"Bringing Research Resources to Practitioner Users via Web Technology: Lesson Learned to date"
Bell, M., Cordingley, P., Curtis, A.
Evans, D., Hughes, S. & Shreeve, A.
Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the
British Educational Research Association, University of Exeter,
England, 12-14 September, 2002
What are abstracts and research titles for? Most of us would agree that their purpose is to give readers as much information as possible about the content of a report, journal article, thesis or other study so that they can make an informed decision about its potential contribution to their knowledge about a particular topic or area of investigation. Before we had electronic databases, it was highly likely that we read the abstract in the same place as the full report or article was to be found. If the abstract failed to reveal enough information about the content, it was usually possible to dip into the full article for the missing cues. Even now, most higher education-based colleagues searching databases for journal articles can take advantage of their substantial institutional networks and subscriptions and download the article to their desktops where they can assess its fitness for their particular purpose. All at no cost to themselves. But for school-based consumers of research and evidence there are considerable obstacles in the way. In particular, abstracts have become in effect gatekeepers and could be preventing practitioner access to much potentially 'useable' research.
The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) has been involved for a number of years in making research accessible to education practitioners, especially classroom teachers. We work in collaboration with a range of individuals and organisations and much of our work is aimed at bringing evidence of good practice to the attention of practitioners in education. Our starting point is, always, to define use of research and communication as a pedagogic problem. Some examples of the ways in which we do this are:
the creation of innovative and interactive summaries of high quality pedagogical research for a teacher audience, in partnership with the GTC. All key findings are illustrated with practitioner case studies. This involves sourcing the research as well as preparing material for interactive web site presentation by the GTC;
the creation, management and maintenance of the forthcoming "Research in Practice" area of the Standards' Website to make research accessible in electronic format by creating digests of recent articles from research journals. These focus on topics of interest to, and are written for, parents, governors, LEA advisors and teachers. A good deal of CUREE effort goes into tracking down and appraising the relevance and utility of research articles; the development of an evidence-informed strategy for enhancing school leadership through increasing the impact of research, in partnership with the National College for School Leadership. Amongst other things, this involves reviewing and synthesising relevant literature and developing a range of web based resources that integrate pedagogic and leadership research; managing an EPPI-Centre Review Group in Continuing Professional Development in partnership with the NUT. The first systematic review has turned up over 13,000 titles and abstracts from which to sift out the research studies which meet the criteria for the review.
In this paper we consider the difficulties and issues involved in identifying research which could make a difference to education practitioners and we make some suggestions as to how these might be resolved.
What's the issue?
Over the past few years there has been a considerable degree of interest in making education research more relevant to the concerns of consumers outside universities - in particular teachers. Yet the tools available to teachers - including heads, are problematic. Limited access to computers and the internet are compounded by often extreme pressure on time and money. Retrieving full texts of articles is time consuming, costly to those who do not have blanket subscriptions to research journals. Few schools have the resources to spare for investing in institutional subscriptions and teachers rarely have time to browse in the library of their local university - if there is one. They are usually only enabled to do this if registered for a research degree. Despite this, more and more schools and individual teachers are seeking to engage in and with research to enhance their practice in a range of contexts, from classroom teaching strategies to leadership.
A number of national agencies have recognised the difficulties practitioners face, first in locating and then in accessing research and evidence. They have responded in different ways, including those we have highlighted in the introduction. In conceiving and implementing these and other initiatives, we have found the quality of abstracts to be an important factor in locating research for wider dissemination.
What does the literature tell us about abstracting?
There is a considerable body of literature on abstract writing, much of it in the librarians' domain, but we found little encouragement there for our own enterprise. Lancaster (1998) tells us an abstract can be described as a brief but accurate representation of a document. Abstracts should help with selection and save the time of the end user; and their distribution may also act to provide current awareness to the target audience. Lancaster does talk about "subject slanting" in relation to abstract writing, but it is not at all clear from the literature generally that recommendations about abstracts are made with a specific target audience in mind. Lancaster goes on to describe "discipline orientated" and "mission orientated" abstracts. The former are designed to serve the needs of a particular discipline (such as chemistry, biology etc) and the latter to meet the needs of a (preferably homogeneous) group or industry - such as nurses. Education practitioners as we have defined them (see below) span all disciplines or none; and they are far from homogeneous.
