Education and Youth Agency: Qualitative Case Studies in Global Contexts

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What critical qualitative research can offer is an exploration of educational issues that are contextualized in relation to meta-structures and informed by experiential data and local knowledge. I use the meta structure, multicultural education, to frame the following discussion of the need for critical qualitative research in educational contexts.

3.7 Research Strategy: Case Study

In Canada, multicultural discourses continue to influence decisions made related to educational institutions, teaching and learning. Banks provides the following definition that captures the main elements of the concept in the North American context:. Multicultural education is an approach to school reform that is designed to actualize educational equality for students from diverse, racial, ethnic, culture, social-class, and linguistic groups.

It also promotes social justice. A major goal of multicultural education is to reform schools, colleges, and universities so that students from diverse groups will have equal opportunities to learn BANKS, , p. While the definition captures some elements of what has become known as multicultural education in Canada, major criticisms of the resulting implementation of the principles and practices of the concept continue. Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism and acceptance of difference consider the metaphoric representation of Canada as a mosaic of different peoples and cultures living in harmony.

Researchers in faculties of education have been focused on questioning the various attempts of educational authorities and policy makers to deal with diversity issues in education and to address the systematic marginalization of students living out their educational lives in Canadian systems. Multicultural education has been implemented, to varying degrees, as a means of addressing educational inequities and injustice in the educational system SEE MOODLEY, , for a comprehensive historical perspective.

Although the multicultural education agenda continues to be supported, this vision of education has been critiqued for, among other things, its oversimplification and under-theorization of culture and its surface-level attempts to understand and be respectful of difference ST. DENIS, This concept of multiculturalism is agreeable to individuals who dwell in a world framed by a liberal, white, humanist perspective and where the discourse of meritocracy, colour-blindness and equality are deeply embedded.

Critics point to the work to be done to ensure students, who are not part of the western, white, middle-class heterosexual norm, have access to the same education as other students and multicultural education is left wanting in the advancement of this critical project.

Education and Youth Agency: Qualitative Case Studies in Global Contexts (English

Multiculturalism is a controversial issue that is hotly debated at the educational level. It is an arena of power struggles, in which different constituencies struggle with their different issues…They [existing concepts of multiculturalism] have failed to question the norm of whiteness, and how white culture has maintained its dominance by being invisible p. In Canada, an important role of critical qualitative research has been to point to the many students from non-dominant groups who struggle to find space in educational contexts that are fueled by White western ideologies and frameworks to the exclusion of all others and manned by teachers who continue to reflect the dominant white, middle-class norm LEVINE-RASKY, Denis consider the limitations of a multicultural approach from the perspective of race and systematic whiteness.

The multicultural approach to education sanctions ignorance of racializing systems including the production of white identities and the taken-for-granted of racial dominance. Because whiteness in schools is not usually talked about, it is consequently recentered as an invisible standard of success against which others are marked […] p. They emphasize the need to provide opportunities to hear the voices of racialized and Indigenous voices to learn about structural whiteness. Even though the critique of multicultural discourses and education persist, many educators continue to work within the framework of multiculturalism in Canada.

Section 3: Qualitative research: A view into the world of educational experience.


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In Canada, prominent in the research is a qualitative strand of work focused on building knowledge about the experiences of black, Indigenous, racialized and working-class students, in K and postsecondary education. This strand consists of clusters of interconnected issues.

A critical issue is epistemology-what counts as knowledge and who decides and whose knowledge is included in public school and postsecondary curriculum. Research on multicultural education and anti-racist and anti-oppressive pedagogies is a clustered emphasis. The section that follows explores how critical qualitative research contributes to understanding issues of curriculum and pedagogy.

Researchers in faculties of education are asking questions related to curricular knowledge and teaching pedagogies using qualitative research to explore how curriculum decisions and pedagogical beliefs and practices help maintain or disrupt the inequities students experience within the larger systems.

