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Knowledge and the Study of Education
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Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

Knowledge and the Study of Education

an international exploration


2017 paperback 288 pages, £42.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-97-7

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About the book

In the English-speaking world, university Schools of Education are usually heavily involved in the professional preparation of teachers. Yet, in England and the USA in particular, the role of universities in teacher education has increasingly seemed under threat as alternative providers of training have come on the scene, often with the overt encouragement of governments.

This book, which is based on a project that explored how the study of Education is configured in different countries, makes visible the different knowledge traditions that inform university teaching and research in Education around the world. The extent to which these are related to the training of teachers is shown to vary historically and comparatively.

The book consists of a substantial introduction by the editors, which identifies 12 major knowledge traditions in the study of education, and classifies these as Academic Knowledge Traditions (such as Sciences de l’Éducation), Practical Knowledge Traditions (like that practised in Normal Colleges) and Integrated Knowledge Traditions (including the currently fashionable concept of Research-informed Clinical Practice).

This introduction is followed by contributions on the nature of Education as a field of study in six countries – Australia, China, France, Germany, Latvia and the USA – authored by established experts from each of those jurisdictions. There are also chapters that provide useful conceptual frameworks for understanding the dimensions on which the various traditions in the study of Education differ, as well as those that compare the nature of Education along specific dimensions in different countries. The book concludes with a discussion, in the light of these contributions, of future prospects for the field of Education.

This book will appeal to students, teachers and researchers in Education and is intended to encourage less parochial thinking about the nature of Education as a field of international study.

Contents [Please click on author name for summary]

Preface (Geoff Whitty & John Furlong), 7-9


John Furlong, Geoff Whitty Knowledge Traditions in the Study of Education, 13-57


Régis Malet From Science to Sciences de l’Éducation in France: past and present in the construction of a discipline, 61-73

Jürgen Schriewer Between the Philosophy of Self-cultivation and Empirical Research: educational studies in Germany, 75-99

Irēna Žogla Pedagoģija and Educational Sciences: competing traditions in the study of education in Latvia, 101-121

Susan Groundwater-Smith, Nicole Mockler The Study of Education in Australia: shifting knowledge interests, 123-143

Wen Wen, Xie Weihe The Development and Characteristics of Educational Studies in China, 145-160

Lynn Paine Framing Education: cautionary tales from the USA of the relationship between education studies and teacher education, 161-187


Jim Hordern Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge and Education(al) Studies, 191-210

Gary McCulloch Education: an applied multidisciplinary field? The English Experience, 211-229

Dina Kuhlee, Christopher Winch Teachers’ Knowledge in England and Germany: the conceptual background, 231-254

Maria Teresa Tatto, Jim Hordern The Configuration of Teacher Education as a Professional Field of Practice: a comparative study of mathematics education, 255-274


David F. Labaree Futures of the Field of Education, 277-283

Notes on Contributors, 285-288

Preface (Geoff Whitty & John Furlong)

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Knowledge Traditions in the Study of Education
John Furlong, Geoff Whitty

The chapter draws on evidence from a number of different jurisdictions in order to clarify the range of intellectual traditions and practices that collectively constitute the field of Education today. Specifically, it asks what can be learnt about the current construction of the field by looking comparatively at ‘the Education project’ in seven different jurisdictions – England and six case-study countries: France, Germany, Latvia, Australia, China and the USA. What are the similarities and differences in the ways in which knowledge in the field is traditionally constructed and the ways in which it is currently contested and is changing? Three main clusters of knowledge traditions across these seven countries are identified: academic knowledge traditions; practical knowledge traditions and integrated knowledge traditions. Each of these clusters includes a number of distinctive, but sometimes overlapping, traditions within it. In conclusion, it is argued that asking questions about knowledge in Education is important because whatever the ‘settlements’ of the past, they are now being called into question by politicians and practitioners around the world. University and school systems are increasingly being drawn into a world of competitive international performativity, raising, in ever sharper terms, questions about the value of the study of Education that challenge the field as a whole and each of the various traditions identified here.

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From Science to Sciences de l’Éducation in France: past and present in the construction of a discipline
Régis Malet

The focus of this chapter is the history of the development and institutionalisation of the Sciences de l’Education in France. From its birth as a discipline, Sciences de l’Education has been subject to many different pressures: social demands, political injunctions, tensions with nearby disciplines, as well as the internal imperatives of scientific structuring. As such, Sciences de l’Education in France can serve as an ‘observatory’ of the tensions experienced within every human and social science. Although the international approach proposed in this book demonstrates many similarities between Sciences de l’Education and developments in other countries, it is argued that the particular context in which the discipline emerged in France has been quite distinctive. In particular, the discipline’s relative distance from teacher education, from which it emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century but from which it then successfully distanced itself, means that today the institutionalisation of the discipline is quite different from that of many other countries in the world.