Who writes the abstracts?
Many commentators (Borko and Bernier 1975; Tenopir & Jasco 1993), argue against relying on abstracts produced by authors. They suggest that the quality of abstracts may be variable as the author may be unaware of rules and procedures and few are experienced in producing abstracts for online databases. Clearly their reservations are shared by some journal publishers and on-line databases which employ professional abstractors. In many cases then, the author of an abstract is not always the author of the original article and, what is more important for our purposes, abstract writers may be working to completely different sets of guidelines - or to no guidelines other than a maximum word count.
Quality of abstracts
Although there are clear pointers to good practice in the literature, few publishers seem to follow these in practice. For example Haynes (1990) suggested that an abstract should include the following elements:-
objective: the exact question(s) addressed by the article;
design: the basic design of the study; setting: the location; participants: the manner of selection and number of participants; who entered and completed the study; intervention, if any; main outcome measures: the primary study outcome measure as planned before data collection began; results: the key findings; conclusions;
yet most of the abstracts we have looked at fall far short of this ideal.
The Library and Information Science literature is rich in studies of the quality of abstracts. Lancaster (1998) argues that the characteristics of a good abstract are its brevity, accuracy and clarity. 'Redundant' information should be avoided and it should build on the title rather than duplicating it. However as Lancaster also argues that 'background information' (such as why the study was undertaken) should be avoided, we would want to come back to that point (see below) in the context of a literature search which is looking for research evidence which addresses a specific educational problem or related set of problems.
Lancaster (1998) also suggests that authors and publishers may previously not have had much incentive to produce quality abstracts. However, he points out, users are now much more likely to be viewing abstracts on line with a view to downloading or buying them, depending on where they are based. We are encouraged to hope that Lancaster is correct when he suggests that publishers may become more interested in the quality and accuracy of abstracts if a wider group of end users is basing their decision on whether to purchase the article based upon it.
While the literature offers some interesting insights, we believe that lists of 'ideal' abstracts, which are themselves abstract and unanchored in audience needs or targets are of limited use in tracking down research which could be appropriately accessed by a practitioner audience. We have based this on two things: our own experiences of searching out relevant research studies; and a small scale investigation of our own into the availability of abstracts which fit our purpose in helping make research available to practitioners.
The Search Process
CUREE's own experience of searching for, for example, the NUT sponsored EPPI review, regularly involves us in searching:
bibliographic databases such as ERIC and BEI;
research databases such as NFER, CERUK, ESRC (REGARD); AERA, BERA and Education-line; 'official' databases such as DfES and OFSTED; university research websites such as ARTE at Cambridge; educational websites such as NASEN; publishers book publication lists; and word of mouth recommendations from key players in the field; citation's of included articles.
We also regularly monitor around 30 journals via databases, handsearches, and publishers.
The searches are conducted for a variety of purposes, including preparing website summaries, undertaking systematic and technical reviews and specific literature surveys for specific projects. But what they have in common is our concern with practitioners and the possible 'use' of the research evidence in educational practice. Our experience of searching ranges from the CPD Systematic Review (> 13,000 titles) to much smaller projects, but with similar difficulties as the following case study shows.
Case Study 1
In a project involving leadership research for the National College of School Leadership, Eric/BEI searches (along with citation searches and some handsearching) our criteria involved tightly focused search strings, which produced 2606 titles to look at and assess for relevance to the study. This was a relatively small study compared with some that CUREE have undertaken recently, but it demonstrates the importance of clear and descriptive titles, enabling us to do a quick, yet accurate, analysis of each title to determine its usefulness. From this sample, some 400 articles were selected as being of interest, and the original author abstract was obtained. This then was used as the basis of deciding whether to buy the full article. The number of full text articles eventually selected for the study was 76 and the number of core articles that directly address the question being posed is at present only eight.
Case Study 2
(Extracted from a report to the CPD Advisory and Review Groups, 23 July 2002)
Search Summary of systematic CPD Review
Initial number of titles and abstracts 13479
Number of full reports identified for retrieval after applying criteria to titles
and abstracts 275
Number of full reports retrieved 247
Number of reports which have been reviewed to date 240
Number of Reports which have met all Stage 1 Criteria so far 36
Number of Reports which have met all Stage 2 Criteria so far 8
Our experiences led us to conduct a small, informal survey of titles and abstracts to try and establish where the problems lay. To do this we:
compared 20 abstracts of published journal articles taken from ERIC with the original author abstracts;
looked at 50 journal abstracts from well-known educational journals to see what they could tell us about the articles; tested 97 journals to see whether abstracts were electronically available; analysed the titles and their relationship with the abstract for two years (2000 and 2001) of the Oxford Review of Education.
