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Article

Epistemology and Learning in STEM Education  

Andrew Elby

STEM students’ personal epistemologies—their views about what counts as knowledge and knowing in mathematics, science, and engineering—influence how they approach learning and problem-solving. For example, if algebra students conceptualize “knowing algebra” as knowing how to manipulate symbols and numbers to solve particular kinds of problems, they are likely to approach learning as mastering procedures, not as making sense of why those procedures work. By contrast, consider a student who conceptualizes “knowing physics” as having a qualitative understanding that makes sense to her. When studying, she might practice and reflect on the relevant problem-solving approaches, not just to master procedures but also to understand how those problem-solving approaches make sense in terms of underlying concepts. Although mathematics, engineering, and science differ, certain dimensions or aspects of students’ epistemologies are common across the STEM disciplines. These dimensions include to what extent students: (a) view knowledge as factual and procedural versus conceptual and heuristic, (b) view learning as acquiring separate pieces of knowledge versus linking those pieces into a coherent whole, and (c) think they can make sense of what they are learning by relating it to their own informal knowledge, experiences, and ways of thinking. Crucially, the epistemological views a student exhibits in a course are not necessarily a hardened personality trait or belief. A student might exhibit different epistemological views in different contexts, based in part on how the class is taught. Indeed, common STEM classroom cultures and structures can inadvertently invite students to adopt epistemological views that support superficial learning. Furthermore, broader cultural narratives, most notably the trope that mathematics and mathematical sciences can be understood only by people with innate talent, influence students’ epistemological views, again favoring those associated with superficial learning. Additional epistemological issues arise in integrated STEM units and lessons. In such lessons, mathematics, science, and engineering are “de-siloed,” often in the context of understanding and/or addressing a local or societal problem. However, unless STEM lessons are carefully crafted, students can experience the “problem” as little more than a motivational hook to engage them in mathematics and science business as usual. In that case, students might adopt the same epistemological views as they do in a siloed mathematics or science course. By contrast, when students frame the STEM lesson as an authentic engineering design challenge or attempt to understand an issue in which they learn and/or apply mathematics and science as needed to understand and/or address the challenge, students are more likely to view their learning as sense-making, drawing on multiple streams of both formal and informal knowledge.

Article

Ontology, Epistemology, and Critical Theory in STEM Education  

Shakhnoza Kayumova and Kathryn J. Strom

The persistence of inequities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is at least partially due to Eurocentric ontological and epistemological perspectives. Eurocentric thinking foregrounds epistemology (knowing and what can be accepted as knowledge) and separates it from ontology (worldviews and assumptions about the nature of being and reality), while completely disregarding axiology (ethics). This obscures the background assumptions of those who produce knowledge by positioning a particular mode of existence (i.e., Western social, cultural, and historical ways of being) as natural and, in turn, reproduces it as truth. Historically, this logic constructed a hierarchized binary that positions Western ways of knowing and being as the norm, setting up non-Western ontologies and epistemologies as inferior and “other.” Ultimately, this perspective has served as a justification for colonialization and enslavement and maintained White supremacy. Science culture, broadly construed as STEM disciplines, continues to be constituted based on dominant Western epistemologies. Through curriculum and pedagogy, children and youth are socialized into the dominant cultural models of what it means to be a science person and do science, with disciplinary knowledge and practices grounded in epistemological and ontological positions such as objectivity, universality, and neutrality. Valuing particular forms of reasoning, culture, and scientific practice, combined with understanding all scientific contributions to have emerged from Europe, perpetuates White supremacy by ensuring the hegemonic reproduction of Western epistemology and ontology as dominant while positioning all other cultures as scientifically inferior. Youth from nondominant communities are in turn constructed from a dehumanizing, deficit stance, and they are left with only two options: assimilate into the dominant culture of science or be excluded from participating in science learning. However, many feminist, Indigenous, postcolonial, and neo-materialist scholars argue that epistemology and ontology are co-constituted—that is, they co-create each other—and therefore cannot be considered separately. This relational, nondualistic perspective sees reality in terms of heterogeneous mixtures, promoting a view in which the reality is not static and fixed but fluid, always in movement. And reality is not preexisting but constantly co-created through ongoing material-discursive, nature-culture relations that involve humans but do not center them. Consequently, this produces a view of knowledge that is situated, contingent, and partial because it is shaped by the knowledge maker(s) and the multiple social, political, cultural (and so on) systems in which they are enmeshed. Given that discourse, spaces, places, and other entities all shape the nature of relations and interactions, conditions for equity and justice in STEM classrooms do not preexist: Equity emerge as practices through just relations in specific times and places among the various actors and perspectives that must coexist for students to learn in productive ways. Creating the conditions for such emergence requires reconfiguration of relations from hierarchical and exclusionary to pluriversal. Pluriversal praxis requires embracing an ontoepistemological shift based on relationality, interdependence, embodiment, ethics, and care toward youth, diverse communities, and more-than-human collectives. While this may seem like a huge (and perhaps even impossible) undertaking, it is possible to think strategically about the ontoepistemological shifts that are needed. For example, teachers can engage in professional development that deliberately teaches a collectivist approach and emphasizes the joint construction of knowledge while helping them raise their sociopolitical consciousness and engage in critical reflection. Such entry points can help teachers and researchers develop more expansive and epistemologically heterogeneous views of STEM curriculum, teaching, and learning.

