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The Pedagogy of Monsters: Scary Disturbances in a Doctoral Research Preparation Course

by Nancy Lesko, Jacqueline A. Simmons, Antoinette Quarshie & Nicki Newton - 2008

Background/Context: Although doctoral education is an important component of research universities, few investigations of doctoral education exist. Furthermore, with the push in education and in other disciplines to help beginning researchers understand multiple paradigmatic, epistemological, and theoretical orientations that define fields of study, few reports explore the attempts and their effects.

Purpose: This study sought to understand the unusually strong student responses to a new doctoral core course that aimed to initiate them into the competing theoretical, epistemological, and paradigmatic complexity of contemporary educational research. This study developed from the authors’ experiences with the course in an attempt to understand students’ conflicted responses.

Setting: A private urban graduate school of education was the setting for this study.

Participants: Participants were doctoral students who enrolled in the core course between 1999 and 2002. By virtue of the action research design, the authors were also participants.

Research Design: The overarching design developed from action research in that we sought to investigate a question that arose from our teaching practice. Our initial research question was, How can we understand students’ highly charged responses to the doctoral core course? The inquiry drew upon three traditions in qualitative interpretive research: action research, collective memory work, and deep interpretation and reflection.

Data Collection and Analysis: Data were collected via three collective memory groups and through the sustained and collaborative sharing of the authors’ own varied experiences of the doctoral core course.

Findings/Results: Students’ stories of turmoil in the doctoral course are interpreted as disruptions that occurred when familiar ideas about knowledge and learning, identities, and social networks were breached. These disturbances—encounters with ambivalence, and the awareness of more than one way to interpret, categorize, and feel about phenomena—were related to instances in which their reading, perceptions, and identities were challenged. These disturbances were frightening, and students defended against the uncertainty and the attendant questions of their own competence by recuperating stable ideas of knowledge, self, and community through talk of authentic learning, noncompetitive peers, caring professors, and a harmonious academic community.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The doctoral core course took on a life of its own, like Frankenstein, achieving effects beyond the original intention and desires of its creators and its students. We now recognize some of the limits to the critical curriculum that we developed, revised, and enacted. We have sought to tame some disturbing aspects of the course and also to admit that teaching that interferes will always produce unpredictable and mixed responses.

Every Tuesday after the doctoral core class, Savannah1 phoned her dad in California. Although Savannah had successfully completed a master’s degree and numerous courses toward her doctorate at the college, there was something about this new doctoral core course that disoriented her. Although she was an experienced teaching assistant in the college’s preservice elementary education program and she had already passed her doctoral qualifying exam, her weekly calls home vented the latest installment of her identity crisis.

“I’m going to quit,” she sobbed. “I can’t do it; it’s too hard.”

“Savannah, it’s just a class,” he consoled. “It’s just a class.”

This article examines students’ responses to the doctoral core course (DCC) that flummoxed Savannah and pushed her to consider dropping out. As her dad wisely counseled, “It was just a class.” However, this course sought to initiate doctoral students into the competing theoretical, epistemological, and paradigmatic complexity of contemporary educational research, and in doing so, evoked unusually strong responses. In this article, we, a faculty member and three doctoral students, explore students’ stories of turmoil in the course. As Savannah’s story indicates, the responses were excessive in that she was an experienced and successful doctoral student2 who still felt that her performance and achievements were jeopardized by the course. By examining the sensationalized stories that students told and retold—stories filled with monsters, both terrifying and extraordinary—we explore the curriculum of the course as it was created by students’ and instructors’ interactions within particular contexts. We use the term pedagogy of monsters3 to call attention to this doctoral curriculum and explicate the ways in which, like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, it took on a life of its own, achieving effects beyond the original intention and desires of its creators and its students. Pedagogy of monsters consciously tangles teaching and learning with horror, realms of experience that are usually separated, to allow new possibilities and interpretations to be considered (Foucault, 1973; Probyn, 1996; Sumara & Davis, 1998).

We read students’ monster stories as markers of disruptions that occurred in ideas of knowledge, learning, identities, and social networks. Our examination traces some dynamics put into play when familiar categories, beliefs, and norms were breached. The course’s emphasis on contingency and competing perspectives produced ambivalent feelings about research, peers, instructors, and the self. Although we draw on data from students’ collective memory groups, our experiences and reflections as teachers and students in the course4 and our extensive discussions as a research team are highlighted in this account. We use this examination of one doctoral course in one institution to highlight some broader issues for teaching and learning in the context of competing knowledge and social networks.


In 1998, the faculty of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching began to reconfigure its doctoral program. A central piece of the revision was a new two-semester core course that integrated several self-standing requirements on curriculum theory and history, introduction to research on teaching, and diverse program areas such as early childhood education and dis/Abilities studies, among others. The course development was shaped by persistent faculty concerns that many doctoral students were not adequately prepared to design independent research; that students’ writing was not up to the analytic and synthetic crafting of a proposal and dissertation; and that students were sometimes not sufficiently familiar with and able to critique existing scholarship.5 The core course was to be interdisciplinary and offer an introduction to competing theories, paradigms, and methodologies.6

Seven years later, the course, Research and Inquiry in Curriculum and Teaching, is institutionalized with student lore, T-shirts, origin myths, and its seventh student cohort. It is difficult to adequately portray the aims and scope of a doctoral core course that logged 130 hours of class time over 9 months. The DCC instructors (four faculty and three teaching assistants in the initial years) sought to integrate scholarship on curriculum and teaching with substantive and methodological questions about theory and inquiry. For example, histories of curriculum and teaching were framed by questions derived from James Loewen (1995): Whose viewpoint is presented? Where is the author located in the social structure? What interests (material or ideological) might the author’s viewpoint serve? After reading the words (or seeing the images), how is one supposed to feel about the history presented? Assignments consistently asked students to read “text against text”—that is, to read intertextually, drawing out tacit and overt differences across readings, as well as gaps and silences. In these ways, the course emphasized students’ abilities to locate educational scholarship within historical, social, political, and economic contexts and interrogate taken-for-granted characterizations.7 Because students’ writing had been a central faculty concern, the instructors consciously taught students the hallmarks of academic writing and provided highly structured writing assignments and a careful process of peer and instructor review of drafts.

Early each fall, students read Cleo Cherryholmes’s 1993 article, “Reading Research,” which emphasizes the political aspects of reading—the centrality of readers’ own beliefs to the meanings gleaned from research articles. That was an important opening to the continuing emphasis on epistemology, paradigms, and theories in the methodological strand of the DCC. Course lectures and companion readings reviewed a range of stances between positivism and postpositivism. Students were asked to read empirical research studies critically to dissect the author’s assumptions, paradigmatic stance, argument, and evidence. They also collaboratively wrote a literature review, designed positivist and postpositivist studies on contemporary issues in education, and individually drafted a research proposal. Thus, the course raised epistemological issues in relation to both methodology and interdisciplinary research in curriculum and teaching (Pallas, 2001). In addition, instructors strove to foster collegial relations among students that would endure throughout their doctoral programs. The teaching assistants were significant in supporting these peer relationships in that they were more advanced doctoral students who, from the second year of the course on, had themselves completed the DCC.

Since the DCC has been in place, the quality of doctoral qualifying exams has improved. In general, students approach their dissertation proposals with a clearer sense of theoretical, epistemological, and methodological debates and issues, and they are much more practiced in academic writing.8 Nevertheless, the DCC remains contentious, especially among students who are currently enrolled. Mary Metz’s (2001) summary of student responses to an interdisciplinary seminar at the University of Wisconsin–Madison also captured our experiences: “It was common for students to resist the work in some way while it was going on and then to appreciate its benefits later” (p. 16). To contextualize student responses to the DCC, it is important to understand exactly what went on in this class and with whom.