Because ERIC is so widely used by education searches, we focused on this database for our mini survey. The author manual for ERIC suggests that abstractors are advised to take the following eight things into account when preparing abstracts:
subject matter, scope, purpose
relationship of this work to other works
special features such as glossary, maps etc
results or findings.
However, our comparison found:
in all cases the original abstract was reduced significantly by anywhere between 50% and 70% by ERIC;
in many cases the ERIC abstract looked as though some sentences had simply been skimmed out of the original abstract; the compressed abstracts presented by ERIC often missed out important aspects of context, dimension or findings - all of which are vital for assessment for practice-based purposes. For example, ERIC abstracts of papers dealing with:
school work, homework and gender omitted to present the details that the research was triggered by the schools as a result of their concern about boys' underachievement in coursework and end of course grades, and that the study population was in Year 11/aged 16;
the attainment of primary pupils in science did not indicate that the pupils were all in Year 6, the last year of primary; students' use of concept maps did not state that the examples in the full report all came from Year 8 science classes; pupils' use of audio commentary systems missed out all the details about the number and age of the children involved and did not mention the methodology; a multimedia approach to teacher development did not indicate that the project involved science teachers, nor that they were working collaboratively and using video.
Overall the ERIC abstracts are over functional and do not engage the reader's interest. For example:
Original abstract :
Gender and Education, vol 5, no. 1,1993
This paper explores female and male students attitudes towards school work in terms of application and achievement. The data are drawn from interviews with students, teachers, careers officers, and welfare officers in three semi-rural comprehensive schools in one educational authority (LEA). (The students were in their last year of compulsory schooling, Year 11, and were aged 16.) The three schools had invited the authors to explore why boys were achieving below their potential in terms of course work and end of course grades. The findings of the study show how school, peer group and community factors influence students' attitudes towards school work and homework. However, the situation is not just one of boys' underperformance: the pattern of girls' achievement at 16 (the school leaving age) is not always carried through post-16 or into career destinations. The problem is one of 'equalising opportunities' for all young people, taking into account the different patterns of need at different stages of their school careers.
This is only 168 words. Most abstracts are between 150 and 250 words and the literature typically recommends a limit of 250 words. (Lancaster 1998). However the ERIC abstract of the same article is, minimally:
Explores female and male students' attitudes towards school work in terms of application and achievement, using data from interviews with students, teachers, career officers, and welfare officers in three semi-rural public schools in England. Results suggest a problem of 'equalising opportunities' for all young people, rather than academic achievement.
We would argue strongly that the lack of important aspects such as context, pupil ages and school data in the ERIC abstract provides insufficient information to make a judgement about the potential use of the study for particular practice-based purposes. Education and change is highly context-specific. Practitioners always have to adapt interventions to their own circumstances; equally if they are to make diagnostic assessments of their own problems to help them move forward, based on leads provided by research, these need to offer basic contextual information. This is not to say that practitioners aren't interested in or willing to look at evidence from other settings. Many are interested in ways of tackling particular problems. Given that they will have to interpret implications for their own context they need information about the context in which evidence was generated - to help them in this process.
Quality of Abstracts
It is clear from our ERIC comparison that final entry bore little resemblance to the original journal abstracts. But what sort of quality were we looking at in relation to the abstracts in the journals themselves? We decided to conduct a small-scale survey of abstracts of four reputable journals* covering the June and September volumes of 2001. The sample of 55 abstracts was analysed for coverage of aim/purpose, context, time-scale, dimensions, constituency of the sample, size of sample, methods, results, conclusions, discussion, recommendations, implications, questions raised and style.
