International Journal of Sociology of Education

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International Journal of Sociology of Education
International Journal of
Sociology of Education
Volume 3, Number 1
Hipatia Press
www.hipatiapress.com
h
Competitividad, Competencias y Fin del Ciclo Fordista - Ignasi Brunet &
Rafael Böcker Zavaro …….…………………………………………………….1
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Matthew Effect in Online Education Amany Saleh & Heath Sanders ……..…………………….…………..........26
Factors Hindering Women’s Aspiration for Tertiary Education in SouthWest Nigeria - Adesoji Oni & Fausta Manafa……………………………....51
The Digital Divide in Classroom Technology Use: A Comparison of
Three Schools - Matthew H. Rafalow …….………………….………….......67
Boys and their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming Someone Else Emilia Aiello……………………………………………….…………….….......101
Europeanizing Education. Governing a New Policy Space - Joan
Cabré…………………...……...…………………………………………………103
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
Competitividad, Competencias y Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Ignasi Brunet1, Rafael Böcker Zavaro1
1) Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Brunet, I., Böcker Zavaro, R. (2014). Competitividad,
Competencias y Fin del Ciclo Fordista. International Journal of Sociology of
Education, 3(1), 1-25. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.01
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.01
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RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 1-25
Competitiveness, Skills and
End Fordist Cycle.
Ignasi Brunet
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Rafael Böcker Zavaro
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
(Received: 11 September 2013; Accepted: 24 November 2013; Published: 25
February 2014)
Abstract
This article shows how competence-based management has cast doubt on the value
of academic qualifications to predict labour development. This phenomenon is due
to the emergence of new management criteria which are built upon the structural and
organisational transformations that capitalism has experienced last decades. Those
transformations are meant to be a fundamental turn from tasks management to
results and competencies management.
Keywords: competencies, qualifications, human resources, flexibility
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.01
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 1-25
Competitividad, Competencias
y Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Ignasi Brunet
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Rafael Böcker Zavaro
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
(Recibido: 11 Septiembre 2013; Aceptado: 24 Noviembre 2013; Publicado:
25 Febrero 2014)
Resumen
Este artículo expone cómo la nueva filosofía de dirección y gestión por
competencias ha puesto en duda el valor de las cualificaciones académicas a la hora
de predecir el desempeño laboral, y esto se debe a la emergencia de nuevos criterios
de gestión que se han fraguado con las transformaciones estructurales y
organizativas que el capitalismo ha experimentado en las últimas décadas.
Transformaciones que han supuesto un giro fundamental desde la dirección por
tareas hacia la gestión por resultados y competencias.
Palabras clave: competencias, cualificaciones, recursos humanos, flexibilidad
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.01
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 3
L
os procesos de transformación social y económica que se han
venido experimentando en las últimas tres décadas han ido
acompañadas de un cambio discursivo muy impresionante en el
modo de pensar de 1960 y 1970, cuya retórica internacionalista de izquierda
(Baran y Sweezy, Emmanuel, Samir Amin, Mandel, Braverman…) ha sido
reemplazada en las décadas de 1980 y 1990 por un discurso neoliberal de
internacionalismo y globalización marcado por el mercado. En este discurso,
el conocimiento se perfila como el recurso que marca la diferencia entre las
sociedades más avanzadas y el resto. Comienza a surgir así la noción de la
sociedad del conocimiento, entendida como aquel “estadio de desarrollo en
el que la sociedad detecta el valor estratégico del conocimiento, lo utiliza
como sustento de su competitividad y bienestar y, consecuentemente, dedica
esfuerzos a la creación de nuevos conocimientos y a buscar las vías para
utilizarlo” (Rivero, 2002:31).
Esfuerzos que se materializan en la dirección y supervisión del proceso
laboral en un discurso que hace hincapié en que los trabajadores, los
“recursos humanos” de la organización, no sólo son otro recurso económico
que, combinado con otros recursos (dinero, materias primas, máquinas, etc.),
ayuda a la empresa a conseguir sus objetivos, sino que son un recurso
verdaderamente estratégico, capaz de proporcionar a la empresa una fuente
de ventaja competitiva sostenible y, por tanto, rentas superiores a los de los
competidores, las cuales, a priori, podrán apropiarse (Pereda y Berrocal,
1999). Sin embargo, “es importante resaltar que las rentas obtenidos por una
empresa no se deben exclusivamente a la posesión de un determinado capital
humano; adicionalmente, se hace necesaria una correcta (y mejor que la
competencia) utilización del mismo” (Moreno et al. 2004:57).
Este planteamiento de “utilidad”, es decir, de dirección y gestión, que es
a la vez ideología y perspectiva analítica, ha implicado un cambio de
filosofía, un cambio conceptual y un cambio de actuación, con respecto al
tradicional enfoque managerial de gestión de personal. En este enfoque
tradicional, que estuvo en completa vigencia hasta la década de los años
ochenta del siglo XX, se consideraba que los dos “bandos”, denominados
por lo general capital y trabajo, son incompatibles, ya que el personal es un
coste y, como tal, es preciso reducirlo todo lo que sea posible. Las
consecuencias de este planteamiento son unas relaciones de enfrentamiento,
de conflicto, de lucha, que es compartida por el enfoque neomarxista
4 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
centrado en el proceso de trabajo (Hyman, Marglin, Friedman, Burawoy…).
Para este enfoque las relaciones entre trabajadores y empresarios son
necesariamente conflictivas, y que el capital intenta superar, a partir de la
década de 1980, valiéndose de dispositivos de reestructuración del proceso
productivo; dispositivos que demandan una flexibilidad extrema y que en el
ámbito de la gestión de recursos humanos se traducen en dos objetivos
específicos: 1) la reducción de costes laborales y de las cargas sociales, y 2)
la polivalencia de los trabajadores.
En la nueva filosofía directiva de gestión de recursos humanos, en contra
del enfoque de gestión del personal, se defiende una verdadera sinergia entre
las fuerzas de trabajo y del capital, entre lo social y lo económico, dado que
la fuerza de trabajo es considerada como el principal recurso competitivo de
la empresa, y que, por tanto, es preciso optimizar (Pereda y Berrocal, 2001).
En este caso, las relaciones dejan de ser de enfrentamiento, para pasar a ser
de colaboración. La organización no está dividida y “es del capital”, en el
sentido de que se representa la empresa ya no exclusivamente como un
“sistema de trabajo” sino más bien como un “centro de negocios” (Coutrot,
1998, 2002; Jacot, 1998, 2003), constituido por un personal integrado y
flexible, en relación con una función directiva orientada al desarrollo de las
competencias de los empleados de la empresa. Desde este planteamiento,
una empresa puede metódicamente identificar dónde descansar sus fortalezas
en recursos humanos con la finalidad de lograr resultados mediante la
gestión de competencias básicas distintivas y, por ende, ventajas
competitivas con las que implantar sus estrategias (Brunet y Vidal, 2008).
Este modelo de gestión es requerido por las empresas que están inmersas
en entornos dinámicos y complejos; empresas con estructuras organizativas
flexibles y que demandan trabajadores polivalentes, responsables de la
ejecución de diferentes funciones y preparados para asumir cambios en sus
roles y funciones laborales según las posibilidades productivas de la
organización. Lograr trabajadores polivalentes requiere, por un lado, una
gestión de recursos humanos más integrada y flexible, con estatus laborales
y vías de desarrollo profesional individuales, lo que en la práctica ha
implicado el cuestionamiento y extinción del convenio colectivo como
contrato regular entre empresarios y trabajadores (Serrano y Crespo, 2002),
y la individualización del contrato laboral.
Por otro lado, requiere de empresas en las que la cultura y los valores
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 5
compartidos se convierten en el elemento clave que aglutina las relaciones
de los trabajadores. En este sentido, los profesionales de recursos humanos,
más allá de la aplicación de una serie de técnicas de trabajo orientadas a
incrementar el rendimiento de los trabajadores, deben fomentar el desarrollo
de la cultura corporativa, entendida como el conjunto de normas y valores
que pretenden vincular los intereses y motivaciones de los trabajadores con
los intereses y objetivos del resto de públicos de la organización
(propietarios, clientes, proveedores…). El objetivo está en que las
competencias deben integrarse en las directrices estratégicas de las
empresas, de modo que las competencias técnicas y conductuales
desarrolladas por los recursos humanos de la empresa, claves para el futuro
en su industria, pueden ser identificadas y gestionadas, es decir, se pueden
dar pasos en orden a generarlas, desarrollarlas y difundirlas por todos los
rincones de la organización. Y es que la plantilla de la empresa no es ya una
suma de cualificaciones profesionales capaces de realizar determinadas
funciones y tareas, sino un equipo capaz de obtener unos resultados, en
situación de competencia (Aledo, 1995; Lasnier, 2000; Blanco, 2007).
Este enfoque centrado en los comportamientos eficientes de los
trabajadores –las competencias- ha puesto en duda el valor de las
cualificaciones académicas a la hora de predecir el desempeño laboral, y es
que desde la dirección de recursos humanos la valoración del rendimiento o
desempeño es consecuencia de los cambios que se han producido en la
estructura de las empresas, de los cuales hay tres significativos: 1)
descentralización: supone la desintegración de una organización jerárquica
de gran envergadura un muchas divisiones semiautónomas o cuasi empresas,
responsable de la mayor parte, si no de todas, las actividades bajo su
competencia; 2) delegación presupuestaria: significa asignar a la unidad más
pequeña posible dentro de la organización la responsabilidad de las
actividades de gestión de recursos u objetivos financieros, y 3) mercado
interno de trabajo: constituye la principal aplicación de los principios del
mercado a la toma de decisiones, reflejada en medidas tales como la
contratación externa de las actividades que no son esenciales, y hace que se
considere a la empresa como un “mercado interno”, donde se despliegan las
competencias.
Son estos tres aspectos los que han supuesto un giro importante en la
dirección de los recursos humanos, sobre todo porque implican un giro
6 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
fundamental desde la dirección por tareas, característica de las estructuras
empresariales tradicionales, hacia la dirección por resultados (Sisson y
Martín Artiles, 2001), la cual articula las funciones de reclutamiento,
selección, promoción, remuneración y evaluación de los miembros de la
organización, de forma que a través de la gestión por competencias la
organización se convierta en una máquina eficaz al servicio de la
competitividad económica a través de la adaptación, la flexibilidad y la
maximización de los resultados (Brunet y Belzunegui, 2003; Brunet, 2005).
Esta concepción de la gestión implica, por un lado, que la organización ya
no otorga importancia a los certificados que las personas poseen para pasar a
considerar imprescindibles una buena cartera de competencias. Éstas se
tienen o no en la práctica, es decir, en la demostración empírica de que se
sabe desarrollar de forma eficiente y eficaz su trabajo. Por otro lado, esta
concepción está detrás del proceso de Convergencia Europea de la
Educación Superior. Proceso que frente a los enfoques didácticos clásicos
centrados en el aula y en la actividad del profesor, propugna que tanto la
planificación como la realización de los procesos enseñanza-aprendizaje se
lleven a cabo asumiendo el modelo de gestión centrado en las competencias,
y alrededor de las cuales se definen las modalidades organizativas y los
métodos de enseñanza más adecuados para el logro de las competencias (De
Miguel, 2006).
En las páginas que siguen centraremos la atención en abordar
distintamente los conceptos de cualificación y de competencia, y explicar
que el concepto de competencia sustituye a la tradicional “cualificación de la
persona”. Este concepto, que surgió en el ámbito educativo norteamericano
(Hyland, 1994), tiene una doble raíz. Por un lado, es fruto de la insistencia
de los directivos en la importancia de las competencias conductuales
(conocimientos, actitudes, habilidades, motivaciones…) de las personas para
ser eficientes, en el marco de las nuevas formas de la competencia
económica. Por otro lado, es fruto de una superación de los enfoques propios
de las organizaciones influidas por los principios del taylorismo, que hacían
hincapié en el trabajo y que ahora se ven sustituidos por una mayor atención
a las personas en su trabajo, vinculada a la implantación de las formas de
producción reticulares y/o posfordistas. La característica definitoria del
posfordismo está en que el conocimiento se ha convertido en la fuerza
productiva principal, la única capaz de producir valor y ventajas
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 7
competitivas durables (Rullani, 1998, 2004). Por ello se explica esta nueva
atención a las personas –la gestión por competencias-, que constituye la
nueva panacea de la competitividad productiva y económica, no solo a nivel
de empresa, sino a nivel de continentes, naciones, regiones y localidades, y
todo ello tiene que ver con el final del ciclo keynesiano-fordista, que ha dado
origen no únicamente a un nuevo modelo de Estado y a un nuevo modelo de
empresa, sino también al nuevo planteamiento del Espacio Europeo de
Educación Superior (EEES) (Navarro y Valero, 2008; VV.AA., 2008;
OCDE, 2007). Planteamiento en que se apoya, en gran parte, el movimiento
de redefinición de la profesionalidad docente en torno a las competencias
(Perrenoud, 2004).
Concepto de Cualificación y de Competencia.
Castillo Mendoza y Terrén (1994) plantean que la concepción de la
cualificación ha sido la mantenida tradicionalmente por las teorías
convergentes con el paradigma de la economía neoclásica. Desde esta
perspectiva, la cualificación es entendida básicamente como un capital
humano característico del factor trabajo, cuyo precio puede medirse
objetivamente por su productividad marginal relativa y traducirse
directamente en el salario. Se parte, según Dubar (1991), de una absoluta
transparencia de la relación formación-cualificación-salario, en virtud de la
cual las “cualidades” individuales se transforman de manera armónica y
directa en jerarquías salarias y, consiguientemente, sociales. Bajo esta
transferencia se explica que la cualificación laboral hay sido definida como
la capacidad personal de actuación en el sistema productivo, es decir, el
conjunto de conocimiento adquirido y de experiencia laboral concretado en
capacidades singulares y en trayectorias laborales. En la cualificación
laboral, el reconocimiento se produce en el sistema productivo y se asocia a
la adquisición y aplicación del conocimiento. Las aportaciones de
conocimiento se homogeneizan en certificados y títulos, que se utilizan
como méritos de referencia para el reconocimiento social.
Se explica, entonces, que el concepto de cualificación tenga un carácter
“societal” (Grooting, 1994) al depender, en gran medida, del ritmo evolutivo
de cada país según la relación entre sus sistemas de formación con las
estructuras del mercado laboral, con sus sistemas de relaciones laborales y
8 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
con sus tipos de organización laboral. La cualificación es, en consecuencia,
fundamentalmente “una relación entre ciertas operaciones técnicas y la
estimación de su valor social”; es decir, “la cualificación incorpora un juicio
de valor que produce efectos colectivos, una clasificación profesional
diferencial” (Naville, 1985:129 y 243). Esta idea de cualificación señala su
carácter situado, válido para tal empresa o sector profesional en función del
carácter del acuerdo social, y datado, es decir, susceptible de redefinición en
función de las transformaciones en los procesos productivos y en el mercado
de trabajo. Esta definición relativa de la cualificación se deriva, en última
instancia, de la imposibilidad de determinar criterios objetivos y universales,
que permitan comparar y evaluar las cualificaciones, como comparar los
tiempos formales y reglados de la formación y los tiempos de la acción
productiva concreta y situada. De ahí la constatación de que la cualificación
se apoya: 1) en un compromiso social entre los distintos actores sociales, y
que incluye un proceso de clasificación profesional basado en el conjunto de
criterios la cualificación del trabajo; un proceso que aparece en el curso de la
historia como un hecho relativo; es decir no reposa en ningún criterio
absoluto; 2) las formas de la cualificación dependen de las formas de las
fuerzas productivas y de la estructura económica de la sociedad; 3) la
duración del aprendizaje aparece como uno de los elementos constitutivos de
la cualificación, pero esta duración es en ella misma relativa a la industria en
una época dada, no es en si una norma absoluta, y 4) la cualidad y
cualificación del trabajo es relativa a criterios sociales y no individuales.
Además, la relación entre la clasificación profesional y el título escolar
no es inmediata, pues la cualificación no viene determinada por la cualidad
de la tarea concreta que el trabajador desempeña, sino que es definida por las
modalidades según las cuales los saberes institucionalizados y socializados
son sancionados por las empresas y aplicados a la producción (Lara, 2013).
Esto subraya la complejidad de la noción de cualificación y la exterioridad
que ostenta en relación al mero proceso de trabajo. Lo que evidencia que la
noción de cualificación, históricamente, remita a un concepto complejo,
definido como una construcción social a partir de actores colectivos y
regulados a través de la costumbre, las leyes consuetudinarias y la
negociación colectiva, y básicamente se refiere a la cualificación exigida al
trabajador antes de ser contratado y ocupar un nuevo puesto dado. Esta
exigencia de cualificación remite a un título o certificado que sirve como
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 9
señal para el empresario (Grootings, 1994; Rolle, 2003; Zarifian, 1999;
Köhler y Martín Artiles, 2005).
