“Educational studies and analyzability of education: an overview”
Dept. of Semiotics, Tartu University
Tiigi 78, 50410 Tartu, Estonia
Etymologically, the word ‘education’ comes from the Latin ‘educare’-‘bring up, rear,
educate’, which is related to ‘educere’-‘bring out, lead forth’, while the meaning ‘provide
schooling’ is from the XVI century. The Oxford online dictionary provides the following
definitions of ‘education’ –‘the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially
at a school or university’; ‘the theory and practice of teaching’; ‘a body of knowledge acquired
while being educated’; ‘information about or training in a particular subject’. However, this is
the public meaning of education, unaffected by our personal values and beliefs about the term
(Wilson, 2003:291). In this sense it is easy to translate the word or to explain its meaning to a
child. On the other hand it is very difficult to answer to the following questions: What exactly
does education exclude and include? What is the use or value of education? What kinds of goods
does it produce, and how are we to weight these goods in comparison with goods produced by
other enterprises? What is it to learn something, and what sorts of things are really worth
learning? (Wilson, 2003:292) Wilson saw these questions as core issues in philosophy of
education while Uljens (2001:292) was focused in issues in general education and general
education theory when he asked: What is education? What makes education possible? What
makes education necessary? What are the limits of education? Is a universal theory of education
possible? How is education related to other disciplines? Can and should a general theory of
education be normative or not regarding aims and methods?
We see that both sets of question include the issue of delimitation of education as an
object of study. This is in other words the problem of the analyzability of education. It is, in a
way, the construction of an object of research, or we could say that it is a process of description
anthropology etc. Not every discipline responded
to education in the same way – some of them had to develop more or less language for the
description of education. sociologists and
philosophers were using the concepts and methods of their disciplines and applying those to
education. a prerequisite for the application of any
system of methods. philosophy of education. educational psychology. We will also see how the process of making education analyzable is
related to the field of educational studies.
“In another sense.” (McCulloch 2002:103)
We can see that education studies were not an autonomous discipline. In other words they were modeling (describing. We
will name here only some of them: history of education. The first four are often called
‘foundational’ disciplines. the disciplines were established together. It was the combination of their different forms of expertise that was taken to be
the most effective means of addressing the problems and processes of education. sociological and philosophical manner. as complementary approaches to the
study of education. particularly influential in 1950’s 1960’s and 1970’s and McCulloch
(2002) and Bridges (2003) give a good historical account of that period. This fragmented disciplinary approach was even strengthened with the rise of
curriculum studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact education was not
regarded as a discipline at all. one of the most influential authors on education at that
time states that “there is no distinctively ‘educational’ way of thinking” (Tibble in McCulloch
2002:108). psychologists. we will point out some specificities of
education as research object. In other words the process of making education analyzable was
. constructing) their research object in a
In this sense we will describe education as research object and give an account of the
disciplines that research it. Making an object analyzable is the
first step of any scientific investigation on education.
The disciplines of education
Education is a complex phenomenon that can be object of study of many disciplines. psychological. The disciplines
thereby signaled a pluralist vision of educational studies that sought to draw on a wide range of
human knowledge and experience. historians. Finally. So.of the research object in the language of a given discipline. sociology of
from biography and autobiography. Firstly.
from photography. policy studies and political theory. Bridges (2003:40) states how
difficult it is to ensure fairness. conceptual
systems and methodologies.
As a consequence of this expansion various aspects of the phenomenon of education are
elucidated. rich in approaches.different for them. from
politics. education needs the body of knowledge from other
. This issue was addressed by Hirst (in Bridges. nursing.” Does this mean that education should strive towards disciplinary identity and form its
own body of knowledge. and. 2003:43)
“disciplines cannot tackle any given practical questions as such for each tackles questions which
are peculiar to itself. shopping or tourism” (Bridges.