more than half the abstracts were informative - that is, they looked at purpose, scope, methodology, results, conclusions and recommendations;
most of the rest were indicative - that is, they tended to focus on the purpose, methodology and scope of the article but with little or no information about the findings or context. (For a full discussion of informative and indicative abstracts, see Lancaster (1998); the context was described in the majority of these paper-based abstracts (in contrast to their electronic counterparts) but was often missing in abstracts that dealt with theory or argument; in general it was easier to see how informative abstracts (abstracts, therefore, of empirical research) could be related to practitioner user needs; some abstracts dwelt at length on background details and paid little attention to the content of the article; indicative abstracts were often used to describe the background to a review, argument or theory and read like an introduction to, rather than an abstract of, the article. For example, one informative abstract devoted five sentences to background information and only one to covering both the purpose and a main finding of the research. many informative abstracts that would help readers to judge if the accompanying article was relevant had key information missing. For example, all were vague about the dates the research began and finished. At best abstracts referred to 'recent' data or research or gave the time span for instance 'four year longitudinal study'; about two-thirds gave information about the sample used in the survey, for example 'teachers, parents and university personnel', but only a third gave the size of the sample, for example '50 young people in their last year of compulsory schooling'; about half or these abstracts mentioned the data collection methods for instance 'semi-structured interviews'.
There was more. But what we have described here makes it clear that although the (printed) journal abstracts are considerably more informative than their electronic counterparts, they were not a consistently reliable indicator of what the full article might contain. Even if database editors were simply to lift the original abstract, it would not solve the problem of accessing research information accurately.
Access to Abstracts
Ask ERIC is an indexing and abstracting database for education research, providing a full search facility of over 1100 journals, dating back to 1966, for free. It is very often the first port of call in a wide range of education literature searches. However, only around 400 of these journals are fully abstracted, and very few of these provide the full author abstract - more often than not the database entry offers a two- or three-line abstract which summarises the author abstract (see above for our comments on these abstracts). The searches that CUREE performs in the course of our work normally begins with ERIC and this lack of reliable abstracts causes real problems. Our concern is that we are overlooking important articles. Although retrieving full text is an option, searchers could end up retrieving full-text articles on the basis of inadequate or misleading information.
From a representative sample of 97 journals frequently used by CUREE colleagues, 62 of these could provide the author abstract on, for example, the publisher's website or a database such as Catchword. The other 35 occasionally had lists of tables of contents, but none offered any kind of abstract. If these proportions held good for all journals, practitioners would have access to the title only of 36% of all published articles. Since our sample of commonly used journals are, by their very nature, the largest and most renowned journals - these are the ones most likely to have well-established web resources. The figure for journals where there may be no widespread access to abstracts may well be higher than 36%.
The table below gives an indication of the extent of availability of abstracts. Although 62 out of 97 journals did offer abstracts, this does not take account of the number of years of archived issues that had been entered into the website. The data shows that all 62 journals offered abstracts for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, but for articles earlier than 1996, only 12 out of the 97 journals in the sample could offer an on-line abstract. By contrast, and encouragingly from a practitioner point of view, 16 out of the 97 journals could offer the full text of their journals for free to download from their website.
No. of journals with:
Full abstracts (start <1996)
At least 7 years of abstracts (1996)
At least 5 years of abstracts (1998)
At least 3 years of abstracts (2000)
In addition to our concerns about whether we are missing important articles because of the way abstracts are handled, we have been reflecting on article titles. Our day-to-day experience of searching databases is that many titles are opaque. Some are eye-catching and entertaining - but give little indication of content, some are more whimsical or political and may well attach the attention of a reader of a journal where text, title and abstract are available all in one place. But such titles are not at all helpful when conducting large scale searches based on titles or where titles and abstracts are separated, and we are concerned that we are missing important reports because of this.
To explore our hypothesis for this paper we conducted a very small case study. We analysed the titles and their relationship with the abstract for two years (2000 and 2001) of the Oxford Review of Education. From this case study of the Oxford Review of Education, we have picked out some examples of opaque and helpful titles. The titles and their abstracts are included in Appendix A, but here we present a selection of the opaque titles with commentary on their possible misinterpretation.
From this small selection it is obvious that a title can mislead a potential reader by:
1. giving no information on whether an article contains empirical data;
2. giving no context for the study;
3. giving so little information as to make it impossible to tell the relevance of the article.