El concepto de competencia surgió de la necesidad de aproximar el
mundo de la educación al mundo laboral, y constituye, argumenta Planas
(2003), un nuevo modelo de relación entre oferta y demanda de fuerza de
trabajo formada que se basa, no tanto en la creencia del ajuste automático
entre proveedor de cualificaciones (sistema educativo) y cliente (empresas),
que ha predominado en la era de la producción fordista, sino en los que
aportan los trabajadores a su puesto de trabajo, tal como lo requiere la
organización reticular posfordista. Este nuevo modelo que se concretiza
originariamente, según Tuxworth (1989), en la “educación basada en
competencias” tenía como objetivo reducir los bajos resultados y los altos
costes de la educación norteamericana. Tovar y Revilla (2009, 2010) señalan
que en torno a esta necesidad de mejorar el rendimiento escolar, hay que
situar al libro de Bloom (1975) sobre “Evaluación del aprendizaje” que sentó
las bases del movimiento denominado “enseñanza basada en competencias”,
que se apoyaba en los siguientes cinco principios: 1) todo aprendizaje es
individual; 2) el individuo, al igual que el sistema, se orienta por metas a
lograr; 3) el proceso de aprendizaje es más fácil cuando el individuo sabe
qué es exactamente lo que se espera de él; 4) el conocimiento preciso de los
resultados también facilita el aprendizaje, y 5) es más probable que un
alumno haga lo que se espera de él y lo que él mismo desea, si tiene la
responsabilidad de tareas de aprendizaje.
Estos principios de Bloom han sido la piedra angular de “los modelos de
educación y formación basados en competencias” tanto en Estados Unidos
como en Gran Bretaña, y en los que la competencia es entendida como
resultado necesario de la formación. Por otro lado, el término competencia
se ha utilizado en el proceso de Convergencia Universitaria Educacional y
en el denominado Tuning Educacional Structures in Europe, y entendida la
competencia como la habilidad o destreza para realizar una tarea (González
y Wagenaar, 2003). Sin embargo, desde otra vertiente distinta a la educativa,
el término competencia ha sido desarrollado en el campo de la psicología, y
a consecuencia de los estudios sobre motivación humana. Originariamente,
McClelland (1973) propuso el término competencia como alternativa al de
inteligencia, al de género, la raza o el estatus socioeconómico para medir el
rendimiento laboral, y hacía referencia a habilidades con la finalidad de
10 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
diferenciar el comportamiento efectivo de los trabajadores, esto es, al
comportamiento motivado para el logro de objetivos.
Desde esta conceptualización, se va a sentar las bases para su aplicación
al mundo empresarial y así explicar la ventaja de pasar de una empresa
basada en la tarea a una empresa basada en competencias, o lo que es lo
mismo, al paso de una organización burocrática a una organización sistémica
(Lawler, 1994). El trabajador se convierte, entonces, en una pieza esencial
para la competitividad de la empresa, en sentido de Spencer y Spencer
(1993), para quienes pensar en una “lógica de competencias” supone
plantear qué competencias son puestas en juego por los trabajadores para
resolver situaciones de trabajo reales. Además, tras comprobar que existe
una serie de competencias que se repiten con alta frecuencia en diferentes
puestos y organizaciones, argumentan que han detectado veinte
competencias genéricas que son la causa de determinados comportamientos
relacionados con un desempeño profesional superior a la media en diferentes
sectores y profesiones técnicas, comerciales y directivas. Estas veinte
competencias genéricas han sido agrupadas en las siguientes seis
conglomerados o categorías por Behtell-Fox (1997): competencias de logro
y acción, competencias de apoyo y servicio, competencias de impacto e
influencia, competencias gerenciales, competencias cognitivas y
competencias de eficacia personal.
Estas competencias permiten vincular el término competencia con un
nuevo modelo de trabajador posfordista, el cual Alaluf y Stroobants (1994)
denominan homo competens, al estar orientado su comportamiento laboral al
logro de resultados, mediante el enriquecimiento continuo de su repertorio
de competencias (Blanco, 2007; Aledo, 1995). Se trata de proveer una
flexibilización en los procesos de trabajo que permita que evolucionen las
situaciones de trabajo y, correlativamente, disponer de trabajadores
dispuestos a resolver los requerimientos nuevos del puesto de trabajo. De ahí
que la “National Council for Vocational Qualifications” (NCVQ) defina
competencia como la “habilidad de aplicar el conocimiento, comprensión,
práctica y destreza mental para lograr una actuación efectiva por los
estándares requeridos en el puesto de trabajo. Esto incluye la resolución de
problemas, y que el individuo sea suficientemente flexible para adaptarse a
los cambios requeridos” (Horton, 2000:312). Desde este punto de vista, es la
iniciativa del trabajador, y sus competencias, aquello que es movilizado en el
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 11
puesto. La relación personal entre el empleador y su empleado se encuentra
transformada. El trabajador, “reclutado en función del grado formativo
alcanzado, no tenía hasta ahora más que poner al servicio de la empresa el
saber y la experiencia que le habían sido colectivamente reconocidos. En lo
sucesivo, se encuentra, sin embargo, obligado a obtener un resultado,
resultando su empleo en todo momento evaluado a conveniencia del
empleador” (Rolle, 2003:198).
Una evaluación centrada no únicamente en los objetivos, sino también en
las competencias que están desarrollando sus empleados. Dado que existe
una relación causal entre el mejor nivel de resultados para una función
específica y determinadas características que sólo determinados trabajadores
poseen, se deduce que son esas características diferenciadoras las que se
asocian al concepto de competencia. Características que, cada vez más la
literatura sobre recursos humanos interpreta como la base de un buen
desempeño laboral, y relacionadas con la inteligencia emocional, y más
concretamente, con las competencias de carácter social y emocional
descritas por Goleman (1996, 1999) y Gardner (1998, 2001).
Gardner destaca el hecho de que el ser humano existe y actúa en multitud
de contextos, cada uno de los cuales exige y fomenta diferentes tipos de
inteligencia. Gardner llega a formular siete tipos de inteligencia (lingüística,
lógico-matemática, musical, corporal-cinestésica, espacial, interpersonal,
intrapersonal). Las dos últimas, las “inteligencias personales” muestra una
relación clara con constructos como el de “inteligencia social” o el de
“inteligencia emocional”. Goleman, para quien el coeficiente emocional y
social es igual de importante, si no más, que el coeficiente intelectual,
distingue cinco factores de la inteligencia emocional, aplicables al mundo
laboral: autoconciencia, autorregulación, motivación, empatía y habilidades
sociales. Estos cinco factores dan como resultado un catálogo de veintitrés
competencias emocionales relacionadas con un desempeño laboral eficiente.
El concepto de competencia se ha desarrollado, así, para tratar de captar
la complejidad de capacidades productivas de los individuos, no se refiere
sólo a la titulación académica, sino también a otros aspectos del currículo
oculto, a habilidades de tipo relacional, a características de comportamientos
y actitudes susceptibles de ser utilizadas en el proceso productivo. Por lo
tanto, desde un punto de vista conceptual, no se puede prescindir de los
atributos personales, ni de la conducta observable y verificable en la
12 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
definición del término competencia. Ambos remiten a resultados, es decir, a
mejorar el rendimiento o desempeño de la organización. Por tanto, las
competencias están causalmente relacionadas con un desempeño bueno o
excelente en un trabajo concreto y en una organización concreta, es decir,
representan el vínculo entre las características individuales de los
trabajadores y las cualidades requeridas para llevar a cabo sus tareas
profesionales específicas (Woodruffe, 1991, 1993; Le Boterf, 1995; 2001;
Lévy-Levoyer, 1997).
El concepto de competencia se refiere, entonces, en términos de gestión
del trabajador a: 1) características comportamentales que indican el potencial
del trabajador; 2) características observables y, por tanto, evaluables, y 3)
aquello que lleva a un trabajador a realizar una actuación de efectividad –
eficacia y eficiencia– en un puesto de trabajo. La gestión por competencias
pone el énfasis en los resultados, es decir, las competencias son un factor
determinante “o la causa del rendimiento, y no el rendimiento (es decir,
resultados/output) en sí mismo” (Williams, 2003:97). De ahí que
el enfoque de competencias estudia los comportamientos observables de
las personas que realizan su trabajo con eficacia, realizándose la definición o
descripción del puesto de trabajo en función de los mismos.
Lo que se pretende es diferenciar el empleado de rendimiento medio del
empleado de rendimiento excelente, lo que marca la diferencia entre simple
capacitación y competencia. Desde esta perspectiva, las competencias
profesionales o laborales conforman un modo de funcionamiento integrado
de la persona, en el que se articulan recursos tales como: conocimientos,
habilidades, actitudes, aptitudes, valores, así como los procesos
motivacionales, emocionales, afectivos y volitivos, en el desempeño de la
profesión/ocupación, y que provee a la persona, de la posibilidad de tomar
decisiones inteligentes en situaciones que son suficientemente nuevas
(Guach, 2000; Crawford, 2005; Horton, 2000a). Competencias que se
adquieren con la participación de la persona en su propio aprendizaje
durante toda su vida, a partir del potencial que le ofrece la experiencia y su
desarrollo previo, con la mediatización de otras personas, en la medida en
que adquiere plena comprensión de lo que está haciendo en el ejercicio de la
reflexión conjunta para la solución de problemas concretos de su entorno
con cierto nivel de complejidad e incertidumbre tecnológica.
En suma, la competencia constituye una combinación de conocimientos
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 13
(saber), aptitudes y experiencia (saber hacer o know-how), y
comportamientos y actitudes (saber estar, saber ser o know-why), que se
ejercen y manifiestan en un contexto preciso, esto es, en la práctica del
trabajo (Zarifian, 1999). La competencia “no se aprecia en sí misma si no a
través de la acción y el desempeño y, por tanto, su existencia y visibilidad es
inseparable de las condiciones en las que es explicitada, medida, y
especialmente valorizada. Dado que la competencia es reconocida y validada
en su puesta en práctica, en la situación profesional en la que se manifiesta,
su naturaleza es eminentemente relacional” (Massó, 2005:153), lo que ha
provocado abordar, señala Perrenoud (2004), la profesión docente de una
manera más concreta, en el sentido de relacionar cada competencia con un
grupo delimitado de tareas y de problemas, ya que el propio concepto de
competencia representa una capacidad de movilizar varios recursos
cognitivos para hacer frente a un tipo de situaciones. Como indica
Perrenoud, las competencias profesionales se crean, en formación, pero
también a merced de la navegación cotidiana del practicante, de una
situación de trabajo a otra.
Corporativismo para la Competitividad.
El modelo de gestión por competencias se configura con el final del ciclo
fordista, y con ello surge un nuevo modelo de Estado y un nuevo modelo de
empresa. Nuevo modelo de Estado, definido de competición por Cerny
(1997, 2000), de mercado por Bobbit (2002), de penal por Wacquant (2005,
2005a), social activo por Boyer (2006) y de postnacional schumpeteriano de
workfare por Jessop (2002). El Estado de competición, el Estado de
mercado, el Estado Social Activo, el Estado Penal y el Estado postnacional
surgen de la crisis y/o declive del modelo corporativo de clase y/o Estado del
Bienestar, que se produjo con la erosión de la constelación hegemónica
basada en Keynes y en el fordismo. Erosión provocada por su incapacidad
para aislar las economías nacionales de la economía globalizada, y de la
combinación de estancamiento e inflación. Como indica Castells (2003:24),
“sometido a las presiones de cambio tecnológico, económico y cultural, el
Estado no desaparece: se transforma”.
A partir de esta erosión, en la cual el viejo orden westfaliano del Estadonación no acaba de morir y el nuevo orden postwestfaliano transnacional no
14 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
acaba de nacer (Noya, 2011), surgen los Estados de Cerny, Bobbit, Boyer,
Wacquant y Jessop, y que es una de las más importantes consecuencias de la
globalización turbocapitalista (Luttwak, 2000), al marcar un cambio
histórico a las estrategias corporativas del triángulo Estado-trabajo-capital;
cambio que ha conducido a nuevas formas de regulación institucional del
trabajo. Según Jessop (2002), el nuevo modelo de Estado, definido también
como Estado Neoliberal, ya que el modelo ortodoxo de Estado de
competición, de Estado de mercado, de Estado Social Activo, de Estado
Penal y de Estado postnacional, es el Estado westfaliano neoliberal británico
y estadounidense de las últimas décadas del siglo XX. Dicho Estado surge
de una reorganización estructural y una reorganización estratégica que puede
verse en tres tendencias o cambios: desnacionalización, desestatización e
internacionalización.
Estos cambios son debidos a que el corporativismo de clase no ha podido
hacer frente a los problemas que amenazaban su sistema de acumulación;
esto hizo que se buscara otro tipo de Estado, acorde con el régimen de
acumulación posfordista, y que pudiera ser capaz de resolver las
contradicciones creadas. Con ello se puso fin al compromiso keynesiano o
corporativismo de clase. Esto es, el intercambio entre clases subalternas y
clases privilegiadas, que formó la base de lo que se ha denominado la
institucionalización de la lucha de clase y/o época dorada del capitalismo,
basada en la combinación entre contrato social, keynesianismo y crecimiento
económico, y que consideraba éticamente indeseable, políticamente
peligroso y económicamente disfuncional la existencia de grandes
desigualdades sociales. En contra, se opta por la moralización de la ayuda
social y la erosión de la ciudadanía social. Opción que se explica en tanto
que, para Alaluf (2009), el centro de atención del nuevo modelo de Estado es
el (buen funcionamiento del) mercado (léase penurias de la fuerza de
trabajo), no (las condiciones de trabajo del) el trabajador. La necesidad de
adaptarse a las nuevas condiciones mercantiles (ley de la globalización)
aparece así como una exigencia incuestionable y para ello se reclama cada
vez más que se movilice asimismo su subjetividad en beneficio del buen
funcionamiento de la economía. Según Boyer (2006:141), el Estado Social
Activo ha de tener un papel proactivo vinculado al mercado, pero la
actividad laboral es la de los mismos individuos quienes deben activarse
para adquirir los requerimientos sociales y las competencias que los tornan
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 15
empleables para una empresa. Efectivamente, para el Estado Social Activo,
“todo se asienta sobre la interpretación de los individuos de las señales del
mercado. La finalidad de los organismos de cobertura social es favorecer ese
aprendizaje incluso en ciertas variantes como la de obligarlos a retornar a la
actividad”.
La relevancia del papel del Estado postnacional de Jessop (2002) está en
que los Estados keynesianos, en América del Norte, la Unión Europea y Asia
Oriental, han sufrido un proceso de vaciado o hollowing-out, operado por un
triple desplazamiento de sus funciones hacia arriba (a organismos panregionales, pluri-estatales o internacionales), hacia abajo (a niveles
regionales y locales dentro del Estado) y hacia los lados (a redes emergentes
que desbordan los límites de sus respectivos Estados y unen regiones y
localidades contiguas separadas por fronteras, o distantes entre sí). Este
vaciado de los Estados hacia arriba, hacia abajo y hacia fuera es
especialmente perceptible en la Unión Europea. Su política de oferta se ha
centrado en promocionar competidores mundiales en sectores intensivos en
Investigación más Desarrollo, no sólo mediante eurofirmas, sino también
estableciendo alianzas a varios niveles. Además, las regiones europeas se
han orientado a la regeneración económica y la productividad, y lo que les
interesa de la Unión Europea es cómo puede ayudarles a ser más
competitivos en la nueva economía global. En todo caso, el Estado
postnacional ha traído consigo un nuevo discurso cuyos textos, influidos (en
Francia) por el Mayo del 68, por los nuevos movimientos sociales y por las
contraculturas alternativas -a los que absorbe y domestica- llevan la crítica,
según
Boltanski
y
Chiapello
(2002),
del
capitalismo
administrativo/burocrático/del Bienestar de los años sesenta a sus últimas
consecuencias. Este discurso o nuevo espíritu del capitalismo, según Steger
y Roy (2011), ha sido codificado por las élites del poder mundial, entre las
que se encuentran directivos y ejecutivos de grandes multinacionales, grupos
de presión empresarial, periodistas de prestigio, especialistas en relaciones
públicas, intelectuales que escriben para públicos amplios, gente del
espectáculo, artistas, funcionarios estatales y políticos. El resultado ha sido
un realineamiento de fuerzas en la disputa por la producción a favor del
capital y en detrimento del trabajo.
Por otra parte, Fernández Steinko (2004) plantea que en el siglo XX se
han dado tres grandes ciclos de protesta que han durado entre siete y doce
16 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
años (1917-1924, 1944-1950 y 1968-1980). En el último ciclo, la
intensificación del antagonismo entre trabajo y capital fue provocada por el
apoyo de ideologías obreristas (Negri, 2004, 2006) que transmitieron a los
trabajadores una visión negativa de su trabajo en el que eran desposeídos del
producto de su trabajo en provecho de la empresa; ideologización que se
tradujo en costes dentro de la empresa.
Las ideologías obreristas fueron reemplazadas, en las décadas de 1980 y
1990, por otras de corte liberal que, aparte de divulgar la imagen del
individuo como un ente que se encuentra al margen de los demás individuos
y que es el responsable último de su sino, divulgaron un modelo de empresa
neoliberal, cuyo objetivo es desembarazarse de cualquier obstáculo que
pudiera perjudicar la rentabilidad empresarial. Pero para ello se desplazó la
incertidumbre organizacional y del mercado a otros ámbitos –los
trabajadores, las pequeñas empresas, el Estado-, y se llevó al extremo un
problema de la organización capitalista del trabajo: la tendencia a disociar
eficacia económica y justicia social. Este modelo tiene como base de
funcionamiento una nueva división del trabajo en las empresas, que se
concreta en incrementar la flexibilidad técnico-productiva y en financiarizar
las empresas, llevando la globalización financiera, señala Coutrot (1998), al
corazón de las empresas.
En este contexto, la lógica financiera impone alcanzar una determinada
cuota de rentabilidad como condición para seguir atrayendo capital a la
empresa. En este sentido, las auditorías financieras y las credenciales de
rentabilidad imponen una auténtica dictadura del beneficio a las empresas.