Article

Jan Amos Comenius  

Stephen Tomlinson

Jan Amos Comenius (b. 1592) is widely recognized as a pivotal figure in the history of educational thought. Living during a period of great turmoil he promoted universal schooling as the means to engineer a perfectly harmonious world. His argument turned upon claims to scientific knowledge and a didactic method that could instill truth in all minds. As the ever expanding scholarship on Comenius demonstrates, many still find inspiration in this visionary project. But Comenius’ work must be read in the context of Early Modern thought. Convinced that life was situated in the divinely crafted cosmos pictured in the Book of Genesis, his overarching goal was to restore “the image of God in man” and realize the Golden Age depicted in prophecy. The school was to be a workshop for the reformation of mankind, a place to manufacture of right thinking and right acting individuals. I explore these epistemological and pedagogic arguments and demonstrate their role in his hugely successful Latin primer, Orbis pictus (1658). Comenius, I conclude, was a revolutionary thinker who married subtle observations about the process of learning with sophisticated instructional practices. However, given current views about human nature and the social good, these principles cannot be applied uncritically to contemporary educational problems.

Article

Disaster Epistemology, Vulnerability, and Mitigation in Guatemala  

Roberto E. Barrios

From 1976 to 2023, disaster studies experienced a revolution in the way scholars think about natural hazards and disasters. Central to this transformation was the emergence of vulnerability theory, which defines disasters as processes that unfold over long periods because of human practices that enhance the materially destructive and socially disruptive capacities of natural hazards. For researchers involved in developing this analytical perspective, the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala stands out as a prime example of the role of social forces in engendering disaster. Beyond the 1976 earthquake, a review of Guatemala’s history of disasters illuminates the intimate relationship between development practices, socioeconomic inequity, and catastrophes from the pre-Columbian period to the early 21st century. Paralleling the rise of vulnerability theory in the 1970s was the growing interest of disaster scholars in the methodological potential of catastrophes to reveal social structures (e.g., kinship organization) and fault lines (e.g., class and racial structures) that are not readily apparent in times of “normalcy.” Moreover, this interest in the revelatory qualities of disasters was accompanied by a number of hypotheses concerning the relationship between disasters and social change. Once again, Guatemala has offered a number of case studies that illustrate how disasters allow researchers to see social structures, inequities, and contradictions and have shed light on why some disasters are conducive to progressive social change while others are not. Specifically, the case of Guatemala demands social scientists understand disaster vulnerability and the transformative potential of disasters within the broader global political–economic networks of colonial and postcolonial extraction and exploitation. As the 21st century progresses, Guatemala struggles with the local particularities of global disasters. Central America is the tropical region that stands to be most affected by anthropogenic climate change, yet the country’s national government has not implemented the hazard mitigation, urban planning, and inequity reduction programs necessary to counteract these effects. From 2015 to 2023, climate change–related droughts and floods displaced thousands of subsistence farmers, many of whom chose to migrate internationally in search of better livelihoods. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted a country with a fragmented and critically underfunded health care system and deeply entrenched inequities between urban and rural and Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. As a result, Guatemala’s excess mortality rate during the most acute years of the pandemic (2020 and 2021) more than doubled that of Costa Rica, the Central American nation that was best prepared to confront the global health crisis. Despite the notable role of the 1976 earthquake as a classic example of vulnerability theory and the role disasters have played in inciting socio-political upheavals and change, disaster social science research and disaster risk reduction remain poorly developed in Guatemala.