We offer these remarks not by way of criticism but to illustrate how easy it is for users undertaking large scale and electronic searches to overlook potentially useful articles.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The difficulties faced by practitioners in accessing research have been outlined in the opening sections of this paper. We have demonstrated that these difficulties are not confined to individuals. CUREE is an example of a small organisation, with limited resources for whom selectivity in ordering articles is important. Having access to the full author abstract, for example, is essential in a review process such as that described in the case study above. However, this is not as easy as it once was. With the increase in use of web resources has come a multiplicity of online databases, each offering access to a different range of journals. The result is that considerable human resources are used in trawling the web for the abstracts of articles, on a given topic which then may not be available, for a number of reasons. Our findings, together with our own experiences, have led us to question the ultimate value of the notion of the 'perfect' abstract which crops up frequently in the information literature about abstracting. Although Lancaster (1998) refers to a 'target audience' we have found little evidence in the literature that this is regarded as an important factor in abstract writing. The relative lack of reliable abstracts really means that many databases are essentially only useful as a citation service.
We are beginning to wonder whether educational research might not benefit from developing, alongside abstracts for research purposes, more audience-orientated abstracts which try to accommodate the needs and purposes of 'end users'. Similarly, we believe that the now widespread practice of electronic searching ought, perhaps, to be recognised when constructing titles for research reports and articles. Titles are the very first point at which judgements have to be made and at which research may get 'lost'. If greater care was taken to try and ensure that they reflected the article more faithfully many hours of wasted effort might also be saved. We recognise that efforts such as the development of EPPI reviews and their associated REEL database will aim to support this process. But CUREE's high wastage rate in supporting the NUT sponsored "Impact of CPD" review is, if anything, less great than that experienced by other reviews and so it will be many years before the REEL database provides detailed access to the content of more than a relative handful of articles.
Practitioners are drawn, in particular, to explore research which might help them to improve pupil outcomes. Indications of findings are therefore important to them. Also important for practitioner purposes is contextual information and it is the latter which is most frequently omitted from abstracts. Perhaps Lancaster's advice (see above) to avoid "background" information - such as why the study was undertaken - has been influential or reflects a more general position taken by publishers. In many cases research is undertaken specifically to address specific educational problems and we would argue that this is information which crucially helps us to decide the relevance of the study for user oriented searches.
We believe there is a risk that research outputs should be made more readily accessible to a wider audience. At the very least, we would like to explore with publishers; with on-line database editors and with our colleagues in the research community whether a set of title and abstracting guidelines, aimed at authors, journal editors and compilers of on-line resources, could usefully take account of the needs of a more diverse target audience.
* We use practitioners here to include all those who are engaged in the education of 3-18 year olds, including governors and parents.
Appendix A: Case study of Oxford Review of Education - comparing titles and abstracts
Potentially opaque titles
The Political Arithmetic Tradition in the Sociology of Education
This paper uses birth cohort analysis of a 1991 representative survey of Britain to establish trends in class, gender and ethnic inequalities in educational attainment. The data show some decline in class inequalities (especially at O level), a clear narrowing of gender inequalities and substantial progress among ethnic minorities, where the inequalities among the second generation (who were born and educated in Britain) are a great deal less than those in the first generation (born and educated overseas). However, overall class inequalities remain substantial and are considerably larger than the gender or ethnic inequalities. Given the slow rate at which class inequalities are declining, they are likely to remain a major problem for educational policy for the foreseeable future.
Subject Comparisons-a Scottish Perspective
The perceived difficulty of modern foreign languages and the mathematical and science subjects at A level has been suggested as a cause of their relative decline in popularity in England and Wales (Fitz-Gibbon & Vincent, 1994) and similar views have been expressed in Scotland about the study of modern foreign languages (Kent, 1996). By constructing 'difficulty' in terms of differences between the average grades obtained in different subjects in A level or Higher grade examinations, particularly by candidates of 'similar ability', the 'relative difficulty' of different subjects can be determined. When this was done for the Scottish Higher grade subjects, it was found that subject 'difficulty' varied significantly between different sub-groups, categorised by gender, ability and particular interests, which suggests that the construct is not meaningful. It was further concluded that this 'difficulty' is probably not an important factor in determining students' choice of subject options.
