Candidate: Di Gardiner
Title: The construction of Education as a university field of study: An historical analysis of the situation in WA.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Marnie O’Neill and
Dr Anne Chapman
Panel Members: Associate Professor C. Whitehead (Chair), Dr A.
Chapman, Associate Professor M. O’Neill, Professor
T. O’Donoghue, Dr K Tully.
August 27, 2004
The University of Western Australia
Candidate: Di Gardiner
Proposed Supervisors: Associate Professor Marnie O’Neill and Dr Anne Chapman
The construction of Education as a university field of study: An historical analysis of the situation in Western Australia.
The Research Aim
The aim of the study is to examine the emergence and development of Education as a university field of study in Western Australia. The stimulus for this research arose from the observation that a general view held for some time by various educationalists in Australia, is that Education as a field of study has been marginalized within universities throughout the nation.1 On closer examination, however, it is clear that this view has not been substantiated by any serious research. Indeed, research on most academic fields of study in Australian universities has been a neglected area.
This study will make a contribution towards remedying the deficit, by developing an historical analysis of the construction of Education as a field of study at the five universities in Western Australian from 1916 to 2003. Specifically it will identify, describe and analyse the major phases in the construction of Education as a field of study at the UWA, where Education was first introduced as a subject in 1916, and subsequently at the more recently established Curtin University of Technology (CUT), Edith Cowan University (ECU), Murdoch University (MU) and the University of Notre Dame Australia (NDU). Following the study of the situation at the individual universities, a meta-analysis will be undertaken.
A. The Background to the Study
The Research Context
The theoretical framework which will underpin the study is one which views university fields of study as sites of contestation, where different interest groups struggle for influence and power.2 Accordingly it is likely, though not inevitable, that the analysis will yield a picture of the construction of Education as a field of study as shifting and changing within each university and as having commonalities and differences across universities. Furthermore this picture needs to be considered against the broad background of the establishment and development of universities and their curricula internationally.
The first universities, which emerged in medieval times in France and Italy, were responsible for specialised instruction that went beyond what could be provided in the cathedral schools. They were not so much buildings or places as gatherings of scholars. Possibly the most prestigious was the University of Paris.3 Many intellectual and talented students and teachers were attracted to Paris from all over Europe by the reputation of Abelard, a teacher at the city’s cathedral school. With the students eager for greater challenges, this school evolved into a university specialising in liberal arts and theology. By 1200, there were universities in Paris and Bologna which were regarded as the prototype of the universities which sprang up in every part of Europe in the next few centuries.4 Some of these universities specialised in the study of medicine, some in law and others in religion.
Generally speaking, the universities in Spain, Italy and France followed the Bologna model in which the guild of students made decisions regarding the teachers, their salaries and the instruction. Those in northern Europe were modelled on the University of Paris where the guild consisted of teachers. It included the four faculties of arts, theology, law and medicine, each headed by a dean. By the 13th century the now famous institutions of Oxford, Cambridge, Montpellier, Salamanca and Naples were established, while in Germany the first universities emerged in the 14 century following the establishment of Heidelberg in 1385. In Scotland the first of four universities, St Andrews, was established in 1411. By 1500 there were 79 universities in Europe.th
In the middle ages the rulers expected their universities to provide intellectual and administrative assistance in governing their kingdoms and some degree of control was exerted over the location and purpose of the universities by those with authority and power.5 Similarly, the establishment of the universities in Edinburgh and London was influenced by the local authorities who had local development and interests in mind. This pattern of influence from non-academic interest groups was widespread in the development of universities, often resulting in tension regarding the curriculum. Those pursuing the establishment of the university were often interested in the economic and social benefits to be gained, while the academic members of planning boards were more focused on a research and intellectual orientation.6
In the USA religious motives were evident in the establishment of the first colonial colleges which later became universities. The early settlers, having attended to the physical needs of their communities, were determined not to ‘leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust’.7 The first college established was Harvard in 1636. Over the next 130 years nine colleges, which today constitute the Ivy League, were founded. These colonial colleges were small and generally their curriculum was classical.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a proliferation of colleges in the USA as settlement spread and state universities were established in all the new western and southern states. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the classical curriculum grew. In part, this was a response to the emergence of the agricultural classes who could see no relevance in the studies offered. The University of Pennsylvania, established in the 1750s, offered a more modern curriculum. At its inception, Benjamin Franklin clearly directed the focus of studies away from the traditional fields of knowledge to include modern languages, the natural sciences and contemporary literature.8 He also introduced a course in medicine, the first in the New World, and by the end of the century there was a course in law.