Article

Anzaldúa, Gloria  

Betsy Dahms

Born in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (1942–2004) was a prolific writer, scholar, and activist. Her corpus of work includes essays, books, edited volumes, children’s literature, and fiction/autohistorias. Anzaldúa’s life and writing are at the forefront of critical theory as it interacts with feminism, Latinx literature, spirituality, spiritual activism, queer theory, and expansive ideas of queerness and articulations of alternative, non-Western epistemologies and ontologies. The geographical proximity to the US–Mexican border figures prominently throughout in her work, as does her theorization of metaphorical borderlands and liminal spaces. Her oft-cited text Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is included in many university courses’ reading lists for its contributions to discourses of hybridity, linguistics, intersectionality, and women of color feminism, among others. Anzaldúa began work on her more well-known theories prior to the publication of Borderlands/La Frontera and continued to develop these theories in her post-Borderlands/La Frontera writing, both published and unpublished. After her sudden death due to complications of diabetes in 2004, Anzaldúa’s literary estate was housed in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, Austin in 2005.

Article

The Myth of Disaster Myths  

Benigno E. Aguirre

The term “disaster myth” was initially used as a rhetorical device to help establish the study and management of disasters on firmer ground in the often unwelcoming political context of the Cold War. In the aftermath of World War II, social science research and theorizing eventually supplanted a civil defense perspective of disaster management. Some of the “myths” (or inaccuracies) social scientists refuted centered on assumptions that disasters brought about an increase in crime, panic, psychological dependence and shock, looting, and price gouging. This new perspective adopted a pro-social view to explain the perceived lessening of crime in the immediate post-impact periods of disasters, for credible scholarship indicated that most persons who experienced disaster firsthand as victims became involved in helpful, accommodating behavior. As time went on, ever more topics were dismissed as “myths,” and the word became a term of opprobrium. The present-day use of myth to mean untruth occurs in many of the fields that are interested in the study of disasters, such as public policy, meteorology, economics, sociology, and public health. Nevertheless, this use reveals a profound lack of appreciation of the classical view of myths as the foundational basis of societies, where they provide justifications for rites and customs. The cumulative consequence of the term’s rise may be the narrowing of substantive matters that researchers consider worth pursuing, for one hitherto unforeseen effect of this rise is that the ever increasing number of disaster myths is very likely to discourage the research needed to establish the generalizability and validity of many of these and other knowledge claims. The popularity of the term myth influences research in disaster science even as it facilitates the lack of robust, reproducible empirical knowledge from studies in different developing societies and cultures. The result is that there are not enough cross-cultural tests of the empirical propositions in disaster studies, tests which could show that some of the myth claims lack validity. Moreover, in the absence of any cross-cultural empirical basis to sustain them, the unsubstantiated myth claims fall into stereotyping and perpetuate a self-serving ideology of professional expertise that interprets the viewpoints of others as misunderstandings, or “myths.” The widespread use of the word myth in disaster research shows dubious epistemological reasoning, for it ignores the technical aspects of myths as hypotheses, and the effects of time, counterfactuals, lack of content validity, and insularity, as well as the unmet need for replication. Myths and disasters point to liminal states, to the experience of going through change and passing thresholds, in which both structure and identity are re-imagined. Admitting insufficiently examined myths into this research area is of great consequence because it could assist in the development of an interdisciplinary dialogue and more theoretically discerning approaches. Myths, a central topic for studies in anthropology, are valuable on their own terms, for their research—not as untruths but as essential parts of the world of symbols, beliefs, and ideologies—can guide theorizing and help in obtaining more incisive research findings in disaster studies.

