertations  

Sherick Hughes

Writing qualitative dissertations represents an internationally recognized pinnacle for students of higher education. The pressures and incentives for students approaching the dissertation writing landscape are undeniable. Unfortunately, too many doctoral students are offered limited strategies to begin navigating it. Moreover, doctoral students seeking maps from Education and other social science literature to guide them will find limited peer-reviewed scholarship that addresses the complexity of writing defensible qualitative dissertations. Too many doctoral students instead turn to some of the most popular qualitative dissertation textbooks that tend to provide limited representations of the writing landscape, albeit unintentional. These students may begin writing only to find that such landscape representations prepare them inadequately for the complexity of the territory. It is a territory filled with a variety of evolving writing tasks and possibilities. Doctoral students may consider at least seven evolving sets of tasks (ESTs) as strategies for navigating the messy terrain of the qualitative dissertation writing territory.

Article

Sonic Ethnography in Theory and Practice  

Walter S. Gershon

As its name suggests, sonic ethnography sits at the intersection of studies of sound and ethnographic methodologies. This methodological category can be applied to interpretive studies of sound, ethnographic studies that foreground sound theoretically and metaphorically, and studies that utilize sound practices similar to those found in forms of audio recording and sound art, for example. Just as using ocular metaphors or video practices does not make an ethnographic study any more truthful, the use of sonic metaphors or audio recording practices still requires the painstaking, ethical, reflexivity, time, thought, analysis, and care that are hallmarks for strong ethnographies across academic fields and disciplines. Similarly, the purpose of sonic ethnography is not to suggest that sound is any more real or important than other sensuous understandings but is instead to underscore the power and potential of the sonic for qualitative researchers within and outside of education. A move to the sonic is theoretically, methodologically, and practically significant for a variety of reasons, not least of which are (a) its ability to interrupt ocular pathways for conceptualizing and conducting qualitative research; (b) for providing a mode for more actively listening to local educational ecologies and the wide variety of things, processes, and understandings of which they are comprised; (c) ethical and more transparent means for expressing findings; and (d) a complex and deep tool for gathering, analyzing, and expressing ethnographic information. In sum, sonic ethnography opens a world of sound possibilities for educational researchers that at once deepen and provide alternate pathways for understanding everyday educational interactions and the sociocultural contexts that help render those ways of being, doing, and knowing sensible.

Article

Research Challenges and Innovative Methodologies, Approaches, and Processes  

S. Anthony Thompson

Investigative practices, including research methodologies, approaches, processes, as well as knowledge dissemination efforts continue to evolve within inclusive or special education. So too do such practices evolve within related fields such as nursing, psychology, community-based care, health promotion, etc. There are several research approaches that promote the tools required to effect inclusive education, such as: evidence-based practice (EBP), EBP in practice, creative secondary uses of (anonymous) data, collective impact, qualitative evidence synthesis (QES), and lines of action (LOA). Other approaches that promote a more inclusive education research agenda more generally, include action research and participatory action research, inclusive research, appreciative inquiry, and arts-based educational research.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices in Special Schooling  

David Mitchell

Increasingly, around the world, educators are being expected to draw upon research-based evidence in planning, implementing, and evaluating their activities. Evidence-based strategies comprise clearly specified teaching methods and school-level factors that have been shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes in a specified population of learners and under what conditions, in this case those with special educational needs/disabilities taught in special schooling, whether it be in separate schools or classrooms or in inclusive classrooms. Educators could, and should, be drawing upon the best available evidence as they plan, implement, and evaluate their teaching of such learners. Since around 2010 there has been a growing commitment to evidence-based education. This has been reflected in: 1. legislation: for example, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act in the United States, which encourages the use of specific programs and practices that have been rigorously evaluated and defines strong, moderate, and promising levels of evidence for programs and practices; 2. the creation of centers specializing in gathering and disseminating evidence-based education policies and practices, brokering connections between policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers; and 3. a growing body of research into effective strategies, both in general and with respect to learners with special educational needs. Even so, in most countries there is a significant gap between what researchers have found and the educational policies and practices implemented by professionals. Moreover, some scholars criticize the emphasis on evidence-based education, particularly what they perceive to be the prominence given to quantitative or positivist research in general and to randomized controlled trials in particular. In putting evidence-based strategies into action, a five-step model could be employed. This involves identifying local needs, selecting relevant interventions, planning for implementation, implementing, and examining and reflecting on the interventions.

Article

Interdisciplinary Expansion and the History of Education in Sweden  

Johannes Westberg

The field of the history of education in Sweden has distinct features, yet also shares common characteristics with the history of education in other countries. As elsewhere, it has developed from being a field mainly occupied by schoolmen in the early 20th century to a research field firmly entrenched in the humanities and social sciences from the 1960s and onward. Like in other countries, the topics and theoretical frameworks have multiplied, making the history of education into a broad field of research. There are, however, several features that stand out in an international context. Most important, the history of education in Sweden has expanded in terms of active researchers and output since the early 2000s due to the favorable conditions in Swedish higher education presented in this article. It has also never developed into a discipline of its own but instead has remained multidisciplinary, with a strong base in the disciplines of education and history. As a result, the history of education in Sweden has remained quite independent from the international field. While it is certainly possible to identify the impact of various international trends, including those of the new cultural history of education, the history of education in Sweden is marked by the disciplines that it is part of. From this follows that this national field is less determined by international associations, conferences and journals, and the so-called turns that one might identify in these. Instead, it is the Swedish context of educational research, Swedish curriculum theory, social history, economic history, history education, sociology of education, and child studies that provide the history of education in Sweden with a character of its own—that is, a field with research groups, conferences, workshops, and a journal that encompasses several research fields.