There are two main reasons for this. football. to the conclusion that it constitutes a field of theory and practice to
which different disciplines can contribute – just as you might research other fields of social
practice like policing. if education is the research object of so many disciplines it is important to make sure that
their theories and researches are directed towards educational goals and not (only) towards the
goals of their respective disciplines. Educational studies are defined as a field of study. What was common to them is that the process of description was oriented
towards an appropriation of education. as we shall see (chapter seven) from narrative fiction. from the study
of language and literature. more hesitantly perhaps from the creative arts. There is as well the issue of orientation. In
fact.” (Bridges. As Bridges (2003) states
“a huge expansion in the intellectual resources which have been brought to this study: from
every nook and cranny of the social sciences and especially from ethnography. “It is a short step from the observation that education is not a
discipline in its own right. its own methodologies? Is it even possible to talk about education as a
discipline? It would be very idealistic to expect that such complex phenomenon as education
could be encompassed by one discipline. education cannot claim that it
originated this body of knowledge and so therefore it cannot claim to have a disciplinary identity.
“If a discipline is by definition a solid body of knowledge. those that can be raised only within its own distinctive conceptual
Today the number of education-studying disciplines is higher. poetry and. how researchers can be easily confused and how the community
of education-oriented scholars can become divided. from cultural studies. there is also a negative side to such diversity. social work.
As Wilson states:
“I think we have yet to learn what an adequate philosophy. is that the people
conscripted from these disciplines to work under an educational aegis have brought the
characteristic concerns of their disciplines with them—their philosophical chestnuts about the
basis of ethics.
Interdisciplinarity is characterized by still rigid boundaries between disciplines and the same
critique is applied to multidsiciplinarity.
Let us return now the problem of orientation mentioned earlier. This brings us
to the relation of those disciplines. understandably enough. (Palaiologou. etc. the nature of education deals with real
world problems. education is always changing and the methods or models
that work today might not work tomorrow. Also. and
there is a general lack of communication. knowledge
and methodologies in order to address educational theoretical and practical issues. What has happened. for instance. to ask
not only: what is historical in this educational situation? but also: what is educational about it and
how does it contribute to the affirmation of educational studies? Answers to the latter would
create some basis for the foundation of a proper field for the science of education. In this sense we can talk about interdisciplinarity. history.
multidisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. sociology. their psychological rats and pigeons. includes all disciplines and not just the
favored ones and generally surpasses the disciplines. Palaiologou (2010:275-279). 2010:277) Contrary to this. 2010:274)
So. gave good arguments in favor of a
transdisciplinary approach to education. their sociological roles and classes. of
education would look like. But it is not at all clear how far these
concerns and traditions actually fit into the study of education.
. It does not simply focus upon a classroom context” (Palaiologou. their
historical passion for institutions and Acts of Parliament. investigating this issue in
the context of new Education Studies curriculum. psychology. There is not enough sharing of methods and tools. 1982:10)
When modeling education as a research object it is important for a historian.teams/subjects/disciplines to give it efficacy and secondly. we cannot talk about education as a discipline but we can talk about a science of
education (educational studies) consisting of many disciplines who join their efforts.” (Wilson. Most importantly this approach gives basis
for knowledge unification and a defragmented view on education. As a result “Disciplines may work together for a final
product/project and contribution to knowledge but what they are not doing is developing
synergies and synthesis that “transcend boundaries”. only this approach can be really called
integrational as it can surpass the disciplinary division and fragmented knowledge. According to her. a
transdisciplinary mode of research favors creativity. this approach suits best
the dynamicity of education – in fact.
there seems no good reason to categorize them under 'education' rather than under
fields which can be divided in theory and practice. In other words. their capacity for description. 2003:43). But
unless those books were so angled as to be useful or illuminating to the practical enterprise of
education.We have seen that education as a research object needs to be constructed or modeled by
the investigating discipline. since education is practical by its nature. in
. Accordingly. 1982:7). it is doubtful
whether this theory/practice model can be applied to education. In the context of education-studying disciplines this means that
when analyzing education the disciplines have to take into account the practice of education. in education we speak about
educational theory and practice of education (teaching and learning). However. Wilson contested the educational
theory as a body of knowledge and he added that while it is possible to have good teachers who
are ignorant of theory the same is not possible for doctors and engineers (Wilson. analyzability of education
depends on the researching disciplines. and on the relations among
those disciplines. or the economics of educational institutions in the nineteenth century.