Article

The Philosophical Works and Influence of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti  

Dan Arnold

The Indian Buddhist philosophers Dignāga (c. 480–540 ce) and Dharmakīrti (c. 600–660 ce) decisively influenced the course not only of Buddhist philosophy, but of Indian philosophy more generally. Having inherited an earlier philosophical tradition (the one advanced in the Buddhist Abhidharma literature) that had been largely intramural in character, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti fundamentally transformed Buddhist philosophy by advancing basically similar commitments with arguments meant to be persuasive across party lines. In doing this, they influentially theorized a family of concepts largely shared by all Indian philosophers writing in Sanskrit—a family centering on the concept of pramāṇa, which denotes a reliable way of knowing or epistemic “criterion” (as one might translate the word)—in ways that facilitated an unprecedented extent of debate among Indian philosophers of all sorts. The resultant growth in the sophistication of philosophical traditions is one of the most salient features of the mature period of classical Indian philosophy. Though there are significant differences between them, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti commonly argued in terms of a broadly empiricist sort of epistemology; this was advantageous insofar as that involves premises to which they might readily win assent, while nonetheless being conducive to the philosophical idealism they both finally upheld. Committed as they were to the basically empiricist notion that only perceptibles are finally real, both thinkers affirmed versions of the innovative sort of nominalism first introduced by Dignāga (and significantly revised by Dharmakīrti): the elusive apoha (“exclusion”) theory of meaning, which represents one of the Buddhist tradition’s signal contributions to the history of Indian philosophy. While some of Dignāga’s works were translated into Chinese and thus became influential in East Asia, none of Dharmakīrti’s was; in both India and Tibet, however, Dharmakīrti effectively eclipsed his predecessor. For generations of subsequent Indian philosophers, Dharmakīrti practically epitomized “the Buddhist position” in matters philosophical, and his works figure to this day as central to most Tibetan monastic curricula.

Article

The Practice Turn in International Relations Theory  

Jérémie Cornut

In the social sciences, IR included, the study of practices starts from a very simple intuition: social realities - and international politics - are constituted by human beings acting in and on the world. Their ways of doing things delineate practices that enact and give meaning to the world. When seen through these lenses, the concerns of other IR approaches – war, peace, negotiations, states, diplomacy, international organizations, and so on – are bundles of individual and collective practices woven together and producing specific outcomes. Rather than as a unified approach, the Practice Turn (PT) in International Relations Theory is best approached through a series of conceptual innovations and tools that introduce novel ways of thinking about international politics. The review article here first introduces the main conceptual tools in PT’s toolbox focusing on defining practices, the logic of practice, field, capital, and symbolic domination. It then situates PT within IR, and shows how it departs from both rationalism and constructivism. The article closes by focusing on the methodological, epistemological and normative debates among practice turners.

Article

Sexuality Education and Feminist New Materialisms  

Louisa Allen

School-based sexuality education has existed in various forms since the 1800s. Sexuality education researchers have recently turned to feminist new materialist thought to rethink debates that occupy this field. These debates include whether sexuality education should be taught at school, who should teach it, and what constitutes appropriate content. While these issues have been important historically, some sexuality researchers view them as stifling other possibilities for teaching and generating knowledge in this field. Feminist new materialism emerges from a broader ontological turn within the social sciences and humanities that diverges from social constructionist accounts of the world. This work is associated with scholars such as Barad, Bennett, Haraway, and Braidotti and draws on thinking from Deleuze and Guattari. Employing theoretical tools, such as “intra-action,” “onto-epistemology,” and “agentic matter,” feminist new materialism reconceptualizes the nature of sexuality education research. These concepts highlight the anthropocentric (human-centered) nature of sexuality education research and practice. Feminist new materialisms encourage us to think about what the sexuality curriculum might look like when humans are not at its core, nor bestowed with the power to control themselves and the world. These questions have profound implications for how we teach aspects of sexuality underpinned by these assumptions, such as safer sex and sexual consent. Ultimately, feminist new materialism encourages us to question whether issues such as prevention of sexually transmissible infections and unplanned pregnancy should remain the conventional foci of this subject.