In 1999, the DCC was a new requirement for doctoral candidates. The first cohort of 60 students included new matriculates and second- and third-year students who had not yet defended a dissertation proposal. Perhaps because this was a first-time course with unclear expectations and huge demands, there was significant attrition, and by the end of the term, the cohort was reduced to a group of 33 students (7 men and 26 women). Each subsequent class began with about 25 students, a similar ratio of men to women, and few dropouts.

On average, a third of each cohort identified themselves as “people of color,” but there was no clear solidarity around that term, and racial and ethnic diversity was dispersed across smaller communities. For example, in one cohort of 25 students, there were three African American, three Asian American, and three Asian international students. These smaller contingencies seemed to have more presence as communities of support, oftentimes taking definite leadership in addressing issues involving race, ethnicity, or immigration in class discussions. We have no data on class or sexuality difference, but there seemed to be a similar pattern of students identifying with marginalized categories introducing those themes into discussion and analysis.9

Students came from a range of professional backgrounds—teachers, principals, and administrators from public and private elementary, middle, and high schools, and the nonprofit sector. They came with unique academic interests and perspectives on an assortment of content areas, teaching populations, and policy views. The students ranged in age, with no dominating majority. There were teachers in their mid-20s with the requisite 3 years of successful teaching under their belts, and career educators with decades of experience in the field and in the world. Many students were parents and prioritized their family lives far ahead of the requirements of the DCC. Others had left countries thousands of miles away to earn degrees to take back to South Korea, Turkey, China, and India. Some students rushed to class after grueling days in schools and at full-time jobs, only to face a 2-hour commute home at the end of class. Others managed a full-time course load and had work and social life centered on campus, living in the dorms, eating in the cafeteria, and holding campus jobs designed to support their graduate study.

Although students seemed to share a general progressive orientation to education, the coursework pushed on political, epistemological, and paradigmatic fissures and widened them. Whereas students’ professional and personal traits and experiences had little space in the formal curriculum, the course foci regularly asked students to acknowledge and interrogate their positions. Because of the intense demands of a syllabus created by four professors with different specializations and research interests, there was rarely an opportunity for personal contexts to be shared despite the formal mantra that situated knowledge is a growing part of epistemological considerations in educational research (see the appendix). Thus, there was a push-and-pull of asking students to consider their positions and backgrounds, with few in-depth opportunities to do so.


Class sessions followed a familiar routine, especially by the third year of the course, which relied on a template of activities created in previous years. Activities ranged from small and large group discussions, lectures, presentations, and video screenings, each facilitated by a course instructor or guest speaker. There were also in-class projects for which students would plan, design, and present some demonstration of their reading and analysis. Each session was like a combination of four or five classes rolled into one, with students and instructors asked to continually shift gears and move onto new conversations before they had time to satisfactorily finish earlier ones.

Readings and activities were always grouped thematically, creating distinct knowledge categories in the material. For example, assigned readings on quantitative research might include several methodological papers on quantitative data collection and analysis, along with studies across a range of topics using those approaches. One regular activity was to ask students to bring a set of discussion questions to class “reading across assigned texts.” The group divided into small groups with an instructor and/or teaching assistant (TA) in each team to discuss questions and then reconvened for a broader conversation as a large group. Because the new material was often challenging for students, and TAs and professors had read and discussed texts prior to class, the instructor’s presence often served more to validate understanding or monitor student work than to really discuss substantive interpretations.

The postpositivist orientation10 of the course meant a continual upset of students’ prior frameworks and knowledge. The course encouraged students to relearn beliefs about education in terms useful for research, situated within theoretical traditions that were often new to them. That meant a hard interrogation of basic assumptions about teaching, curriculum, and learners—a process of “unknowing” but not a willing one. This process induced a monstrous crisis of “mastery” (Edwards & Usher, 2001; Luhmann, 1988) and of community as students struggled to “get it”—to use the language of educational research in talk and in writing. Students’ simultaneous desire to learn and loathing of the material dimensions of doctoral study produced profound ambivalence that reverberates in the descriptions that follow. The monstrousness of competition, grading, and perpetual self-assessment haunted the DCC. Furthermore, students’ tentative understanding of the material was enough to inspire uncertainty over their positioning among the range of adults in the room—first-year and advanced doctoral students and junior and senior faculty members. It was a palpable element of the course that shook the confidence of students who were experienced and successful educators outside the DCC.


Lauren Young introduced a 2001 theme issue of Educational Researcher on doctoral education by noting that “public discourse about the doctoral curriculum is largely absent” (p. 4). There are remarkably few empirical studies of doctoral curricula and preparation in and out of education, and fewer still that examine the engagement with diverse theories, paradigms, and epistemologies.11 Therefore, Young’s question, “How can we [best] prepare prospective scholars for epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives?” remains an important one and the backdrop for our inquiry. We are also aware of the vulnerability (Metz, 2001) of doctoral students to immersion in the debates over “what knowledge counts, by what evidence, and according to whom” (Young, p. 3).

Both established scholars and noncompleters of doctoral programs testify to the scariness of graduate school—the brilliant peers and struggle with self-doubt, the authority hierarchy, and the problems of solitary work (Lovitts, 2001; Weiland, 1998). However, the highly charged responses to the DCC seemed to exceed self-doubt.12 In Metz’s (2001) study, one doctoral student articulated the unsettling effects of that seminar’s combined cognitive and emotional challenges: “At one point or another, most students found themselves involved in a soul searching identity crisis [italics added] that was instigated by the seminar . . . [an] existential funk brought on by our discussions of ontology and epistemology” (p. 15). Questioning peers’ fundamental assumptions of knowledge and defending one’s own made course discussions very uncomfortable and often emotionally threatening. The doctoral student closed her essay with two questions: Can the personal journey through epistemological and paradigmatic conflicts be made easier? Is the gain in proportion to the pain?


As the opening vignette of Savannah’s experience indicates, we also wonder about the pain and the gain. But what does the pain of doctoral education involve, and do we deem pain as a necessary component of confronting epistemological diversity? A number of scholars argue that pain in the form of a “crisis” or “discomfort” is necessary for education that calls into question common sense, or ideological knowledge (e.g., Boler, 1990; Ellsworth, 1992; Felman & Laub, 1992; Kumashiro, 2000; Luhmann, 1988). We too believe that “learning is something more than a series of encounters with knowledge; learning entails . . . the messier and less predictable process of becoming implicated in knowledge” (Pitt as quoted in Luhmann, 1988, p. 150).  As Deborah Britzman (1998) conceded, learning “must interfere. There is nothing else it can do for it demands of students and teachers that each come to something, make something more of themselves” (p. 10).