La eficacia para conseguir beneficios es la continua amenaza para las
direcciones de las empresas, sino se alcanzan, la reestructuración está
servida. De este modo, Coutrot concluye que los mercados financieros
ofrecen a todos los actores -accionistas, directivos y también trabajadoresuna medida inmediatamente accesible de la norma de eficacia económica.
Hace falta permanentemente estar en la carrera o resignarse a desaparecer.
Es el mercado financiero, mediante el conducto de las direcciones
financieras de los grupos, quien fija la norma de los objetivos que hay que
conseguir a cualquier precio. Y bajo esta presión, las empresas y sus
asociaciones, y las instituciones internacionales, europeas y nacionales,
abogan por una globalización neoliberal.
Hay que añadir, que bajo esta presión, la empresa neoliberal, se ha
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 17
convertido en paradigma de organización moderna y como un ejemplo a
imitar, configurándose, así, una nueva cultura de empresa, que ensalza la
visión del sujeto como “emprendedor de sí mismo” (Du Gay, 2003), y que el
management utiliza para legitimar las reestructuraciones y reorganizaciones
del proceso de producción y que, básicamente, apuestan por la reducción y
simplificación de las categorías de trabajadores y por la disminución drástica
o supresión de todos aquellos que no añadan valor a la producción o al
servicio que se presta. Esta cultura de empresa promueve “la competitividad,
empodera a los ciudadanos, prioriza los clientes, descentraliza la autoridad y
privilegia a los mercados, lo que supuestamente mejora la productividad, la
calidad y la innovación” (Ainsworth y Hardy, 2008:239). Una cultura de
empresa que mediante la gestión por competencias se ajusta a la forma
instituida en el orden neoliberal. En este orden se ha configurado la
metodología de enseñanza y aprendizaje para el desarrollo de competencias.
En esta metodología el centro de atención de la planificación didáctica son
las competencias a adquirir por el alumnado rompiendo, así, el concepto
tradicional lineal del profesorado (contenidos → métodos de enseñanza →
sistema de evaluación). El concepto innovador de este modelo, indica De
Miguel (2006:18), “es similar al denominado ‘alineamiento constructivo’,
según el cual las modalidades, los métodos de enseñanza y los sistemas de
evaluación se definen paralela e integradamente en relación con las
competencias u objetivos a alcanzar”
Conclusión
En los apartados que anteceden, hemos abordado la noción de competencia
como categoría fundamental en el nuevo modelo de gestión, y que nace de
un cambio profundo en las organizaciones del trabajo y en las relaciones
laborales en el seno de las empresas. Si la cualificación reenviaba a una
escala que definía los grados de cualificación relativa a criterios sociales,
pero en ningún caso reenviaba a los atributos de los puestos de trabajo, las
competencias remiten a la combinación de conocimientos, experiencias,
actitudes y comportamientos aplicables y constatables a partir del puesto y la
situación concreta de trabajo. Es decir, la competencia se reduce, de hecho, a
que se sea o no competente, es decir, a ser capaz de responder a las
necesidades del puesto de trabajo. Ser competente significa para el
18 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
trabajador encontrar su orientación, acceder al empleo, asumir
responsabilidades y hacerse un lugar, o lo que es lo mismo, ser capaz de
responder a las necesidades de la empresa. Así, mientras que la lógica de la
cualificación reenviaba al empleo de trabajadores que debían efectuar unas
tareas determinadas, la lógica de la competencia consiste en la vinculación
con la empresa de personas consideradas convenientes, competentes. De esta
forma, con el modelo de la competencia, se trata de identificar y evaluar el
nivel competencial de la fuerza de trabajo a través de un amplio abanico de
situaciones, que requieren conductas idóneas, y efectivas que apoyen el
rendimiento general de toda la empresa, proporcionando a la dirección los
motivos por los que un profesional tiene un desempeño superior, y la forma
de alcanzar sus objetivos. Así, las competencias pueden consistir en
cualquier característica individual que se pueda medir de un modo fiable, y
que se pueda demostrar que diferencia de una manera significativa entre los
trabajadores que mantienen un desempeño excelente de los adecuados o
entre los trabajadores eficaces e ineficaces. En consecuencia, la competencia
se aprecia individualmente, lo que conlleva a una personalización de los
medios de evaluación de las mismas, que claramente sitúa la gestión por
competencias en la tendencia a la individualización de las relaciones
laborales.
Pichault y Nizet (2000) engloban la gestión por competencias dentro de
lo que denominan como “modelo individualizante”, cuyo elemento pivote en
materia de gestión es la noción de competencia, que viene a aludir a lo que
es concebido como el principal recurso de la empresa: su personal. En
términos de diseño de este modelo de gestión, ello ha implicado especificar,
en primer lugar, las misiones asociadas a cada puesto de trabajo con el fin,
en un segundo momento, de determinar aquellas competencias asociadas a
un desempeño superior. Posteriormente, en función de la identificación de
las competencias clave seleccionadas –asociadas a la garantía de
consecución de los objetivos de la empresa– se planifican las distintas
prácticas de gestión de los recursos humanos: selección y contratación,
planes de carrera, remuneración, formación, etc. (Crespo, 2009; Figari y
Palermo, 2010). Como indica Rolle (2003), a diferencia de la noción de
cualificación, que reposa en la negociación colectiva entre los diversos
actores sociales, la competencia remite al carácter fuertemente personalizado
de los criterios de reconocimiento, que deben permitir recompensar a cada
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 19
uno según la intensidad de su compromiso subjetivo y sus capacidades
cognitivas para comprender, anticipar y resolver los diversos problemas en
el trabajo. Por ello, el “modelo de la competencia”, como indica Klein
(1996), puede afectar a los trabajadores de un modo profundo no sólo en la
esfera de lo profesional sino también en la esfera de lo personal, como, por
ejemplo, la transferencia de la responsabilidad del aprendizaje al trabajador,
y como la transferencia de la responsabilidad del aprendizaje al alumno.
Ello, lejos de circunscribirse a los años de la educación escolar y reglada, se
extiende por el conjunto de su vida activa, acumulando una especie de
“capital fijo humano” constituido de competencias que las empresas
rentabilizan sin inversión ni gasto alguno.
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RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 25
Ignasi Brunet is Professor of Sociology at the Department of
Business Management at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain).
Rafael Böcker Zavaro is Professor of Sociology at the Department of
Business Management at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain).
Contact Address: Direct correspondence to Ignasi Brunet at Faculty
of Business and Economics, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Avinguda
Universitat, 1 - 43204 Reus, Spain. E-mail: [email protected]
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Matthew Effect in Online
Education
Amany Saleh1, Heath Sanders2
1) Arkansas State University, United States
2) East Arkansas Community College, United States
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Saleh, A., Sanders, H. (2014). The Wolf in Sheep’s
Clothing: The Matthew Effect in Online Education. International Journal of
Sociology of Education, 3(1), 26-50. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.02
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.02
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and to Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 26-50
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:
The Matthew Effect in Online
Education
Amany Saleh
Arkansas State University
Heath Sanders
East Arkansas Community College
(Received: 9 September 2013; Accepted: 21 January 2014; Published: 25
February 2014)
Abstract
In our globally and technologically connected world, many higher education
institutes raced to offer online, college degrees to populations who otherwise would
not have access to higher education. They promised high quality, rigorous, flexible,
accessible and affordable programs. Colleges and universities pledged to support
these students to ensure their success within an online environment. However,
Canchola (2011) argued that online students rarely receive the support they were
promised. Sandeen and Barr (2006) argued many online programs increase students’
dissatisfaction with higher education and increase their drop-out rate. As a result,
such programs rather than help students achieve their goals; they set them back
academically and financially. This serves only to intensify The Matthew Effect for
students. The authors explain how some online education, especially; large-scale,
fast-paced programs contribute to this effect. The authors offer recommendations for
alleviating The Matthew Effect.
Keywords: Matthew Effect, online education, higher education
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.02
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 26-50
El Lobo con Piel de Cordero. El
Efecto Matthew en la
Educación Online
Amany Saleh
Arkansas State University
Heath Sanders
East Arkansas Community
College
(Received: 9 September 2013; Accepted: 21 January 2014; Published: 25
February 2014)
Resumen
En nuestro mundo globalmente y tecnológicamente conectado, muchas
universidades se apresuraron a ofrecer educación a distancia y títulos universitarios
a personas que de otra manera no tendrían acceso a la educación superior. Esta
instituciones prometieron programas de alta calidad, rigurosos, flexibles, fácil
acceso y con un precio cómodo. También se comprometieron con estos estudiantes
en asegurar su éxito usando este tipo de educación. Sin embargo, Canchola (2011)
argumentó que los estudiantes rara vez recibieron el apoyo que se les prometió.
Sandeen y Barr (2006) argumentaron que muchos programas a distancia aumentan
la insatisfacción de los estudiantes con la educación superior y aumentan su tasa de
abandono escolar. Como resultado, este tipo de programas en lugar de ayudar a los
estudiantes para alcanzar sus metas, los atrasan académica y financieramente. Esto
sólo sirve para intensificar el efecto Mateo para los estudiantes. Los autores ofrecen
recomendaciones para aliviar el efecto Mateo y directrices de acciones para
mantener alta calidad en la educación a distancia .
Palabras clave: Efecto Matthew, educación online, educación superior
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.02
28 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
W
ith the advent of the internet, online education has become an
important and ever increasing tool for the institution of higher
education. Since the introduction of the World Wide Web,
online education has become increasingly common because of the rapid
expansion of distance-learning technologies (Zhang, 1998). There has been
substantial growth within online course enrollments compared to the overall
higher education student population over the last ten years; thousands of
students are earning degrees without ever stepping foot on a traditional
campus (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Online education is intended to support
individuals, who could not otherwise go to college and earn a college degree.
Cunningham (2010, p. 90) contends that online education offers “flexibility
for the learner, access to increased educational resources, valuable global
interchange, and equal opportunities for students and teachers regardless of
location.” Individual learners’ needs can be met by online courses, in ways
that have never been realized before.
Despite the gains in the number of students, the satisfaction rates of the
courses are not keeping pace. The authors argue that online education loses
portions of those for whom distance learning is designed because they fail to
modify their courses to fit their students’ unique needs (Sandeen & Barr,
2006). According to Dillon and Cintron (1997), many individuals can be
left out by distance education and “become increasingly disenfranchised
from the information-based society.” As online education expands, higher
education institutions must not focus on providing more online courses; but
be concerned with improving the quality of the courses being offered.
Online education is defined in this article as the courses offered solely
through the Internet, where the instructor posts his/her notes, lectures on the
course website, and students can access the materials and upload their
assignments to the course website. Some courses employ online discussions
among students as well. Some higher education institutions, public and
private, provide large-scale (MOOCs), and in some cases fast-paced courses
or programs. The acronym “MOOCs” stands for Massive Open Online
Courses. The authors of this paper have experience with both formats at the
undergraduate and graduate levels teaching courses of sociology and
education. They share their concerns about the large-scale courses or
programs.
If the intent of online education is to provide education for all, then
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 29
everyone should have an equal opportunity for success with distance
learning technologies. However, educators are inadvertently widening the
gap between the educational haves and have not’s by providing online
education in a format that might not be conducive to the success of some
students (Grill, 1999; EduPunk, 2010). The authors suggest that problems
associated with online education, especially large scale courses as they
experienced them, serve only to magnify The Matthew Effect, and widen the
gap between the privileged and disadvantaged.
The Matthew Effect
The Matthew Effect derives its name from the passage in the New
Testament, "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have
abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which
he hath” (Matthew 25:29). Robert K. Merton found “The Matthew Effect” to
be expressed in the principle of cumulative advantage where the “rich get
richer at a rate that makes the poor become relatively poorer” (Merton, 1968,
p. 62).The advantage a person or group of people receives, grows over time,
and accumulates, which serves to create further inequities for the
disadvantaged group who fall further behind (DiPrete & Eirich, 2005).
The Matthew Effect can be used to describe phenomenon across different
situations, contexts, and institutions. Keith Stanovich (1986) borrowed the
term The Matthew Effect from the field of sociology to describe the
reciprocal relationship between children’s reading ability and their future
learning skills. Stanovich postulated that the more reading difficulty children
have, the more likely they will suffer learning failures later in life. The more
children endure difficulties in reading, the less motivated they become to
learn and the less likely to succeed as adults. The authors of this article
contend the concept of The Mathew Effect applies to some online programs
as well.
The Matthew Effect in Online Education
Education is believed to be an economic asset, which should close the gap
between the privileged and the disadvantaged. Research has consistently
demonstrated that investment in human capital-defined as the knowledge
30 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
and skills one posses or acquire which makes him/her productive in a society
(Olaniyan, & Okemakinde, 2008) - is associated with health, longevity,
happiness, and economic prosperity (Schultz, 1961; Walberg & Tsai, 1983).
However, these benefits are mediated by other factors such as the ability to
persevere, invest in learning, and intellectually profit from experience
(Walberg & Tsai, 1983). Such variables are usually associated with students
who have high cultural capital. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s work (2002),
cultural capital is defined as social background, knowledge, and skills that
are transmitted from one generation to another. Unfortunately, such cultural
capital is closely associated with middle and upper social classes.
High socioeconomic parents instill within their children the attitudes,
knowledge, and skills to be academically successful (Xu & HampolenThompson, 2012). These students possess greater linguistic and cultural
capital increasing their likelihood of success within higher education,
especially online courses. “Early advantages in cultural capital among
students from high-status families accumulate over time” (Xu & HampolenThompson, 2012, p. 118) further perpetuating the divide felt between the
educational haves and have not’s.
With the advent of technology, many of us assume that all people have
easy access to the Internet. It is true that a majority of people living in
OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development)
countries, for example, have access to the Internet, mobile phones, and
videogames. But of those individuals many are not proficient at using
technology for educational purposes (OECD, 2005). Mominóand, Sigalés,
and Meneses (2008) contended that socioeconomic factors impact the use of
such technology. They argued that access to technology does nothing to
mitigate The Matthew Effect in education. They found that the use of online
resources relies heavily on the parents’ education level, experience, and use
of the Internet. All factors are closely tied to the socio-economic levels of
the parents (Pasquier, 2008).
It can be reasonably expected that those who are already in
possession of good cultural capital will find in their technologyrelated practices a way to reinforce it, while those who either do
not have access to technology or lack sound cultural capital will
lag behind. In the long run, the existing differences between those
who have and those who don’t have the right cultural capital to
take advantage of the potential of technologies will increase.
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 31
Hence the Mathew effect: those who benefit from a better socioeconomic environment find it easier to benefit from technologies,
thanks to the cultural capital transferred to them, and they thus
increase their advantage and privileged situation in comparison to
those who lack such an accompanying capital. (New Millennium
Learners, 2008, p.6)
The authors of this article borrowed the concept of The Matthew Effect
to apply to online education and its role in exacerbating the social divide.
They contend that online education, especially large scale classes, rather
than close the gap between the social classes as it is intended, in effect, it
increases the gap. The Matthew Effect manifests itself within online
education in a variety of ways. The authors sum these manifestations as
follows: students’ reading skills; students’ personality traits and study skills;
students’ technological skills; nature of students; and the quality of online
courses.
The first manifestation of The Matthew Effect occurs as a student begins
an online course. Online education forces students to read the material and
produce meaning on their own, rather than having direct support of a
professor who explains the material and classmates who can be engaged in
discussions to help clarify the content. Students with high reading
comprehension skills have a much greater opportunity to be successful
(Stanovich, 1986). Students who have difficulty with reading are much less
likely to be successful. The reciprocal relationship between reading ability
and cognitive processes cannot be ignored. Students who struggle with
reading at the onset of enrollment in an online course are much more likely
to struggle with cognitive processing, information retrieval, and lack the
ability to understand let alone learn concepts. Even though, some online
programs may offer technical support and some may offer support for
assignment clarification, rarely do such programs offer support for cognitive
issues that some students may have.
Hu and Atsusi (2004) found that students who have reading difficulties
drop out of traditional schools and enroll in online classes while they stated
that online educators assume that online learners can read. They argued that
it is easier for traditional class teachers to recognize students’ reading
difficulties than in the online class. They offered reading assessment
techniques to diagnose students’ reading skills at the beginning of online
32 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
classes to provide appropriate support for students.
In Jefferson and Arnold’s (2009) study, they compared the perceptions
of accounting graduate students of a course taught online and face- to- face
formats. The students reported more misunderstandings in the online class.
However, they liked the flexibility of the schedule and not having to leave
the house. They felt they lacked the confidence to ask questions in the online
class, but they liked that they can email the instructor 24/7. They reported
they had to teach themselves concepts they did not have to do in the
traditional course. They also found the online course to be time consuming
and that they had difficulty forming relationships with their peers.
Williams, Birch, and Hancock (2012) compared the performance of three
groups of first year microeconomics course students. The first group
attended the instructors’ lectures regularly in the traditional class, but had no
access to the recorded lectures. The second group attended some lectures in
the traditional class and had access to the recorded lectures online. The third
group only had access to the recoded lectures online. The authors kept
record of the number the students in the last two groups that accessed the
lectures. The authors tested all groups on the content of the lectures. They
reported no differences between the first two groups, but the third group
scored significantly lower than the first two groups. However, Mooneyhan
(2012) compared tests results of three groups of undergraduate students
taking a “concepts of fitness” course in the traditional face-to-face, blended,
and online formats. He reported no significant differences in test results
among the three groups.
