The Ecology of Education: Culture, Communities, and Change in Schools
Mapping the ecology of education and using the frames and language of sociology, this course explores the theories and practices of school culture and change. The course is organized around three concentric and overlapping circles of analysis—moving from macro to micro, structures to people, ecology to biography, analysis to advocacy; seeking to interrogate the connections among research, policy, and practice. The first circle focuses on the broad ecology of education; documenting the ways in which schools are embedded within social, historical, and cultural contexts; their complex relationships with the families and communities they serve, and their role in shaping processes of socialization, stratification, and selection. The next circle centers on the school as a dynamic organism, a society within itself, with a dominant system of values, a pervasive ideology, and a characteristic set of relationships, rituals, and authority patterns among administrators, teachers, and students. The innermost circle examines the nature of the interpersonal encounters within the classroom, the authority, voice, and autobiography of the teacher, and the social, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions that shape the learning and development of both students and teachers. Within and across each of these circles of analysis, we consider the pervasive inequalities of access, opportunity, and student outcomes, the historical and contemporary influences of race, culture, gender, class and immigrant status, and the opportunities for addressing—and reducing—these asymmetries.
The Art and Science of Portraiture (Spring 2015)
This seminar investigates the methods, form, and purposes of social science portraiture: its relationship to other qualitative research strategies and its links to literature and art. Seminar members will respond critically to examples of portraiture in field studies, ethnographies, biographies, letters, diaries, and literature, as well as write their own portraits of individuals, institutions, relationships, processes, or concepts. Attention will be paid to systematic description, careful analysis, composition, and writing and to the aesthetics and science of creating portraits. This is a working seminar with members acting as discussion leaders, critics, and respondents of each other’s work. In addition to composing a portrait, students will be required to write short, critical analyses and give collaborative oral presentations.