Our focus here is to better understand the sociological processes productive of crises of knowing within particular curriculum and pedagogy, because “whether or not structures of meaning are destabilized and shocked is not the result of an event but the effect of a sociocultural process [italics added]. It is the result of an exercise of human agency, of the successful imposition of a new system of cultural classification” (Alexander, 2004, p. 10). Sociologist Zygmut Bauman (1991) emphasized ambivalence as a central social dynamic because it shadows all forms of modern classifications and social life. Bauman defined ambivalence as “the possibility of assigning an object or an event to more than one category” and linked it with the “acute discomfort” we feel when “we are unable to read the situation properly and to choose between alternative actions” (p. 1). It is a “horror” when the contingency or randomness of the world overpowers the ordering and classifying that gives the world a structure. Ambivalence involves “the feeling of indecision, undecidability, and hence loss of control” (p. 2), language that anticipates our study of horror and monsters. The struggle for order occurs in the attempts at semantic precision, transparency, and clarity, all of which are central to the process of preparing researchers.13 Ambivalence is produced in contexts riven by competing knowledge, social networks, and systems of categorization. Ambivalence is interwoven with contingency and the pain of knowledge’s limits, which may be ignored through strategies of amnesia, romanticization, and unconsciousness.14


But doctoral students came to the DCC wanting to know the language and methods of educational research, wanting to craft their own studies, wanting to understand good from bad research, and wanting to influence education with their research ideas. Professors’ desires to initiate young scholars into the interesting but complex issues and methods of contemporary research were also at play. Professors recounted their own introductions to the heady theories and language of academe and how doctoral education had enabled an articulation of their semi-inchoate perspectives on education. Allison Jones (1996) described the desirous dynamics of university classrooms:

Students desire the teacher’s knowledge, grades, references, and favor. The teachers desire their students’ attention, diligence, even admiration. As a result, pedagogical relationships are often riven with vulnerability and anxiety—as well as pleasure and excitement . . . pedagogical encounters can be both exciting and intimidating; pleasurable and dangerous. (pp. 102, 104)

These respective desires for knowledge and pleasure came into tension within the DCC’s emphasis on contemporary, competing epistemological perspectives and on the politics of research production and consumption. The DCC emphases may have been especially troubling for those who expected to receive commodified units of knowledge available for use in professional advancement (Collins, 1979; Lyotard, 1984; Nespor, 1990). One student expressed frustration with the course’s direction in terms of desired access to research elites: “If I want to get at the top of my field, I can’t be shouting, accusing, and criticizing the top people. . .that’s something that I still struggle with.”15

In the DCC, students also participated in overlapping social networks. Students of color tended to see each other as allies; students who taught in suburban or urban settings connected with each other, as did cohort members who strongly identified as teachers for social justice. Programmatic affiliations were also significant; for example, students majoring in dis/Abilities studies or early childhood education established strong collegial relations and looked to each other for support. As we will see, when the expectations of such affiliations were not fulfilled, students felt let down. For example, one African American student recalled “hating” another student of color because the supposed ally did not agree with her stance in a discussion on racism. The sting of this “betrayal” lasted for years. In a course that sought to introduce multiple perspectives on reading and conceptualizing research, it was inevitable that students with otherwise close social ties would disagree. These disagreements caused waves of ambivalence, with attendant discomfort and hesitation toward the reading, the course, instructors, peers, and doctoral education as a whole.


Monsters inhabit the fantastic, a genre featuring “uncertainty of familiar boundaries and categories” (Donald, 1992, p. 100). Filmic monsters evoke terror and fascination by subverting “fixed symbolic boundaries” and throwing the audience’s perceptual categories into disarray (p. 100). Similarly, monsters in gothic novels arise from excesses of meaning created by multiple plausible interpretations. The experience of horror is generated by “the disruption of categories, the destruction of boundaries, and the presence of impurities” (Halberstam, 1995, p. 27). A course that pushed doctoral students to consider different epistemological and paradigmatic stances toward understanding schools, teaching, and learning thereby consciously questioned familiar boundaries, categories, and perceptions. “Since the horror genre is . . . founded upon the disturbance of cultural norms, both conceptual and moral, it provides a repertory of symbolism for those times in which the cultural order . .  .has collapsed or is perceived to be in a state of dissolution” [italics added] (Carroll, 1989, p. 214).

In an examination of avid adolescent readers of horror novels, Ruth Vinz (1996) focused on the emotional effects of horror’s dissolution of “the lines between desire and repulsion” (p. 19). Teenagers discussed their combined fascination and disgust with horror creatures, which comprised a violation of symbolic categories (e.g., what I believe is good clashed with what I take pleasure in imagining). Thus, a constitutive dimension of the experience of horror16 is the blurring of boundaries between the rational and irrational worlds (Elsaesser, 1989) and between who we think we are and how we act.

Although the doctoral students we spoke to did not profess pleasure in the disequilibrium of the multiple and competing epistemologies and paradigms of contemporary educational research, they frequently repeated horrifying stories about the DCC. In this way, we also came to use monsters and other symbols of the horror genre to explore the disturbances, the mix of fascination, disgust, pleasure, and danger, and the ambivalent responses to contingent knowledge.


Our research question was deceptively simple: How can we understand students’ highly charged responses to the DCC? The inquiry and analysis drew upon three traditions in qualitative interpretive research: action research, collective memory work, and deep interpretation and reflection. First, we locate ourselves within the action research tradition (Anderson, Herr, & Nihlen, 1994; Carr, 1989; McTaggart, 1997; Zeichner & Noffke, 2001) because our question arose from problems within our everyday curriculum and teaching activities. We independently noticed the strong emotional response of students to particular assignments. We discussed our respective observations and shared hunches about the sources. We wanted students to engage with the conflicting perspectives of the class, but our observations indicated that despite grades that improved across the terms and students who proclaimed how much they had learned once the course was over, our results were mixed. This sense was based on observations of how students from the DCC talked about epistemology and paradigms in other courses and how ongoing study groups and peer reviews surfaced a range of views on research issues and nonissues. For example, some advanced students read, discussed, and designed research in unproblematized positivist terms as if they had never encountered the DCC. Thus, we wanted to better understand how the curriculum was failing to connect with students, despite our best intentions and our efforts revising, fine-tuning, and refocusing readings, assignments, and grading practices. This action research stance shifted us from just developers, teachers, and students of the course to simultaneously insiders and outsiders.

To answer our question, we needed to talk with doctoral students about their responses to the class. In an initial effort, individual interview protocols were developed and piloted. Students were asked for anecdotes of their course experiences, eliciting images of double-edged swords, swift rivers, and diving boards, which did portray conflicting pressures and feelings such as knowledge gain and uncertainty. Despite the provocative analogies, the interviews overall produced intellectualized portraits of doctoral education and most often elided the vulnerabilities that we sought to understand with “defended” language (Hollway & Jefferson, 2000), such as calling doctoral education a “journey” or a “challenge.” The research team discussed at length how to elicit more of the experienced vulnerabilities. We turned to collective memory methodology because it emphasizes a collective approach to research and the recollection and narration of embodied memories (Davies, 2000; Haug, 1987), which seemed likely to foreground participants’ “emotional logic” (Hollway & Jefferson).

In their groundbreaking work, Haug (1987) advocated for a collective examination of experience with the observation that “it is within the domain of collective production that individual experience becomes ‘possible’” (p. 44). In this way, collective memory work’s emphasis on the social aspects of individual experience and learning were in sync with our beginning assumptions. Memories are of significance not because they are “true,” but because of their active role in the construction of identity (Gannon, 2001). The task for memory work is to reveal the processes by which we construct our sense of self by uncovering successive layers of significance in personal accounts—to understand how “individuals work themselves into social structures they themselves do not consciously determine, but to which they subordinate themselves” (Haug, p. 59).


In the spring of 2003, we recruited participants via e-mail for three collective memory groups (CMG), one for each of the cohorts that had then completed the DCC. CMG meetings took place after hours in college classrooms and were audiotaped and transcribed by each facilitator.17 The major steps of collective memory research are as follows: (1) Group members generate a topic or theme. (2) Each member of the group writes a memory. (3) Group discusses and analyzes each memory. (4) Group members rewrite their memories. (5) Analyses of the written memories are related to theories/problem/practice (Schratz & Walker, 1995; see also Crawford, Kippax, Onyx, Gault, & Benton, 1992; Haug, 1987). Our use of collective memory work deviated from this format in several ways. First, the research question and CMG topic were generated by the research team and kept consistent across the three groups. Second, although we planned to ask participants in all three groups to convene again with rewritten memories, this step only happened in one group. Participants’ tight schedules and the amount of time that a single meeting involved (approximately 3 hours) sunk the second meeting. Finally, although some analysis of memories occurred within the CMGs, the preponderance of analysis and its connections to theory, doctoral education, and the teaching of the DCC took place among members of the research team.

