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Day: March 6, 2011

Female educational theorists

I asked a really stupid question, and as the list of responses and suggestions came in, I started to feel more and more embarrassed. My question was, who are the female educational theorists. In my head, I was thinking of Dewey,  Piaget, Gardner, Gatto, Holt, Friero, and other male educational theorists and wondering where all the women were.

The problem of course is that there are lots of female educational theorists but I over-looked all of them. The reason why? Sexism. Yep, I admit it, I had a sexist moment and for some reason didn’t connect what these marvelous women do with educational theory. How that is a reasonable thing to do, I don’t know, and I feel ashamed and embarrassed.

In no particular order, here are some examples of female educational theorists, all of whom are inspirations in their field.

  • Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System and many other articles and publications. She tours the US doing speaking engagements.
     
  • Deborah Meier (@DebMeier) wrote Playing for keeps: Life and learning on a public school playground. She tours the world talking about education.
     
  • Linda Darling-Hammond teaches at Stanford University and her various publications are available to read here.
     
  • Melahnie McBride (@melaniemcbride) "is a Canadian educator, researcher and writer focused on situated emergent learning, transmedia and affinity culture in virtual environments and gaming spaces." (from her website)
     
  • Mary Ann Reilly (@maryannreilly) wrote Deepening Literacy Learning; Art and Literature Engagements in K-8 Classrooms and is also a photographer and educational researcher.
     
  • Clare Brett is a faculty member at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Her research "lie[s] in the areas of teaching and learning in online and distance contexts; the social and cultural implications of technology use and the affordances of online environments for learning." (from her website)
     
  • Marlene Scardamalia is a researcher at OISE and is also the director of the Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology.
     
  • Jean Lave "is a social anthropologist with a strong interest in social theory. Much of her ethnographically-based research concentrates on the re-conceiving of learning, learners, and everyday life in terms of social practice." (from her faculty profile)
     
  • Brigid Barron researches about ways "to advance scientific understanding of social aspects of learning while contributing to the design of learning environments that lead to high levels of engagement in subject matter for all learners in educational systems." (from her faculty profile).
     
  • Ricki Goldman is "Professor & Director of the Digital Media Design for Learning Program & the Educational Communication & Technology Program at NYU." (from her faculty profile)
     
  • Sherry Turkle "is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the founder (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self." (from her faculty profile)
     
  • Amy Bruckman is an Associate Professor at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and does research on "applying the constructivist philosophy of education to online communities." (from her faculty profile)
     
  • Margaret Mead introduced the idea of culture into education, suggesting that you can’t teach students without either appealing to their culture or recognizing its value.
     
  • Maria Montessori developed a method for teaching children by giving them self-direction in their learning, and the freedom to choose their own activities. For more information, see the Wikipedia article.
     
  • C. Steinkuelher "investigates the intellectual work that goes on within such games and the cultures of participation that emerge both within their virtual worlds (between login & logoff) and beyond (in the online fandom spaces around them)." (from her faculty page)
     
  • Lillian Katz wrote the book "Engaging student’s minds" and "is a Professor Emerita of early childhood education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is also principal investigator for the Illinois Early Learning Project,[1] a contributor to the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative, and editor of the first on-line peer-reviewed early-childhood journal, Early Childhood Research & Practice." (from a Wikipedia article)
     
  • Shirley R. Steinberg is an Associate Professor and "is the co-founder and director of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy." (from her faculty page)
     
  • Nel Noddings "is an American feminist, educationalist, and philosopher best known for her work in philosophy of education, educational theory, and ethics of care." (from her entry on Wikipedia)
     
  • Maxine Greene founded the Maxine Greene foundation which "directs its primary attention to the intersections among various modes of social action and engagements with the arts. Social imagination most often finds expression in diverse art forms: film, literature, theatre, and dance." (according to the Foundation’s about page)
     
  • Madeleine Grumet "is a professor in the School of Education and in the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences." (from her faculty page)
     
  • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach) "is a 20-year educator who has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. She is also CEO and co-founder of Powerful Learning Practice, an organization dedicated to empowering schools and districts from across the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities." (from her website)
     
  • Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) "is the founder and President of Maiers Education Services, a consulting firm headquartered in Clive, Iowa. Her company provides just-in-time consultation services to schools, organizations, and individuals seeking to use technology and social media to leverage human capital and production goals." (from her website)
     
  • Cynthia Chambers "is a mother and grandmother — as well as a writer — and a Professor of Education. She teaches curriculum studies, research methods, language, literacy and indigenous education to pre-service teachers and graduate students." (from her faculty page)
     
  • Cathy Vatterott is "an education professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis who has been researching, writing, and speaking about homework for the last several years. [She has published] Rethinking Homework: Best practices that support diverse needs." (from her website)
     
  • danah boyd (@zephoria) is "a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society."(from her website)

We need to come up with a more compelling why

Thank you to @gcouros, @shannoninottawa and @stephen_hurley for sharing this fantastic TED talk with us on Twitter. It is definitely worth the watch.

So how does this talk apply to education? 

There is a growing group of educators who believe that there is a problem with the US education system. There is also a growing group of people who are not educators who believe there is a problem. The US public, caught in the middle, has to make a choice between these two groups since the message they are sending out is quite different.

One group believes that students deserve good schools with good teachers, and that the best way to accomplish this is by making teachers more accountable for what they do, and applying free market philosophies to both schools as a whole, and specifically to teachers. The invisible hand of Adam Smith’s economic model will force schools into innovation and improvement, provided we remove the barriers of unionization and past "bad" contracts from schools. Merit pay will allow teachers to work harder to achieve better goals for students, and Race to the Top will make states compete for money, which will force them into a marketplace of a kind.

The other group believes that schools are becoming overly regimented and that there are too many rules on how they are supposed to be run, and too many accountability measures. They believe that these accountability measures, generally standardized tests, are slowly forcing schools to teach to the test in order to keep their funding. They believe that there is a wider experience that schools can offer than what can be measured on a standardized test. They also believe that the issue of failing schools comes to inequality in funding of schools, and more importantly the desperate inequality that exists in the US economic model. While the US is considerably richer than the rest of the world, the vast majority of that wealth is held within just a few people’s hands.

The problem is, if you belong to the second group anyway, is that the first message is gaining in strength. I believe that this is because the non-educator reformers have answered the why question with the parents of the US. They can point to a perceived failure in the system and then explain from the why, their how, and their what. They have a message which is compelling to many people but I believe that their solutions won’t work. The second group of people has suggestions for what, and for how, but their why is for some reason less compelling.

The solution the second group is offering is not going to work. They want to turn education system into a free market, but the market isn’t free if it is regulated, which is what the accountability measures they introduced with NCLB do. Maybe the premise that you can apply economic principles effectively to schools is flawed? 

Suppose we did apply a true free market approach to schools. We’d remove all regulations which would hamper schools and then fund schools based on market principles. Good quality schools would cost more, poor quality schools would cost less. Families would sue schools which were too unsafe, and schools would naturally tend toward offering choices that encouraged kids to attend. Some schools would look for corporate sponsorship to help them. McSchools anyone? Each family would have to decide for themselves what constituted a quality school and make decisions about where they would send their children.

The problem is that we would see legions of schools do things which look good, and are easy for parents to measure, but which are pedagogically unsound. Deciding on how effective a school is a difficult task, one most parents would find daunting if not impossible. They would have to rely on visiting schools and taking a look around to see what the school is doing. In any case, I think it would fail, and lots of kids would be harmed in the process.

The real question is, how can that first group of people change our approach and sell our (I think you know by now which group I support) vision of what schools can be? How can we find a reason why schools need to change which will resonate with parents? I think too often we focus on how we would like schools to change, and what steps we would take to make those changes, and that the important reason why those changes need to happen is lost. We are being beaten badly in the US court of public opinion, and we need to step up our game.

For those of you who wonder why I, as a Canadian educator, am so passionate about the education debate in the US, you just need to remember how often our politicians have looked south of our border for solutions. I’m not interested in any of the current US style of reforms taking root here in Canada.