Lisa J. Cary and Hongyu Wang
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Conducting research on curriculum in higher education settings often results in confusion over just what curriculum is. Thus, simplifications occur and the research focuses instead on the discussion of the various structural reforms of units, courses, and programs. The tendency to simplify research on curriculum seems to be driven by traditional notions of knowledge production or transmission that shapes (limits and restrains) the epistemological spaces inhabited by students in higher education settings. Courses, units, lessons, textbooks, etc., are seen as vehicles of content knowledge rather than just part of the story. This notion highlights the transmissive nature and positivistic “Scientistic Paradigm” that permeates these Enlightenment institutions. However, as Colin J. Marsh and George Willis highlight in Curriculum: Alternative Approaches, Ongoing Issues, academics’ lived experience, student life histories, and the physical space of classroom settings also influence knowledge production. In the current neo-liberal, market-driven context, institutions are also developing curriculum designed to gain market share and enable work-ready students. Therefore, theoretical analyses of the curriculum occurring in the international field of Curriculum Studies are marginalized. In this global context, the study and production of curriculum should be internationalized and reach beyond and across borders and boundaries.
If we focus on the epistemological nature of “curriculum as knowledge production,” as Lisa J. Cary puts it in Curriculum Spaces: Discourse, Postmodern Theory and Educational Research, we can move this discussion beyond static understandings of content and knowledge production to a more fluid and complicated understanding of how we know what we know, which reveals exclusions and objectifications at work in educational settings. Elizabeth St. Pierre points out, in her article “The Call for Intelligibility in Postmodern Educational Research,” that it is time “to produce different knowledge, to produce knowledge differently as we work for social justice in the human sciences,” and it is also time to understand curriculum as whole-being experiences that broaden the existential horizon of educational life. The aim is to move towards a more complicated theorizing regarding the nature of curriculum in higher education. To do so requires starting with a critique of commodification of curriculum in higher education, going deeper to reveal the colorization of the curriculum and how it is demonstrated in interdisciplinary skill-based reform, and discussing the transformation of higher education curriculum, including shifting from knowing to becoming and from identity to relational dynamics in diversity curriculum.
Mary Jo Hinsdale
One could easily argue that the pedagogy of relation is not new: a genealogy of the approach would send us back to the ancient Greek philosophers. However, in recent years relational pedagogy has been taken up in novel and ever-deepening ways. It is a response to ongoing efforts at school reform that center on teacher and administrator accountability, based on a constraining view of education as the effective teaching of content. In this view, methods, curricula, and high-stakes testing overshadow the human relationship between teacher and student that relational pedagogy theorists place at the center of educational exchanges. When relationships are secondary to content, the result can be disinterested or alienated students and teachers who feel powerless to step outside the mandated curriculum of their school district.
Offering an alternative vision of pedagogy in a troubling era of teacher accountability, contemporary relational theorists take inspiration from a range of philosophical writings. This article focuses on those whose work is informed by the concept of caring, as developed by Nel Noddings, with the critical perspective of Paulo Freire, or the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. Although these approaches to ethical educational relations do not necessarily mesh together easily, the tensions among them can bear fruit that informs our pedagogy.
In academic literature there is a multiplicity and proliferation of alternative curriculum definitions, and the matter of defining curriculum is in a state of disarray. Likewise, there are diverse ways of defining teaching in which curriculum is virtually invisible. Invoking Dewey’s idea of “reality as whole,” this article makes a case for rethinking curriculum and teaching as two interrelated concepts embedded in the societal, institutional, and instructional contexts of schooling. Curriculum is construed in terms of societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula that give social meaning, normative and operational frameworks, and educational quality to the practice of teaching. Likewise, teaching is thought of as sociocultural, institutional, deliberative and curricular practice with a bearing on the societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula. The article concludes by questioning the technicist and reductionist treatment of curriculum and teaching associated with the global neo-liberal movement toward standards and accountability and by calling for reenvisioning curriculum and teaching in view of the educational challenges of the 21st century.
Teaching self-efficacy refers to the beliefs that teachers hold about their instructional capabilities. According to Bandura’s social cognitive theory, individuals develop a sense of efficacy by attending to four sources of information: mastery experiences (i.e., performance attainments), vicarious experiences (i.e., observing social models), social persuasions (i.e., messages received from others) and physiological and affective states (e.g., stress, fatigue, mood). Personal and contextual factors also play a role in the development of teaching self-efficacy. Understandings of teaching self-efficacy, its sources and its effects, have been limited by poor conceptualizations and methodological shortcomings. Nonetheless, researchers have provided ample evidence that teachers with a high sense of efficacy tend to be more psychologically healthy and effective than teachers who doubt their capabilities.
Visual literacy was originally defined as a set of visual competencies or cognitive skills and strategies one needs to make sense of visual images. These visual competencies were seen as universal cognitive abilities that were used for understanding visual images regardless of the contexts of production, reception, and dissemination. More contemporary definitions suggest visual literacy is a contextualized, social practice as much as an individualized, cognitively based set of competencies. Visual literacy is more aptly defined as a process of generating meanings in transaction with multimodal ensembles that include written text, visual images, and design elements from a variety of perspectives to meet the requirements of particular social contexts.
Theories of visual literacy and associated research and pedagogy draw from a wide range of disciplines including art history, semiotics, media and cultural studies, communication studies, visual ethnography and anthropology, social semiotics, new literacies studies, cognitive psychology, and critical theory. Understanding the various theories, research methodologies, and pedagogical approaches to visual literacy requires an investigation into how the various paradigm shifts that have occurred in the social sciences have affected this field of study. Cognitive, linguistic, sociocultural, multimodal, and postmodern “turns” in the social sciences each bring different theories, perspectives, and approaches to the field of visual literacy. Visual literacy now incorporates sociocultural, semiotic, critical, and multimodal perspectives to understand the meaning potential of the visual and verbal ensembles encountered in social environments.