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Between the Philosophy of Self-cultivation and Empirical Research: educational studies in Germany
Jürgen Schriewer

Educational studies in Germany is a field characterised by both a long past and a short history. The ‘long past’ refers to rich and century-old traditions of educational thought and of developing reform-oriented models of educating, teaching, and schooling. The ‘short history’, by contrast, refers to educational studies’ rather late institutionalisation as a university subject in its own right. The chapter, on the one hand, is aimed at analysing the peculiar style of reflective theorising that has emerged out of these contrasting conditions, and which has – in terms of a socially ‘involved’ philosophical and hermeneutic reasoning –left its marks on the academic field for a long time. On the other hand, it seeks to describe the emergence, expansion, and recent transformation of the field in connection with institutional contexts and successive socio-historical periods of German history. Key periods in this sense include the emergence of the first autonomous chairs of educational study in the tension-filled transition from the Empire to the Weimar Republic; the reconstruction period after World War II; the massive expansion of the entire education system from the mid-1960s onwards; and the challenges represented, for the philosophical style of the tradition, by large-scale international scholastic achievement studies and the attendant rise of empirical educational research, from the mid-1990s onwards. Finally, the resultant diversity of styles of educational knowledge production is interpreted through the lens of a sociology-of-science model and examined with regard to the challenges it represents with regard to teacher training.

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Pedagoģija and Educational Sciences: competing traditions in the study of education in Latvia
Irēna Žogla

A central part of Latvia’s ‘redirection’ over the last 25 years has been the transforming of the educational system – changing its content and technologies, and joining the European Union with its discussion about the establishment of a ‘European space of education’. However, because of differences in interpretation between different educational communities within Latvia, EU documents on education have been interpreted from two fundamentally different perspectives. This has escalated into one of the most influential and long-standing debates on what constitutes the basic approach to the study of education. On the one hand, there is ‘Pedagoģija’, the long-established intellectual tradition in the study of education in this country; on the other hand, there is the more recently introduced tradition of Educational Sciences – familiar in many parts of the western world. In the light of these different interpretations, the aim of this chapter is twofold. Firstly, it is to explore the relatively unknown Latvian concept of ‘Pedagoģija’, a concept which involves an understanding of the complex nature of learning that, from a learning-centred perspective, respects the learners’ individual needs and seeks to accentuate and energise their capabilities. The second purpose is to explore how, since the political redirection of the early 1990s, Latvia has had to accommodate an alternative perspective, that of Educational Sciences. It should be noted that the approach described in this chapter as ‘Educational Sciences’ is similar to that termed ‘Disciplines of Education’/‘Sciences de l’Education’ in chapter 1 of this book.

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The Study of Education in Australia: shifting knowledge interests
Susan Groundwater-Smith, Nicole Mockler

This chapter traces the evolution of teacher education policy and practice in Australia and its relationship to the wider discipline of education. It is argued that teacher education has largely been driven by instrumental knowledge interests, particularly in the context of its evolution within teacher training colleges. The case is made for a more transformative stance where teacher education is informed by the foundation disciplines of education, especially the philosophy, psychology, sociology and history of education, which can serve to enable teacher education students to better understand the nature of educational practice. The chapter employs the notion of practice architectures to draw out the argument. It traces out the history of teacher education that informs these assertions. Furthermore, attention is drawn to the role of research in educational practice and the ways in which such research informs not only the development of policy but also of practice.

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The Development and Characteristics of Educational Studies in China
Wen Wen, Xie Weihe

This chapter provides an overview of the development of educational studies in mainland China since it was imported from the West in the early twentieth century. The chapter examines how educational studies can be understood in the context of its long-term formation. Four periods are identified and the features of educational studies of each period are outlined. It also examines the characteristics of educational studies in relation to knowledge, to find out what type of knowledge tends to be produced by educational studies in China. The discussion about knowledge in this chapter responds to the major debates on educational studies in China and worldwide. It then considers what the future of educational studies in China will be. It concludes that the grammaticality of educational studies needs to be strengthened, and identifies that how to deal with the tension between global/western impact and Chinese legacy in educational studies is one of the most important issues.

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Framing Education: cautionary tales from the USA of the relationship between education studies and teacher education
Lynn Paine

This chapter explores the shifting terrain of education as a field of study and research in the USA and examines parallel shifts in the relation of education to practice. Based on a review of what is highlighted, accorded most authoritative space, and awarded most funding in education, the it is argued that in recent decades the contours of education as a field of scholarly inquiry have become more sharply drawn and less fluid. There is increasing emphasis on ‘scientific research’ in education and heightened attention to outcomes and impact. Neoliberal transformations within US higher education also contribute to these shifts. Similarly, education as a field of practice has been under intense pressures. Questions about the value of teacher preparation, its location, and its knowledge foundations have been prominent. These have implications for the role and nature of research, as well as the involvement of new actors. The chapter uses selected examples of illustrative events to examine the confluence of pressures in these debates. The chapter considers the problematic consequences of the redefinition of the field of education and its relation to the profession in US education and US teacher education.