Article

A Critical Examination of Mathematics Curriculum Studies  

Theodore Savich, Evan Marquise Taylor, and Craig Willey

Where does one enact boundaries for what can be known systematically? Is mathematics one branch of knowledge, separate from, say, social justice or chemistry, or is it possible to understand mathematics, justice, and the physical sciences within one system of knowing? Early Habermas provides a typology of human interests that constitute different knowledge types, beginning with the empirical or analytic, traversing the hermeneutic or historical, and terminating with critical or emancipatory knowledge. Brandom’s reconstruction of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit describes three responsibilities that are the norms for systematicity as well as an “algebra of normativity,” which is a “mathematical” way of understanding recognitive communities. The stories that those recognitive communities tell and retell are curricula. Although Habermas is primarily understood as a sociologist, critical or emancipatory knowledge is very much about the unity of being and knowing that occurs within individuals as they act intentionally in the world, reflect on those actions, and become more through the process of self-actualization. This notion of criticality is more or less absent from mathematics education discourses but is a powerful organizing thread from Kant through Hegel, to Habermas. Instead, most mathematics educators are concerned with critical theory as it pertains to social critique, centering social justice through critical race theory, critical disabilities studies and other critical theories. The tension between understanding emancipation at the level of individuals compared with political emancipation of marginalized groups enforces an ambiguity about who is being emancipated, what they are being emancipated from, and what role mathematics plays as either liberating or oppressive. Moreover, this tension is related to deep epistemological questions about how people come to know and repeat anything at all.

Article

Narrative Inquiry: Story as a Basis for Curriculum Studies  

Suniti Sharma and JoAnn Phillion

Since the 1970s, following the crisis of representation, narrative inquiry has opened educational research to story as a valuable source of knowledge production across the field, in general, and curriculum studies, in particular. While competing approaches continue to shift and expand how scholars understand narrative inquiry across curriculum studies, a common thread in the scholarship is the positioning of story at the heart of teaching, learning, and research. Narrative inquiry has pushed the field of curriculum studies toward exploration of story as a way of examining the master narrative and its construction of the universal human subject that privileges some discourses and marginalizes others. Scholars who engage with story as the basis for “doing” curriculum studies interrupt positivist methodologies, universal ontologies, and foundational epistemologies that inform educational policies and practices to shape the lived experience of exclusion. On the one hand, scholars of narrative inquiry use story to deconstruct exclusionary educational policies and practices and highlight the social, cultural, and political significance of the lived educational experience of those historically marginalized from traditional curriculum discourse. On the other hand, critics contest the limits of story as a research genre or pedagogical practice, arguing that narratives perpetuate ways of silencing or lose critical importance when personal stories do not connect with political action. Each side of the debate, in its way, generates spaces for new ways of thinking about the place of story in the production of educational knowledge, especially how curriculum scholars engage with the multiplicity of human experience within a network of changing and contextual relations. Reflective of diverse orientations, narrative inquiry in curriculum studies continues to be conceptualized, practiced, and contested in differing ways as methodology/form of inquiry; modes of expression; and, pedagogical and political practice for engaging with the telling, analyzing, and interpreting of story as a way of understanding lived experience.

Article

Bourdieu and Education  

Michael Grenfell

The French social Pierre Bourdieu became known as a key sociologist of education in the 1970s, contributing seminal books and articles to the “new” sociology of education, which focuses on knowledge formation in the classroom and institutional relations. His own social background was modest, but he rose through the elite French schools to become a leading intellectual in the second half of the 20th century. His early studies dealt with Algeria, which he had experienced firsthand in the 1950s at a time of their war of independence. Issues of education and culture grew out of his field studies and formed the basis of further early work in the 1960s. Subsequently, he developed a wider research corpus, which considered the French state and society as a whole: cultural consumption, politics, religion, law, economics, literature, art, fashion, media, and philosophy. Bourdieu developed a highly original “theory of practice” and set of conceptual thinking tools: habitus, field, and cultural capital. His approach sought to rise above conventional oppositions between subjectivism and objectivism. Structure as both structured and structuring was a central principle to this epistemology. Early studies of university students focused on the role that education played in social class reproduction and the place of language in academic discourse. For him, pedagogy was a form of “symbolic violence,” played out in the differential holdings of “cultural capital” that the students held with respect to each other and the dominant ethos of schooling. He undertook further extensive studies of French higher education and elite training schools. He was involved in various education review committees and put forward a number of principles for change in curricula, all while accepting that genuine reform was extremely challenging. He catalogued some of the tensions and conflicts of contemporary education policy. Both his discoveries and conceptual terms still offer researchers powerful tools for analyzing and understanding all national education systems and the particular individual practical contexts within them.

