Justina O. Osa
Nature of the Discipline
Education, broadly defined, involves the instruction and training by which people learn to use their physical, moral, and cognitive powers. It can also be defined “as the deliberate, systematic and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values, skills and sensibilities, and any learning that results from the effort, intended or unintended.” 1 Although much of the human learning occurs informally and even unconsciously, most societies have institutionalized some aspects of education. The discipline of education, as a profession and as a scholarly enterprise, is concerned primarily with formal human learning. In this light, Page and Thomas define education as the “process in which one achieves social competence and individual growth, carried on in a selected, controlled setting which can be institutionalized as a school or college.”
Each of the many participants involved in formalizing education carries out different roles. Teachers used to practice the art and science of imparting “to each generation the organized knowledge of the past.” 3 Today the passive acceptance of information that leads to knowledge is passé. Currently teachers are being called upon to package learning materials in such a way that students are stimulated to put their own personal stamp, as it were, on what they are learning. The voice of advocates of active, self-initiated learning is loud and clear. The theory of constructivism is gaining ground and is being applied to instructional activities.
Constructivism is a theory, based on research from constructive psychology, that advocates that people learn by constructing their own knowledge through an active learning process, rather than by simply absorbing knowledge directly from another source. 4 Teachers are now being expected to assume the role of facilitator, coach, and guide in the teaching and learning process. In an effort to increase their knowledge, students make a serious study of subjects while actively constructing knowledge based on their individual personal context of prior knowledge, skills, dispositions, and feelings. Policy makers influence the conditions under which education occurs by being responsible for the authoritative educational decisions that guide other decisions. 5
As a result of society demanding change and accountability in the educational arena, policy makers and leaders are faced with complex and multifaceted questions about educational policy making, finance, governance, and management. Scholars of education study the institutionalized process of education in its various settings. At the present time, scholars are being called upon to conduct research that will help devise creative and effective strategies to bring about the changes and reform that are desperately needed to create a fulfilling educational experience.
Education and the social sciences
Education comprises the formal and informal educational practices from infancy through adulthood, as well as all the knowledge from scholarly disciplines associated with education. A wide range of social science and humanities disciplines form the “foundations” of knowledge in education: psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, economics, anthropology, political science, and law.
Education is not, precisely speaking, a science but rather a profession that uses virtually all of the social science methods, concepts, and theories. 6 For this reason, educational research has a definite interdisciplinary flavour. For example, much research is done in the history of education. The sociology of education concentrates on education as a social enterprise, examining the behavior and processes of groups in social institutions. The anthropology of education studies the educational functions within “primitive” societies and also anthropological methodologies such as ethnography to the study of education in modern settings.
Researchers in the economics of education study the production and utilization of resources in society, drawing on related concepts from business administration, political science, and management. Educational policy analysts study matters such as federal, state, and local influence on education; school and university governance; educational law; and other issues derived from the general area of political economy. As a final example, educational psychology studies individual students and teachers in educational settings, focusing on such aspects as human development, attitudes, values, learning theory, metacognition, and learning models.
Academic subdisciplines of education
Like most academic subjects, education is actually a loosely conjoined group of subspecialities. Although not all educational researchers would necessarily agree with the details of the discussion presented here, it is offered as one way to conceptualize the discipline of education. Another way to become familiar with educational specialities and methodological perspectives is to read relevant encyclopedia articles. 7
Education as rational activity
The philosophy of education can be divided into two areas: normative, which is concerned with assessing educational aims and purposes, and analytical, which is concerned with explaining and clarifying basic educational terminology and concepts. 8 According to Watson, the philosophy of education tries to interpret the meaning of educational processes by showing its relationship to other human activities. 9 Philosophy of education specialists try to make educators aware of assumptions by asking questions such as, “Who should be educated?” “How should they be educated?” “To what extent does a particular educational system perpetrate injustice?” and “What is the proper way to teach ethical concepts?” 10 Philosophy of education also stimulates reflection on basic issues and concepts that are cardinal to education. Some of these include teaching, learning, knowledge, being educated, and the construct of a “good life”. The major philosophies that have influenced education in America are realism, idealism, pragmatism, progressivism, perennialism, essentialism, and existentialism.
Educational research uses the same methods as researchers in the social, behavioral, biological, and physical sciences. 11 It is a systematic study of the field of education. The educational researcher uses many research methods and designs such as experimental, survey, historical, ethnographic, literary, and program evaluation. The literature of this academic area frequently addresses questions of validity and reliability.
