A Concise Guide to Education Studies

A Concise Guide to Education Studies

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This book explores key contemporary issues in education, featuring the latest theoretical perspectives and policies, aimed at supporting the professional development and understanding of those working or intending to work in the education sector.  Both school- and college-based education have faced rapid change over the last few years.  A strong research base around the impact of these changes is emerging, enabling a critically informed debate on policy and practice developments.  The book provides an up to date evidence-based overview of key changes, their underlying rationale and an examination of alternative viewpoints.  The content is concise and focused while still developing readers’ critical thinking skills through tasks embedded within each chapter as well as a distinct section on critical reflective thinking. Other key topics include inclusion, leadership, community education, comparative education, research and education futures.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781911106807
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 07/05/2017
Series: Education Studies
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 168
Product dimensions: 6.85(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Duncan Hindmarch is Award Leader for Lifelong Learning Teacher Training and the Foundation Degree in Education at Staffordshire University.  He has over 15 years' teaching experience, having worked overseas and in the UK.  With a background in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages, he has been involved in developing and delivering ESOL and Initial Teacher Training programmes since 2005.

Fiona Hall is an award leader for the BA in Education within the School of Education at Staffordshire University. She has more than 20 years’ experience of working within primary, further and higher education. She has also been involved in teacher training in further education, undertaking teacher observations. Her current research interests are situated in the exploration of teaching assistant practice in schools. Fiona has co-authored Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning

Lynn Machin is Award Leader and Senior Lecturer within the School of Education at Staffordshire University.  She has over 20 years’ experience of teaching in post-14 education.  Lynn has had a variety of roles within initial teacher education (ITE) including developing and writing the modules that make up the suite of qualifications within ITE in the FE and Skills Sector.  

Sandra Murray is a lecturer within the School of Education at Staffordshire University. Sandra, having taught for many years in a further education college, has a wide range of experience supporting and teaching teachers in the further education sector and has been teaching on Initial Teacher Education programmes since 2006. Her particular research interest is inspirational and outstanding teaching. She has written and co-authored several books for teachers within further education, including A Complete Guide to the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training and A Complete Guide to the Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training.

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Thinking critically to become a high achieving practitioner


Critical thinking (CT) is a key component of your personal, professional and academic development. It features prominently in the some of the UK's teachers' standards as well as being explicitly highlighted in the QAA's definition of undergraduate education studies courses:

Essentially, education studies is concerned with understanding how people develop and learn throughout their lives, and the nature of knowledge and critical engagement with ways of knowing and understanding.

(QAA, 2015, p 6)

Moon (2008), however, highlights numerous contrasting definitions of the term within academia with Moore (2013) finding seven differing interpretations within one HE institution alone. Furthermore, Higgins (2014) questions its importance in relation to other thinking skills such as creativity, as well as how it should be developed and applied. This chapter outlines key definitions, approaches and limitations of CT while also highlighting expectations within professional and academic standards. Your ability to develop a consistently critical stance towards information has a major influence on your professional career and personal journey through life.

Principles of critical thinking

The importance of critical thinking

Recently, phrases such as 'post-truth' and 'fake news' have risen to prominence following the Brexit and American presidential campaigns, where demonstrably false claims were repeatedly made for electoral gain (Peters, 2017). When challenged over these, responses related to having rights to voice differing opinions, oxymoronically defined as 'alternative facts', or representing the true voice of the people over educated elites. Thus Michael Gove dismissed the evaluations of numerous renowned authorities by declaring: I think the people of this country have had enough of experts (Sky News, 2016), a casual dismissal of evidence and expertise that raises the question of what value he saw in his previous role as Secretary of State for Education. Indeed, reflecting on the rising popularity of anti-intellectual culture, Hoffman (2016) cites several surveys demonstrating declining public awareness of key scientific issues as evidence of a breakdown in informed public policy discourse. Peters argues in-depth research and analysis therefore face direct threats from the speed and reach of social media:

It's not so much that facts are futile, it's just that they take a while to collect and marshal into a knock-down argument. By the time the facts are gathered the media moment has passed, the headline has been grabbed, and the lie can be modified, apologised for or replaced by another.