As suggested by Stanovich (1986), students fall into a downward spiral
of achievement as they lack initial success within online education. What
starts as a deficiency in reading, progressively affects the student throughout
the entire course (Hempenstall, 1996). Cumulative advantage (i.e. The
Matthew Effect) is “capable of magnifying small differences over time, and
makes it difficult for an individual or group that is ‘behind’ at a point in time
in educational development to catch up” (DiPrete & Eirich, 2005, p. 2). This
is especially evident in fast paced, large online courses, where by the time
the instructor recognizes a student’s struggle, it might be too late to salvage
the student’s grades. Online education is intended to help those individuals
who cannot engage in a traditional setting. Those students who cannot
engage in the traditional environment must then rely more heavily on their
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 33
own academic skills, specifically reading, to effectively learn the material. If
they are disadvantaged with lower reading skills, then they lack the ability to
be successful in an environment which forces students to retain meaning
from material without the immediate aid of a classroom instructor; therefore
The Matthew Effect manifests itself.
The second manifestation of The Matthew Effect can be linked to
students’ personality and study skills. Online education requires disciplined,
self-directed learners, who have access to the Internet and online resources
(Cunningham, 2010); necessitating that learners have organizational skills to
succeed in a non-traditional environment. Students who come from middle
classes tend to have access to resources and have the necessary skills to be
successful in online educational classes (Free Education Matthew Effect,
2011). The majority of chief academic officers (CAO) of 2,831 higher
education institutions in the United States (68.9%) surveyed by Allen and
Seaman (2014) indicated students need more discipline to succeed in an
online course than in a face-to-face course. They also agreed that online
classes require self-pacing students.
Additionally, many students lack the motivation to learn in traditional
classrooms, much less in online courses that require self direction and self
management of learning (McCloughlin, & Marshall, 2000). Online courses
encourage students to learn a new way of learning which requires selfdirection and motivation. This contention was supported later by Canchola’s
(2011) remarks on the quality of online students whose dissertations she
helped edit for a large online university. She argued that online students
tended to be non-traditional ones who have full responsibility as workers,
moms, etc., who usually suffered through traditional schools. These students
need more mentoring and support which unfortunately, they do not receive
in the online format. Allen and Seaman (2014) reported that 41% of CAO
agreed that retention of students is a bigger problem for online courses than
for face-to face courses. Allen and Seaman (2014) found that CAOs of
public higher education institutions were more likely to report retention as a
problem in online education (42%) than CAOs of private institutions (28%).
They reasoned that this could be because public institutions enroll higher
percentage of older, low socioeconomic students with family, work, and
other obligations which make them drop out of online courses than those
enrolled in online courses in private institutions which have a lesser
34 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
percentage of these populations.
David Eubanks, Dean of Academic Support Services at Southern
Illinois University, blogged about online education and the
Matthew Effect, “ . . . [W]hat we might expect is that self-starters,
confident students, and those with enough knowledge and skill to
begin self-education, will flourish like Matthew Peterson. On the
other hand, a student who struggles in school and as a result
doesn't like it much, seems unlikely to be in a position to benefit
from the OCW [Open Course Ware] or other free resources. This
is a recipe for an increasing divergence between intellectual haves
and have-nots” (EduPunk, 2010).
Third, The Matthew Effect is manifested due to differences in the
abilities of students when considering digital technologies. Jones and Slate
(2009) stressed that many students who seek non-traditional educational
venues tend to have lower study and technology skills than traditional
students. Essentially, there is a divide between technological haves and have
nots, hence The Matthew Effect is exacerbated.
Palfrey and Gasser (2010) distinguished between two types of
individuals: “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” Young, “digital
natives” have the tools and resources to be successful with online education.
“Digital Natives” are children who have been born into and raised in the
digital world; they are born after 1980, “when social digital technologies
came online. They all have access to networked digital technologies. And
they all have skills to use those technologies” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010, p. 1).
Today’s students have an adeptness and advantage with online materials due
to an increased amount of digital capital, a form or manifestation of cultural
capital (Morgan, 2010). Non-traditional students are primarily defined as
“digital immigrants”; those individuals who were not born within the digital
world; “they learned how to e-mail and use social networks late in life”
(Palfrey & Gasser, 2010, p.2). While some of these individuals may be
successful with technologies, most continue to rely on older forms of
communication and learning and may not have ready access to the
technologies needed to be successful in the online environment or feel
comfortable with such medium.
The increasingly “wired” society benefits those with rich digital capital,
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 35
while the digital immigrants do not possess vast stores of digital capital.
Digital natives have grown up in an online environment which has affected
how students communicate, think, and even live (Morgan, 2010). The
Matthew Effect creates a divide between the two types of students by
providing advantages to one group of students by unjustifiably
disadvantaging another group. The intention of online education is to serve
those students who cannot engage within a traditional college environment.
However, students who start off with a limited ability to learn within an
online environment are less likely to be successful; whereas those with high
amounts of digital capital are much more likely to succeed.
Online education requires students not only to participate in a digital
environment but to also possess the ability to learn from digital materials.
“The students [digital natives] demonstrated a high level of understanding of
form, audience, and convention in composition because they were able to
use a medium in which they had a high degree of fluency and understanding
of context, form, content, and technique” (Morgan, 2010, p. 222). In other
words, these students were able to produce significant meaning by using
literacies which other types of students (digital immigrants) do not possess.
Students learn this digital capital from mainly outside sources, but the effects
are cumulative. The greatest divide is between social classes when
considering access and efficiency with digital technologies. High-income
households are more likely to have access to computers and online services
while lower-income households are less likely to have the same access. The
middle and upper classes are the most likely to possess and use digital
technologies. Hence, they are much more likely to possess digital capital
and navigate through a digital environment successfully further perpetuating
the problems associated with The Matthew Effect. Currently, many public
schools in the United States are implementing the notebook initiative where
all students, starting in the elementary schools, are provided with computer
notebooks loaded with their curricula, textbooks, and all classes’
assignments. All schools, involved in the initiative, are connected to high
speed Internet. Students are expected to conduct all their schoolwork using
the notebooks and the Internet. They are also expected to take their
standardized exams online starting school year 2013-2014 for some pilot
schools. This trend should serve to eliminate such gap in digital knowledge
and should provide us with new digital-savvy students, regardless of their
36 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
socioeconomic backgrounds in the near future.
Aborisade (2013) investigated the reactions and perceptions of 'digital
immigrant' students to the adoption of blended learning and traditional faceto- face instructional delivery method on EAP courses in a Nigerian
university of technology. He found “. . . students' use of the online
components of the courses are high and perceptions of the various values
such as relevance, reflective thinking, interactivity, tutor support,
interpretation, learning experience and benefit are very positive” (p.68). He
reported, however, additional work is needed with difficult context areas and
with peer-to-peer interaction. He recommended the use of blended courses in
the future.
The fourth manifestation of The Matthew Effect can be seen in the type
of students enrolled in college. Those academically gifted and students of
affluence are more likely to go to colleges which offer the greatest
advantages after graduation. A positional benefit (i.e. social class) provides
an advantage for acceptance into a quality college, whereas the lower classes
are more likely to enroll in community colleges, state colleges, and online
universities. The disadvantaged students receive an education that lowers
the likelihood of acceptance into high quality graduate or professional
schools further exacerbating the poor’s position (DiPrete & Eirich, 2005).
The disparity in the type of education the different social classes receive
serves to increase The Matthew Effect.
Until very recently in order to get a college education you needed
to go to college. And, in order to network you needed to go to
college. For students who could afford it this meant going to a top
of the line university. Of course, the ability to fund these top of
the line education already created a gap between students who
could pay for a premium education and those who had to settle for
what they could afford. (Free Education Matthew Effect, 2011,
Para. 2)
Students who enroll within more prestigious universities gain a
positional advantage once college is completed. The students who enroll in
top universities have the advantages of social class and possess the skills to
be successful after college. Online education was created to help dissolve
the educational and achievement gap between classes; however, students
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 37
enrolling within online programs tend to go to community and state colleges
rather than prestigious universities (Allen & Seaman, 2014). While some
prestigious schools have developed entire online programs, only the rich can
afford those programs. The employment rate of Ivy League graduates is
much greater than that of other colleges. The average salary of Ivy League
graduates is 32% higher than that of non Ivy League graduates (Koba, 2011).
This creates a cumulative advantage for the Harvard graduate and a
cumulative disadvantage for the community college graduate. Additionally,
many employers still have suspicious views of online education, which may
result in their reluctance to hire online institutes graduates. In Allen and
Seaman’s (2014) report, two thirds of CAOs of higher education institutions
in the United States indicated that the quality of online courses remain to be
a concern. About 64% of them indicated that they are concerned about the
credentials of MOOCs graduates. In the same study, 53% of CAOs were
undecided about MOOCs, while 33% indicated that they have no plans of
implementing MOOCs in their schools. Interestingly, Allen and Seaman
(2014) pointed out that the majority of schools that stated they would not
offer MOOCs were small or private institutes. This further demonstrates the
disadvantages associated with large-scale online education and the
manifestation of The Matthew Effect.
The fifth manifestation of The Matthew Effect is in the quality of the
online courses. In order to attract a large number of students, many institutes
market these online degrees as short, condensed courses which will allow
them to attain their degrees in record time. Such practice had, in fact,
stripped these courses of its “meat” as Dillon contended (2007). Many
instructors had to reduce the content and difficulty/challenge level of the
course to accommodate such schedule (Grady, 2013; Saleh, 2011). Some
argued that even if the courses’ content were comparable to regular courses,
the speed at which these courses were offered eliminated the possibility to
cover any topic in depth (McGuire & Muffo, 2003, Saleh, 2011).
Grady (2013) compared students evaluations of her graduate level
education course offered in traditional face-to-face, semester- long and in
large-scale, five-weeks online (MOOC) formats. She found that students
consistently rated the large-scale course lower than the traditional course-an
average of two points on a five points scale. The students rated clarity of
objectives, instruction, and assessment procedures lower in the online class
38 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
than the traditional class. They also rated the quality of materials and
resources lower in the online class than in the traditional one, despite being
the same in both classes. The same is true in their evaluation of the same
instructor; students rated the instructor’s knowledge lower in the online (2.5
out of 5) than in the traditional class (4.5 out of 5). She contributed the
differences to the fast pace of the online course, the lack of physical
interaction between students and the instructor, and the course design.
Students who are disadvantaged academically have difficulty keeping
pace with the high-volume and fast-paced online courses currently being
offered in some universities. Russell and Curtis (2013) found that students’
dissatisfaction with large scale, online classes is due to low quality and
quantity of interaction between instructors and students. Their findings are
supported by Walker and Kelley’s (2007) research. They reported that many
students expressed dissatisfaction with their interaction with the instructor in
the online classroom.
Discussion
Online education offers educators the means to reach their students in ways
they do not have in the traditional class and gives students unprecedented
access to education. However, there are pitfalls to such method of delivery
that we have witnessed in the last decade such as lack of proper training,
support, and resources for online instructors, lack of adequate preparation for
online students, and the use of large-scale, fast-paced courses. All these
factors contributed to teachers and students’ frustration and increased
students’ drop out from the online courses. Overcoming these obstacles can
only aid online educators reach their original aspirations for online
education. These concerns might be reflected in the latest Allen and Seaman
yearly survey of higher education institutes CAOs of online education
(2014). They pointed out a reversal in the trend of the positive views
regarding the potential of online education that marked their survey for the
last decade. They also noted that the online student enrollment growth rate is
the lowest the last ten years. They reasoned that the online course student
enrollment might have reached a plateau.
Some OECD studies showed that many times teachers are very skilled
technology users, but they lack the skills to use such knowledge in their own
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 39
teaching (New Millennium Learners, 2008). They argued that teachers, in
general, do not apply the best, evidence-supported teaching methods and
lack the vision of what technology enhanced teaching should look like. In
higher education, many instructors placed their lecture notes and
presentations online. Some videotaped their lectures and placed them on
YouTube.
They placed their assignments and readings in course
depositories. In many institutes, where they have large online course
enrollment, there is no direct interaction between the teacher and the
students. Such elements, combined with the lack of resources and cultural
capital of many students who enroll in online education, can lessen the
chances of success for many students and increase the gap among the social
classes. Muchinsky (2006) referred to the format most online education
institutions use such as Blackboard/Epic, etc as the “information Dump.” In
these shells “Information dumps,” the experts develop the subject material
and associated activities and deliver them to the technology expert to be
placed in such shells. Such views can have adverse effects on the institution
of higher education and long-term ramifications for faculty. However, we
must note that not all online courses inferior to traditional classes; merely
that some online programs and courses had failed to live up to their
potential.
Throwing information dumps online that, at best, merely
reproduce the low levels of learning already of public concern is
no one’s best interest. In fact, the rush to online instruction may
turn out to be the higher education equivalent of the charge of the
Light Brigade—charging right into the big guns of our biggest
critics. If, at best, what we accomplish through electronic
instruction is simply more of what we are already doing, can a
higher education equivalent of No Child Left Behind, and the
resulting loss of institutional control, be far away (Jones and
Slates, 2009, p.6)
Recommendations
The Internet provides all of the major media in one concise package; radio,
newspaper, and television are rolled into one with access for virtually
everyone. Online education courses offer the ability for teachers to reach all
40 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
learning styles and truly educate the diverse groups of students currently
populating the education system. Proper online education has the ability to
accomplish what no other pedagogy can; the ability to develop an
independent learner who can create meaning, develop ideas, and synthesize
information in a way traditional students cannot. The following section
offers suggestions for improving the online experience for students and
combating The Matthew Effect.
The first recommendation to combat The Matthew Effect is improving
the academic skills of students through offering easily accessible, highquality education programs that raise their course satisfaction and ensure
their success. Browne (2011) argued for offering high-quality, low-cost
academic programs to assist students of lower academic standards in
leveling the playing field. Xu and Hampolen-Thompson (2012) contended
that students from low-SES families benefit the greatest from an investment
in their education. Offering high-quality, online courses will require greater
time from both instructors and students, but for individuals to catch up they
must be willing to invest greater amounts of time and effort than traditional
students (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009; Saleh 2012).
Students who struggle with reading comprehension and lack adequate
academic skills will need greater support from instructors; they may require
extra readings, homework, and much greater support and encouragement
from the instructor to be successful. Teachers preparing high-quality online
courses expend as much as triple the amount of time as compared to the
traditional course prep (Saleh, 2012).
A study that demonstrated a marked improvement in achievement for
online students over traditional courses found that students spent more time
on tasks than traditional students (Means, et al. 2009). Interestingly,
students who take online courses because they have other duties such as
work, home and children find that they can only be successful if they spend
triple the time on tasks as compared to traditional students. To combat The
Matthew Effect educators should inform students of the immense time
required in order to succeed within an online course.
Second, higher education institutions should consider abandoning their
fast-paced programs and offer online programs on a regular schedule. The
fast-paced programs may attract some students, but they may also lead to
higher frustration and attrition within these programs. Distance learning is
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 41
very inviting to students who need flexible scheduling, who are working,
have young children, or need more accessible education (Gedviliene, 2010).
Individuals who have responsibilities which prevent them from going to
traditional courses are the primary candidates for enrolling in online courses.
However, Jones and Slate (2009) argued that we reach these students at the
worst possible time for them to seek education as full time employees,
mothers, care takers, etc. They engage in online class activities after they
fulfill all other duties. Dierkmann (2001) found that working mothers pursue
their online course work after 40 hours of work and 72 hours of household
duties. Such factors contribute to decreasing the chances for these students to
be successful learners in an online environment. Offering regularly-paced
online courses and adequate support for these students may prove to be more
accommodating to their needs and conducive to their success.
Third, faculty members should receive adequate training in offering
successful online courses. Having knowledge of the technology and using
technology for educational purposes does not constitute adequate training in
developing effective online courses. Such training should be continual, not
only to prepare faculty to teach online courses but also to keep faculty
abreast of the ever-changing technology. A great method for accomplishing
this is through professional development. Technology has made great strides
in offering innovative programs to gain greater student participation and
learning, however the technology is only as good as the instructor employing
it. Instructors need to be continually updated on the newest technologies
available. Universities should become proactive when utilizing technology
encouraging instructors to attempt new methods of delivery to increase
student success.
A challenge facing online education and this recommendation is the push
for more professors to teach online courses. Many colleges and universities
are requiring professors and instructors to teach at least one online class.
This complicates matters because many do not have the ability to teach
online effectively (New Millennium Learners, 2008). Also, many professors
teach online courses in addition to their full teaching load for extra money;
such situations make offering quality online courses difficult.
Fourth, universities need to develop pre-tests or assessments, to
determine if students can be successful in an online course. Retention is
extremely important for funding of higher education institutions. By being
42 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
proactive in spotting unsuccessful students, universities can work to provide
the students with the support and courses which will best suit students’
needs and abilities. An online student orientation is a great method to
determine student abilities and orient students into a course. Cho (2012)
found an online student orientation to significantly improve student success,
especially at the onset of an online course.
Higher education institutions can offer pre-online course assessments to
evaluate students’ readiness for online courses. Students can be advised on
their chances of success in online courses, as well as the demands and
expectations of such courses. They can also be counseled on the
compatibility of their personality traits, study skills, and individual needs
and the nature of the online courses. Song, Singleton, Hill, and Koh (2004)
found students who were comfortable with online technologies were much
more likely to be successful with an online course. Students who have
incompatible traits with such medium should be discouraged from taking an
online course or provided with extra support. This places great responsibility
on advisors and instructors to ensure students are prepared for the rigors of
an online course. Giving students options to take courses in the format that
best suit their needs increases their satisfaction with the education they
receive. Bolliger and Erichsen (2013) found that students’ satisfaction with
elements of blended and online courses depended on their personality types.