Some educational practitioners and researchers specialize in a particular level of institutionalized education, roughly defined by age cohort. Early childhood education (birth to age eight) concentrates on the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of very young children. Infant education (birth to age three), a subset of early childhood education, has an added emphasis on parent/child relationships. These two fields draw heavily on the literatures of child psychology, developmental psychology, and human ecology (also known as family consumer sciences, child and family studies, or home economics).
Other level-based educational specialities include elementary (grades 1-8), secondary (grades 9-12), and higher or postsecondary education. Professional educators and scholars in all three areas can concentrate on different subspecialities, such as instruction and curriculum development; administration; program evaluation; educational psychology; educational technology; and bilingual, multicultural, or special education.
Educational inquiry also can center on non-traditional delivery systems—that is, institutionalized systems not necessarily associated with particular age cohorts. Adult and continuous education, sometimes referred to as “lifelong,” “recurrent,” or “informal” education, is an increasingly popular field. Education has become not just a period of formal schooling in students’ lives but life-long engagement. Many types of programs can be offered on a continuing education basis, such as literacy training, career development, vocational/technical training, equivalency education, professional development, and education for personal enhancement. Distance education, which includes independent study and correspondence or home study, is delivery of education for non-traditional students who are unable to attend in normal settings due to geographic isolation, job obligations, physical condition, or other limitations. Advances in new technologies now provide a broad range of technological options to those involved in distance education. Distance education increasingly uses such modern mass communication technology as interactive videoconferencing and electronic instructional audio tools, video tools, electronic data, computer-assisted instruction, computer-managed instruction, and computer-meditated education. Print materials are also used in distance learning. They include study guides, handouts, workbooks, textbooks, and course syllabi.
Management of educational systems
Educational administration “is concerned… with directing and managing human energy in order to accomplish educational objects which have been formulated by governmental authority and expressed in written policies.” 12 Most people in this field focus on the management or leadership of schools and school systems. Educational administrators often assume many roles in the discharge of their duties. They are leaders, managers, initiators, crisis managers, facilitators, coaches, guides, dispensers of rewards and punishments, mediators, judges, counselors, and comforters. For these activities they need to be well grounded in administrative theory and techniques, politics, school, school law, finance, personnel, psychology, human relations, and other related areas.
Specialists in curriculum and instruction used to concentrate on the systematic transmission of information. The emphasis in teaching has moved away from a model of expert delivery of knowledge from the custodian of knowledge, the teacher, to the student, the empty glass coming to the class to be filled. Teaching has moved to a model in which the classroom becomes a community of learners. Those involved in curriculum and instruction analyze particular subjects—political science, economics, foreign language, science—to design developmentally appropriate instructional activities. Educational media technologists specialize in the creation of materials and procedures for individual students through the use of a variety of multimedia delivery systems, such as computer-assisted learning and interactive television. The marriage between teaching and technology is gaining increased attention as a current trend and issue in education. When one looks into the crystal ball that holds the future of technology in teaching, one finds that the image is clear in places, cloudy in others, but surely a presence is observable. Many in the field of education would prefer that pedagogy drive the use of technology and that technology remain a tool to enhance teaching and learning.
Educational psychologists, interested in both cognitive and affective differences among individual students, design and administer tests that measure levels of achievement, aptitude, intelligence, and other personal characteristics. They also carry out research on the psychology of the learning process. The study of multiple intelligence is influencing the theory of how people learn. Howard Gardner, the father of multiple intelligence, asserts that there is not a single intelligence, but rather seven. His view is that multiple intelligences are seven different ways to demonstrate intellectual ability. The seven types of multiple intelligences are visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. 13
Guidance and counseling specialists use knowledge about normal human growth and development to help students solve personal problems or make career and educational choices. In recent years experts in the field have written extensively about redesigning school counseling programs into a comprehensive format. Integral to the Comprehensive School Counseling Model is the developmental approach. It is an attempt to identify certain life skills and experiences that students need to have as part of going to school and preparing for adulthood. They learn more about themselves and others in advance of problem moments in their lives. The eight strands included in the Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Program (pre-K through 12) are (1) self-knowledge and acceptance, (2) interpersonal and communication skills, (3) responsible behavior, (4) conflict resolution, (5) decision making/problem solving, (6) motivation to achieve, (7) goal setting, and (8) career planning. 14
Some educators concentrate on preparing students for particular occupations. Professional pedagogies (e.g. music education, art education, physical education) prepare students to teach in these areas. Professional education prepares students to be competent practitioners of specialized occupations such as medicine, nursing, or law. Vocational, cooperative, or distributive education is part of the baccalaureate degree. 15 Teacher education transmits to future teachers the “body of knowledge and skills surrounding the process of learning and teaching.” 16 It also provides continuing educational training for practicing teachers and can be formal or informal courses, seminars, or workshops. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) monitors how effectively teacher education programs prepare students to teach. NCATE is the only national body charged with the responsibility for maintaining standards and ensuring accountability and continuous improvement in teacher preparation in all teacher education programs. NCATE develops standards and design strategies and processes to ensure and maintain quality in teacher preparation through the initial and continuing accreditation of teacher education professional units at all levels. The new NCATE standards are performance based and have moved from “know what” to “know how”.