While Franklin was influential in shaping the curriculum, his views were not always popular at the University of Pennsylvania. At times his proposals were labeled as ‘narrowly vocational, crassley materialistic, and even vaguely anti-intellectual’.9 Cremin believed this to be rather harsh criticism of Franklin’s approach, preferring to see it as ‘anti-academist, seeking to bring education into the world and place it in the service of particular men as well as mankind in general’.10
Over time the University of Pennsylvania endeavoured to meet the needs of its community with a curriculum which balanced innovation with convention and academic expectations. Similarly at Columbia University, the transformation from small college to a major research university in the 1890s showed the desire to meet the needs both of the local community and the academic world. Serving the local community was a common goal amongst the new universities of the USA, especially since many were founded in rural settings and hoped to ‘enhance the cultural standing and prestige of the town, increase the population and bring a variety of economic rewards’.11 Indeed, the interaction of ethnic and religious traditions, the patterns of settlement, the internal and external migration, and economic circumstances resulted in diverse educational contexts and currricula in the universities of the USA.12
The first universities in Australia were state institutions founded in the capital cities and inspired in the main by the ‘philosophical liberal ideal of the value of higher education as an influence for moral and social improvement, desirable for its own sake as a broadly liberalising force’.13 This view was sometimes at odds with the founding fathers of particular institutions who believed in the utilitarian or functional value of higher education as a means of providing professional training. Indeed, the lack of importance attached to education for its own sake hampered the development of education from the time of settlement and delayed the development of secondary and university education in Australia.14 Several factors contributed to this, including the resistance of the unwilling settlers to participate in education, the shortage of labour, the indifference of parents to their responsibilities, irregular attendance, non payment of fees, the sparseness of the population and the lack of trained teachers.15 It was not until the prosperity generated by the pastoral expansion of the 1830s and the eventual recognition of the importance of education for progress, that secondary education began to expand.16 With the subsequent growth in secondary education, particularly the grammar schools, came the demand for universities. The first to be established was Sydney University (1850) with strong support from W.C. Wentworth.17
There was vigorous debate surrounding the nature of the curriculum at the proposed university in Sydney. Eventually a compromise was reached and it emerged as an autonomous secular institution granting degrees in Arts, Law and Medicine, thus providing a model for the establishment of universities at Melbourne (1853), Adelaide (1874), Tasmania (1890), Queensland (1909) and Western Australia (1911).18
Growth of the universities was slow initially, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne where they were not helped by criticism challenging their relevance to contemporary Australian society. Eventually they were forced to acknowledge economic and community needs in their curricula, and this resulted in a sharp increase in student enrolments. The rising demand for university education in the late 1950s led to the development of universities in regional areas of the states and very diverse curriculum offerings. In Western Australia this growth did not occur until the 1960s and early 1970s. In this period the Western Australian Institute of Technology (1966) was established, later to become Curtin University of Technology which was founded in 1986. Murdoch University was established in 1974 and the Western Australian Colleges of Advanced Education were amalgamated to become Edith Cowan University in 1984. The University of Notre Dame Australia was founded in 1990.
A common thread through the development and growth of university education from its early origins in Europe has been the ongoing debate about the curriculum. It is not surprising that the classics dominated early university studies given their origins in medieval times, when there was a great emphasis on liberal arts which included Latin grammar and rhetoric, and logic. However, throughout the late nineteenth century the dominance of the classics, European Culture and the ‘older professional studies of law and medicine were challenged by the emerging sciences and the need for professional training in the newer technologies such as engineering’.19 For example when the universities of Queensland and Western Australia were established they did not focus on the classics, but rather on studies which were practical and relevant, such as agriculture and mining.