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Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge and Education(al) Studies
Jim Hordern

This chapter provides an overview of some key concepts in Basil Bernstein’s sociology of knowledge and their development and use by other authors working in related traditions. These concepts are then used to discuss disciplinary structures and the organisation of education(al) studies, with particular reference to the UK context. Bernstein’s work allows for a nuanced characterisation of education(al) studies in its varied forms, while acknowledging the influence of other disciplines, of prevalent notions of professionalism, and of conceptions of educational practice.

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Education: an applied multidisciplinary field? The English Experience
Gary McCulloch

The case of educational studies and research in England, and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, provides an interesting example of the character of fields and disciplines and the idea of practice of interdisciplinarity. Rather than a discipline, this may be described as an applied multidisciplinary field. Key disciplines have helped to shape this field through an extended university project, involving academic conferences, societies, journals and centres, as well as university education departments. There have been interdisciplinary visions and initiatives, including key organisational developments such as the Standing Conference on Studies in Education and the British Educational Research Association, and leading institutions like the Institute of Education London and the University of Leicester.

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Teachers’ Knowledge in England and Germany: the conceptual background
Dina Kuhlee, Christopher Winch

This chapter looks at three ‘ideal types’ in a typology of teachers’ knowledge and the ways in which it is linked to their know-how: the craftworker, the executive technician and the professional technician. These categories are applied to an examination of the ways in which teaching is conceptualised in England and Germany. The current English policy landscape is examined and it is maintained that the craftworker conception is the dominant one. When the German policy landscape is examined, by contrast, it can be seen that the craftworker and the executive technician conceptions have rather little influence and that the professional technician conception has been consistently dominant. Reflections on differences in the policymaking process in the two jurisdictions are also made in order to discuss relations between political reform intentions and effects of reform.

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The Configuration of Teacher Education as a Professional Field of Practice: a comparative study of mathematics education
Maria Teresa Tatto, Jim Hordern

Using a comparative approach, the authors analyse the role of educational studies in the secondary teacher education curriculum in Germany, Poland, Singapore and the USA. The data come from an analysis of syllabi from cross-national representative samples of pre-service programmes. The analysis focused on the emphasis given by programmes to five domains typically considered as essential elements of teacher education: the knowledge of the discipline, the knowledge of the school curriculum for the discipline, the pedagogy of the discipline, the general pedagogy (or education studies), and the practicum. The discipline of interest in this case is mathematics because it has a relatively ‘uniform’ grammar across nations. Using Bernstein’s sociology of knowledge, the authors discuss the differential emphases given to these domains within and across countries as an expression of the re-contextualisation of knowledge from singulars to regions – for instance how the educational foundation disciplines and elements of mathematical knowledge are recontextualised to address a particular problem of practice: how to prepare knowledgeable secondary teachers of mathematics. These results are considered in light of national and global accountability discourses that prioritise some ‘knowledges’ over others and the implications for the future of ‘education(al)’ studies.

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Futures of the Field of Education
David F. Labaree

This chapter begins with a brief overview of what the book’s authors say both about the national variations in education knowledge production and also about three core tensions that run through the field as a whole, looking at the changes in these tensions over time. Second, the chapter introduces a fourth tension that infuses the field, the disagreement about what social goals education should serve. It argues that these four tensions are a necessary and healthy component of schooling and the research about schooling. As a result, any efforts to resolve the tensions one way or the other would be detrimental to the broader role that schooling needs to play. Unfortunately, however, such a narrowing of the vision of education is very much in process in the current policy climate, spread by a global educational reform movement (lovingly referred to as GERM), which relentlessly seeks to remake education into an efficient machine for the production of human capital. The chapter also discusses an alternative vision of education and educational knowledge, which is not driven by educational policymakers but instead by individual education consumers. From this perspective, education is all about providing social access and preserving social advantage. The chapter closes by exploring the implications of this analysis for the future of educational research.

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Notes on Contributors

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John Furlong is an Emeritus Professor and former Director of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford. He is currently adviser to the Welsh Government on Initial Teacher Education and a former President of the British Educational Research Association. His research interests centre on both teacher education and educational research policy and the links between them.

Susan Groundwater-Smith is an Honorary Professor in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. She has a long history in relation to teacher professional learning at both the pre-service and in-service levels with an emphasis upon action research. Most recently she has been engaged in facilitating children and young people to become participatory in school based inquiry.

Jim Hordern is a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University. His research interests focus on educational knowledge and practice, particularly in higher, professional and vocational education.