Fifth, numerous studies have found that active communication between
instructor and students is the most important factor in student success.
Dzakiria (2008) discovered in his study of student perceptions of distance
learning that one of the greatest problems experienced by learners was the
feeling of isolation associated with online classes. Naturally, human beings
need communication and interaction to learn concepts. For students who
need traditional interactions, they become isolated within the online
environment. Cook (2007) suggested that distance education serves to
socially isolate individuals and provide “de-individualized” instruction
furthering the isolation associated with distance education. Feedback within
online courses takes time while students within the classroom receive almost
instant feedback. And e-mail messages sometimes do more to confuse
students than to solve problematic issues (Jefferson, & Arnold, 2009).
Song et al. (2004) suggest that students benefit the most from instructors
and students establishing a community within the online environment to
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 43
combat isolation and communication problems. Setting up a time for
students to meet the professor face-to-face establishes a sense of community
and connection between student and professor. “A kick-off meeting is very
helpful…it puts faces to people” (Song et al., 2004, p. 66). This can combat
the isolation felt by students as well as combat other negative aspects of the
online environment. Instructors can use media such as Skype or Tango, etc.
to arrange such initial meeting if face-to-face meeting cannot be utilized.
Young (2006) investigated students’ views of online instruction and
methods which improved the student experience of online courses. Students
quickly become distressed with communication issues, ambiguous directions
and a lack of direct communication with instructors. To combat this,
instructors need to provide high-quality feedback and communication as
quickly as possible to increase students’ success. By communicating clear
goals and defining the expectations, students are much less likely to fall
victim to frustration and despair and eventually drop out of these programs
(Young, 2006).
Within online courses, there is a changing role structure which occurs
between students and instructors which provides opportunities and
challenges for students to be successful. Instructors become facilitators
while students are required to become self-directed learners (McCloughlin &
Marshall, 2000; Young, Cantrell, & Shaw, 2001). Students reported that
effective teachers are visibly engaged within the learning process with the
students, establish relationships with the students, and provide a structured
yet flexible learning environment (Young, 2006). Online learning should
not be an isolated activity for students to conduct alone, rather the instructor
and students should be partners in learning.
Dillon and Cintron (1997) suggested that educational institutions should
not be emphasizing the “distance in distance education but the connections
made possible by distance technologies.” This is increasingly true
considering the opportunities created through globalization for collaboration
across large demographic and geographic distances. Faculty need to keep
open and continued communication with their online learners to ensure
success. Chang and Smith, (2008) and Endres, Chowdhury, Frye, and
Hurtubis (2009) reported increased students’ satisfaction with courses
correlated positively with their increased interaction with the instructors.
Sixth, higher education institutes should consider, when possible,
44 Saleh & Sanders – Online Higher Education
offering more blended courses of face-to-face and online formats. This
recommendation is supported by Aborisade’s (2013) study. Additionally,
Ekici, Kara, & Ekici (2012) reported that teacher candidates had positive
views of their blended physics class and they recommended its use at a wide
scale.
Lastly, educational institutions can also help with communication issues
by providing continuous and timely technical support for faculty and
students. This should reduce the level of frustration with the courses and in
turn reduce students’ attrition in online programs. Song et al. (2012) report
technical problems as being a significant predictor of student dissatisfaction
with online courses. Technical issues hinder the education process and can
eliminate the ability for students and faculty to remain in contact with each
other.
Conclusion
Online teaching has a place in our current world of instructional pedagogy;
however, it is not the silver bullet that will achieve all of our educational
hopes. Online instructors have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to
increase student learning. The teachable moments are much harder to come
by as the distance and pace of online education keeps instructors from being
able to adjust material, delivery, or assignments during a “class period” as
they used to in traditional classrooms. Of course, like in any profession,
there are traditional courses that lack integrity and standards, but the fast
pace, large numbers of students, lack of traditional contact with students, and
lack of teacher training and mastery of online teaching methodology make
holding to high standards in the online classroom a challenge to most
educators.
Sandeen and Barr (2006) argued that about 70% of students who are
dissatisfied with the school leave higher education institutes because they
perceive the university to be only after their money, but such dissatisfaction
only grows higher when students are enrolled in online programs. In the
“Unfaculty” Blog, Browne predicted in 2011 that with the increase of access
to the Internet and the availability of free educational online resources, many
students will resort to “self educate” and force employers and organizations
to invent mechanism to evaluate their credentials without the need for formal
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 45
college education. Higher education institutes should strive to offer students
top quality programs both in online and traditional classes to survive.
Successful instructors within an online environment must be proactive in
addressing their students’ needs. Once students get behind, they are much
more likely to drop out of online courses. It is up to us, educators, to ensure
that they receive quality education that will enable them to be successful
online learners.
Online education should offer personalized education for students; that is
what they want, but most importantly what they need. We are no longer
dealing with the same students; we are witnessing a technological revolution
before our eyes. Today’s students live in a completely customizable world;
students should have access to individualized learning to be successful. This
creates the opportunity for new, innovative practices to develop the next
generation of learners and combat the insufficiencies of online education.
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Amany Saleh is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Center
for Excellence in Education at Arkansas State University (United
States)
Heath Sanders is an Instructor of Sociology at East Arkansas
Community College. He is also a doctoral student of Educational
Leadership at Arkansas State University.
Contact Address: Direct correspondence to Amany Saleh at Center
for Excellence in Education P.O. Box 1270, State University, AR
72467 (United States). E-mail: [email protected]
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
Factors Hindering Women’s Aspiration for Tertiary Education in
South-West Nigeria
Adesoji Oni1, Fausta Manafa1
1) University of Lagos, Nigeria.
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Oni, A., Manafa, F. (2014). Factors Hindering Women’s
Aspiration for Tertiary Education in South-West Nigeria. International Journal
of Sociology of Education, 3(1), 51-66. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.03
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.03
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
The terms and conditions of use are related to the Open Journal System
and to Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 51-66
Factors Hindering Women’s
Aspiration for Tertiary
Education in South-West
Nigeria
Adesoji Oni
University of Lagos
Fausta Manafa
University of Lagos
(Received: 16 January 2014; Accepted: 3 February 2014; Published: 25
February 2014)
Abstract
The study is a survey of factors that hindered married women who had secondary
education from aspiring for tertiary education in South-West Nigeria. The
population for the study comprised all married woman that finished secondary
schools but did not embark on tertiary education in the geo-political zone. Findings
revealed that women’s aspirations for tertiary education in South-West Nigeria were
hindered by marital factors such as; marriage, childbearing and family financial
needs. On the other hand, factors such as; religious belief and gender discrimination
were found to be insignificant in hindering women aspiration for tertiary education
in the zone. It was also found out that the effects of most of the factors were more
potent on the aspirations of older women than on those of younger women. Based on
this it was recommended that women aspirations for higher education should be
aided by functioning policies from government and non-governmental
organizations.
Keywords: women, aspiration, hindrance, tertiary education
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.03
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 51-66
Factores que Obstaculizan la
Aspiración de las Mujeres
hacia la Educación Terciaria en
el Suroeste de Nigeria
Adesoji Oni
University of Lagos
Fausta Manafa
University of Lagos
Recibido: 16 Enero 2014; Aceptado: 3 Febrero 2014; Publicado: 25
Febrero 2014)
Resumen
El estudio es un análisis de los factores que dificultaron a las mujeres casadas que
tenían educación secundaria el aspirar a la educación terciaria en el suroeste de
Nigeria. La población abarca a toda mujer casada que terminó la secundaria pero no
se embarcaron en la educación terciaria en esta zona geo-política. Los resultados
revelaron que las aspiraciones de las mujeres de educación terciaria en el suroeste de
Nigeria fueron obstaculizadas por factores maritales tales como el matrimonio, las
necesidades financieras familiares y la maternidad. Por otro lado, los factores tales
como las creencias religiosas y la discriminación de género resultaron
insignificantes en obstaculizar la aspiración de las mujeres hacia la educación
terciaria. También se descubrió que los efectos de la mayoría de los factores fueron
más potentes en las aspiraciones de las mujeres mayores que en las mujeres más
jóvenes. En base a esto se recomendó que las aspiraciones de las mujeres hacia la
educación superior deben ser potenciadas por las políticas del gobierno y
organizaciones no gubernamentales
Palabras clave: mujeres, aspiración, obstáculos, educación terciaria
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.03
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 53
E
ducation in many societies is designed mainly by government to
serve as a social mechanism through which individual differences
emanating from cognitive and socio-economic incapacities can be
managed and adjusted to achieve social equality. For example, societies
design and implement educational policies to help illiterates acquire social
and economic with which to survive in his/her societies. Also, with
education, societies strive to unify their linguistic and cultural differences
which otherwise would have hinder their achievement of cohesion and
peace. No doubt, since creation of man, education has been structured
formally or informally to uplift every member of the society from the state
of ignorance and discrimination.
More specifically, Nigeria as a nation has identified education as the
main instrument of achieving the five national objectives spelt out in her
Second National Development Plan (SNDP). Thus, through series of
educational principles and practices, the country aimed at becoming a free,
democratic and egalitarian society; become a united, strong and self-reliant
nation where economy is diversified and citizens have full opportunities to
develop their potentials (NPE, 1998).
Having seen education as very important instrument of development,
nations have conscientiously provided it at three levels, namely: primary,
secondary and higher education levels. While primary level of education
provides basic knowledge of life and smooth transition from home to school,
higher education is expected to provide technical and advance knowledge
and skills needed in the world of work and socio-economic survival.
The Nigerian National Policy of Education (NPE) clearly spelt out the
concept of and national expectations from higher education in Nigerian
societies. The policy defined Higher Education as the post-secondary aspect
of Nigerian system of education which is given in universities, colleges of
education, correspondence colleges and in other institutions allied to them
(NPE, 1998). Nigerian higher education is technically designed to develop in
Nigerian youth proper value-orientation, intellectual capacities, physical and
intellectual skills for their individual and societal survival. Therefore, to
achieve these, Nigeria has conscientiously designed, implemented and
evaluated her higher education policies with the motive of achieving equality
and excellence.
In addition to the objectives for which higher institutions are established,
54 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Nigeria has always strives to lift the provision of higher education from level
of mere policy speculations and has successfully made higher education a
priority in the Exclusive Legislative list. The government of Nigeria, even
before becoming an independent nation, has always embark on rigorous
establishment of higher institutions across the nation.
The University College, Ibadan, established in 1945, marked the
beginning of efforts at providing higher education in the country. Following
this was its conversion to full fledge university and creation of the First
Generation Universities in 1960. In 1975 the seven second generation
universities were established at JOS, Calabar, Portharcourt, Sokoto, Ilorin
and Kano. Many others were also created thereafter and with the
promulgation of Decree 9 of 1993, many private universities were
established. At the pick of the establishment came creation of nine more
Federal Universities in 2010 (Sodimu, 2011). With these series of
establishment, government provide higher education and encourage citizens
to aspire for and get enrolled in higher education.
Consequently, enrolment at these universities and other tertiary
institutions offering higher education has been on the increase. Specifically,
degree students enrolment increased from 104 in 1948 to 1,395 in 1960;
40,000 in 1976; 172,000 in 1988; 448,000 in the year 2000 and today, it has
gone beyond a million (Sodimu, 2011). These series of increase have been
attributed to many factors, which include change in policies that allow
movement of students from secondary school straight to university,
(Benjamin, 2000). Some researchers attributed the increase to high
awareness of the importance of higher education in accessibility of socioeconomic opportunities in Nigeria and around the world (Timothy & Dende,
2011).
However, the recorded increase in students’ enrolment has not been large
in the side of female students. Many of the available data in Nigeria still
point to the fact that male students aspire for higher education than female
students at the completion of their secondary education. Many have pointed
to the fact that many secondary schools graduates, even when they have the
academic qualification required for access into higher education; tend to
terminate their education for one reason or the other (Timothy & Dende,
2011). However, apart from voluntary termination of academic pursuit, a
large number of students are said to be pressurized by cultural reasons to
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 55
quit education at the completion of secondary education.
Using University of Lagos as a cases study, the Table 1 below illustrates
this gender differences in university enrolment. University of Lagos is in
South-West geo-political zone of Nigeria, a Federal University that draws its
candidates from mainly Yoruba communities (Randle, 2009).
Table 1
University enrolment of students by faculties and gender
A closer look at the data in Table 1 indicates a clear difference in the
percentages of female and male persons that were enrolled at University of
Lagos within the covered academic sessions. For example, female
enrolment constituted only 40.5% of total enrolment against 59.5% of male
enrolment in 2000/2001 session, 41.0% against 59.0% of male enrolment in
56 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
2001/2002 and 43.1% against 56.9% of male enrolment in 2002/2003.
These gender-based disparities also reflect in the number of female
lecturers lecturing in universities around Nigeria. For example, the
available data of the number of Professors in Nigerian universities show
that University of Ibadan had 253 male professors against 38 female
professors, University of Lagos had 198 male professors against 27 female
professors and Ladoke Akintola University had 23 male professors against
none female professor in the 2001/2002 academic session respectively
(Oyekanmi, & Nwabueze, 2006).
Accessibility of education at any level is not expected to be hindered by
any sociological factors; not by gender or religious factors. The series of
international resolutions which Nigeria is a signatory encourage nations to
make education available to all and to make sure that higher education itself
is indiscriminately provided. Nations are expected to make sure every
individual who can meet up with the academic and financial requirement of
higher education be given the opportunity to acquire higher education.
Where there are sociological factors capable of obstructing educational
aspiration, government is expected to act in good faith to amend such
factors for national interest (Dada, 2007).
Yet, the problem of gender-based inequality in aspiration and access to
tertiary education still persist. Unequal aspiration for gender-based
enrolment in tertiary education has not really been peculiar to Nigerian
societies alone. Until 1972 when the American Congress passed Title IX of
the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Acts, sex discrimination in
access to education was common in the country (Macionis, 2009). Past
researches also confirm that apart from unequal access, Americans were
discriminated against in the term of courses they could offer. Macionis
(2009) wrote that in the country, girls were tracked into courses such as
home economics, typing, and shorthand that prepared them to be
homemakers or to perform clerical work in offices, whereas, in American
colleges, men were encouraged to study the sciences (Spender, 1989).
It has been argued that reasons for differences in access to education
vary from country to country on the line of cultural and socio-economic
elements in societies. Madiago (2003) argued that researchers should not
limit their studies of reasons accounting for difference in enrolment,
retention and completion of an educational programme to culture. The
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 57
reason for Madiago’s suggestion may have to do with the assumption that
most of the factors relating to individual’s aspiration for educational pursuit
are relative to the components of culture.
On this background, this study was designed to find out factors
hindering female individual’s aspiration for university education in some
selected Nigerian South-West states. States in the South-West are inhabited
predominantly by Yoruba people and these states happen to be a geopolitical zone that has very earlier encounter with the European
missionaries that brought western education to Nigeria (Adeosun, 2006).
Thus, a study of this focus will be significant in accessing factors relating to
the success or otherwise of the geo-political zone in attracting her female
inhabitants to higher education opportunities.
Theoretical Framework
The essence of theoretical framework in social researches cannot be over
emphasized. Theories provides base for reaching conclusions in social
researches. Thus, this study is theoretically framed on the Conflict Theory.
Conflict theory, in relation to education, opines that there is a conflict of
interest among groups in society. Specifically, conflict theory maintains
that the powerful gain at the expense of the less powerful. Haralambos &
Holborn (2008) posited that from the conflict perspective, education largely
serves the interest of the powerful. It maintains their power, justifies their
privileges and legitimizes their wealth.
Salmon (2008) identified gender as one of the main factors that
determine one’s power in the society. He claims that in traditional societies,
gender determines how one is respected and allowed to tap from the sociocultural resources of the society. Salmon (2008) maintains that women are
not potentially empowered as men in the society and therefore cannot be
regarded as among the powerful of the society. Thus, going by the Conflict
theory, women may not always be at advantage in benefiting from
educational opportunities that are available in the society.
Research Questions
This study provided answers to the following research questions:
58 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
1. What are the factors hindering Christian and Muslim women aspiration
for university education in Nigerian South-West states?
2. What are the factors hindering old and young women aspiration for
university education in Nigerian South-West states?
Methodology
The study was designed as a survey. A survey involves sampling opinion of
a representative of a specified population to arrive at a valid conclusion that
would be applicable to the entire population. Thus, the population for this
study comprised every female individual having academic qualifications for
higher education in the five states constituting South-West Nigeria. The
states are: Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Lagos States. From the five states,
cluster sampling technique was used to sample a total of 500 respondents
with an average of 90 respondents sampled from each state. All the
sampled respondents were married. To sample the respondents, the
researcher used the venues of Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA)
meetings as the contact points where women who verbally claimed to have
had secondary education but did not embark on tertiary education were
contacted and given the questionnaire to respond to. The respondents were
further stratified on the basis of religion and age.
Table 2
Numeric description of the sampled respondents on the basis of religion and
age
Data on Table 2 indicate that 50% of the sampled respondents were
Christian and the remaining 50% were Muslims. On the other hand, 45.8%
of the samples were women below 40 years and the remaining 54.2% were
women older than 40 years.
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 59
A self -designed questionnaire titled Aspiration for Higher Education
Questionnaire (AHEQ) was designed to elicit information from the
respondents. The instrument has two sections. Section of AHEQ has items
eliciting information on the biographical data respondents. Such data
included their religion, age and residence. Responses to these items were
used to stratify the respondents. Section B has 15 items grouped under
Financial Factors (FF), Marital Factors (MF), Cultural Factors (CF) and
Residential Factors (RF). Each of the items has two response options
named: Applicable (APP) and Not Applicable (NP).