Collective memory work was crucial to this analysis because it gave us in-depth, emotional stories to interpret along with our own observations and experiences. However, the small number of participants and the tenor of the memories—the focus on horrific experiences—made us stop and change directions once again. In the intensity of the negative responses we elicited, a first response was to think that the course failed horribly and was akin to torture.18 The monsters stopped us in our analytic tracks until we could consider them metaphorically as representing deep, semiarticulate disturbances and feelings of ambivalence. Our data analysis moved from a list of the kinds of horrors that surfaced in students’ memories to the development of emotional analogies in film clips that mobilized similar feelings of horror. We moved back and forth between horror scenes from films and the doctoral stories of horror to develop a specific vocabulary of feelings and a repertoire of ways that monsters were produced, and their sources of power. We think that the process of developing a film-based language for the DCC monsters was crucial to our ability to consider the multidimensional quality of curricular experiences and emotional responses—that is, the pleasure and the danger, the vulnerability and the excitement.

A third research tradition informed this process of analysis. To move beyond the surface, beyond the literal stories of monsters, we used Hollway and Jefferson’s (2000) approach to understanding the emotional logic of research participants. Hollway and Jefferson stated their theory of the “defended” subject in research: “Conflict, suffering and threats to self operate on the psyche in ways that affect people’s positioning and investment in certain discourses rather than others” (p. 19). Research participants’ statements show investments in particular views of teaching and learning, which can be understood to legitimate and therefore mitigate experiences. The articulated ideas serve to defend his or her self.19 Frosh, Phoenix, and Pattman (2002) view research interviews as prime opportunities to articulate conflicts and defenses. Although the present study did not focus on the unique biographies of the doctoral students and their particular anxiety-provoking life events, our inquiry does illuminate social aspects of the defended subjects in that we examine how “defensive activities affect and are affected by discourses . . . [how] the unconscious defenses that we describe are intersubjective processes . . .; and [how] real events in the external, social world . . . are discursively and defensively appropriated” (Hollway & Jefferson, p. 24).20 This view of research participants and researchers intertwines the discursive subject from feminist poststructuralist theory with the defended subject.

In producing such a deep interpretation, we obviously moved “beyond” the participants’ own conscious understandings. Hollway and Jefferson (2000) offered three criteria for safeguarding participants in such territory: honesty, sympathy, and respect. Honesty involves researchers approaching the data openly and evenhandedly, making only such judgments as can be supported by the data, not ignoring evidence when it suits them, and interrogating researchers’ own responses to the data. Sympathy demands that we as researchers neither accuse participants of disreputable motives “nor treat them as blameworthy, alien or other” (p. 100). We tried to put ourselves alongside our participants and attempted to use our self-knowledge and the difficulties that we were familiar with “to assist us to understand their ‘inconsistencies, confusions and anxieties’” (p. 101). Finally, the ethic of respect materialized in paying close attention to participants and their ideas. “To respect in the sense of observing carefully is to notice what normally is overlooked, what might be too painful to notice” (p. 101). Although we cannot claim perfect adherence to these three principles, they are in sync with our overall approach and resonate with our feminist poststructuralist stance toward education. Again, moving beyond the participants’ own understandings is part of a critical interpretation that aims to interrogate “normal” views of teaching and curriculum and thereby open possibilities to discuss doctoral research training in alternative ways (Probyn, 1996; Sumara & Davis, 1998).


You enter the house, you’re a little scared—you’ve heard stories. But you step into the parlor entrance and everything looks normal. Then, all of a sudden the lights go out and the portraits change—these people turn into monsters and everybody screams. (Savannah)

I started hearing people using words and theories and authors that not only did I not know, but literally I had never heard them before. And these were my peers . . . not just the professors or TAs. (Anthony)

I had to really do a lot of self-reflection and introspection about who I was as a person. Am I competent enough? Am I capable? Am I intelligent enough to go through this because I’m not . . . able to finish everything by the next class session. (Mia)

Couldn’t the whole thing be just pass/fail? I mean seriously, so that people could just relax a little bit and admit that they didn’t know stuff. (Martha)

Like Savannah’s comparison to visiting a haunted house, scary imagery surfaced immediately in students’ memories of the course. Grades and grading were mentioned most frequently as contributing to the disturbing quality of the course and for provoking questions about one’s competence, knowledge, and future in academia. Because the pace and expectations were high, many students received lower grades than they were used to, especially early in the fall term. As the comments above show, students seemed to connect the grades with generalized worries or reassurance over their abilities. Although each had been admitted into a doctoral program, might they be asked to leave? Low grades also offered a strong contrast with many students’ career positions: The superintendent cried when she got a 2.9 out of 10; the first-grade teacher didn’t know how to write; and the fifth-grade teacher hadn’t learned how to read. Thus, students struggled with the collision of outside identities and their positions within the course. The grading traumas highlighted that doctoral students operate within a prestigious domain of education with tacit expectations: “You feel you should now be intelligent and of the rank to know how to do this kind of thing” (Schratz & Walker, 1995, p. 97). But as students’ stories demonstrate, grading provided an all too clear-cut medium of comparison—a visible, ranked position within the cohort. Even if a superintendent was the boss of hundreds of people and had aced a master’s program, a poor mark on a graded assignment demarcated her rank within her new doctoral network. Like Mia, a low grade could initiate ongoing self-surveillance.

Grades and grading, part of the way that the course strove to make doctoral knowledge explicit rather than tacit and produce high-caliber educational scholars, contributed to the monstrous uncertainty of familiar status and achievements. In the symbolic language of horror, low grades could be understood as impurities that clouded the facts of being admitted to a high-status doctoral program. If experienced and accomplished educators could not read or write well enough, the cultural order of expected achievement was also violated. In these ways, the grading practices blurred categories and begat monsters.

Implicitly and explicitly, many students resented having to prove themselves in a new language, new areas of scholarship, and with new people, and this is where the grading complaints offered shadowy glimpses of other monsters. The comments in the next section are such shadow narratives, which suggest that some of the emotional charge over grading was related to students’ own conflicted behavior.


I’m embarrassed when I think about who I was in that class. . . . It’s so stupid at our age to care about how you do in classes. But somehow it was there. Why didn’t we just [challenge the focus of the work] . . . like real people would? In a real situation? I still think about that and I get the shivers. (Martha)

This is all a game. This is all about how to present yourself in the best possible way to these professors so that they think you’re smart. It’s not about who really is smart. It’s about presentation. (Trin)

Going into the DCC I never really cared about grades. [F]or some reason in the DCC . . .   didn’t always care about getting an A, [but] it was more of a validator. It let me know that I was okay. (Anthony)

These students’ memories of profound embarrassment for caring about grades still produced shivers and raised difficult questions about the ways in which they and their peers had acted. Within her narrative, Martha located the DCC situations as “not real,” as only school; “real situations” were times and places when and where she and her peers would have argued for a different approach. Here we have evidence that the DCC was a place in which students acted in ways they didn’t like, specifically as if they were without power to challenge patterns. Unlike the teen horror readers cited by Vinz (1996), who could enjoy the tension of simultaneously hating and loving vampire stories, Martha took no pleasure in the blurred boundary between desirable and undesirable behavior. To recover from the unsavory memory, Martha split off the DCC as an “unreal” context and reaffirmed the belief that in “real” situations, she and her peers would certainly have acted more assertively. Martha’s discourse about grades was focused on the moral register (Davies, 1989). To defend against nagging questions and recuperate a sense of being a good person, she shifted into the stable categories of “fake” versus “genuine” situations. If the DCC was not a genuine situation, then her estimation of herself as a good person could be reinstated. The categories of authentic versus fake motivation also arose in Anthony’s uneasiness with grades. By proudly claiming to set his own internal (read “authentic”) achievement standards, his good grades in the course simply validated him, allowing him to recuperate his moral status as a student committed to genuine or internally motivated knowledge.