Despite the acceptance of professional studies in the university curriculum, the theory and practice of Education as a field of study has suffered from poor status within universities in Britain and the USA. With regard to the situation in England and Wales, Tibble suggested that this was due, possibly, to the study of Education developing piecemeal, ‘with its place in many universities being very peripheral’.20 Several factors contributed to this situation, in particular its relegation to colleges for people training to be teachers. This relegation made it difficult to draw links between the study of Education and the disciplines which contributed to it. Originally no formal training was required to take up a teaching position based on the assumption that that those with the relevant social origins could learn to teach on the job. This belief was reflected in Oxford and Cambridge with neither university making a serious commitment to the study of Education. While Cambridge did initiate some courses in history, psychology and the practice of teaching in 1879, this was shortlived. In fact Cambridge was one of the last universities to appoint a Professor of Education in 1948. Oxford made a similar appointment later still in 1989.21
The association of teacher preparation with Education as a field of study was also strong in Australia. As in the UK, the area of study had a similar low status in some universities. For example, Bessant and Holbrook have argued that ‘teacher training was never accepted at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne in the same manner as professional training courses in Medicine, Law and Engineering’, and that this was a legacy of the association of teaching with the public service and apprenticeships.22 Furthermore, this attitude lingered well into the 1970s as evidenced in the opposition to the establishment of a School of Education at La Trobe University.23 Even more recently Gill referred to the discrimination between those who ‘really belong within the university sector’ as a result of their research activities and those who only teach large classes in teacher education programs, causing some academics in education faculties to feel like ‘imposters in the university sector’.24
However, one should not be too quick to assume a similar experience in every university in Australia. Until a body of related research emerges it is not possible to generalise for the rest of the nation on this and related issues. A central area for investigation within such a body of research relates to how Education as a field of study within various universities has been constructed and reconstructed over time. The state of Western Australia is an excellent setting for one project in this regard. The state has five different types of university, each of which has offered Education as an area of study from an early stage. The University of Western Australia, established in 1913, is a traditional sandstone university. Although its original curriculum included the classics it also had a more utilitarian focus much like the new state universities in the American west and mid-west.25 Curtin University had its origins as the Western Australian Institute of Technology, established in 1966 as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to expand technical education and the allocation of funding to support this. Edith Cowan University emerged from the amalgamation of several Colleges of Advanced Education. These autonomous colleges had begun when teacher education was removed from the State Education Department as a result of the Jackson Report of 1967. Gradually their curriculum expanded as they sought to attract larger numbers of students. Murdoch University began when a plan to expand UWA to include a University College south of the river was abandoned by the State Government in favour of an autonomous university.26 The intention was to establish a flexible tertiary institution able to respond to the demands of employers and professions as well as scholarship. The University of Notre Dame Australia, the only private university in WA, was founded in 1990 under the Canonical statute from the Archdiocese of Perth and draws on the traditions of Catholic education.
The Study’s Substantial and Original Contribution to Knowledge
Goodson’s justification for engaging in historical studies on the curriculum is that they allow us to examine complex changes over time, rather ‘than snapshots of unique events’.27 By focusing on the recurrence of events over time it is possible to discern explanatory frameworks. This study adopts such an approach. It will make a significant contribution in developing an historical analysis of the construction of Education as a field of study at each of the university sites in WA, exploring and explaining changes over time. This will be the first time such a study has been undertaken in Western Australia.
The study will also contribute to the wider body of knowledge in curriculum history. Gordon, in his discussion of the importance of studies in the history of education, suggests a number of areas which are ‘uncultivated or undercultivated patches in the field’.28 These so-called patches include the fields of the evolution of curriculum and the rise and changing fortunes of the study of Education. The absence of such studies has existed for many years. Simon, writing in the 1960s, observed that there had been ‘little effective historical study of the evolution of the curriculum, the changing content of education’.29 Goodson suggests that the consequence of not engaging in the study of the history of curriculum is ‘historical amnesia’ which leads to curriculum reinvention rather than development.30 This study seeks to redress this limitation and make a contribution to the field of the history of curriculum and in particular the construction of Education as a university field of study.