(Peters, 2017, p 3)

Regardless of the extent to which current affairs genuinely represent a new paradigm, such events illustrate the importance of CT as a necessary means of examining, substantiating or challenging the basis of decisions that affect our everyday lives. Challenging lies, ignorant, ill-informed or maliciously twisted information is not being part of an 'intellectual elite', but a crucial part of being an academic (Hoffman, 2016), professional employee and constructive citizen within society (Facione, 2015). It is important to remember that the point of researching evidence should not be to unwaveringly support your personal viewpoints or predispositions, but to challenge, and in all likelihood change, your own opinions and understandings. By being better informed, you can unearth your own prejudices and misunderstandings, thereby improving your own comprehension of, and contribution to, the world.

Moore's (2013) study of literature and academics' understandings of CT found a consensus regarding its importance, but no such agreement regarding its definition or implementation approaches. There is even dispute regarding whether it should be considered an unchanging set of principles, context-dependent or limited within subject areas. Regarding the first view of CT, the American Philosophical Association formed an expert consensus that has been subsequently frequently cited:

The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit.

(American Philosophical Association, 1990, cited in Facione, 2015, p 27)

Although recognising differing approaches to CT, Elder and Paul (2010) take the idea of defining underlying principles further, developing Universal Intellectual Standards: clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance and fairness, which underpin thought processes and intellectual traits or virtues. Vaughn (2015) further advocates the value of a systematic, process-based approach with distinct procedures and methods, although Mulnix (2012) warns that this alone is insufficient, urging repeated practice to embed and continually develop CT ability. Countering the above viewpoints, Willingham's research (2008) emphasises the importance of in-depth subject knowledge as a precursor to CT, arguing that limited outcomes of generic skills development programmes evidence his view that CT skills are discipline specific and lack transferability. Clinchy (1993, cited in Moore, 2013), considers that CT depends on the context that it will be applied in, requiring either separate knowing, a dispassionate approach to evaluating evidence, or connected knowing, where the focus is on insight from individuals and groups. Barnett (1997, cited in Moore, 2013) also favours differing modes depending on its purpose: subject competence, practical knowledge, political engagement and strategic thinking.

While there is disagreement regarding whether and how CT should be defined and taught, there are some common aspects that can help us to identify CT and how we may apply it to our personal and professional lives.

Sourcing and analysing information

* Having a clear focus to your investigation.

* Acquiring relevant information from multiple sources.

* Systematically organising evidence.

* Identifying key themes and inferring meaningful connections.

* Comparing and contrasting differing evidence.

* Evaluating the quality of evidence.

* Reflecting on and potentially amending your original focus.

Forming and using judgements

* Making a fair, transparent and reflexive judgement based on the available evidence.

* Transparently acknowledging personal influences and interests that may influence your judgement as well as how you have sought to overcome/limit this impact.

* Clearly articulating your judgement, its scope and limitations.

* Acting on your judgement.

* Developing or changing your judgement when new evidence emerges.

Mulnix (2012) and Moore (2013) additionally found that some academics view a key purpose of CT being to challenge established hierarchies. However, Mulnix (2012) demonstrates that such an approach contradicts the underlying purpose of CT being to seek out truths as far as possible. Indeed, a key purpose of seeking evidence should not be to reaffirm your existing understandings (and prejudices), but to challenge and even change them.

Sourcing and analysing information

Initiating critical thought processes requires identifying key questions to answer, although these may develop based on new understanding throughout your investigation. This enables discernment of relevant information against interesting but irrelevant information. A critical thinker does not accept without evaluation the first piece of information they find. Information literacy is therefore vital; being able to identify and draw from a range of authoritative sources while retaining a keen and sceptical eye for underlying biases and agendas in any source (Facione, 2015). This means not just accepting a single point of view, however authoritative, but trying to find different sources of information on the chosen subject. All sources have some form of underlying bias, which to a greater or lesser extent may influence its findings and credibility. Furthermore, your personal experiences and viewpoints affect how you select, evaluate and interpret what you read. An ability to think reflexively to understand these influences can help you challenge your own assumptions and prejudices through open engagement with evidence (Mulnix, 2012). Given the array of information available and the need to investigate and note the voracity of differing sources; organisational ability based on sound background knowledge is a vital aspect of CT, according to Willingham (2008). This requires interpretation to help filter and categorise information as well as analytical skills to understand relationships between differing concepts and data. Indeed, Mulnix (2012) argues that inferencing ability is the underpinning skill of CT upon which all other related skills are dependent.