Methodology and Moral Education
A case is argued for a certain procedure for moral education or 'value education'. The procedure begins by (1) categorising or defining the area and then (2) establishing what must logically count as 'a good performance' within it; thereafter we should devise practical assessment-methods (3), experiments in methods of moral education (4), and hence (5) be able to offer practical recommendations. The chief obstacle to progress is a descriptive theory of morality, which bases moral education on a prior set of substantive values: that is no logical basis for any form of thought, and anyway pupils are bound to challenge them. We need rather to work out, under (1) and (2), what counts as valid moral reasoning and what items of equipment the morally educated person needs: empirical research and practical methods must follow from that.
In this paper I examine constructivism as a view of learning which has come to dominate educational debates about learning in the field of teacher education. The major claims of a variety of constructivist theories are considered and found to be largely wanting, in that they either differ little from common sense empiricist views, or else provide misleading and incomplete views of human learning, with consequently misleading implications for teaching in classrooms.
The 'Protean' Spirit of Jeff Lewis
In a recent contribution to this journal, Jeff Lewis has criticised the views of both Nigel Blake and myself on spiritual education. In particular he has taken exception to my own claim that concepts of spirituality are indexed to particular religious or other traditions raising difficulties for any common programme of spiritual education. Lewis claims that my own conception of spirituality is mistakenly 'reductionist' and seeks to base a general conception of spiritual education on a more 'holistic' approach. By way of response, I argue (amongst other points): first, that Lewis does not consistently adhere to this 'holistic' conception and that his account of spiritual life is ultimately no less 'reductionist' than mine; second, that his attempt to ground a perspective-neutral conception of spiritual life in the claims of cognitive science is deeply misconceived; third, that his arguments have seriously problematic socio-political implications.
Education for all - in whose language?
In the first part of this article the question of the language of instruction is seen in relation to questions of poverty, power and partnership. In the second part the fate of the African languages in some selected countries is given a closer look. Two distinct trends are noted, one strengthening the dominant languages which, in the context of Africa, means the former colonial languages and one focusing on a growing concern for a preservation and revival of African languages as languages of instruction in at least the primary schools in Africa. The battle between these two trends is discussed. The article builds partly on discussions the author has had with policy-makers in African countries.
The paper considers the implications of the concept of the essential contestability of education for the professional independence of teachers. Its conclusion is that liberal educational ideas provide the strongest theoretical framework for such independence, with child-centred ideas a not very close second. Potential dangers to teachers' professional autonomy from transcendentalist, instrumentalist and reconstructionist theories of education are highlighted. The paper does not endorse unlimited contestability or unrestricted professional independence for teachers and outlines conditions, related to the Paradox of Freedom, in which restrictions are fully justifiable. However, it concludes that in contemporary liberal-democratic societies constraints on educational contestability should be as minimal as possible.
Youth Development Circles
Restorative justice circles or conferences have shown considerable promise in the criminal justice system as a more decent and effective way of dealing with youthful law breaking than punishment. The social movement for restorative justice has a distinctive analysis of the crisis of community and the possibility of community in late modernity. This paper raises the question of whether this approach might fruitfully be applied to the holistic development of the learning potential of the young and the whole range of problems young people encounter - drug abuse, unemployment, homelessness, suicide, among others - in the transition from school to work.
Young Lives, Learning and Transformation: some theoretical considerations
The term 'learning' is now used to signal a range of political, social and economic aspirations. At the same time, the political, economic and cultural conditions under which learning occurs are changing. In these circumstances, it is appropriate to return to some fundamental questions about what learning is. This paper draws from a four-year longitudinal study of young people and their experiences of learning, jointly directed by Phil Hodkinson and myself. The study was based upon semi-structured interviews commencing with 50 young people in their final year of compulsory schooling. Over the four-year period, it witnessed transformations in their lives, including transformations in their dispositions to learning. In the paper, I draw from a range of theoretical sources for the illumination of these transformations and attempt to ground the work in a critical theoretical framework. I argue that theory must acknowledge the situated, positional, relational and participatory nature of learning if it is to capture adequately the complexities of learning and transformational processes. I conclude, also, that the explanatory power of theory is enhanced when it incorporates a temporal dimension and when it addresses how learning is embedded within the complex and continually changing patterns of other life experiences.