Dina Kuhlee is a Senior Lecturer at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in the Department of Vocational Education and Professional Studies. Her research focuses on teacher education, further education, and educational policy and governance from an international and comparative perspective. She recently co-edited Governance in Initial Teacher Education: perspectives on England and Germany (Springer, 2017) and a special issue on vocational education in England and Germany for the journal Research in Comparative and International Education (RCIE).

David F. Labaree is Lee L. Jacks Professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. He is former president of the History of Education Society and former vice president of the American Educational Research Association. His most recent book is A Perfect Mess: the unlikely ascendancy of American higher education (University of Chicago Press, 2017)

Gary McCulloch is Brian Simon Professor of the History of Education at the UCL Institute of Education. He is currently vice-president and president-elect of the British Educational Research Association and Editor of the British Journal of Educational Studies. His recent work includes a book on the social history of educational studies and research.

Régis Malet is full professor of comparative education in the University of Bordeaux – Ecole Supérieure du Professorat et de l’Education (ESPE) of Aquitaine. He is the director of the Laboratoire Cultures, Education, Sociétés (LACES EA4140) of the University of Bordeaux and the deputy-director of the ESPE of Aquitaine, in charge of international development and research. Régis Malet has been the director of the Faculty of Education in the University of Lille. He has also been the President of AFEC (French-speaking society of comparative education) and the Editor of Éducation Comparée for almost a decade. Régis Malet’s fields of research include comparative and international education, education policy, teachers’ education and youth identity and citizenship, domains in which he has an extensive publication record.

Nicole Mockler is a Senior Lecturer in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. She is currently Editor in Chief of The Australian Educational Researcher. Her research interests are in education policy and politics, particularly the role of education policy in shaping and framing teachers’ work, the relationship between education and the media, and the global commercialisation of education.

Lynn Paine is Professor of Teacher Education and Assistant Dean for International Studies in the College of Education at Michigan State University. Her work focuses on comparative and international education and the sociology of education. Much of her research has involved the comparative study of teachers, teaching and teacher education. Most recently she has been exploring the influence of globally circulating discourses on policy and practice in teacher preparation.

Jürgen Schriewer is an Emeritus Professor of Comparative Education at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he acted both as Dean of the Faculty of Education and as a co-coordinator of research networks on cross-cultural studies in historical and social sciences funded by the German Research Agency. A former President of the Comparative Education Society in Europe, he was invited as a Visiting Professor to universities in Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, Beijing, Mexico-City, and Buenos Aires. His research interests centre on the comparative history of education; world society theory and region-specific structural elaboration processes; as well as on the history and methodology of comparative social enquiry.

Maria Teresa Tatto is the Southwest Borderlands Professor of Comparative Education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University. She is the principal investigator for the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics, and for the First Five Years of Mathematics Teaching Study, both designed to explore the connections between pre-service preparation and what is learned on the job during the first years of teaching. She is a former President of the Comparative and International Education Society, and studies the effects of educational policy on school systems.

Weihe Xie, PhD in philosophy, is currently the vice president of the academic council and the dean of the Institute of Educational Research, Tsinghua University. His research interests focus on educational theories, higher education and sociology of education. He has published extensively on education policy, education equity, and employment of college graduates. Professor Xie’s academic achievements have been widely recognized internationally. He was invited to give lectures as a specialist in Chinese education at Harvard University, Columbia University, Oxford University, and other universities across the world.

Wen Wen is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Educational Research, Tsinghua University, China. She received her Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and Master’s degree in education from Tsinghua University. She worked with Directorate for Education, OECD in the summer of 2007. In 2010 she got her PhD in Education from the University of Oxford. Her research interests include teaching and learning in higher education, higher education policy, and internationalization of higher education.

Christopher Winch is Professor of Educational Philosophy and Policy in the School of Education, Society and Communication at King's College London. He was Chair of the Philosophy of Education Society from 2008-2011. His interests lie in the area of philosophy of education, professional and vocational education and teacher knowledge. His latest book, Teachers' Know-how, was published in 2017.

Geoff Whitty is Director Emeritus of the UCL Institute of Education in London. He currently holds a Research Professorship at Bath Spa University UK and a Global Innovation Chair at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He is a former President of the College of Teachers and of the British Educational Research Association. A sociologist of education by training, his current research interests are in education policy with particular reference to teacher education and widening participation in higher education.

Irēna Žogla is Dr.habil.paed. is Emeritus Professor of the University of Latvia and senior researcher of the Institue of research in Pedagoģija. Her academic and research profile includes the process of teaching-learning and teacher education. Currently she is an expert at the Council of Sciences of Latvia and Chair of the Council for Promotion in Pedagoģija. She runs a master’s programme in Pedagoģija, delivers classes in Pedagoģija for doctoral and masters’ students and is a scientific adviser for doctoral research.

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