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Social Movements and Educational Research: Toward a United Field of Scholarship


by Tricia Niesz, Aaron M. Korora, Christy Burke Walkuski & Rachel E. Foot — 2018

Background/Context: Educational research addressing social movements appears to be growing rapidly but, with a few exceptions, this body of literature has remained largely isolated in pockets stretched across myriad fields of educational scholarship. Awareness and dialogue across researchers is limited because social movement-focused educational research lacks the structure, identity, profile, and networks of a field of scholarship.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to explore how educational researchers have addressed social movements in their scholarship. Through presenting the findings from a wide-ranging literature review, we aim to generate greater awareness of social movement-oriented educational scholarship and argue for a more united field of research on social movements and education.

Research Design: We conducted an extensive review of educational scholarship with an explicit focus on social movements. Our sample included more than 370 publications from myriad fields of educational research, including adult education, higher education, social foundations of education, and other fields addressing K–12 schooling.

Findings/Results: We found that most of the educational literature addressing social movements can be grouped into one of two categories: the study of education and learning in social movements, and the study of the influence of movements on formal education. The first category of scholarship, produced primarily (though not entirely) in the field of adult education, has the appearance of a research program, with researchers engaged in scholarly conversation with shared theoretical touchstones. The second category of scholarship does not have the appearance of a research program, as it is produced across a number of fields that do not appear to be in dialogue. Although there is little sign of mutual awareness across these two large categories of literature, we found that researchers on both sides of the divide have much in common, including theoretical, methodological, and topical interests.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We conclude the literature review by arguing for the establishment of a more united field of research on social movements and education. We posit that an interdisciplinary and multi-perspective field devoted to understanding the educational dimensions and implications of social movements would not only benefit researchers and their scholarship but also pose and answer new and important questions related to formal, non-formal, and informal education. A more united field of inquiry related to social movements and education would also raise the profile of this scholarship such that it could have greater influence on educational policy and practice, as well as on social movements themselves.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 3, 2018, p. 1-
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22084, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 11:30:53 PM

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About the Author
  • Tricia Niesz
    Kent State University
    E-mail Author
    TRICIA NIESZ is an associate professor in the School of Foundations, Leadership, and Administration at Kent State University. Her research focuses on cultural change in the field of education, particularly as related to how progressive social and professional movements influence school reform. Her recent publications in Anthropology and Education Quarterly and the Journal of Educational Change have focused on the roles of social movements and bureaucratic activism in promoting radical school change in South India.
  • Aaron Korora
    Kent State University
    E-mail Author
    AARON M. KORORA earned his PhD in Cultural Foundations of Education from Kent State University. His research interests include social movements in education, international students studying in the United States, and the processes that make up the globalization of education.
  • Christy Burke Walkuski
    Kent State University
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTY BURKE WALKUSKI is a PhD candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Kent State University and currently serves as the director for the Center for Community Engagement at Baldwin Wallace University. Her research interests include civic identity development, the civic empowerment gap, and renewing the civic mission of higher education.
  • Rachel Foot
    Kent State University
    E-mail Author
    RACHEL E. FOOT is a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction, an online instructor, and an instructional designer at Kent State University. Rachel’s research intersects around three major themes: curriculum issues in higher education, adult students in higher education, and the retention and socialization of doctoral students. Rachel’s most recent publication, “Exploring doctoral student identity development using a self-study approach,” was published in Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal.
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