Other areas of educational practice and research focus on specific groups within society. “Multicultural education is an educational process or strategy involving more than one culture, as defined by national, linguistic, ethnic, or racial criteria.” 17 The aim of multicultural education is to recognize the integrity, contributions, strengths, and viability of people from different backgrounds, while helping students adjust to a modern pluralistic society. 18 The changing demographic characteristics of the American population, and consequently American schools, is a major ongoing phenomenon that characterizes the social fabric of American society and schools. Multicultural education aspires to help all students develop positive cross-cultural attitudes, values, dispositions, perceptions, and behaviors. Multicultural educators believe that identity and positive self-esteem are based on the pride that each child has in his or her cultural group’s history, achievements, solidarity, and loyalty. This belief drives the mandate that the school curriculum, instructional materials and activities, school personnel and school services reflect the multicultural nature of the student body.
Special education provides educational services designed for exceptional students. Exceptional students are defined as those who have physical, mental, or behavioral disabilities. Special education law and practices have greatly increased access to activities and opportunities that used to be withheld from these students. The inclusion movement promotes the integration of students with disabilities into the regular classroom as opposed to putting students with disabilities in separate schools or classes. Supporters of full inclusion argue that that the practice of segregated education for students with disabilities is a violation of their rights to receive an education as good as that being offered to “regular” students. Both advocates and opponents of inclusion use budgetary reasons to defend their stands. A genuine cooperation between the special education and general education teachers is a crucial variable in the success of inclusion policy. Gifted and talented students are often considered part of this population.
At-risk education is targeted for a more specific population than either urban or multicultural education and is designed to help students who are likely to fail or be failed by the educational system. It is designed for students who have a high probability of dropping out of school or not achieving in school. The issue of at-risk students has generated a major concern for educators. There is an increase in studies and developmental activities designed to improve the education of students at risk. Some of the predicaments of this group of learners are due to disadvantaged background, low socioeconomic status of their families, geographical location, and weak language and numerical skills. At-risk education includes early intervention programs, specialized curricula, and development of retention and reentry programs. 19
Urban education is concerned primarily with education that occurs in, and is affected by, the various factors generated by an urban environment. Urban educational specialists can be challenged by having to deal with such problems as a diverse student population, racial segregation, violence, poor housing and living conditions, and significant teacher turnover. Diane Ravitch strongly believes that the new wave of school reform now underway rejects the idea that the failure of a huge proportion of poor children in the inner cities is inevitable. The rescue of urban schools entails dismantling entrenched and patronage-driven school board bureaucracies, holding schools accountable for their performance, and encouraging well-planned experimentation with charter and contract schools and vouchers. 20
Comparative and international education
As we move into the early part of the twenty-first century, we find a growing set of international economic and social imperatives that are stimulating the globalization of education. Because schooling serves as a strategic instrument for promoting national economic development, globalization of educational policy and reform leads to a significant increase in the emphasis on global awareness. 21 Arnove observed that comparative and international education is enjoying a renaissance. Globalization has infused the ever-present need to learn about each other with an unprecedented urgency and emphasis. 22
Education and technology
It is expected that a high proportion of jobs in our nation in the future will require some level of computing skills. Positions in education will certainly be affected by the use of computer technology. In educational situations, computers mediate the flow of information, communications, and instructional materials. 23 It is not surprising, therefore, to find that advances in electronic technology are transforming education, causing the educational process to be redesigned, and changing the way students, both young and old, are learning. Technology is promoting the effectiveness of school reform. It enhances the development of new methods of teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom. There are online resources such as lesson plans, simulations, course materials, and research sources to assist both students and teachers in the teaching and learning process. Data, picture, video, and sound bytes are used to revolutionize education. Technology is removing classroom walls as students and teachers interact with colleagues and experts through chat rooms, live video conference, e-mail, and fax machines. Students, teachers, administrators, educational researchers, educational psychologists, educational media technologists, educational specialists, and others involved in the educational process are finding dramatic changes occurring in how they define and carry out their roles.