The DCC as mere performance echoed through other participants’ memories, such as Trin’s, which also invoked the stable categories of “intrinsic” or genuine knowledge as associated with a “true” self. Could Trin’s critique of the DCC work as “merely performative” be a form of ambivalence bred of multiple interpretations and irreconcilable conflicts? In discussing university-based research training in the knowledge society, Singh, McWilliam, and Taylor (2001) referenced Lyotard’s description of these times of hyperknowledge productivity as “performativity”: “Under these conditions, knowledge ceases to be an end in itself and its pursuit is disconnected from the expectation of greater understanding or meaning, much less truth” (p. 95). Students’ desire to be genuine, speak honestly, and have definite understandings conflicted with what they saw as the classroom dynamics of endless performance or “staging” of knowing. “Mere performance” was derogative, similar to “too much emphasis on external motivation [grading].” We think that it drew its withering negativity in part from associations with teachers’ ongoing experiences with high-stakes testing in elementary and secondary schools. Although the assignments and discussions were created by people they knew in relation to real tasks, like designing original research and writing a dissertation proposal (unlike the anonymous experts who constructed standardized tests), the impurity of executing these tasks elicited the same derogation: mere performance. Performance meant unclean or empty actions, and not meaningful, honest, or genuine learning.

The narratives in this section reveal collisions between students’ beliefs about themselves and their actions; for example, they desired a community but somehow acted competitively. Students defended their identities as good people, however, by defining the DCC as an unreal or merely performative context. The casting of a research preparation course as unreal released students from interrogation of their disavowed actions, and it reiterated familiar, stable, and valued categories of authentic learning and internal motivation.21 In this way, self-interrogation and potential crises over students’ “true” educational, political, or social beliefs could be downplayed through a stance that located the DCC as unreal and inauthentic.


We were broken into study groups with professors to discuss the readings. . . . I was sitting next to a friend who hadn’t done her readings for that night. So, I placed my readings in a place that she could see them and read through my comments, my summaries . . . my interactions with the text. And then . . . I notice . . . the guy who was like, the darling of this professor looking at my notes. . . . And then I hear him ask a question that was written in the margin of my paper . . . and I just got furious. (Trin)

I felt they [professors] didn’t really care that much . . . about how I felt. But it was their priority to care about how I was doing knowledgewise, workwise in class. . . . In other classes professors spend half of their time wondering about how students are doing in their work and [the other half wondering] about how these people are feeling and getting to know them as people. And this people part did not happen [in the DCC]. (Susan)

I never once went to an office hours. I never spoke to a professor. There’s no way in hell that I was going on my own because I didn’t speak the same language that they did. (Denise)

Sprinkled throughout all these discussions of grading and performance was talk of tenuous community.22 Class times offered opportunities for peer validation as well as violation, as illustrated in Trin’s memory. In her attempt to help a peer, Trin’s work was poached and she denounced the community that the DCC attempted to foster through such small group discussions. A similar disappointment reverberated in each of the three collective memory groups, with students expressing disgust that they hadn’t worked more cooperatively.

The competitive feel to the course was attributed to the professors and the course structure. Professors were expected to transform the difficult aspects of doctoral work by being approachable and showing that they truly cared for students. Students expressed a conflicted expectation that instructors treat them simultaneously as peers and as initiates to be guided, desiring to be colleagues but also to be led, taught, and cared for. But it was the way that class sessions were structured that was truly at the crux of this complaint.

Professors and teaching assistants took turns lecturing and guiding discussions. The rest of the teaching team also participated, but there seemed to be a deference given to the “lead” facilitator to frame their presentation from their own theoretical orientation. This gave students the impression that one professor was the quantitative researcher, that disability issues belonged to another, and that questions about queer theory should be addressed to still another professor. The instructional team unwittingly created pockets of silence around specialized categories, which led to a curious sensitivity over knowledge areas—a sense that knowledge could be owned, that some people were expert and thus authorized to speak while others should remain silent. Mark Currie (1998) noted that one narrative quality of the monstrous is the inability to see physical and moral traits clearly. These shadowy, half-viewed, specialized instructors and one-dimensional peers thus took on monstrous possibilities. The pockets of silence fostered a sense that knowledge areas, like the special powers of a comic book character, could be mastered, despite course critiques of ideas of natural knowledge or authority.


In this analysis, we have consciously juxtaposed teaching and horror to create a heterotopia—an interpretive space that confounds conventional language and associations (Foucault, 1973; Probyn, 1996; Sumara & Davis, 1998). This heterotopic space foregrounded three monstrous qualities of the DCC: grades and students’ sense of adequacy, students’ self-conflicts, and disappointing collegial relations. In this course, the teaching for epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives was combined with high expectations and lower than usual grades, overloaded class sessions, and decontextualized interactions among students and instructors. We examined students’ excessive responses23 to the DCC as disturbances to seemingly stable categories of knowledge, self-identity, and social networks. These disturbances—encounters with ambivalence, and the awareness of more than one way to interpret, categorize, and feel about phenomena—were related to instances in which their reading, perceptions, and identities were brought up short, and they shifted into the fantastic, into the territory of ghosts and monsters. Experiences with ambivalence were scary, and students defended against the uncertainty and the attendant questions of mastery by discursive shifts—recuperating stable ideas of knowledge, self, and community through talk of authentic learning, noncompetitive peers, caring professors, and a harmonious academic community.

Thus, teaching for epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives interfered (Britzman, 1998). We were not able to disentangle and weigh the relative contribution of the threats to self-image from postpositivist readings, grades, self-conflicts, or noncollegial relations. Rather, our interpretation has emphasized how the course took on a life of its own, like Frankenstein, achieving effects beyond the original intention and desires of its creators and its students. This monstrous dynamic has been explored here through students’ stories, but faculty members and teaching assistants’ stories of ambivalence and defended selves could also be analyzed. Although professors became something akin to “monster apprentices” in students’ tales, instructors also experienced conflicts of desire and fear, uncertainty and engagement. For instructors, a basic question remains: To what degree do we recognize the human contexts and limitations of part-time doctoral study, and to what degree do we persist in a full-blown preparation for epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives?24

The emphasis in our analysis on ambivalent responses places instructors within the same frame of reference as students (rather than teachers as enlighteners and students as resisters). Ambivalent responses are part of contemporary conditions of knowing and knowledge, not the idiosyncratic rejections of a particular cohort of students. But our inquiry has demonstrated that contested encounters in the DCC were downplayed and understood as a general resistance to the DCC by a particular cohort of students rather than central to the practices of postpositivist and interdisciplinary teaching, learning, and knowledge. We think that the pedagogy of monsters is an enduring phenomenon for doctoral research preparation that aims to counter positivist ideas and practices. The conflicts described here cannot be “solved” because they are part of the process of learning that is aimed at denormalizing (Luhmann, 1988). Bauman (1991) suggested that the postmodern condition imposes “living without guarantee,” which is “exceedingly anxiety-prone” (p. 257).

Using the foregoing understandings generated as insiders and outsiders in one university department and course, we now return to Lauren Young’s (2001) question posed at the outset: “How can we [best] prepare prospective scholars for epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives?” (p. 3). Our analysis suggests that when doctoral education emphasizes epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives, it will interfere with normal (and believed beneficial) educational relations between teachers and learners, between research knowledge and self-mastery, between beliefs of who individuals think they are and what they do, and with what research communities might mean, and does so in unpredictable ways.