The assumed absence of racism in Canada is refuted by a long history of discriminatory government policies and practices, including racial segregation in schools, forced assimilation of First Nations Canadians and racialized immigration restrictions… For various reasons, such unsavoury aspects of Canadian history have been excluded or downplayed in current social studies school materials, and by many in political and administrative positions LUND, , p. Qualitative methodologies, with their critical theoretical perspectives, emphasis on experiential knowledge and attention to meta-structures, are important in exploring critical socio-cultural research questions related to curriculum and pedagogy.

Research questions focused on the ways in which traditional Eurocentric knowledge is maintained in educational contexts exemplifies this type of methodological exploration. Qualitative researchers have collected data from students who have experienced marginalization and racism in public school and postsecondary education. However, the discourses of multiculturalism fueling educational decisions often prevent educators from addressing critical issues like racism in educational contexts.

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DENIS, , p. In , Dei et al. These youth spoke to their disillusionment with the Eurocentrism of the curriculum content. Dei et al. The study, therefore, sought to examine all of the possible factors related to student disengagement, with the focus on what can be done to solve these problems and make schools work for all youth , p.

In , more than two decades later, James and Turner present findings of research that echo what black youth and others said more than two decades earlier. This report is based on a community-led initiative that involved extensive qualitative data collection. The hope is that the multitude of perspectives and voices shared have contributed to a report that will serve a number of purposes. Critical qualitative research has the potential to do as James and Turner describe including providing findings that black communities can use as a tool to advocate for change to policy makers and recommendations that can inform decisions regarding research important for the future of black students and their communities.

Many marginalized youth, who identify in multiple ways and are ascribed identities based on race, class, and other socially constructed characteristics, struggle to access and to complete postsecondary programs. Critical research into the experiences of marginalized youth, who are trying to access and be successful in postsecondary education is essential for arguing for change with policy makers. Sometimes words can speak to the heart of the matter, more than numbers. Many of the supporters of multicultural education in Canada are focused on efforts to broaden the curriculum but this continues to happen as a surface strategy.

Studies of curricular initiatives such as inclusion of Black History month, a specific month dedicated to black history, in schooling contexts, have received considerable criticism for their quick fix to a complex and serious problems. An antiracism framework for education has garnered much support from critical camps of educators and educational researchers who engage in qualitative research and critical race analysis DEI, ; ST. They appreciate what a shift from an emphasis on multicultural education to antiracism education accomplishes:.

The shift from multicultural education to antiracism education is from a preoccupation with cultural difference to an emphasis on the way in which such differences are used to entrench inequality. Antiracism education draws attention to the difference between the rhetoric of multiculturalism and its practice. The prime concern of antiracism initiatives is with systematic discrimination in all its manifestations, ranging from the treatment of minorities in history to the hidden curriculum of schools MOODLEY, , p.

Qualitative research, with a critical race theoretical perspective embedded, disrupts the liberal multicultural flow by introducing the voices of those who experience a lack of representation, or worse, a mis-representation of their knowledge and culture in the curriculum. Quantitative data can help identify the demographics of youth leaving educational contexts before successfully completing their programs.

These data are useful to knowing specifically how many black and racialized and Indigenous youth are progressing or not through the educational system and documenting the role race may play in issues related to equity in education.

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However, participant and community voices are missing from this data which precludes capturing the complexities represented in articulations of experience. The data produced do not represent the nuances of the experience of those who struggle to access and successfully complete public school and postsecondary education and are limited in their value to inform educational policy decisions. In the last few decades, an emphasis on understanding the effects of colonization and oppression on First Nations people in Canada, in relation to education, has gained momentum. In particular a critical postcolonial lens has been aimed at curricular knowledge and power relations embedded in educational systems.

The transmission of knowledge through the education system has been built on the foundation of historical and societal ideology; however, reflecting on the education system brings to light questions such as, whose culture is predominant within the curriculum? What is the principal perspective reflected in the course content? Most importantly, whose history, values, and beliefs are absent from or marginalized by the existing system?