The validity of the instrument was determined using Face Validity
Approach (FVA). This involved giving the draft of the instrument to two
selected Sociologists of Education from two of the universities in the five
states covered. They were asked to adjudge the relevance and adequacy of
the items in relation to the studied phenomenon. Their assessment
confirmed the instrument valid for the purpose of the study. A reliability
co-efficient of 0.66 was derived for the instrument using test-re-test
approach. This involved administering the instrument twice to sub-sample
drawn from two randomly selected states among the five states covered.
The Pearson Moment Correlation Co-efficient ( r ) was used in finding the
reliability co-efficient. Collected data were analyzed using percentages.
Results
Research Question 1: What are the factors hindering Christian and Muslim
women’s aspiration for tertiary education in Nigerian South-West states?
60 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Table 3
Percentage Description of Factors Hindering Christian and Muslim Women
Aspiration for Higher Education
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 61
The data on Table 3 illustrate the factors women across religious groups
identified as hindrance to their aspiration for higher education. For
example, 70.8% of Christian women and 84.4% of Muslim women said
marriage prospects hindered their aspiration for higher education at the
completion of their secondary education. Another related factor was
childbearing which 79.6% of Muslim women agreed hindered their
aspiration for university education. Also, 55.6% of Christian women and
80.8% of Muslim women identified pressure to cater for the financial needs
of their children as what hindered their aspiration for university education.
As can also be seen on the table, none of the sampled respondents said they
did not aspired for higher education because the schools were not available
or because the schools were insecure for academic purposes. On the other
hand, only 1.2% of sampled Muslim women and none of Christian women
believed their aspiration for tertiary education was hindered by their
religious belief.
Research Question 2: What are the factors hindering old and young
women’s aspiration for tertiary education in Nigerian South-West states?
Data on Table 4 indicate that 61.5% percent of sampled women that
identified marriage as factor that hindered their aspiration for higher
education are young women below 40 years and 91.1% of them are old
women that are above 40 years old. On the other hand, 42.7% of those who
believed their aspirations for higher education were hindered by
childbearing were young women and 79.7% of them were older women.
Also, 32.7% of young women and 45.7% of older women were among
those that got their aspiration for tertiary education hindered by fear of not
getting married on time.
62 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Table 4
Percentage Description of Factors hindering young and old Women Aspiration
for Higher Education
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 63
Discussion
Education is one of the issues that nations have ever unanimously agreed to
co-operatively advance and make accessible to all irrespective of class
background or political affiliation. Around the world, government
authorities always come up with policies aimed at giving every member of
the society opportunity to be educated and become functional in the society.
However, despite the intention and efforts, nations have not been able to
eradicate discriminations in their educational principles and practise
(Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).
Many authors and researchers have tried to identify reasons for unequal
access to educational opportunities. Bowles and Gintis (1999) believed that
class background is the most important factor influencing levels of
educational accessibility and attainment. Though they agreed that education
is free and open to all in policies but in practice, some have much greater
opportunities than others. In the opinion of Bowles & Gintis (1999), the
children of the wealthy and powerful tend to obtain high qualifications and
highly rewarded jobs irrespective of their abilities in school. Some other
theorists in the category of Functionalism have maintained that educational
accessibility depends only on merit and that it is itself a means to sustaining
equality (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).
However, some other reasons or factors determining accessibility or
aspiration for higher education particularly among female population have
been identified in this study. For example, this study found out that most of
the potent reasons why women do not aspire for tertiary education are
marital. They are reasons relating to women marriage and/or marital
prospect.
More specifically, none of the sampled respondents in this study
attributed her none-aspiration for tertiary education to unavailability of
higher institutions to attend in their societies. Rather, to 70.8% of sampled
Christians and 84.4% of sampled Muslims, their none-aspiration for tertiary
education is attributable to marriage prospect. They may have envisaged
not getting married if they pursue higher education or that attending
university will affect their marital commitment and responsibilities. Similar
to this is the issue of childbearing that 46% of Christian and 79.6% of
64 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Muslim sampled women believed hindered their none-aspiration for
university education.
No doubt, the influence of family pressure can be potent in women’s
social development (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Many family members
always pass through financial stress and in life time. This may account for
why 55.6% of sampled Christian and 80.8% of Muslim women attributed
their none-aspiration for university education to pressing financial needs of
their children. Also, the women’s educational none-aspiration is not
attributed to poor employment prospect. In fact, 94.8% of sampled
Christian women and 95.6% Muslim women said the issue of poor
employment prospect was not applicable to them.
In this study, analysis of respondents’ responses further show that the
influence of marital factors on women’s aspiration for tertiary education
can vary on the basis of age. For example, out of the women that pointed at
marriage as what hindered their aspiration, 91.1% were women above 40
years of age and 61.5% of them were women below 40 years old. Also,
while 42.7% of women that identified childbearing pressure as what
obstructed their aspiration for university education were below 40 years
old, 79.7% of the women with the same reason were above 40 years. The
implication of this is that the influence of marital factors on women
aspiration for tertiary education may be reducing as it is shown in this study
to be higher among older women population than among younger women
population.
Generally, women are the most socio-economically pressed members of
the society. Haralambos & Holborn, (2008) argued that women often find it
difficult to cope with issues outside the family circle because mush is
expected from them in home up- keeping. This stance justifies the reasons
above and further confirms that much need to be done to help women
access education.
Conclusion
From the illustrations from the analysis and the subsequent discussion
above, it can be concluded that women aspiration for tertiary education is
more hindered by marital factors than by financial or residential factors. In
fact, it was found out that marriage and the pressure of meeting children’s
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 65
financial needs often suppress women’s aspiration for tertiary education in
South-West states of Nigeria.
Recommendations
Based on the findings of this study, the following are recommended:
1. Government and non-governmental agencies should advance policies
and practices that will ease out women marital pressure and make higher
education more accessible for them.
2. Adequate orientation should be given to women to avert incidences of
early marriage and unplanned childbearing among them.
References
Adeosun, U.G. (2006). History of Education. Lagos: Green Press Inc.
Benjamin, D.E. (2000). University Enrolment in African Countries.
Ondo: Zenith Araminder Publications.
Bowles, S. & Gintis, H. (1999). School in Capitalist America.
London: Rutledge & Kegan Paul.
Dada, R.I. (2007). Educational Disadvantages: A Theoretical
Application of Conflict Theory: Journal of Social Sciences,
2(2). 44-58.
Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. (2008). Sociology: Themes and
Perspectives. New York: Colins.
Macionis, D. Y. (2009). Social Problems. Boston: McGraw Hill
Publications.
Madiago, F.H. (2003). Industrial Sociology: Themes and
Perspectives. New York: Rainner Inc.
National Policy of Education (1998). Federal Government of Nigeria .
Lagos: Government Press.
Oyekanmi, F.A.D. & Nwabueze, N. (2006). Education and
Regeneration of Traditional Values
in
Nigeria.
Lagos:
University of Lagos Press.
Randle, D.D. (2009). University Education: Problems and Prospects.
Lagos: Aladejobi Publishing Press.
66 Brunet & Böcker Zavaro – Fin del Ciclo Fordista
Sodimu, E.J. (2011). Social Stratification: The Faith of Women in the
19th Century. Journal of Social Sciences and Anthropology,
4(2). 39-47
Spencer, S.D. (1989). Sociology. Boston: Polity Press
Salmon, D.U. (2008). Introduction to Nigerian History of Education.
Ilorin: Albarka Visual & Paper Works.
Timothy, R.H. & Dende, I.K. (2011). School Enrolment, Retention
and Completion. Akure: Rossy & Abiden.
Adesoji Oni is Lecturer at the Faculty of Education in the University
of Lagos, Nigeria.
Fausta Manafa is doctoral student of Sociology of Education in the
Department of Educational Foundations, University of Lagos, Nigeria.
Contact Address: Direct correspondent to Adesoji Oni, Faculty of
Education, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria. Email:
[email protected]
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
The Digital Divide in Classroom Technology Use: A Comparison
of Three Schools
Matthew H. Rafalow1
1) University of California, United States.
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Rafalow, M. (2014). The Digital Divide in Classroom
Technology Use: A Comparison of Three Schools. International Journal of
Sociology of Education, 3(1), 67-100. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.04
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.04
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
The terms and conditions of use are related to the Open Journal System
and to Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 67-100
The Digital Divide in
Classroom Technology Use: A
Comparison of Three Schools
Mathew H. Rafalow
University of California
(Received: 13 October 2013; Accepted: 9 February 2014; Published: 25
February 2014)
Abstract
While concerns about the “digital divide,” or access to technology, remain relevant
for many schools, we do not yet fully know how often-expensive education
technologies are employed across school contexts. In particular, few studies exist
that evaluate how teacher beliefs about student social class and race-ethnicity, as
well as institutional perceptions of the value of new technologies, inform everyday
teacher practices with such technologies. Classroom observation and interviews
were conducted with 5 teachers across three elementary schools that vary by race
and class. Results indicated that teachers at middle/upper class schools encouraged
dynamic uses of interactive whiteboards, while in the low-income school they
functioned like traditional blackboards. Findings suggest that teacher beliefs and
institutional perceptions inform how technologies are used in the classroom. In
particular, beliefs about the meaning of student race and social class, as well as
institutional goals for implementing new technologies, inform the extent to which
students are granted agency to learn with new technologies.
Keywords: education, technology, new media, digital divide, teachers, race, class,
culture
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.04
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 67-100
La Brecha Digital en el uso de
la Tecnología en el Aula: Una
Comparación de tres Escuelas
Mathew H. Rafalow
University of California
(Recibido: 13 Octubre 2013; Aceptado: 9 Febrero 2014; Publicado: 25
Febrero 2014)
Resumen
Mientras que las preocupaciones sobre la "brecha digital", o el acceso a la
tecnología, siguen siendo relevantes para muchas escuelas, todavía desconocemos
completamente cómo la, a menudo costosa, educación en nuevas tecnologías se
emplea en los contextos escolares. Existen pocos estudios que evalúen cómo las
opiniones del profesorado respecto la clase social y la etnia de los estudiantes, o la
percepción institucional del valor de las nuevas tecnologías, influyen en las prácticas
docentes diarias con estas tecnologías. Se realizaron entrevistas y observaciones de
aula con cinco profesores en tres escuelas primarias que varían en raza y clase. Los
resultados indicaron que los maestros en las escuelas de clase media/alta alentaron el
uso dinámicos de pizarras interactivas, mientras que en la escuela de bajos ingresos
funcionaron con pizarras tradicionales. Los resultados sugieren que las creencias del
profesorado creencias y las percepciones institucionales influyen en cómo se utilizan
las tecnologías en el aula. En particular, las creencias acerca del significado de la
raza y clase social del estudiante, así como los objetivos institucionales para la
implementación de nuevas tecnologías, influyen en a la medida en la que se
conceden ayudas para que los estudiantes aprendan con nuevas tecnologías.
Palabras clave: educación, tecnología, nuevos medios, brecha digital, profesores,
raza, clase, cultura
2014 Hipatia Press
ISSN: 2014-3575
DOI: 10.4471/rise.2014.04
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 69
R
esearchers who study the reproduction of social inequalities in
schools have not to date well considered the relationship between
culture and educational technology in the persistence of
inequality. Although concerns about the “digital divide,” or access to
technology, still remain major problems for many schools and
communities, educators and researchers are becoming wary of gaps in how
technologies are used as they become more available (DiMaggio and
Hargittai, 2004; Warschauer, 2004). This study explores how the same
educational technology – the interactive whiteboard – is used across
elementary schools that vary by social class. Different from other studies of
classroom technology use, I examine how culture, in the form of teacher
beliefs and institutional perceptions about technology reform, might
structure instructional use of interactive whiteboards. Observing the
differentiated use of technology across class contexts provides insights into
how opportunities to acquire valuable technological competencies favor
some students over others.
Using data collected from interviews and observation in classrooms at
three suburban elementary schools that vary by social class and raceethnicity, I compare teachers’ classroom practices and use of instructional
technology. Through classroom observation, I focus specifically on
teachers’ use of the interactive whiteboard in their everyday lessons. I
tabulate counts of use of the technology to examine how often it is used in
each classroom. Teachers in the middle and upper class schools exhibited
greater freedom in their use of the interactive whiteboard, utilizing
advanced features of the technology and allowing students to frequently
interact with the board. At the lower class school, student interaction with
the interactive whiteboard was limited, and the technology was only used as
if it a traditional blackboard.
Students of Bourdieu may not be surprised to find that teachers at
working class schools, as opposed to middle and upper class schools, are
less likely to impart competencies that are valued by the dominant class.
However, few cases studied allow the researcher to examine what happens
when schools’ set of idealized skills and competencies undergo dramatic
change. Large-scale technological changes in the broader environment are
beginning to shape schools in ways that could potentially rearrange valued
skills and competencies for students. I argue that changes to the existing
70 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Bourdieuian social field of education could potentially create new
opportunities for technologically skilled teachers to empower
disadvantaged youth by teaching them competencies deemed valuable by
the dominant class (Bourdieu, 1984). Given that schools are predominantly
run by white, middle class teachers and administrators, scholars have
argued that these settings represent a field where middle-class skills and
competencies are favored, providing cultural capital to students for
important advantages (Bourdieu, 1977; Lareau, 2000, 2003).
Elements of the school environment, however, may inform the extent to
which changes to the larger field are incorporated in classrooms. For
example, McDonough (1997) finds that teacher beliefs and habits shape
how they carry out their daily tasks, and in ways that differ for students of
different social classes. In this study, I find that cultural beliefs shape the
extent to which emergent technological changes to the educational field are
either adopted or assimilated into existing classroom practices, with longerterm implications for children at the working class school who do not
benefit from lessons that impart competencies with technology.
The “New” Digital Divide
Education research in the 1990s and early 2000s on the “digital divide”
relied on a conceptual framework that assumed inequalities would be
eliminated once technology became more available to families, schools, and
communities (Hargittai 2003; National Telecommunications and
Information Administration 1995; 1998; 1999; 2000). Recently, however,
scholars have argued that this guiding definition of the divide and the
subsequent scope of related research are both too narrow. First, the
definition relies too heavily on a binary separation of users and nonusers
when there may also be variations in terms of what people do with
technology once it is more widely available (DiMaggio et al. 2004;
Hargittai 2004; 2010; Warschaeur, 2003; Zillien and Hargittai 2009).
Second, few studies have examined the relationship between culture,
technology use, and school inequality.
Through mixed methods designs that include classroom observation,
interviews, and surveys, Warschaeur’s research on technology use in
schools suggests that culture, social structures, and socioeconomic factors
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 71
may interact in ways that produce variation in how technologies are
adopted in the classroom. In one study, Warschaeur (2000) compares
technology reform at an elite, high SES school and a low SES school in
Hawaii. He finds that both schools made significant changes to their
curriculum, schedule, and teaching to accommodate new reforms with
technology, and that contrary to predictions from the literature, the low-SES
school was using their technology in myriad ways instead of invoking an
authoritarian “drill and kill” teaching strategy. In another study with quite
different results, Warschaeur (2007) compares how ten one-to-one laptop
schools in California and Maine use laptops. He finds that high SES schools
generally used technology in more dynamic ways than low SES schools,
but noted that socioeconomic context, values, and beliefs inform how the
tech programs are adopted. Warschaeur’s work adds important nuance to
existing research on the digital divide, and suggests that culture might
matter in shaping teacher use of technology.
Some research also suggests that teacher’ beliefs about technology and
student populations affects the extent to which teachers use technology in
the classroom. Mouza (2009) finds teachers who believe their students are
unruly or poorly performing are sometimes less likely use new technologies
to teach because they have to focus their attention on other classroom
management tasks. Interestingly, she also finds that the teachers in her
sample uniformly believed that technology was good for teaching. This
study adds to the existing literature by exploring how beliefs about students
who vary by race and class might shape how technology is used.
Additionally, I show how institutional perceptions of the value of
technology might vary by school, providing more nuance to our
understanding of teacher beliefs and technology.
Social and Cultural Structures in Schools
Scholars of school inequalities often draw on Bourdieu to explain how
social and cultural capital aid in the reproduction of inequalities. For
Bourdieu (1984), fields represent the settings or contexts where social
positions are negotiated. Cultural capital, or “competencies” specific to the
field that are acquired primarily through one’s social origin, assist in the
attainment of social benefits afforded by the dominant class. For example,
72 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
one field could be the field of art, or the field of politics – in each of these
fields, different competencies are valued and allotted capital through
competition (Emirbayer and Johnson, 2008). Research has shown, for
example, that parents have childrearing strategies that differ by class and
inform kids’ habits, styles, and beliefs, which in turn have later implications
for kids’ success in schools (Calarco, 2011; Lareau 2000; 2003).
Much research on cultural capital in schools typically assumes teachers’
adherence to the same dominant educational ideology across schools
(Bourdieu, 1977; Heath, 1983; Lamont and Lareau, 1988; Lareau, 2000;
2003; Lareau and Weininger, 2003). Yet, different elements of school
culture, including teachers’ beliefs and institutional perceptions, also set the
terms for the kinds of lessons and content taught to different student
populations and across school contexts. McDonough (1997) finds that
schools’ social class culture informs how students are instructed. Through a
comparison of schools that vary by social class, McDonough finds that
students attending higher SES, more selective schools are guided into
college choice trajectories deemed ideal by the cultural context of the
school. The habitus situated at the school funneled graduates into different
types of postgraduate destinations. In extensions of McDonough’s work,
research has found that school habitus informs teachers’ sense of
responsibility for student learning (Diamond et al., 2004), and expectations
for student performance (Antonio and Horvat, 2002) and post-secondary
education (McDonough, 1997), as well as the dispositions of students
themselves (Horvat and Antonio, 1999).