This study of one doctoral course indicates that the refusal of “interfering knowledge” took place on the discursive terrain of teaching and curriculum—the desire for authentic learning, noncompetitive relations with peers, and caring professors. Thus, it seems salient to the present findings that the DCC positioned future researchers as students. Their rejections of the DCC were couched as students of education and in the language of progressive teaching/learning practices. Thus, part of teaching against the normalized truths of educational research might be to interrupt the positions of doctoral students as “students of education.” If our research training moved to actual research projects and students became coresearchers, greater engagement with epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives might be possible. Certainly in this study, the fact of being students presented multiple challenges to considering postpositivist critiques.

Near the end of the second semester, several DCC assignments asked doctoral students to “rethink” educational topics and research approaches. These assignments, intertwined with the end of the course being in sight, seemed to offer possibilities for them to be the ones challenging ideas, theories, epistemologies, and paradigms rather than always being challenged by others. Alternating between challenged and challenger seemed to offer more comfortable experiences with critical questioning. These reflections suggest that students’ positionalities may be an important avenue for consideration in revisions of doctoral research training courses. By altering the positions from which students consider epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives—say, as challenger and challenged, as one invested in the theoretical or methodological approaches or not, as potential funders, as public policymakers, or as parents or teachers—students may gain further understanding of the controversial relations of knowledge and power.

That said, new positions such as coresearchers would likely produce other ambivalences and other discursive shifts. The pull of existing beliefs about research, researchers, and scholarly communities is strong. Mystified and idealized views about researchers’ rationality, objectivity, and unambiguous findings persist despite explicit attempts by university teachers to suggest greater tentativeness.25 How we understand the persistence of such views of research in the context of teaching that consciously interferes with them is crucial to reconsidering doctoral research training. Thus, our own theories of learning and teaching become central to any reply to Young’s (2001) question.

Our focus on ambivalent responses to a doctoral research training course pushes us to reimagine classroom spaces and times not as occasions for enlightenment and all-at-once transformation, but as inevitably productive of the very contested research perspectives that we may desire to correct. With the emphasis on anxiety and discomfort, we can read this inquiry as a portrait of what got in the way of learning about epistemological and paradigmatic differences in a doctoral research preparation course. The debates over different epistemological stances, the contingency of research “findings,” the messy entanglements of subjectivity and objectivity, and the politics of producing research accounts, among others, detoured into well-worn stories of grades, authentic learning, and wished-for community. When asked to reconsider education, past teaching practices, and future research, students instead reconsidered the DCC. If future instructors made the DCC pass-fail, lowered the risks for peer relations, and were more recognizably caring, would diverse epistemological and paradigmatic perspectives receive a better hearing?26 Probably not. We think that epistemological controversy and diverse perspectives are bound to disturb and unsettle relations among knowledge, self-mastery, and social networks for all involved.


The authors are most grateful to the doctoral students who participated in the collective memory groups and articulated their vulnerabilities. The authors also acknowledge the help of many readers of previous drafts, and especially the many useful comments of Kathryn Herr, Gary Anderson, Wendy Schwartz, and the two anonymous TCR reviewers. Finally, a Spencer Research and Training Grant provided invaluable funding for this work.


1. All names for doctoral students are pseudonyms.

2. Although technically for brand-new doctoral students, in its initial years, the doctoral core course also enrolled doctoral students like Savannah who were further along in their programs of study.

3. The term is borrowed from James Donald (1992, p. 100).

4. Three members of the research team were part of the instructional staff for the DCC from 2000 to 2003.

5. Boote and Beile’s (2005) analysis of the problems with writing good literature reviews develops this point well.

6. In the numerous departmental discussions, “raising standards” was a conscious aspect of the new DCC, and the language of “high-stakes” testing that proliferated in public school and policy-making contexts at that time crept into discussions of the new program. However, the doctoral reforms also aimed to increase the meaningfulness and usefulness of this introductory coursework and to more closely coordinate the DCC with the qualifying exam to become a doctoral candidate and the dissertation proposal and research.

7. Students entered the course with various views of educational research, all of which were disturbed. Students seemed to fall into three camps in terms of their stances toward research: (1) they believed in real research with “hard” claims; (2) they leaned toward interpretive research that was sensitive to participants’ views; or (3) they wanted to participate in research that was aligned with social justice or equity pedagogy. The course troubled each perspective. Central to the disturbance was the way the course materials pointed out the “interests” of the research methods and findings. Although some interests—say, of the supporters of Hampton Institute, which explicitly trained Blacks and Indians for domestic service (Anderson, 1988)—were transparent, the scrutiny of assumptions and interests was trained on each theoretical and paradigmatic position, in turn.

8. These generalizations of faculty and student views are drawn from numerous formal and informal departmental discussions across several years and represent the collective, albeit anecdotal, view of the DCC’s positive effects. However, some departmental faculty still worry that the course is too demanding and traumatic.

9. Of the instructional staff, faculty members were primarily White women, although racial and gender diversity existed in some years. Of the 17 teaching assistants between 2000 and 2005, 8 were White women, and 9 were U.S. or international people of color, including only one male, emblematic of the few men in the department overall.

10. Instructors never defined postpositivism as one thing but used the term to signify an orientation to knowledge and research that emphasized a critical distance from positivist (and empiricist) emphases on objectivity, subject-object separation, fact-value distinctions, neglect of politics of research, and belief in theory-free observations, among others. But the DCC also drew on the ethos, attitude, or style of postmodernism’s “incredulity toward metanarratives” (Lyotard, 1984; Peters, 1998).

11. In addition to the Metz study cited here, some notable exceptions include Reba Page’s (2001) case study of curricular change at the University of California–Riverside, and David Labaree’s (2003) investigation of the difficulties involving practicing teachers in theoretical and empirical research debates at Michigan State University. Sue Middleton (2001) interviewed Australian academics to examine “care of the self” during doctoral study.

12. This assertion is based on several interwoven ideas. First, we think that self-doubt locates the phenomena of knowledge-identity-pain-in-learning within the individual; we wish to relocate the action in sociohistorical, sociocultural, and curricular dynamics. Second, we also want to acknowledge the crisislike or traumalike experience of having basic categories of knowledge and meaning contested. We think that the term self-doubt may trivialize the profundity of the shock of category disruption that limits to “mastery” can entail. For example, Aaron Pallas (2001) imagined that if university faculty members directly confronted epistemological diversity, it could lead to an institutional “big bang” and open conflict, images that testify to the seriousness of epistemological differences. Finally, self-doubt suggests a state of mind that can be resolved or corrected by self-confidence or self-esteem, making it akin to a thought disorder. We started from a poststructuralist view of human beings as produced within various discourses and contexts and thereby always tossed among competing categories and social networks.

13. The literature on ambivalence is vast, and this review is by no means exhaustive. Judith Frank (1995) suggested that broad-based ambivalence toward painful knowledge is a common feature of contemporary learning, with defenses against painful learning taking the forms of amnesia, unconsciousness, or a retreat into romanticization of learning. In a socioemotional perspective, Neil Smelser (2004) read ambivalence as constructed of dual responses to traumatic experiences and a twinning of a compulsion to remember and an equally strong desire to forget. Sociocultural ambivalence sets the stage for constant examination and reexamination, “reinterpreting, reevaluating, and battling over symbolic significance” (p. 54). Smelser also argued that once indelible experiences have the status of ambivalence, they tend toward producing political polarization and sharply divided debates. Ulrich Beck’s (1992) “risk society” also grapples with ambivalence because modern knowledge and processes, which historically were aspects of “progress” (p. 7), are now sources of danger. In Beck’s view, people are struggling to reconcile conflicting knowledge and identities, fostered in different if overlapping social networks. Ambivalence about scientific assertions on the source of radioactive contamination exemplified the complex and increasingly common social and epistemological situation.