Critical research makes visible the limitations of a multicultural perspective, its surface attempt to diversify the curriculum and its overreliance on and privileging of Eurocentric knowledge DION, ; ST. This research is instrumental in addressing the questions that Vindevoghel articulates above, as well as other questions that have similar intentions. Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers conducting critical qualitative research have worked closely with white teachers to engage in deliberation regarding curriculum content and pedagogies and the grave impact they both can have on the experiences of Aboriginal students.

Dion conducted an empirical study during which she worked closely with white teachers in classroom contexts using the Braiding Histories Stories, post-contact history texts from Aboriginal perspectives that she and her brother co-authored. Indigenous researchers are conducting critical qualitative research using a variety of interpretivist methods and methodologies including Indigenous, participatory and community-based approaches. A cluster of issues is at the center of this critical qualitative research, which highlights the Indigenous struggles for their rights to a fair and just education.

Schools continue to colonize Indigenous students through the valuing of Eurocentric knowledge and the exclusion of other knowledge, including Indigenous.


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  6. Rather than supporting multicultural education, Indigenous scholars and others have been asking for a decolonization of curriculum and pedagogy. Although there is some evidence of support of critical qualitative research for decolonizing purposes, advancing it in practice will be difficult.

    Educational researchers need to remain alert to the ways in which such research is diminished in neoliberal contexts. It should be noted that the research compiled in this report is largely qualitative. Nevertheless, where student outcomes were measured, the results were promising. Despite the lack of quantitative evidence to support the impact of the programs, the researchers were able to infer that progress has been made on.

    Hope for change has come from the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that published its report and recommendations in This Commission heard from witnesses. Indigenous peoples spoke of their traumatic experiences in hopes of finding justice and changing the colonizing practices that continue today, in various forms, in Canadian educational systems:. As a result of the findings and recommendations of the Commission ministries of education, educational administrations and educators, school boards and universities, are being pressured to make changes in the system.

    The earlier and continued calls for decolonizing schools and academic institutions has found some support that was not there previously. Only time will tell if the recommendations will move from pages in a document to actual places and influence the lives of current and future Indigenous, children, youth and peoples. It is clear, however, that movement will need to be supported by research from a broad and critical perspective that is informed by experiential and local knowledge.

    The persistence of the neoliberal influence, within and outside of educational contexts, is one of the greatest challenges to supporting the use of critical qualitative methodologies and methods in educational research and to advancing social justice and equity in education. Post-positivist research designs and quantitative research and data collection continue to thrive in the context of the Canadian neoliberal university.

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    The role and influence of quantitative research has not diminished in research in education, particularly research that informs educational policies and policy makers, but has gained momentum in the return of a growing emphasis on accountability and outcomes-based education. The reliance on large quantitative databases continues. The implementation of standardized testing across provinces and territories, a very expensive endeavor, is supported by ministries of education, government and institutional administrations.

    Funds are expended to ensure necessary quantitative data are produced to compare and contrast degree of student success across the country. Canada contributes to the proliferation of international surveys that measure, compare and contrast student learning outcomes across countries and continents. Over the past 50 years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD has increasingly influenced the nature and scope of education policies in primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors around the world. Policy suggestions in these sectors primarily stem from the results of their various international surveys such as the Programme for International Student Assessment PISA […] p.

    Equity issues are not the focus of the exercise, comparing scores takes precedence. Quantitative research continues to contribute useful data to policy makers and educators producing results that speak to national and global contexts. This research has provided data necessary to generalize across local and global contexts. Positivist and post-positivists designs continue to provide statistical and more sophisticated quantitative data that keep the global connections operating.

    Critics of globalization, pointing to Western imperialism continuing to assert itself globally, emphasize the dangers of creating a universal global curriculum and standardized curricula.