Cultural elements of the school, including teachers’ beliefs and
institutional perceptions of the value of technology, might shape how
technology is used and vary by schools that differ by student race and class.
Schools may not only reward students who demonstrate proficiencies in
middle class cultural styles, but they may also only teach valued styles to
middle and upper class students – schools with students of color and from
lower SES backgrounds may receive different forms of lessons with
technology that are less valued by dominant middle and upper class cultural
institutions.
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 73
Technology and the Field of Education
Although education researchers have examined how Bourdieu’s notion of
cultural capital operates in school contexts, few have exploited his concept
of fields to explain differences in teaching, evaluation, and student success.
In particular, scant work examines what happens when fields change, a
possibility Bourdieu discusses though primarily describes as a slow process
(Bourdieu, 1984; Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992; Couldry, 2003; Swartz et
al., 1997). In his conception, there are constant struggles over the rules of
engagement in fields among actors that compete and modify its terms over
a prolonged period of time.
The rapid adoption of digital media and technology in society has begun
to shape the education. The tension between existing school practices and
the adoption of technology and digital media by schools has been the
subject of recent research, news, and even legal debacles (Hoffman, 2011;
Miners, 2009; Ortutay, 2011). Given this shift, Bourdieu would offer two
possibilities for the use of technology in schools. One scenario would be
that teachers who are technologically savvy who utilize the new technology
could provide their students with competencies that can be used as cultural
capital. At schools with fewer resources that serve students from lowincome families, this technological competency could provide skills that
disadvantaged students could use to get ahead. The other scenario Bourdieu
would offer is that teacher skill with technology may not matter. The field
of new technology would become quickly assimilated into existing school
practices such that the original teaching philosophy would remain the
priority.
What conditions determine whether or not the emergent field of new
media technology is either accommodated or rejected in favor of existing
practices? In order to assess whether or not teachers use technology
differently across social class contexts and if, in fact, its usage provides
opportunities for disadvantaged students, I compare instructional use of a
computerized blackboard, the interactive whiteboard, in classrooms across
three elementary schools. I also observe how teachers manage students in
their classroom, and compare how teachers maintain authority in each
school. Through interviews, I explore teachers’ rationales for using the
interactive whiteboard in the way they do, and their beliefs about how their
74 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
students learn. In this study I find that cultural elements of the school
environment, including teacher beliefs and institutional perceptions about
the value of technology, filters new changes to the educational field at the
classroom level. Middle and upper class school teaching styles centered on
student agency provide advantages through technological opportunities for
students, whereas the authoritarian culture at the low-income school
restricts flexibility with technology at the lower income school.
Method
Interactive Whiteboard Technology
Although many kinds of educational technologies are used in schools across
the U.S., I chose to study the interactive whiteboard because of its capacity
to function as a traditional school blackboard as well as an advanced
computer technology. Moreover, educational institutions are rapidly
adopting this technology for their classrooms. Two major developers of
interactive whiteboard technology are Smart Technologies and Promethean.
Their boards similarly use a projector to display video output from a
computer, and respond to users’ touch input on the screen as well as a
variety of tools, including inkless pens in different colors, that can be used
to manipulate the content on the screen.
Interactive whiteboard software and curriculum software can be used for
instruction beyond the simple use of writing as if it were a blackboard.
Software programs can allow use of virtual math tools, including rulers,
compasses, and protractors; video display; Internet and web access; overlay
between scanned text documents and user-generated content, such as
drawing tools like highlighting or shapes; use of responders so students can
answer questions from their desks for games or quizzes; and virtual
learning games aimed at teaching math, science, and other subjects.
Research Sites
I strategically selected three research sites at elementary schools with
different social classes but with similar school commitments to technology
literacy. Brinker Elementary (all names are pseudonyms) serves
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 75
predominantly Latino students (96%) from working-class backgrounds.
Brinker is a public school in a suburban setting with approximately 600
kindergarten through 6th-grade students. The school grounds are clean and
well kept but its hallways and classrooms emphasize function over form.
Students’ parents often do not speak English, with 73 percent of the
students as English language learners. Classroom size varies between 15
and 35 students. Teachers appear dedicated to their work, but the school has
also been at risk of being labeled a “failing school” due to low test scores in
recent years. The school hosts several outside non-profits, including the
Boys and Girls Club. All classrooms are equipped with interactive
whiteboard technology, obtained through a federal grant. Three teachers
(including the teacher I observed and interview) joined with the principal to
order and implement the interactive whiteboards and educate teachers on its
proper use. The classroom I observed at Brinker was equipped with an upto-date interactive whiteboard (see Figure 1). The room was very well
organized, and walls were covered with posters that emphasize rules and
regulations, hard work, and test score performance (see Figure 2).
Figure 1. Image of vantage point in the Brinker Elementary School classroom.
Figure 2. Image of the back of the classroom at Brinker Elementary.
76 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Flynn Elementary exists in the same school district as Brinker, however
its student body is very different. Flynn serves predominantly Latino (30%)
and white (64%) middle-class students, though a significant portion of its
students are from working class backgrounds (38%). With approximately
600 3rd through 6th grade students, the school’s classes have between 20
and 35 students in each class, and English language learners constitute 14%
of the student body. Flynn’s grounds are well kept, similarly to Brinker,
however its classrooms are comparatively different in terms of look and
feel: the walls are often decorated with vibrant colors and posters
displaying student work, with decorations suspended from the ceiling in
many of the rooms. The local town center regularly schedules sports games
for students on campus grounds, and the Boy and Girl Scouts use school
facilities for activities that foster community enrichment. Of the three
classrooms I observed at Flynn, one had an interactive whiteboard. The
school has a computer lab and a number of classrooms have one or more
functional computers for student use. Brinker and Flynn are schools within
the same district, one in which the board mandates a K-12 curriculum to
promote digital literacy across a variety of age groups. Both Brinker and
Flynn provide students with lessons on cyber safety, security, digital life,
privacy, and digital research. Moreover, each school has a staff technology
coordinator who serves as a liaison between the district and the school to
assist with technological needs.
Figure 3. Image of vantage point in the classroom at Flynn Elementary.
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 77
The Foley School is the third and final school site in the study. Foley is
a private school with predominately white students from wealthy families.
The school has approximately 600 Pre-Kindergarten through 8th-grade
students. Classes average 20 students per teacher, with teacher assistants in
the majority of classrooms. Yearly tuition is over $16,000. The grounds at
the Foley School are well cared for with lush greenery and flowers
strategically placed throughout the campus; the buildings are freshly
painted and architecturally appealing. Classrooms are well decorated with
posters and student work. The school invests a significant amount of its
funds in technology and technology education. The school offers an up-todate computer lab, and several mobile computer stations, equipped with 2030 laptops, that are moved from class to class depending on the teachers’
needs for lessons. Upper-year students, trained in Adobe software, become
familiar with architectural design software as well as photo and video
editing programs. Curricula for primary and lower year students – among
those whose classroom I observed – expose them to technology
developmentally through learning how to use applications, navigating
computer document management, and engaging in instruction via the
interactive whiteboard in class.
Figure 4. Image of vantage point in the Foley School elementary classroom.
78 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Research Sample
This project follows three teachers – Rob at Brinker (low SES), Gaby at
Flynn (mid SES), and Casey at Foley (high SES) – as they teach routine
classes in a room equipped with interactive whiteboard technology.
Additionally, I was able to observe and interview other teachers at the three
schools, allowing me to assess the school cultures from multiple vantage
points, where possible. All teachers in the sample are white and middleclass, and are experienced, credentialed teachers who have taught at one or
more schools that vary by social class. Moreover, all teachers describe
themselves as comfortable with technology, and all interactive whiteboard
users possess extensive training in education technology. Classrooms
observed at Brinker and Foley averaged 15 students per class, while
classrooms observed at Flynn averaged 30 students per class; although class
sizes vary, the class sizes are the same for the lower and upper class
schools. These teachers were strategically selected because they all have
similar profiles, with demographic characteristics that are by and large
representative of teachers in U.S. schools: white and middle-class (Keigher
and Cross 2010). Moreover, they offer a unique comparison because they
only substantially differ by the school social class context where they teach.
Table 1
Sample characteristics of the schools, teachers, and classrooms observed with
interactive whiteboards
Classroom Observation, Interviews, Design Workshops, and Analytic
Strategy
With the aid of another researcher, I conducted classroom observations, and
attended faculty meetings as well as school events between March and June
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 79
of 2011 for just over 60 hours, with 26.5 of those hours spent observing
classrooms equipped with interactive whiteboard. All teachers were
interviewed in April and again in July. Teachers also participated in four
design workshops for 18 hours during the month of July, where I conducted
focus groups on the use of technology in their classes.
Each classroom case study consisted of observation through team-based
fieldwork with two researchers, an approach that has been cited as helpful
to triangulate findings and observe more interaction when access and time
available to observe is limited (Douglas, 1976; Snow and Anderson, 1993;
Snow et al., 1986). Although only one researcher observed in a classroom
at any given time, observers systematically switched classroom assignments
for data collection every two weeks. Classrooms were observed for 1-2
hours in each class at a time, allowing observation of transitions between
the 40-minute periods and witness lessons on a variety of subjects.
Attention focused on two kinds of interactions in classrooms: teacher use of
technology and teacher classroom management. Time-stamped notes were
recorded while observing from positions in the back of each classroom,
avoiding the line of sight between students and the teacher. Each week the
researchers met and discussed themes that emerged during observation, and
reviewed and clarified recently completed field notes.
Frequency Data: Instructive Use of the Interactive Whiteboard
Tracking the frequency of interactive whiteboard usage in classes as well as
how they were used to teach were major objectives of the research. I
maintained detailed, time-stamped accounts of interactive whiteboard use in
the fieldnotes as a supplement to other ethnographic data. Fieldnotes were
coded using a simple hierarchy: “interactive whiteboard use” was the root
code for a moment when the interactive whiteboard was used for a lesson,
and “dynamic use” and “traditional use” were child codes that reflected
differentiated use. “Traditional use” indicated use of the interactive
whiteboard as if it were a traditional blackboard. “Dynamic use” referred to
moments when the interactive whiteboard was used for anything except as
if it were a traditional blackboard. Dynamic use could include a variety of
different uses of the interactive whiteboard, including interactive games,
use of toolbars, playing video, remixing content on the screen, switching
80 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
between programs, searching the Internet, and presenting work. For
example, if a teacher solved a math problem on the board using a marker as
if it were a piece of chalk and then switched to show a video lesson, it
would be coded as two uses of the interactive whiteboard, the former as
traditional and the latter as dynamic. With these counts, I compared the
frequency and types of use of the interactive whiteboard in each of the
schools.
Differential Use of Interactive whiteboard Across Classrooms
Results from Analysis of Frequency Data
The results from frequency data indicate stark differences in interactive
whiteboard use between middle/upper and lower class schools. Table 2
shows the hours observed and rates of interactive whiteboard use per hour
observed, and Figure 5 compares different uses of the interactive
whiteboard across schools. Brinker (low SES) and Foley (high SES) use the
technology at a rate of 1.7 and 1.8 times per hour observed, respectively,
whereas Flynn (mid SES) uses it at a rate of 1.1 times per hour observed.
When interactive whiteboard technology was used at Brinker, the lower
class school, it was used as if it were a traditional blackboard 100% of the
time (1.7 uses/hr), whereas Flynn and Foley used it this way 10% (0.2
uses/hr) and 12.5% (0.1 uses/hr) of the time, respectively. In terms of
dynamic use of the interactive whiteboard, Flynn and Foley lead with usage
rates, using the board dynamically 90% (.9 uses/hr) and 87.5% (1.6 uses/hr)
of the time, respectively. Brinker had no observed instances of dynamic
interactive whiteboard use.
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 81
Table 2
Frequency and type of interactive whiteboard use in classrooms (uses/hours
observed)
Figure 5. Observed use of interactive whiteboard in classrooms
Note: “Traditional Use” refers to use of interactive whiteboard in ways that are no different
from the use of a traditional blackboard. “Dynamic Use” refers to use of interactive
whiteboard in any way other than traditional use.
82 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Frequency data show that Foley and Flynn teachers in classrooms
equipped with interactive whiteboards use the technology in dynamic ways
at rates much higher than the teacher at Brinker; the rate of traditional use
was much higher at Brinker than among teachers at Flynn and Foley. At
Foley and Flynn, teachers switched between various kinds of media,
including websites, video, interactive games, and allowed students to
interact with the board and use complex toolbars to add and remix existing
content on the screen. At Brinker, the board was only used as a traditional
blackboard with students rarely permitted to use the screen.
What accounts for these observed differences in use? All teachers have
the same, up-to-date educational technology in their classrooms. All
teachers are white, middle-class, and experienced teaching professionals.
Classroom sizes for the classrooms observed at Foley and Brinker are the
same. All schools have curricula and policy measures designed to integrate
technology in the classroom. Moreover, Rob at Brinker has more
technological training than do the interactive whiteboard users at Foley and
Flynn, and we would expect he would use the technology in more diverse
and meaningful ways. So what explains the observed differences in use? A
review of the observation- and interview-based data allows us to examine
the mechanism behind these differences more precisely.
Brinker Elementary (Low SES)
“Don’t let the students see your passwords,” the principal
forcefully instructed faculty. “They will steal them and access all of
your e-mail messages!” Teachers at this week’s faculty meeting
were wide-eyed, listening intently to the principal’s warning. She
had just told a story about a teacher at another district coming
under fire for students breaking into a school e-mail account and
viewing confidential school information. The message to teachers
about technology at Brinker was clear: students are seen a threat to
its appropriate use.
Despite a fear among teachers of student e-mail hacking, interactions
and interviews with Rob, a teacher and the faculty liaison for the
implementation of education technology at Brinker, reveal that he has many
ideas for how to use technology in innovative ways that promote critical
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 83
thinking. During the workshops, Rob developed interesting project ideas for
education technology design and implementation in classrooms. In one
example, Rob talked with us about creative lessons he would develop if he
had iPads in the classroom:
You know I think that introducing students to the educational
aspects of technology is a huge component, it’s an important
component…I envision them all having their little iPads, on their
desk, and you say okay! Today we’re learning about the sixth grade
book Where the Red Fern Grows…let’s read chapter two. Right
from there I can go to the Red Fern Grows movie. I can give them a
snippet of that movie already downloaded on the computer, and
say, look at how the book developed the chapter and look at how
the director saw the movie, because it’s never the same. You could
give them an argument like that.
In Rob’s vision, new technologies are valuable teaching tools to engage
students with existing curricular goals like literacy and critical thinking.
Although he never used the interactive whiteboard in dynamic ways during
classroom observation, he did show both of us, on separate occasions, how
the board could be used – but only after his students left the room:
Rob asks if I have a moment so he can show me some cool
interactive toy on the interactive whiteboard. I say I do, and he
scrolls down on the screen to what look like icons or widgets, and
he drags an icon that looks like a pair of dice to the center of the
screen. “Look at this,” he says, “this is wild.” He slaps the screen,
and the dice roll. He starts ‘teaching’ to an empty classroom for
me, and announces: “Want to know about probability, kids?” He
slaps the dice again and they roll. “One in six, let’s get statistical!
Rob also expressed his firm belief that his students, and students at
Brinker, were more than capable of learning the technology:
I think they would be excited [about a new iPad program], but you
have to take a couple days, maybe a week, just to get them
introduced to it, how to turn it on, how to charge it, how to take
care of it, how to pull up applications…giving those basic
84 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
components would be the most important just to set a foundation
for them. And then, I believe, honestly, the kids would probably
take off after that. Kids are outlearning their parents with
technology…I don’t see too many issues whether it be this school
or another school.
Rob claimed that technology is a great learning tool to teach existing
school curriculum like literacy and math; he believed that his students,
despite their low class status, could learn to use technology. He
demonstrated that he could use the interactive whiteboard in innovative ways
for teaching. Why did he not use the technology in this way when students
were present?
Educational research on structural conditions at low-income schools
would argue that both lack of time and test pressure prevent teacher
flexibility in the classroom. In accord with these arguments, Rob spoke
frequently of limited time and test pressure as obstacles to leading better
lessons in his classroom:
Technology is so amazing. NASCAR now recruits young drivers
by using car simulators to prepare for the road and the challenge...I
want to do stuff like that in class for learning, but I can’t because of
time…We focus on standards because of the testing, that’s another
thing they don’t prepare you for, state testing…the pressures and
the grind and what it entails. You don’t know you’re going to be
ridiculed…I was pretty much being watched by my principal and
pretty much all the teachers that I was being held responsible for
these kids to make them have growth…and how we did that was
basically using data to drive instruction, using a state adopted math
curriculum and then obviously infusing technology to capture their
attention on math, because math is such a tough thing to, you
know, to teach the kids.