Finally, there is significance in the interpretative knowledge to be drawn from this study. Professor Broudy referred to interpretative knowledge as a ‘cognitive map which locates problems within some set of meanings’.31 Elaborating on this notion, Broudy, Smith and Burnett suggested that ‘When one uses generalisations to locate or identify a problem, that is to gain perspective on it, we call it interpretative’.32 Interpretative knowledge develops understanding. In identifying and analysing the circumstances and attitudes surrounding the establishment of Education as a field of study, this research will further our understanding of the tensions, problems and priorities of the past which may have contributed to present circumstances or conditions. This, in turn, will provide a better understanding of how to proceed in the future.
Until recently the history of education consisted of three main themes: the history of educational thought and thinkers in education, the history of educational systems, and the history of policy in education. Beginning with Plato and the Greeks, studies of the first type have ranged from a focus on the ideas of the likes of James Mill, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori and Dewey to the works of W. J. McCallister33 and Robert Ulich.34 Secondly, within the field of the history of educational systems and institutions, significant contributions for the US scene, were made by Kandel,35 Reisner,36 Cubberley37 and Cremin38. Their texts, which were often used in teacher training courses, tended either to celebrate the virtues of the educational system or lament what needed to be overcome.39 Thirdly, the history of educational policy focused for a long time on particular achievements through legislation, including raising the school leaving age, improving financial support, legislating with regard to the training of teachers and centralisation or decentralisation of administrative services. Here the works of Gosden,40 for the UK, and Spring,41 and Warren42 for the US were notable.
From time to time various other themes were addressed in works in the field of the history of education. This led to the development of a number of sub disciplines including the history of educational aims and policy, of pedagogy, of educational administration, of teacher education and of educational research. Within these sub-disciplines some attention was directed to the history of the process of education in schools and higher education institutions, including universities. In the UK context, for example, Tibble43 and Simon44 made a significant contribution by focusing on education as a social function. Simon considered that one of the main tasks of the study of the history of education was to trace the development of education and identify the function it fulfilled at different stages of social development, thus leading to a deeper understanding of the functions it fulfils today.45 He also stressed the importance of looking at the context of change by:
…considering educational development as a whole, and not to relegating institutions and ideas to separate categories as this results in an indigestible mass of dates and figures, which suggests change took place by its momentum rather than in relation to changing social pressures and needs .46
A similar approach was taken in the USA by educational historians such as Chambliss,47 Ravitch,48 Allison49 and Urban50.
Urban’s work focused primarily on the historical development of teacher education. It is of particular interest because he highlights the fact that Education as a field of study originated outside the universities and was closely identified with teacher education. The focus in teacher education courses, according to Urban, was on technical concerns related to the practice of teaching. What was neglected in these courses was any interest in more intellectual or liberal studies. This eventually led to what Urban described as ‘two poles within which most educational activity for teachers was conceived’.51 Indeed this polarisation between the ‘academy’ and classroom interests continued when schools of education were established in universities in the USA and became a distinct characteristic of university departments.52
Despite the growth of such works within the history of education, for many years the history of the heart of the educational enterprise, namely teaching and curriculum, has been neglected. In particular, there are few studies in this regard in the Australian context. While the works of Hyams,53 Turney54 and Turner55 on the history of universities, teachers’ colleges and prominent individuals make a valuable contribution, there is little or no work on the history of the university curriculum. Indeed, the whole area of the history of curriculum is a relatively new one within the study of the history of education. This is not to overlook the contributions which some have made. For example, Tanner and Tanner56 looked at the history of the American school curriculum, while Cunningham57, Musgrave58 and McCulloch59 focused on school subjects in England and Wales. Perhaps most significant with regard to the history of the school curriculum is the work of Goodson60 on a number of school subjects. Yet, despite obvious links with the university curriculum, the study of the history of university subjects, including the history of Education as a field of study, is a neglected area.
While some other fields of university study do have their histories (see Danziger,61 Mitchell62 and Donnelly),63 there is little to attest to the construction of Education as a field of study. Perhaps the most significant work is that by John Coolahan64 which focuses on the study of Education as a university subject in Ireland. Coolahan comments that this topic which is of considerable interest has been much neglected in published research despite the fact that the strengths or weakness of educational studies are reflected in the quality of the education system.
