My current research program can be divided into three strands of projects, as outlined below:
The History of Education
1. Sir Oliver Lodge: Physicist and Public Educationist
Sir Oliver Lodge was a prominent member of the Maxwellians, a group of physicists who set about the task of describing and interpreting Maxwell’s Treatise in the late Victorian Era. Lodge was also a thoughtful pedagogue who became what we might call an educationist – someone who is publically called upon to speak about matters of science education and the structure and purpose of education more generally. In this project I seek to understand how Lodge’s approach to pedagogy and his views on education were informed by his work and identity as a physicist, a physics professor and University Principal, and his long affiliation with the Society for Psychical Research. Currently, I am focused on Lodge’s career as an educationist following his election as first Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool in 1881 through his term as the first Principal of the newly formed University of Birmingham in 1900. This research is being conducted using archival sources.
2. The Professional Education of Engineers in Canada: 1945-1965
This project is particularly interested in the role played by professional organizations such as the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) in the continuing education of engineers post graduation during the first two decades of the Cold War. This history is inextricably linked to the engineering profession’s continual search for increased status in both the academy and in society and reveals an ongoing tension between the academic education of engineers in undergraduate programs and the continuing, professional education of working engineers. This tension both informs and is informed by the changing socio-cultural context of North America in the twentieth century, as engineers were alternately called upon to both solve the challenges of the post-war era through the application of scientific and technological knowledge, and roundly criticised for adopting technocratic approaches to problem-solving. The continuing professional education of engineers was seen as a place to address perceived shortcomings of initial engineering education by local professional development courses, sometimes (though not always) supported by a local university and large engineering firms. These continuing education courses might also been seen as a political strategy by professional engineering associations to bolster the popular image of the engineer and to continue to develop strong professional ties within the engineering community. This research is being conducted using archival sources.
3. Multilingual Education at a Crossroads:
Understanding crucibles of change in England, France, and Canada (1968-1978)
The history of approaches to multilingual education is inexorably interwoven with both changes in language policy and changes in socio-cultural contexts. Multilingual and multicultural approaches to education at all levels are generally embraced by educational researchers, practicing teachers, and teacher educators around the world. A considerable amount of current research highlights the cognitive, affective, and socio-cultural advantages of taking seriously the multiple ways in which students might leverage their multilingual competencies for learning both school subjects and, at the level of teacher education, how to teach in the increasingly multicultural classrooms of today. The current situation is rather new, however, and some might argue that it had its genesis with the creation of modern Europe. The current enthusiasm for multilingual approaches to education tends to lack an historical perspective. Our research thus situates current debates within an historical context, a ten-year crucible in which attitudes toward multilingualism changed substantively. We focus on the decade spanning 1968-1978, which was a time of academic upheaval (e.g., the creation of several theories of multilingual education) and social change that stimulated new thinking around language education policies (e.g., immigration trends within England, the October Crisis in Canada, and the growing discontent directed at Arabic minority communities in France). This research is being conducted with Dr. Cécile Sabatier, using archival sources.
Reflective Practice and Teacher Education
1. Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices
This research project is devoted to understanding how teacher educators (i.e., those who are responsible for teaching future teachers) construct professional knowledge of practice. As the back matter to my recently co-edited book on this topic reads: “A dilemma . . . arises in science teacher education of how to shift perspectives among student teachers from reductionist to more inclusive attitudes that are open to the mercurial realities of teaching.” I am currently interested in the role that the acculturating effects of undergraduate training in academic disciplines play in how future teachers perceive their professional identities and responsibilities, and how teacher educators respond to issues around identity formation in teacher candidates and in themselves. This work is being conducted using various forms of qualitative data collection and analysis with Dr. Megan Madigan Peercy and Dr. Cécile Sabatier.
My work in this area also aims to contribute to the development of self-study methodology.
2. Maker Pedagogy
This research project is currently funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. The project seeks to interrupt traditional approaches to teacher education by foregrounding principles of Maker thinking (hack, adapt, design, create) in a teacher education program and in the early years of a teaching career. Teacher candidates participating in the study engage in a number of technology-focused projects in a small group environment throughout their pre-service program. Although many people think of “making” as being part of a larger “STEM” movement in education, our project takes an historically-informed view of the ways in which “making” and “tinkering” might be used to stimulate reflective practice and meaningful professional development for teachers.
This work is currently being led by doctoral candidate Andrea J. Sator and is supported by Dr. Allan MacKinnon and me. For more details on this research, please visit our website.