Article

Dialogic Education  

Rupert Wegerif

Dialogic education is a relatively new force in educational theory and practice. Despite the variety of approaches to dialogic education, it nonetheless offers a coherent theory of education with implications not only for how education should be practiced but also for the purposes of education. Dialogic education takes place through dialogue which means opening up dialogic spaces in which different perspectives can clash or play together and new learning can occur. But dialogic education is not only education through dialogue, it is also education for dialogue, meaning that as a result of dialogic education learners become better at learning together with others through dialogue. The intellectual background of dialogic education theory goes back at least as far as Socrates and includes thinkers as varied as Freire, who saw dialogic education as a means of liberation from oppression, and Oakeshott, who understood education to be a process of engaging learners in their cultural inheritance, described as “the conversation of mankind.” Bakhtin, an influential source for recent dialogic educational theory, argues that meaning requires the clash and interaction of multiple voices. There are a range of approaches to implementing dialogic education, varying in the extent to which they focus on teacher to student dialogue, small group dialogues, and whole class dialogues. All approaches include some idea of (1) a dialogic orientation toward the other, characterized by an openness to the possibility of learning, and (2) social norms that support productive dialogue. Published assessments of the impact of dialogic education in relation to general thinking skills, curriculum learning gains, and conceptual understanding have been positive. However, the assessment of dialogic education raises methodological issues, and new methodologies are being developed that align better with dialogic theory and with the idea of measuring increased dialogicity, or expanded “dialogic space.” Assuming that dialogic education works to promote educational goals, various hypotheses have been suggested as to how it works, including some that focus on the co-construction of new meaning through explicit language use, others that focus more on changes in the identity of students, and others on changes in the possibilities of engagement afforded by the culture of classrooms. There are many issues and controversies raised by dialogic education. One issue is the extent to which dialogue as a goal is compatible with a curriculum that pre-specifies certain learning outcomes. Another is the extent to which teaching a set of social norms and practices promoting dialogue might be a kind of cultural imperialism that fails to recognize and value the culture of the students. These and other challenges to dialogic education are part of a lively and constructive debate in the field, which values a multiplicity of voices within the broader context of convergence on the value of teaching through dialogue and teaching for dialogue.

Article

History of Mental Disorders  

German E. Berrios and Ivana S. Marková

Writing the history of mental disorders is an unfinishable task. Each historical period is expected to write its own, and in a style designed to satisfy its own conceptual and social needs. In the 21st century such a historical account seems to be one that conceives of mental disorders as natural kinds, that is, as entities that for their meaning and ontology require to be related to a brain change. However, being aware that, after all, concepts are just instruments in the hands of humans opens up the possibility of writing a more comprehensive history of mental disorders, one based on their historical epistemology, that is, on the manner in which madness has been culturally reconfigured throughout the ages. This approach should be more fruitful in regard to finding ways of helping people with mental sufferings, a task which is about the only justification for the existence of the discipline called psychiatry.

Article

knowledge, theories of  

Richard Bett

Questions about the nature and possibility of knowledge extend throughout Greek philosophy. In the early period, several thinkers raised doubts about our ability to know the truth of the proto-scientific theories they themselves were developing. Plato depicted Socrates as disclaiming knowledge about anything important but searching for fundamental ethical truths. He (Plato) also introduced the idea of unchanging Forms, a grasp of which is crucial for knowledge; in one dialogue, he examined a number of proposed definitions of knowledge itself. Aristotle developed an ideal of scientific knowledge centered on demonstrations of why the objects under examination must have certain features, the starting points of which are an understanding of the essences of the things in question. The Stoics and the Epicureans both offered robustly positive accounts of how knowledge is possible, and they were challenged on this by sceptics of both the Academic and Pyrrhonian traditions.A number of ancient cultures had highly developed methods for organizing knowledge. However, it was in ancient Greek philosophy that systematic, self-conscious reflection on the nature of knowledge itself appears to have begun. It is not clear that we can speak of fully worked out .