Notwithstanding what has been said so far regarding the lack of a body of literature to inform new studies in the history of curriculum at the university level, the work of Goodson does provide some ideas on how to proceed. Goodson’s position rejects the view of the written curriculum as a ‘neutral given’ proposing instead that a field of study is ‘a social artifact, conceived of and made for deliberate human purposes’65. Hargreaves66 supports this notion with his argument that academic fields of study are ‘more than groupings of intellectual thought. They are social systems too. They compete for power, prestige, recognition and reward’. While this position has been adopted in exploring the history of school subjects, it can equally also be applied to the study of how academic fields of study at the university level, including Education, have been constructed. This will be the major approach adopted in this study.
B. The Research Plan
The theoretical framework underpinning this study of how Education as a field of study has been constructed is based on the work of Goodson67. As stated above, this framework rejects the view of the written curriculum ‘as a neutral given embedded in an otherwise meaningful complex situation’.68 Rather, what is proposed is a view of the curriculum ‘as a social artifact, conceived of and made for deliberate human purposes’. 69
Within this context, cognisance needs to be taken of Goodson’s argument that curriculum history should be studied at both the preactive and interactive curriculum levels. To study curriculum history at the preactive level is to focus on the plans or syllabi that outline what is intended in a course or program. It involves studying not only the structures and patterns within such documents, but also identifying the various individuals and interest groups who were involved in their production, and the nature and extent of their influence. On the other hand, to study curriculum history at the interactive level is to focus on how the preactive curriculum was mediated in the classrooms, how the subjects or disciplines were taught, what strategies and activities were used, what experiences students had and what learning processes took place.
Goodson makes a case for focusing initially on the preactive level in one’s study of the history of an individual subject in order to increase our understanding of the influences and interests active at this level. He also contends that this will:
further our knowledge of the values and purposes represented… and how preactive definition, notwithstanding individual and local variations, may set parameters for interactive realisation and negotiation in the classroom and the school.70
This study follows Goodson’s advice by focusing on the preactive curriculum for Education as a field of study in the universities in WA. A study of the interactive curriculum would demand a focus on the interactions which take place in classrooms, lecture theatres and other learning sites, examining how Education as a field of study was mediated by lecturers. This is recognised as important work but is deemed to be a separate project.
To argue that the focus of this study is on the preactive curriculum is synonymous with saying that it will deal with the construction of Education as a field of study. The analysis of the preactive curriculum will be undertaken at two levels. First there will be an ‘internal’ analysis of various curriculum documents as suggested above. This will then be followed by an ‘external’ analysis to ensure that consideration is given to the broader environmental, social, economic and political context. Patterns uncovered during the internal analysis will be considered in their relationship to aspects of the wider context such as the structure of society, technological changes, the economy, and political and philosophical viewpoints.
The principal aim of this study is to develop an historical analysis of the construction of Education as a field of study within the five universities in Western Australia. In light of the theoretical framework already outlined, a number of guiding questions will steer the study in its initial stages. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these may be reformulated, developed and expanded upon as the study progresses and new evidence becomes available. Initially the following guiding questions will be used:
What were the reasons for Education emerging as a field of study at each of the five universities in Western Australia?
How has Education as a university field of study been constructed and reconstructed over time in each of the universities?
What issues, conflicts and compromises have arisen in the construction of Education as a field of study at each of the universities in Western Australia?
In the initial stages of research, the study will also be guided by the following hypotheses adapted from Goodson’s71 work:
University subjects are not monolithic entities but shifting amalgamations of sub groups and traditions;
In the process of establishing university subjects there is a progression from promoting pedagogic and utilitarian traditions to an academic tradition;
Much of the debate which occurs about curriculum can be interpreted in terms of conflict between subjects over status, resources and territory.
Again, however it is important to keep in mind that these serve only to get the study underway; as it unfolds other hypotheses and propositions will emerge from an analysis of the data collected.
This study will rely heavily on an analysis of primary and secondary documents, particularly those in the archives of the respective institutions (Curtin University of Technology, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Western Australia). These documents include:
Minutes of meetings of relevant committees.
Personal papers of academic staff.
Correspondence files of the respective faculties.
