In the first part of the 21st century there has been a turn to practice in the social sciences including organizational studies, critical management sociology, philosophy, and some domains of education inquiry. Despite a rich tradition of epistemological and ontological debates, educational leadership scholarship has been slow to recognize the productive nature of the practice turn. This is partly due to its historical location in North American pragmatic traditions and a concomitant privileging of more instrumentalist, positivist, and functionalist accounts of how we come to know, be, and learn to go on in the social world that constitutes educational organizations. Educational leadership scholarship has had two dominant tendencies when it comes to explaining the phenomenon of organizational change. The first relies on individualist and frequently decontextualized accounts that privilege individuals, for example, the hero leader who turns around a “failing” educational organization. The second draws on dominant societist accounts that foreground systems, for example, principals as role incumbents in schools. In so doing, the latter privileges the system above the lifeworld of educational organizations. In contrast, a practice account of leadership or leading draws our attention to the materiality and “happeningness” of leading practices as social phenomena, unfolding in the ontological specificity of particular sites at particular times, rather than as a set of espoused ideals. It foregrounds the cultural-discursive, material-economic, and social-political arrangements or practice architectures that hold in place particular educational practices, and that in turn create the kinds of enabling or constraining conditions for educational transformation to occur. By understanding the practices and arrangements that hold particular kinds of educational practices in place, we are better able to understand possibilities for educational change and transformation.
It is generally understood that a stable external environment around educational organizations is a thing of the past. Currently, in the 21st century, educational organizations are living in highly volatile environments, and various political, economic, social, demographic, and ecological forces are putting pressure on these organizations to change their structural and functional characteristics. Educational change as a field of research is a relatively new area and metalevel thinking about educational change has largely been inspired by theories and models that are borrowed from the broader field of organization science. The broader field possesses a multitude of theories and models of change but the same theoretical and practical plurality is not evident for educational change. However, there has always been a convergence of ideas between educational change and organizational change. As a result, educational change scholars and practitioners have borrowed the models and theories from the broader field of organization science. Parallel to the understanding in organization science, educational change interventions reflect a planned change understanding. Planned change is triggered by an external force, introduces change, and terminates the process. Although different models count on different steps to depict the process, these three phases delineate the planned change process. Many change models count on political, economic, social, or ecological forces of change for organizations. However, educational organizations have more specific and unique forces of change. Global student achievement comparison programs (e.g., Program for International Student Assessment), inequities in education, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 21st-century skills, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) movements, the trends in internationalization in education, and political conflicts around the world are putting pressure on education systems and schools around their structures and functions. Despite a conceptual plurality and richness in practical models, both organizational and educational change experience a high failure rate, which results in human, financial, and managerial issues for educational organizations. Considering the high failure rate in educational change, it is argued that conceptual and practical issues exist in educational change approaches. A broad review of both educational and organizational change suggests policy borrowing, a political rationale dominating educational change, a static organizational perspective, a loss of sight of the whole organization, and the ignoring of the human side of change as the main issues in change interventions. Assuming change as a top-down, planned, stage-based, hierarchical, and linear phenomenon, conceiving it as an extraordinary practice in the life of organizations and perceiving it as involvement of a distinguished group in the organization are some of the common problems in the dominant approach to change. These criticisms suggest a need for a fundamental shift in its conceptualization, which in turn suggests a shift in the ontology of change. According to the alternative understanding of change (i.e., continuous change), change is a small-scale, bottom-up, ongoing, cumulative, and improvisational process. The new understanding provides valuable insights into the conceptualization and practice of change. Continuous change perspective provides effective insights into the missing aspects in change implementation rather than suggesting totally replacing the planned change perspective.
The concept of inclusive education and the way it is considered within the educational policy frameworks of European countries have changed and are still changing. Inclusive education is increasingly being understood as a systemic approach to education for all learners of any age; the goal is to provide all learners with meaningful, high-quality educational opportunities in their local community, alongside their friends and peers. There is a need to examine the policy of inclusive education, both its recent changes and its future direction, that European countries are undertaking, highlighting implications for both practitioners and academic researchers. Such an examination should not focus on practice—that is, the actual implementation of country policy—or on academic research into policy or practice for inclusive education in countries. Rather, it should focus on recent policy developments that are shaping practice in European schools, as well as potential future developments. The key messages emerging from a consideration of the European experience are highly applicable to other global regions.
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.
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.
Diana Gonçalves Vidal and André Paulilo
Over the past several decades, scholars have focused special attention on the relationship between schooling and culture. The first forays focused on curriculum matters, trying to understand how educational policies affected the selection of content and its dissemination in schools. More recently, the concept of school culture has emerged as a frame for researchers, thanks to its ability to problematize how teachers and pupils experience school in terms of time and space. Placing these individuals in the center of the schooling process, the concept of school culture enables scholars to create a more comprehensive analysis of what happens inside classrooms and schoolyards. This tool offers an opportunity for researchers and teachers to debate the merits of tradition and innovation in education, pay attention to material culture as a part of school practices, and consider school community as a social actor. The concept has become commonplace in the academic production in many areas, such as educational sociology, history of education, educational anthropology, philosophy of education, and educational psychology.