The State and Catholic Schooling in England and Wales: politics, ideology and mission integrity
Changing relations between the English State and the Roman Catholic Church in the sphere of education policy are examined in two historical periods. Between the 1870s and the 1970s, despite initial anti-Catholic prejudice, the Catholic hierarchy was able to negotiate a favourable educational settlement in which substantial public funding was obtained without serious loss of autonomy and mission integrity for the Catholic schooling system. The existence of a liberal State, a voluntarist tradition in schooling and the relative social and political unity of the Catholic community all contributed towards this settlement. The inauguration of an ideologically 'Strong State' in the 1980s and 1990s, pursuing an interventionist strategy in education driven by New Right market doctrines, threatened the whole basis of this settlement. The Catholic hierarchy had to develop new strategies to respond to this situation, complicated by the fact that the Catholic community was now more socially differentiated and more divided on key education policy questions.
The Relevance of Qualitative Research
This paper addresses the relevance of qualitative inquiry to policymaking and practice; against the background of recent attacks on educational research generally, and on qualitative work in particular. It outlines the contribution of the latter, referring to some examples of this kind of work over the past couple of decades. The discussion is organised around the five capacities ascribed to symbolic interactionist/phenomenological research by David Hargreaves in an article published in 1978: 'appreciative', 'designatory', 'reflective', 'immunological', and 'corrective'. It is argued that today there is more need than ever for research serving these functions.
Identities in Transition: anxiety and excitement in the move to secondary school
Helen Lucey, Diane Reay
There has been a tendency in the sociology of education to stress the anxieties and fears that are so potently aroused in relation to the transition to secondary school. While this work is extremely important we suggest that an emphasis on fear and anxiety cannot get to grips with the very real sense of excited anticipation with which the children's talk in our study is also infused. The focus of this paper is to consider some of the ways in which anxiety does figure in children's narratives around the secondary school transfer. We examine some of the positive functions of anxiety as part of a developmental process, placing it as an integral and necessary force in transitional states, particularly those connected to changes which impact powerfully on children's construction of 'self'. We consider some of the ways in which some psycho-dynamic frameworks (object relations theories) and social theories (particularly modernism) conceptualise anxiety and its place in the struggle involved in the project of 'selfhood'.
Motivation in the Junior Years: international perspectives on children's attitudes, expectations and behaviour and their relationship to educational achievement
Julian G. Elliott, Neil Hufton, Leonid Illushin, Fraser Lauchlan
This paper reports findings from a large-scale international investigation of a number of factors that are considered to impact upon educational motivation and achievement. Following on from an earlier investigation of adolescent attitudes, the present study involved a detailed survey of nearly 3,000 children, aged 9-10 from districts in England, Russia and the USA, together with teacher reports and the employment of a test of basic mathematical computation. The Russian sample scored significantly more highly on the computation test and showed no large tail of underachievers, as was the case with the other groups. Findings from the survey indicate that many of the differences found in the earlier adolescent study are equally true for younger children. The Russian children were less likely to express satisfaction with their abilities or workrates, were more positive towards school, more likely to see education as intrinsically valuable and tended to spend significantly more time on homework tasks. Data obtained also suggest that the Russian sample experienced classrooms with far less disruption and stronger prosocial peer influences than did the English and American children. Teacher understandings of what is considered to be acceptable behaviour appeared to differ, however. The paper notes that the Western samples overestimated their teachers' views of their ability while the Russian children provided underestimates. Possible reasons for, and implications of, these differential teacher messages are discussed. The paper concludes by examining the implications of the findings from the study for increasing motivation and achievement in countries with very different sociocultural contexts.
Regional and Local Differences in Admission Arrangements for Schools
Patrick White, Stephen Gorard, John Fitz, Chris Taylor
This paper describes the results of an analysis of the secondary school admissions arrangements, current and past, published by 40 Local Education Authorities in England and Wales. Arrangements are separated here into application procedures and school allocation criteria, and explored through an examination of specific examples of each type. The potential impacts of these arrangements for school admissions and for the changing social composition of schools are discussed. Perhaps the most significant finding is the scale of variation, even between apparently similar regions, in the nature of the admissions process, given that all procedures are presented as being in accordance with national legislation. Because the local implementation of national policy gives authorities this leeway in interpretation, many areas have not changed their procedures much, either in response to the Education Reform Act 1988, or the subsequent School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) http://ericfac.piccard.csc.com/submitting.html#selection , 5 September 2002.
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