In the computer-based learning environment, students are becoming more active learners and better prepared for the digital economy they will function in as adults, and teachers are becoming facilitators. Administrators at all levels are dealing with the cost of providing new resources, as well as using the capabilities of the technologies to improve their work environment. Educational researchers are finding that the Internet and e-mail are having a dramatic effect by facilitating cooperative efforts between participants who are widely separated geographically. Educational psychologists are seeing an effect on learner thinking and the entire learning process. Educational media technologists are facilitating the use of interactive videoconferencing, which is particularly useful in the delivery of distance education. The new technologies are opening up significantly increased educational possibilities for the at-risk student and the disabled.
Electronic formats will continue to expand and enrich learning experiences. The challenge to education is to integrate the new technology into the instructional programs and to use it to improve learning, reduce costs, and increase accessibility to information.
The reference environment
Many different types of people use the educational resources in the library. Members of the community are often involved on school boards or in parent-teacher organizations, or are simply concerned about current educational issues. High school students and their parents need information about colleges and the financing of a college education. Professional educators are interested in current developments in curriculum, education technology, and management. These people may either be searching for how-to literature or need scholarly materials. Educational policy makers at all levels of government seek data and opinions on the current status and possible future directions of education. Finally, educational scholars need access to the full range of bibliographic sources and research literature.
As is always true in a reference situation, the librarian should identify resources appropriate to the needs of the individual in terms of subject, purpose, level of research, and format. For example, the needs of members of the community interested in current educational issues may well be met by popular, nonscholarly sources such as current magazines and newspapers. High school students and their parents, as well as undergraduates seeking information related to college selection, can find the answers to many of their questions in institutional and financial aid directories.
Professional educators need to ground their practice in the best theories of the day, but they do not always have the time to read the primarily literature. Therefore, professional or trade journals, handbooks, and other meditating sources may meet their needs. A good professional should be aware of the important periodicals and major organizations that produce practitioner-oriented literature in the field. 24 Two of the most important tools for the busy practitioner are ERIC (I-68), a vast database maintained by the Educational Resources Information Center, and Educational Index (I-65).
The needs of policy makers and scholars, including education students, are more complex and involve the whole range of material from primary to tertiary and from popular to theoretical. One important source of primary information in education is a series of national data-gathering programs largely financed by federal funds, listed in the biography current edition of 2001 edition of The Condition of Education (I-147) as NCES surveys. 25 Examples of educational datasets generated by these programs are the Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), a yearly survey of postsecondary educational institutions in the United States, and the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. These information-gathering programs result in large numerical databases that can be manipulated by the individual researcher.
Other sources of information potentially useful to the policy maker, scholar, student, or general citizen are listed in this chapter. Titles have been chosen according to their importance to the field. This list is necessarily selective and not comprehensive, and with the exception of a few retrospective titles and some classics in the field, titles included in this chapter represent basic education reference tools. Three books listed in the section on guides are particularly good for information on educational reference books omitted from the present discussion: Nancy O’Brien’s Core List of Books and Journals in Education (I-3), Dorothea Berry’s Bibliographic Guide to Education Research (I-4), and Peter Olevnik’s American Higher Education: A Guide to Reference Sources (I-2).
Given education’s close relationship to virtually all of the social sciences, the researcher must be cautioned not to limit inquiry to sources specifically identified as “educational.” Education is by nature an interdisciplinary field, and researchers and librarians should keep in mind that there may be vital materials located in other areas of the collection than in the obvious (Library of Congress) L class and the (Dewey) 300s.
The librarian must be prepared to draw on any source listed in this book when dealing with an educational reference question. A major case in point is educational psychology, where much of the primary source material is covered by sources identified as “psychological” rather than “educational”. For this reason, only one educational psychology title is included in this chapter, The Handbook of School Psychology (J-66). Readers should refer to chapter 10 for important educational psychology sources, especially the “Works on Tests and Measurements” section.