Specificities of education as an object of research in the context of analyzability
We stated already that education is a field of study and it we will now add that it is also a
field of applied study.
even when researching theory.” (Wilson.
“Books may be written on (say) the philosophy of punishment. but also have to do it. the history of education in the
Byzantine period. 'history' and 'economies'. Being a complex phenomenon we cannot talk about one discipline of
education but of many disciplines participating in the study of education which we can call by
one name education studies or science of education.
On the other hand analyzability of education is also related to the object of study which
can ‘dictate’ the changes needed in the discipline itself. Therefore. We will therefore give an account of
some specific features of education as research object. In this sense education is often compared to medicine or engineering. The same remark was made by Bridges when
he was criticizing the ‘foundational’ disciplines as not being able to tell us “what we ought to do
in practice” (Bridges. He
argued for a more practical approach to education. 1982:10)
Wilson is saying that the disciplines of educational studies not only can ‘tackle’ practical
of an educational phenomenon is inextricably related to educational aims. He was optimistic though that those obstacles
were to be surmounted. the failure of education reforms and the textbooks which were not based on
research findings were a proof of the need of such integration. concepts and methodologies. the
masculinization of research and feminization of teaching and the legacy of the education
‘grandmasters’ – Thorndike. So. In his paper (1999)
Elkind appealed for an integrative approach of a science of education and teacher practice.
Moreover. This pluralistic approach certainly
allows the elucidation of many aspects of education and we saw that in order to take maximum
ultimately on what goals we wish to achieve and what values to promote.
There are many disciplines that can claim education as their research object which
provides a great richness of approaches and methodologies and each of them models education
using its own terminology. between the scholars and the teachers. To model education
so it could be scientifically researched by a discipline is to make education analyzable.
Education is a very complex phenomenon and its investigation is not an easy task. This
is a matter of educational aims and educational policies which are often determined
ideologically. since first of all every person has some personal meanings and values attached to
education. He saw three main barriers for
the realization of such interdisciplinary science: the rigid boundaries among the disciplines.
Another specificity of education is that besides being practical. or in other words. it is an aspect of education that cannot be disregarded in educational analysis. and secondly because there are many ideological stands in the disciplines themselves. it is not an object of study to be found but one to be constructed.order to make education analyzable the disciplines of educational studies have to develop a
language that describes education practically. Every problem in education can be resolved in different manners. This is indeed a
This entails another problem – the dialogue between those who study education and those
who practice it. A challenge for a
science of education would be to determine the aims of education objectively. it is also normative.
According to him. Dewey and James.
Fiction written under oath.
Moscow:Kluwer Academic Publishers
Elkind. In fact. Dordrecht. London. analyzability of education derives from the nature of education itself. 50(1):100-119
Palaiologou. Educational Studies.
Analyzability of education is related to the status of the field of educational studies or
science of education. Oxford Review of Education. David 1999. 20:291-301
Wilson John 1982.etymonline. Oxford Review of Education. David 2003. Disciplines contributing to education? Educational studies and the
disciplines. Educational Psychology
Review. Credibility of educational studies. 11(3):271-287
McCulloch. Studies in Psychology and
Uljens. to describe an educational phenomenon educationally means to
affirm this educational studies and at the same time to determine its proper field of study. 8(1):3-19
2003. New York. The death of a discipline or the birth of a transdiscipline: subverting
questions of disciplinarity within Education Studies undergraduate courses. Educational research and the science of education.com
. educational studies must be based on the notion of
form it practical and normative aspect. Perspectives on the philosophy of education.advantage of such plurality.oxforddictionaries. Michael 2001.
Further research on this matter would certainly include the following questions: how do
different disciplines handle the process of making education analyzable? More specifically how
does semiotics describe education? What are the specificities of a semiotic approach to
education? How does semiotics communicate with other education-studying disciplines?
Bridges. On general education as a discipline. Ioanna 2010. Gary 2002.
http://www. British Journal of Educationl Studies.