While ascertaining a truly objective standpoint may be untenable given these issues, this does not mean we should not stop striving to achieve as close to this goal as possible. Just because every source has some form of bias, this does mean that all sources are therefore equally valid. So, although in a democracy people's right to voice an opinion within the boundaries of the law should be respected, it does not therefore follow that we should have equal respect for all views and certainly not regard all views as being equally truthful or credible. Furthermore, objective understanding of an event is not necessarily somewhere in the middle of two contrasting viewpoints (Facione, 2015). Thus, the use of emotive anecdotes, however eloquently articulated, do not constitute reliable evidence, nor substantiate grandiose claims. Where demonstrable facts have been ignored, misinterpreted or selectively highlighted, or anecdotes used in place of substantive evidence, this shows that the source lacks credibility. In the case of an authoritative source, such an approach used would additionally suggest a lack of personal integrity. Opinions emanating from such work, as with all sources, should therefore be dispassionately challenged through use of robust and credible evidence (Hoffman, 2016). Therefore, when forming an opinion, what you should be seeking is articulation of the weight of robustly evidenced credible research.

Quantity by no means equals quality and with the internet, whatever information we are seeking, an overwhelming amount of data is available within seconds, generating too many sources to individually investigate. Digital literacy is therefore vital when performing internet searches; the first few sources may be present due to financial incentives being paid to the search engine provider rather than the voracity of their information. Similarly, other sources heading the queue may be present on the grounds of their popularity rather than the quality of the resource. Popularity is no guarantee of accuracy; Moon (2008) highlights Janis' concept of 'groupthink', where social compliance negates individuals' ability to think independently or question the underlying assumptions of the group:

The more amiability and spirit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink which is likely to lead to irrational and dehumanising actions directed against out-groups.

(Janis, 1982, p 13, in Moon, 2008, p 9)

Similarly, within online media, 'echo chambers', or 'bubble worlds', where groups of likeminded individuals repeat and develop similar viewpoints, reinforce prejudices as they do not access robust evidence that may contradict their ever deeper engrained worldview (Peters, 2017). Additionally, glossy reports, often from commercial organisations or politically motivated think-tanks, may be easy to read, offering logical sounding solutions, but these are rarely peer-reviewed, meaning that evidence could be withheld, misused or misinterpreted to support the organisation's underlying agenda (Hoffman, 2016). Although peer-reviewed academic journal articles should reflect a higher academic standard if from a reputable journal, scepticism should be retained. If a view is based on experience, the long-term reflections of a recognised authority within a field of knowledge may have credibility. However, Hoffman(2016) warns that when academics speak beyond their field of knowledge within their professional capacity (rather than expressing a democratic right of voicing personal opinions) they damage their overall credibility. Furthermore, bias in scope of research, implementation and analysis, 'cherry picking' of selective data to support an argument as well as under or misrepresentation of conflicting evidence are all possible misuses of research (see Chapter 9). Even if you have obtained robust evidence about an issue, consider whether any elements of data are missing that will inform you of additional study needs. Additionally, research findings only ever represent the author's interpretation at the time of publication; subsequent academic study may substantiate, develop or challenge findings. Finally, for all sources, Moon (2008) highlights the need to identify explicit or implicit intentions of authors as well as consider how their context may have influenced approaches, scope and findings.

Forming and using judgements

People perceive truths in the face of contrary evidence due to personal circumstances, prejudices, motivations and beliefs; attempting to acknowledge how this influences your understanding is an important aspect of CT as it helps you understand the limitations of your judgement (Piro and Anderson, 2015). Piro and Anderson (2015) therefore note that collaborative approaches may help to question and challenge personal assumptions, though there remains the danger of 'groupthink' if using close colleagues.

Hoffman (2016) warns against critical investigations as an intellectual pursuit, arguing that a crucial role of an academic is to engage in public discourse to publicise findings to help create evidence-based change as an antidote to ill-informed opinion:

Academic and scientific communities have been ineffective or disengaged in explaining the state and gravity of scientific findings ... For the benefit of society's ability to make wise decisions and for the benefit of the academy's ability to remain relevant, the academic community needs to accept its role in public engagement.