Article

Tibetan Visionary Buddhism  

Chris Hatchell

Tibetan religious traditions contain a variety of practices and discourses that involve the eyes: epistemologies that investigate the act of seeing, ritual uses of visual arts, literary references to light, and meditative practices of looking and visualization. Tibetan traditions also use practices of “vision,” where luminous scenes appear spontaneously to the eyes. Insofar as Tibetan Buddhists have extensively theorized these visionary experiences and identified them as important methods of attaining Buddhist goals, they can be thought of as constituting a kind of “visionary” Buddhism. Visionary practices in Tibetan religion can be placed on two interconnected registers: those having practical or this-worldly benefits, and those that are viewed as leading to liberation. In the first category, vision is commonly found in practices related to prognostication, mediumship, and textual revelation. The second category is more characteristic of tantric yogic practices related to Kālacakra and the post-tantric movement known as the Great Perfection. In these cases, practitioners use sensory deprivation to induce complex visions. Such visions are described variously as being expressions of emptiness, expressions of one’s own mind, or the “lighting up” of an omnipresent awareness. Recognizing the nature of these visions is seen as part of the path to enlightenment.

Article

Qualitative Research  

Deborah K. Padgett

The term qualitative methods is relatively new. There is no single definition, although they share features in common, that is, flexibility, holism, naturalism, and insider perspectives. Epistemological debates continue among qualitative researchers, and the diverse methodological approaches often reflect the influence of constructivist critiques. The basic approaches—ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, narrative, phenomenological, and action research—are described along with the fundamentals of data collection and analysis, the role of theory, standards for rigor, ethical issues, and social work values. Rapid growth in the popularity of these methods ensures that they will play a key role in the professions' knowledge development in the future.

Article

Mentoring Epistemologies Beyond Western Modalities  

Carol A. Mullen

Commitment to mentorship, while necessary to benefit mentoring parties, is insufficient to work with the complexities of contemporary educational settings, especially in pursuit of engagement and learning for all. Mentoring that makes a profound difference for all participants, worldwide, is oriented at the outset to call into question such organizational constraints as hegemony, hierarchy, and culture. Traditional versus alternative approaches to mentoring is a critical binary that can be differentiated in the abstract. However, context and culture are existing organizational realities for which mentoring forms, enactments, and activities (such as mentoring circles) either perpetuate the status quo or produce significant change. Thus, alternative mentoring approaches work within both the traditional view of mentoring and any alternative to it.

Article

The Genetic Epistemology of Jean Piaget  

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman

Jean Piaget (1896–1980) is known for his contributions to developmental psychology and educational theory. His name is associated especially with Stage Theory. That we believe him to have focused solely on cognitive development, however, is not because he did. This is instead the result of the popularization of his writings in the United States during the Cold War. (A period of crisis and subsequent education reform.) The overpowering influence of those interests blinded us to his larger framework, which he called “genetic epistemology,” and of which his stages were just a part. To address the resulting and continuing misunderstandings, this essay presents original historical scholarship—distilling over a thousand pages of archival documents (correspondence, diary entries, budgets, and reports)—to provide an insider’s look at Piaget’s research program from the perspective of the Rockefeller Foundation: genetic epistemology’s primary funding agency in the United States from the mid-1950s through the early-1960s. The result is an examination of how a group of interested Americans came to understand Piaget’s writings in French in the period just prior to their wider popularization in English, as well as of how Piaget presented himself and his ideas during the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. My goal, however, is not to summarize the whole of this misunderstood program. Instead, I aim to provide a source of archivally-grounded perspective that will allow for new insights about the Genevan School that are unrelated to American Cold War interests. In the process, we also derive new means to see how Piaget’s experimental examinations of the development of individual knowledge served to inform his team’s investigations of the evolution of science (and vice versa).

Article

Pragmatism  

Nathan A. Crick

When John Dewey announced that communication was the most wonderful of all affairs, he recognized the centrality of communication within the tradition of American pragmatism. In other traditions of philosophy, such as idealism or empiricism, communication certainly played a role, but usually it was a secondary function of transmitting ideas from one mind to another. In idealism, ideas were discovered through intuitive revelation of the whole and only later expressed through transcendent eloquence, whereas in empiricism, particular data was attained purely by the senses and communication served a kind of documentary function of fact gathering. Pragmatism, however, inverted this traditional hierarchy. By arguing that the meaning of our ideas was only found in their effects and consequences in experience, particularly those consequences brought about through shared experience, pragmatists made communication both the origin and consummation of knowledge—regardless if that knowledge was practical, scientific, aesthetic, or social. Consequently, pragmatists believed that improving the quality of communication practices was central to improving not only the state of knowledge but the quality of our experience living together in a common world.