14. This view is more sociological than psychoanalytic. See Britzman (1998) for an exploration of numerous defenses against the interference of education.

15. All memory group sessions occurred in 2003.

16. We follow Carroll’s (1989) emphasis on the responses produced in relation to the horror genre of texts and films, not human responses to horrific events such as war or sexual assault.

17. Three members of the research team were CMG facilitators (names omitted).

18. Our being brought up short by the unpleasant and unflattering memories has been repeated in conference settings when other researchers have been alarmed and asked, “What did you [the instructors] do to them?”

19. “This argument assumes that threats to the self create anxiety” and that the dynamic unconscious defends against anxiety and influences people’s actions, lives, and relations (Hollway & Jefferson, 2000, p. 19).

20. Hollway and Jefferson defined intersubjective defenses as those that come into play in relations between people.

21. We believe that the national context of high-stakes testing was a salient factor in the students’ taking up of educational discourses of internal motivation and authentic learning. Almost without exception, doctoral students were living and breathing the pressures and politics of testing; opposition to high-stakes testing often uses the language of authentic learning and assessment, and internal motivation. However, our inquiry did not specifically investigate students’ experiences with testing.

22. Pallas (2001) noted, “the model of learning within a community of practice is idealized in much discourse about research preparation” (p. 9).

23. See Orner, Miller, and Ellsworth (1996) for a different approach to “excess” in education.

24. We are grateful to Reba Page (personal communication) for articulating this dilemma so clearly.

25. Anna Neumann (personal communication) reported that in her teaching, she consciously uses research studies that show the process of research to be subjective, serendipitous, and with contingent findings. Yet students persist in their beliefs that their research will be objective and rationally planned, and that they will be able to develop iron-clad, generalizable findings.

26. In fall 2005, the DCC changed in part to try to “tame” the monsters identified here. By scaling back on reading and writing demands and by breaking the mega-team-taught course into three linked yet self-contained classes, we have aimed to make the course less monstrous. So far, that change has highlighted how central lower-than-usual grades are to the characterizations of the course as monstrous and the professors as uncaring.


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Sample Syllabus for Doctoral Core Course—Semester One

Topics, Readings, and Assignments

Week 1

Introduction to the Doctoral Program

Course Overview

Viewing of High School and Writing Activity

Week 2

Paradigms for Inquiry

Reading and Writing

Readings:  Kuhn (1962/1996); Cherryholmes (1993); Richardson (2000)

Assignment: High School writing activity (3 copies)

Week 3

Views of Teaching and Curriculum in the 1890s;

Introduction to Quantitative Research: Goals and Questions

Readings: Delgado Bernal (1998); Heshusius (1989); Lyons (1994); Popkewitz (1984); Cuban (1993), Introduction & Ch. 1; Kliebard (1995), Ch. 1; Anderson (1988), Ch. 1; Salkind (2000) Ch. 1–2

Assignment: Paper #1 due (2 copies)

Week 4

Progressive Education and Building a Bureaucratic Educational System;

Formulating Meaningful Questions

Readings: Salkind (2000), Ch. 3; Kliebard (1995), Ch. 2-3; Tyack, pp. 177–198; Bissell-Brown (1990); DuBois (1903/1970); James (1997)

Assignment: Peer critique of paper #1 due

Week 5

Social Efficiency Movement and Curriculum Differentiation

Library Resources Overview

Readings: Tyack, Sections 2–3; Kliebard (1995), Ch. 4; Anderson (1988), Ch. 2–3

Assignment: Revised paper #1 due

Week 6

Reviewing the Literature


Readings: Study set #1 (Dewalt & Troxell, Lampert, Purcell-Gates, et al.; Teitel); Gould (1996); Cuban (1993), Ch. 2–5; Grumet (1981); Salkind (2000) Ch. 4–6; Gallagher (1999)

Activity: Analysis of Study Set #1—Hand-out

Assignment: Library activity due

Week 7

Intelligence, Individual Differences, and Exceptionality

Progressive Education

Measurement and Statistics

Readings: Dewey (1938/1997); Salkind (2000), Ch. 7–8; Whipple (1924; includes Baldwin, Rugg, & Townsend (Terman and Terman & De Voss optional ); Franklin (1987)

Assignment:  Literature review assignment due

Midterm Examination Distributed

Week 8

Perspectives on Teaching and the Emergence of Early Childhood

Students and Teachers of Color; Differences Acknowledged and Denied

Research Design

Readings: Anderson (1988), Ch. 4; Bloch (1987); Foster (1997); Lomawaima (1995); Salkind (2000), Ch. 9–11

Video: In the White Man’s Image (viewed in class)

Assignment: Peer critique of literature review assignment due

Week 9

City Teachers and Immigrants

Visit by Larry Cuban

Readings: Tyack (1974), pp. 229–255; Rousmaniere (1997); Kliebard (1995), Ch. 5–6; Salkind (2000), Ch. 12–13; Wollenberg (1995, two chapters)

Assignment: Revised literature review assignment due

Week 10

Social Reform and Schooling: Northern and Southern Versions

Visit by Celia Genishi

Readings: Genishi et al. (in press); Marshall & Rossman (1999), Ch. 1–2; Peshkin (1993); Kliebard (1995), Ch. 7–8; Anderson (1988), Ch. 5

Midterm Examination Due

Week 11

Teaching and Curriculum in the 1950s

Qualitative Research

Readings:Tyler (1969); Marshall & Rossman (1999), Ch. 3; Fine (1998)

Video:  Good Morning, Miss Dove or The Blackboard Jungle (viewed in class)

Assignment: Paper #2 due (2 copies)

Week 12

Social Origins of Learning Disabilities and Giftedness

Civil Rights Movement and Educational Policy

Readings: Berlin (1990); Hurn (1993); Rickover (1957); Sleeter (1987)

Video:  The Road to Brown (viewed in class)

Assignment: Peer critique of paper #2 due

Week 13

Civil Rights Movement and Educational Policy

Readings: Green (1971); Pinar (1978)

Video:  Eyes on the Prize (viewed in class)

Assignment: Revised paper #2 due

Week 14




American Psychological Association. (1994). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Anderson, J. D. (1988). Education of Blacks in the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Cuban, L. (1993). How teachers taught. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dewey. J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. New York: Touchstone.

Gould, S. J. (1996). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.

Kliebard, H. M.. (1995). The struggle for the American curriculum (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Kuhn, T. S. (1962/1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3rd ed). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Rousmaniere, K. (1997) . City teachers: Teaching and school reform in historical perspective. New York: Teachers College Press.

Salkind, N. J. (2000). Exploring research (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Tyler, R. (1969). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. (1992). Unintended effects of educational reform in New York. Educational Policy, 6, 397–414.

Berlin, I. (1990). The pursuit of the ideal. In I. Berlin, The crooked timber of humanity: Chapters in the history of ideas (pp. 1–19). (H. Hardy, Ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bissell-Brown, V. (1990). The fear of feminization: Los Angeles high schools in the progressive era. Feminist Studies, 16, 493–518.

Bloch, M. N. (1987). Becoming scientific and professional: An historical perspective on the aims and effects of early education. In T. Popkewitz (Ed.), The formation of school subjects: the struggle for creating an American institution (pp. 190–209). London: Falmer Press.

Cherryholmes, C. H. (1993). Reading research. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 25, 1–31.

Clandinin, D. J. (1989). Developing rhythm in teaching. The narrative study of a beginning teacher’s personal practical knowledge of classrooms. Curriculum Inquiry, 19 121–141.

Delgado Bernal, D. (1998). Using a Chicana feminist epistemology in educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 68, 555–582.

Dewalt, M. W., & Troxell, B. K. (1989). Old order Mennonite one-room school: A case study. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 20, 308–325.