Education Department Annual Reports
These will help to identify the relationship between the concerns and policies of the State Education Department and responses by the faculties of education.
These will indicate how the nature of courses offered in Education changed over time from the introduction of the field of study through to the establishment of departments and faculties of education.
In particular local histories of each of the institutions will provide the contextual historical background for some aspects of this study. So too will texts which deal with the history of education in Western Australia such as Education in Western Australia (by W.D. Neal)72.
Theses produced by students, academic papers, and texts written by academic staff members may provide insights into viewpoints and attitudes related to the study.
Reports of Committees of Inquiry, Royal Commissions etc.
There is an array of federal and state reports from committees of inquiry which may provide insights into the pressures and demands on universities, and on standards of education which may in turn have implications for decisions made at each of the institutions.
Other Relevant Literature
There is a large collection of literature which explores the meaning of the term education, provides background for historical studies, reflects on the role of education in the state and discusses the relationship between universities and teacher training. This literature will provide a sound basis for preliminary reading and clarification of terms.
Traditional historical approaches to the analysis of sources will be used. However various theoretical positions will also be drawn upon to give form to the sources from time to time. Three theoretical positions, in particular, suggest themselves at this stage as being useful in this regard. The first is that of Broudy’s model for professional preparation in Education. The second is Beeby’s stages of development in educational systems. The third is Van Manen’s stages of the reflective practitioner.
Broudy’s73 starting point was his justification for the autonomous existence of professional preparation areas of study such as architecture, engineering and education. He makes three points in this regard. The first is that for fields of study to justify an autonomous existence they must have a set of special problems that direct their enquiries. Secondly for fields of study to be professionalised they must use and organise facts and principles taken from diverse disciplines related to their problems. Finally, to be professional, fields of study need to utilize practice in order to illuminate theory and use theory as a guide to practice. This position will be useful for considering the extent to which Education as a field of study at the various universities was a professional field of study in Broudy’s terms.
Beeby’s74 theory of educational development focuses on the role of the teacher in facilitating progress through four key stages: the Dame school stage, the stage of Formalism, the stage of Transition and the stage of Meaning. The Dame School stage is characterised by ill educated and untrained teachers who are only able to teach narrow subject content through rigid techniques of memorisation using simple prescribed texts. At the stage of Formalism teachers have received a basic training, but are still ill educated. The stage of Transition is characterised by teachers who have received a basic training, but who are better educated than teachers at the stage of Formalism. At the stage of Meaning teachers are well educated and well trained. A variety of content and methods, including problem solving, are used within a wider curriculum, to cater creatively for individual differences of learners. Again, this position will be useful by way of allowing one to categorise the general state of education in WA at particular points in time and the specific level at which academics within education departments were located.
Van Manen’s75 work on reflective teaching also provides a useful conceptual framework for investigating Education as a university field of study. He identified three levels in the development of practitioners in the field of Education. Level one is concerned with technical rationality. The primary emphasis at this level is on the efficient and effective application of educational knowledge for the purpose of attaining given ends. At this level one would question the appropriateness of various courses of action in the classroom but not enquire about purpose. Level two is that of practical reflection. This level involves the clarification of the assumptions that are the basis of practical action. Interest here is on the moral and ethical considerations in education. Reflection at this level would be concerned with deciding the worth of competing educational goals and experiences, not just attaining them. Level three is the level of critical reflection which focuses on how goals and practices become systematically and ideologically distorted by structural forces and constraints in society, including educational settings. Again, this presents a useful framework for analysing the approaches to subject matter within Education as a field of study at various points in time. In conclusion, however, it is necessary to reiterate that no hard-and-fast commitment to these positions is held, that they will be used for analysis but not for evaluative comments, and that other models may also prove useful as the study unfolds. Finally the product of all of this work will be brought together in a cross-case analysis.
Proposed Time Line
Preparation and presentation of research proposal
August – December 2004
Preparation of introductory chapter (including research context, literature review and methodology)
First draft of second chapter developing the context of the study.
Outline of remaining chapters
January 2005 – July 2006
Data collection for each institution
August 2006 – July 2007
August 2007 – June 2008
Final write up.
Submission of thesis.
Photocopying costs to be met by candidate.
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