(Hoffman, 2016, p 4)

However, Hoffman (2016) warns that presentation opens the critical thinker to criticisms of methods and findings. Where supported by relevant evidence, criticisms should not be viewed as failure but an opportunity to change judgement on the grounds of new evidence. This is not always easy; where hard work, personal values and professional reputation are at stake, admitting mistakes or omissions is difficult. However, to use evidence sparingly solely for the purpose of supporting your viewpoint or dismissing the claims of others is tantamount to dishonesty, regardless of how eloquently the argument is presented. It is therefore important not to overstate claims; ensure findings are well-supported by evidence and the investigation's limitations are clear. Admitting that findings are inconclusive or unsupportive of an issue are valid; evidence showing the necessity for further research or ceasing ineffective practice should be considered equally important to conclusions that advocate new approaches. Ultimately, Moon (2008) concludes that CT must provide evidence to inform ensuing action. Hoffman concurs, arguing that such evidence should actively inform open public debate:

The engaged scholar must recognize the extent to which discourse is inherently a dialogue rather than a monologue, a conversation requiring mutual respect and appreciation for the expertise of all sides. In order to succeed, academics need to accept that they do not have a monopoly on knowledge and expertise, and that engagement is a two-way learning process. This is a model of engagement based on service that entails reaching out to the community and making the effort to discover what issues matter to them, what they need to know or what help they need so that we can collectively address these issues.

(Hoffman, 2016, p 10)


Excerpted from "A Concise Guide to Education Studies"
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Copyright © 2017 Duncan Hindmarch, Fiona Hall, Lynn Machin and Sandra Murray.
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Table of Contents

Meet the authors x

Chapter links to the QAA Subject Benchmark Statements: Education Studies xi

Introduction 1

The aim of this book 1

Who should read this book? 1

Content and structure 1

1 Thinking critically to become a high achieving practitioner 4

Introduction 5

Subject expertise links 5

Objectives 6

Principles of critical thinking 6

Critical thinking and professional practice 11

Limitations of critical thinking 14

Summary of key points 14

Check your understanding 15

Taking it further 15

References 15

2 The historical context of English education (1988-the present) 17

Introduction 18

Subject expertise links 18

Objectives 18

An overview of key education policies 19

The national curriculum and standardisation of practices 22

Key educational policy drivers 24

Who controls education? 26

Competition and change to initial teacher education 27

Evaluating social mobility strategies 28

Summary of key points 30

Check your understanding 30

Taking it further 30

References 31

3 Current approaches to teaching, learning and assessment 34

Introduction 35

Subject expertise links 35

Objectives 35

Effective teaching and learning 36

Personalised learning 39

Planning and preparation 40

Core skills and specialisms 41

Assessment 42

Summary of key points 45

Check your understanding 45

Taking it further 45

References 46

4 Perspectives on safeguarding and behaviour strategies 49

Introduction 50

Subject expertise links 50

Objectives 50

Safeguarding 50

Preventing radicalisation and terrorism 53

Behaviour 58

Summary of key points 59

Check your understanding 59

Taking it further 60

References 60

5 Inclusion, equality and special educational needs 63

Introduction 64

Subject expertise links 64

Objectives 64

Equality 64

The history of inclusion, equality and SEND 65

The importance of social mobility 68

Inclusion in the classroom and beyond 71

Summary of key points 72

Check your understanding 72

Taking it further 73

References 73

6 Leadership, management, teamwork and quality 76

Introduction 77

Subject expertise links 77

Objectives 77

Educational structures 78

Leadership and management 80

Effective teamwork 84

Accountability and quality assurance 85

Summary of key points 87

Check your understanding 87

Taking it further 88

References 88

7 Adult, family and community education 91

Introduction 92

Subject expertise links 92

Objectives 92

Adult education 92

Comparing formal and informal education approaches 94

Policies and practices to promote lifelong learning outside the school system 95

Community education 98

Family education 98

Prison and offender education 99

Educating the elderly 100

Summary of key points 101

Check your understanding 101

Taking it further 102

References 102

8 Comparative education: learning from other countries 104

Introduction 105

Subject expertise links 105

Objectives 105

Key approaches to comparative education 105

Comparative education: rationale and criticisms 108

Summary of key points 113

Check your understanding 114

Taking it further 114

References 114

9 Making a difference: practitioner-led research 117

Introduction 118

Subject expertise links 118

Objectives 118

What is research? 119

Research paradigms 121

Using literature and theoretical frameworks 121

The research question or hypothesis 122

Research methodologies 123

Research methods and tools 124

Ethical issues in research 127

Data analysts and findings 129

Summary of key points 131

Check your understanding 131

Taking it further 131

References 132

10 Looking to the future: education technology 133

Introduction 134

Subject expertise links 134

Objectives 135

The historical context of technology in education 135

Education technology pedagogy 136

Education technology, inclusion and social mobility 138

E-safety and data protection 138

Education technology developments 139

Summary of key points 142

Check your understanding 142

Taking it further 143

References 143

Glossary of acronyms 146

Index 148

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