DuBois, W. E. B. (1903/1970). The talented tenth. In The Negro problem (pp. 31–76). New York: AMS Press. (also available at http://douglass.speech.nwu.edu/dubo_b05.htm)

Franklin, B. M. (1987). The first crusade for learning disabilities: The movement for the education of backward children. In T. Popkewitz (Ed.), The formation of school subjects: the struggle for creating an American institution (pp. 190–209). London: Falmer Press.

Genishi, C., Ryan, S., Ochsner, M., & Yarnall. (in press). Teaching in early childhood education: Understanding practices through research and theory. In V. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed., pp. ). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Greene, M. (1971). Curriculum and consciousness. Teachers College Record, 73, 253–269.

Grumet, M. (1981). Pedagogy for patriarchy: The feminization of teaching. Interchange, 12, 165–184.

Henry, N. B. (Ed.). (1958). Education for the gifted (the fifty-seventh yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II). (pp. 3–38)

Heshusius, L. (1989). The Newtonian mechanistic paradigm, special education, and the contours of alternatives: An overview. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 402–415.

James, J. (1997). The Talented Tenth Recalled. In J. James, Transcending the Talented Tenth (pp. l5–34). New York: Routledge.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). Appendix A in G. Ladson-Billings, Successful teachers of African-American children (pp. 145–157). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lampert, M. (1985). How do teachers manage to teach? Perspectives on problems in practice. Harvard Educational Review, 55, 178–194.

Lyons, N. (1994). Dilemmas of knowing: Ethical and epistemological dimensions of teachers’ work and development. In L. Stone (Ed.), The education feminism reader (pp.). New York: Routledge.

Marland, S. J. (1972). Education of the gifted and talented. Report to the Congress of the United States by the U.S. Commissioner of Education. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office (pp. 15–45; 67–118).

Pinar, W. F. (1978). The reconceptualization of curriculum studies. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 10, 205–214.

Popkewitz, T. S. (1984). Paradigm and ideology in educational research: The social functions of the intellectual. London: Falmer Press. (pp. 31–58)

Purcell-Gates, V., McIntyre, E., & Freppon, P. A. (1995). Learning written storybook language in school: A comparison of low-SES children in skills-based and whole language classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 659–685.

Richardson, L. (2000). Writing. A method of inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 923–948).

Rickover, H. G. (1957). The education of our talented children. East Orange, NJ: Thomas Alva Edison Foundation.

Rumberger, R. W. (1995). Dropping out of middle school: A multilevel analysis of students and schools. American Educational Research journal, 32, 583–625.

Sleeter, C. E. (1987). Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field in its social context. In T. Popkewitz (Ed.), The formation of school subjects: the struggle for creating an American institution (pp. 210–237). London: Falmer Press.

Spring, J. (1989). The sorting machine revisited. New York: Longman. (Ch. 4–5).

Whipple, G. M. (Ed.). (1924). Report of the society’ s committee on the education of gifted children (the twenty-third yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I). (pp. 1–47; 91–121; 145–184). (Note: this includes the Baldwin, Rugg, and Townsend readings.)


Fine, M. (1998). Working the hyphens: Reinventing self and other in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The landscape of qualitative research (pp. 130–155). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Foster, M. (1997). Black teachers on teaching. New York: New Press. (pp. 15–35).

Gallagher, S. (1999). An exchange of gazes. In J. L. Kinchloe, S. R. Steinberg, & L. E. Villeverde (Eds.), Rethinking intelligence (pp. 69–84). New York: Routledge.

Hurn, C.J. (1993). The limits and possibilities of schooling: an introduction to the sociology of education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (Chs. 2–4, pp.42–131)

Peshkin, A. (1993). The goodness of qualitative research. Educational Researchers, 22, 23–30.

Tyack, D. B. (1974). The one best system: A history of American urban education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (pp. 177–268; 308–314; 308–314; 317–343).

Wollenberg, C. M. (1995). “Yellow peril” in the schools (I). In D. T. Nakanishi & T. Y. Nishida (Eds.), The Asian-American experience: A sourcebook for teachers and students (pp. 3–12). New York: Routledge.

Wollenberg, C. M. (1995). “Yellow peril” in the schools (II). In D. T. Nakanishi & T. Y. Nishida (Eds.), The Asian-American experience: A sourcebook for teachers and students (pp. 13–29). New York: Routledge.


This book can be downloaded and read offline. The web site is: http://www.columbia.edu/ cgi-bin/cul/resolve?ASP4246

Your user ID is your cunix ID, for example, abc333, and your password is the one associated with your cunix account.

Lomawaima, K. T. (1995). Domesticity in the federal Indian schools. The power of authority over mind. In J. Terry & J. Urla, (Eds.), Deviant bodies. Critical perspectives on difference in science and popular culture (pp. 197–218).

Teitel, L. (2001). Changing teacher education through professional development school partnerships: A five-year follow-up study. Teachers College Record, (http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=10260).


Hall, S. (no date). Race: The floating signifier. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.

Wiseman, F. (1968). High school. Boston: Zipporah Films.


Students will be engaged in a number of writing assignments. Each assignment will be discussed in detail prior to the due dates. The first assignment will not be graded, and you will receive full credit for scholarship if your paper completely meets the specified requirements and is handed in on time.

All written assignments in this class must:


Follow the APA style guidelines;


Be double-spaced;


Have 1-inch margins;


Be printed in a 12-point font;


Be submitted on time;


Show evidence of thinking, not mere paraphrasing;


Unless extraordinary circumstances intervene, be submitted on time—late submissions will not be accepted.

Point Value of Assignments

Paper #1:

5 points (not graded)

Peer critique of paper #1

5 points (not graded)

Revised paper #1

10 points

Peer critique of paper #2

10 points

Revised paper #2

15 points

Library activity

5 points (not graded)

Literature review peer critique

5 points

Literature review critique

15 points

Midterm examination

25 points

Technology lab #1

4 points

E-mail assignment

3 points

Biography assignment

3 points

Group project initial research

10 points

Oral participation

20 points


135 points

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 8, 2008, p. 1541-1573
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15152, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 6:01:01 AM

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About the Author
  • Nancy Lesko
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    NANCY LESKO teaches curriculum studies and gender and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Current research interests include youth and sexual citizenship, popular culture and education, and South African higher education curriculum in the time of AIDS. Forthcoming publications include, “Talking About Sex: loveLife Peer Educators in South Africa” in the Journal of Inclusive Education and “Girlhood in the Time of AIDS: North American Popular Culture Representations” in the Encyclopedia of Girls and Girlhood.
  • Jacqueline Simmons
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    JACQUELINE A. SIMMONS is a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, where her research interests include the cultural studies of education, with critical attention to curriculum, youth, and identity. Her dissertation explores the media lives of urban teenagers and queries the pedagogical possibilities in conducting collaborative research with youth. She consults with several nonprofit organizations on education program design and curriculum development.
  • Antoinette Quarshie
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    ANTOINETTE QUARSHIE is a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a dean in an independent school. Antoinette is currently using poststructualist theories and drawing upon conceptions of biomythography to explore the ways in which her nomadic geography of self as a Scottish-born woman of color educated in the Caribbean, West Africa, and the United States complicates her investigation of gender discourses through collective biography/memory work conducted with middle school students. Recent publications include “Pleasures Within Reason: Teaching, Feminism, and Education” in A. Harris (Ed.), All About The Girl: Culture, Power, and Identity, and “Tales of Body/Space Invasions in School” in Qualitative Inquiry, coauthored with D. Connor, R. Newton, and A. Penisi.
  • Nicki Newton
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    NICKI NEWTON is an educational consultant and a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests are teacher education and math education. Her most recent publication is “Teaching in the Shadows of 9/11” published in Qualitative Inquiry.
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