Our observations in Rob’s classroom, however, contradict many of his
claims. Rob’s lessons often started with a math problem or language arts
question from his curriculum, but he would spend considerable time,
sometimes more than half the class period, to use the problem set as a
starting point to tell stories aimed at engaging his students:
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 85
Rob tells the students that today’s lesson is on reading
comprehension, and they need to learn what comprehension
actually means. Rob writes “Comprehension” on the interactive
whiteboard. He points to a student and says, “Hey Geoff, raise your
hand!” The student is surprised, and does not respond for a
moment, then slowly raises his hand, perplexed. I realize that Geoff
was not actually the student’s name. “It’s important to remember
your own name, because if you get called on and it’s not your name
you should know to correct the person calling on you. I’ve been
speaking English for 39 years, and I’m still not perfect at the
language. It’s something I have to work at very hard and I’m still
working at it…Comprehend, is to know the value of what
something is. Let’s talk about money. No matter what your level of
language is, you understand money. If you don’t understand the
teacher in the classroom, you won’t get money in the future.”
Although the lesson for the day was reading comprehension, and the
task at hand was to work through a multiple choice comprehension practice
test on a written passage, Rob used a considerable portion of class time to
provide different kinds of lessons aimed at engaging the students.
When discussing his students, Rob spoke plainly about discipline
problems he faced in his classroom, and how many of the issues he has to
deal with and systemic problems the school faces have to do with
intersections of race, gender, class, and immigrant status among the student
body:
Rob finishes his lesson and students leave the class. Rob points in
the direction of two chairs where students sat. “Those two [boys]
are trouble makers. This is a tough school because it’s always on
the low end for academic performance. It’s a school with nearly
99% free or reduced price lunch kids.” I ask if the boys tend to
struggle more than the girls. “I mean, listen, people don’t like to
admit it, but these Latino families are very different from the
Caucasian families. And the roles, the gender roles, you know, the
boys are probably at home telling their mothers what to do. And
they don’t want to do their homework, the boys. It’s hard to teach
that. I have to try and keep them under control.”
86 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Although I noticed no behavioral issues during any of the observations,
Rob’s classroom management style was very strict. He created high-stakes
question and answer opportunities regularly during his lessons, and when
students got questions wrong he would challenge them and ask them
publicly why they got the answer wrong (“Do you understand why you’re
not right?”). During assignments that were intended to be creative, such as a
drawing assignment, he would actively police their drawing (“Do not get
detailed! This is just a simple picture.”). Rob’s classroom decorations also
mirrored his interactive style, ornamented primarily with posters that listed
rules and regulations, or signs that included individualistic directives for
learning, such as a poster stating YOU are RESPONSIBLE for your own
actions! paired with a chart of student test progress (see Figure 2). When
asked about his class management strategies during interviews, Rob boasted
that the principal hired him “right away” because he wore a crisp shirt, tie,
and jacket and spoke confidently about the importance of keeping the class
in order. This mirrors existing work that finds principles at low-income
schools seek out and hire teachers who are more stringent in their classroom
management styles (Engel 2011).
When I asked Rob about dimensions of Brinker’s environment that
might shape the teachers’ use of the interactive whiteboard at the school, he
emphasized his role as part of a teacher committee that included the
principal in teacher education of the technology’s use:
The reason we got the [interactive whiteboards] was because a
group of us had heard about this technology as a way to infuse
technology for the curriculum, a grant we had at the time, we had
funds because of state budgeting for Title 1 schools. There were
four of us including the principal, it was a team of us. We went to a
training by [the interactive whiteboard company], and we in turn
trained other teachers. We broke up into grade levels and trained
the teachers…At the beginning we decided it would just be used a
strategy to get kids to pay attention a little bit more. Slowly people
started to be paying how to pay attention to how it could strengthen
their curriculum.
Rob, in conjunction with this team of two other teachers and the
principal, served a pivotal role in the acquisition, implementation, and
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 87
education of interactive whiteboard use at Brinker. His statement suggests
that their education program encouraged use of technology to both get
students’ attention but also for existing lesson plans. However, Rob’s
lessons in his own classroom, which fused traditional instruction with
assumptions about his student audience, tenets of individualism and
responsibility for one’s own success or failure, and strict classroom
management style, reflected a “bootstraps-teacher” teaching ethos. Messages
about whiteboard use from this committee in which both he and the principal
participated, faculty paranoia about students hacking into their e-mail
accounts, and pressures from both government agencies and the news media
regarding test performance filtered through into Rob’s classroom practices
and established etiquette for teaching with technology.
Despite his skills with the interactive whiteboard and his belief in his
students’ abilities, Rob’s teaching style is shaped by a mixture of external
perceptions and expectations with regard to appropriate ways to teach and
manage the classroom at this particular educational institution. Although
Rob expressed his own belief that students from every social class
background could learn technology, and although he knew how to use
technology in innovative ways, the moment students entered his class and
instruction began he used the interactive whiteboard as if it were a simple
blackboard. His authoritarian teaching style inhibited collaborative work,
student interaction with technology, and use of new media that could, if
employed, present challenges to the locally situated authority structure.
The Foley School (High SES)
Teachers at Foley and Flynn, while both serving different student
demographics, both employed similarly high levels of dynamic use of the
interactive whiteboard, with Flynn’s use overall rate of interactive
whiteboard use trailing slightly behind Foley and Brinker. At Brinker, Rob’s
“bootstraps-teacher” teaching style inhibited dynamic use of technology.
What accounts for Gaby’s and Casey’s higher rates of dynamic use of the
technology than Rob, who is actually more skilled and experienced at
technology use than any the other interactive whiteboard users?
When I asked Casey about the climate at The Foley School, she noted
that her colleagues, as compared with other schools where she has taught,
really try to get to know their students more fully:
88 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Teachers here go to more soccer games, more dance recitals than
many other places. You know, because we try to get to know our
kids as whole people.
However, when I asked if it was more demanding to not only teach but
also attend student events, she would quickly shift to talking about how there
are significant pressures and expectations that teachers face:
This is a really hard place to teach, uh, for a lot of reasons, but, and
I think a lot of that is socioeconomic, like our parents have really
high expectations and that is a very challenging environment to be
in. Because in some ways you feel like, I don’t know, like you’re
serving someone.
Pressures from parents also pervaded teacher interactions with other
teachers and the use of technologies in their classrooms. When asked about
access to technology and whether or not the school supported teacher use of
technology, Casey explained that Foley actively pursued use of new
technologies but that it sometimes pitted teachers against other teachers:
We have access and people here would be totally open and excited
about [bringing new technologies into the classroom]…the only
potential issue I see is that teacher-versus-teacher thing. Because
the issues that sometimes occur between teachers that are
comfortable with technology and teachers who are hesitant to use
technology is, as much as they offer to help, that can cause some
resistance on the part of one of my teammates in particular and then
it becomes, ‘Oh, well Mrs. Green has this and Mrs. So-and-So
doesn’t.’ …Parents start to say this teacher’s doing this and this
teacher’s doing that, we get a lot of that at our school, especially
around technology. This teacher is using technology and this
teacher is not, how come, and why not, and I want my kid in that
class because they’re using something newer and fancier.
At Foley, parents pressure the use of new technologies so that their
children are best prepared for the future. Unlike at Brinker, technology at
Foley is not simply to distract students or get their attention, but rather teach
them new and valuable skills. Parent pressures occasionally caused tension
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 89
between teachers who possessed different technology skill sets. It allowed
Casey, a teacher who knows technology quite well compared to other
teachers at her school, to find support for using technology in her classroom.
The support for technology use at Foley is not, however, without cost. In
addition to the strain on relations with other teachers, the pressure to “sell”
the school to students and parents is a major force that shapes teaching.
Casey talked with us at length about the technology in her classroom and the
kinds of PowerPoint presentations she uses. She then told us about problems
she faces with the technology in her classroom, and noted the pressure she
feels to do “wow” projects with her students:
We’re trying to do so much and I’d rather do less and do it well
than do so much and not have it turn out well….there’s a sense of
urgency and a sense of pressure at our school to just do this big
magnificent projects all the time…like, how are we marketing and
selling our program...the culture of Foley, that’s definitely part of
it. That’s a different that I see here that I never had to worry about
at my public schools where I worked. I never had to sell the
program the way you have to sell here.
Casey describes the culture at Foley as a place where technology-infused
instruction is not only supported but also demanded and enforced through
pressures to market the program to parents to justify the cost of tuition for
their child’s attendance. During interviews, Casey had well rehearsed
descriptions about the strength of their programs, the high quality of their
technology, and the supportive climate teachers create for the students.
When asked about the pressures at the school, however, her descriptions
became more complicated with explanations about the difficulties she and
other teachers face to uphold these educational traditions. Compared with
when she taught at other schools, she feels “replaceable” at Foley.
Our observations of Casey’s routine instructional practices reflected
many of the themes of servitude and self-marketing she discussed in the
interviews. During class, she would routinely refer to students as her friends,
constantly praising them for their comments in class and all critiques of
student work were very constructive. When students had questions in class,
she would often walk to their table and kneel next to them so they could
speak at eye level. When students spoke out of turn or had an off-topic
90 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
comment, she would say: “Try to stay with us, but that’s a good thought!” In
class, all student thoughts were considered good thoughts, but some thoughts
were more appropriate for that time than others. Her teaching style was
highly enabling of student agency in the classroom. Moreover, when
technology failed in the classroom, Casey apologized to students and said
she would have someone fix it right away. When she could not figure out
how to use her interactive whiteboard in a particular way, she willingly
accepted student critiques or suggestions for how to use it better. Frequently,
when the interactive whiteboard was used, it was expected that students not
only interact with the board but add their own content, use toolbars, and
assist other students to collaboratively complete the task at hand.
Casey’s teaching style, molded by pressure from administrators and
parents to “sell” the school to their clients, is best described by a “buddyteacher” teaching ethos. Foley demands “wow” projects, and she believes
students need to be treated as equals and be rewarded when they challenge
her in class. Moreover, parents recognize the importance of the new field of
technology and demand innovative use of technology in the classroom.
Teachers are expected to have the highest quality technology and technology
instruction available, and if their children report to them that other teachers
have better technology, they will threaten to switch classes.
Flynn Elementary (Mid SES)
Although The Foley School (high SES) and Flynn Elementary (mid SES)
both possessed high rates of dynamic use of technology, were the reasons
behind those rates similar? Foley not only fostered innovative use of
technology in the classroom but it also demanded it, and the teacher believed
students should be treated as peers and allowed to interact frequently with
the whiteboard. Technological changes to the educational field were quickly
recognized by parents and teachers at the school. What is the culture like at
Flynn? Does it encourage the use of technology in the classroom?
Similar to Brinker, teachers at Flynn frequently talked about classroom
management and discipline issues in their classroom. Gaby and the other
teachers at school developed strategies to control the classroom when it
became too boisterous:
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 91
The frog just to get their undivided attention. The rain stick is to
quiet down…At the beginning of the school year, the first two days
are nothing but rules and procedures…a lot of reinforcements. This
is how I am going to get your attention. Okay, let’s practice that.
When I say think, everybody think of what you did this summer.
In an interview with Craig, he told us that his disciplinary style was the
very reason why he was picked for a promotion at the school:
[I was selected] Um probably because of my teaching style. I’m
extraordinarily strict but I have fun with students. The kids love me
and respect me, but they know that I definitely have boundaries.
And my peers have chosen me, or selected me. Often my peers
come to me for discipline issues, before they go to the principal,
which is a problem.
During classroom observations, I found that students were generally
more noisy at Flynn than at Brinker or Foley, but that the strategies for
controlling the classes at Flynn were particular to the school. Teachers like
Tina often positioned themselves as parent-like authorities over students as a
way to regulate behavior:
I have a kind of train whistle which I use and that definitely gets
their attention…Every now and then, I will say hey or clear my
throat really loud. You know, there are times when they recognize
that because that’s what mom does.
Tina talked about how doing or saying things “like mom” made for more
effective classroom management strategies. She also reflected on how
teaching got easier once she became a mom:
When I came back as an elementary school teacher [after having a
child], I just had more life experience, I was a mom, you know, it
was so much easier to say ‘hey, you know, this is the way life is
kids…I know exactly what your kids are, what’s coming up in
junior high and high school, and all this stuff, so I’ve been through
92 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
this and I’ve had kids and did this, I’ve had a child who, I know she
did her homework, but it never got turned in, I don’t know how she
lost it, so I do understand what happens with your child, however, I
have to count it…I can relate things to that.
For Tina, motherhood provided a legitimacy to her teaching and
disciplinary methods. Although Gaby does not have her own children, she
used similar strategies to police and promote certain conduct. In her lessons,
she would alternate between embarrassing individual students for bad
behavior along with rewards for good students by making examples of them
and providing award tickets they could obtain to be exchanged for her
homemade cookies. The teaching style used by faculty at Flynn is best
described by a “teacher-parent” ethos when teachers garner classroom
authority and develop strategies for classroom management from middleclass understandings of parenting and discipline.
Gaby used technology in ways to grab students’ attention and manage her
classroom. For example, she described a interactive whiteboard web
application called envision Math that she uses regularly as “kid friendly,
grabs attention, just like video games.” Gaby also told us that she uses
responders, a technology students can use to remotely interact with the
board, as a way to see if students “got” the lesson so she can account for
student progress and make test preparation easier. Unlike at Foley, Gaby’s
vision for technology was less about teaching new valued skills with
technology and more about grabbing student attention. However, despite her
dynamic use of technology in the classroom, such as games and video, she
also expressed concerns about its effectiveness in teaching:
Gaby and I walk out to the playground during recess and we talk
while she patrols the area. I tell her that I’m excited to see how
students use responder technology in an upcoming lesson. She
responds by saying that she has a love/hate relationship with the
responders, and technology more generally. “Technology does not
prepare students well for the major exams they have to take on
paper without the help of technology. I try to use technology as a
way to get them engaged, to get their attention, but not for actual
assessment as it relates to test preparation. Technology doesn’t
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 93
really help them learn how to take those on-paper tests, even
though I know that using technology is critical to future
employment once they’re done with school.”
Although Gaby recognizes that technology may be important to help kids
eventually get jobs, she does not believe that it helps with test preparation
for exams. Similar to Brinker, the topic of test preparation and curriculum
standards came up frequently at Flynn, but classroom observations similarly
confirm that although teachers have structured curriculum and focus on test
preparation, they also demonstrate flexibility in how they choose to teach the
lesson. For example, Tina, a sixth-grade teacher at Flynn, developed a
geography activity where students create maps on a computer as part of a
project. Craig, a science teacher, infused a lesson on the food tree with
videos he found of animals hunting each other, and spent considerable time
trying to evoke excitement and disgust from students. In another example,
Gaby sidetracked from a lesson on reading thermometers to tell a story about
how she is always warm and her husband is always cold, and led a class
discussion on gender differences in personal temperature. These examples
show that while curricula and testing pressure shape teaching practices, they
do not entirely account for differentiated use of technology in the classroom.
During interviews, Gaby told us that very few other teachers took
advantage of technology in their classrooms in the way that she does. She
was the only one to use a interactive whiteboard at the school (“How the
heck do they teach without one?”). She also expressed her belief that her
ability to use technology far outpaced other teachers (“…they don’t even
know how to use a projector”). Unlike Foley, however, the lack of facility
with technology and the failure to employ it in the classroom were not
considered liabilities. In fact, on several occasions, while talking with us
about her abilities as a technology user as compared with other faculty, she
would shift her remarks to employment issues and the threat of layoffs:
I don’t think there is a lot of technology here at this school…I don’t
want to come across as ‘Hey Flynn, this is great, look at this,’ and
be looked at as ‘What are you talking about, new kid? This is the
way we are doing it, don’t waste my time, I have always done it
this way.’ I think when I master something I am more than
94 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
willing…to help in any way to show you how to use it.” Gaby then
goes on to talk about how she will probably try to get more
involved with technology-specific support roles at her school if she
is rehired for another year. I ask if she thinks she will be here next
year. “I have no idea where I’ll be. Wherever they put me…[last
year] I was #31 on the list of rehires. This number was like the
‘Scarlet Letter’ around the school.
Outside of classroom teaching, Gaby did volunteer for technologyaffiliated roles at her school. She co-authored grants for new technology
with another teacher at Flynn, and she also held instructional sessions for
some teachers about the use of interactive whiteboard responders as one way
to make test preparation easier. Gaby used her skills with technology to
contribute to the faculty and school. While she used her background in
technology to show her value, she was careful not to be pushy with teachers
who were less sophisticated with technology usage. At Flynn, pressure from
other teachers matters a great deal, particularly among younger faculty and
during periods of stressful layoffs and among young faculty. The
technology-related changes to the educational field of technology are not as
widely recognized at Flynn, and so while Gaby uses the interactive
whiteboard to grab students’ attention and differentiate herself at the school,
she does not use it as often as Casey does at Foley.
Limitations and Future Research
Gaining access to schools for research is always a challenge, and this study
was no exception to this issue. Although I was able to strategically select
three schools that were useful comparative cases, and the teachers in the
study have demographic profiles typical of teachers in the U.S., I was were
limited by not only the number of hours I could spend in any given
classroom but also by the number of months I had access to the schools.
While I do not seek to generalize beyond the cases, it stands as an empirical
question as to whether or not inequalities persist through differentiated use
of technology beyond the contexts of the study. This research makes its
contribution by demonstrating that the assumptions behind the nature of the
“digital divide” need to be re-evaluated; not only is simple access to
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1) 95
technology not a guarantee of equal use, but the class culture of school
contexts can inform whether or not new media technologies are fully
adopted. Additionally, this study expands existing work on teacher beliefs
and technology by showing how beliefs about students’ race and class, as
well as institutional perceptions about the value and purpose of technology,
inform how technologies are used at the classroom level.
Future research could also investigate whether and how differences in
technology use may vary in classrooms across middle and upper class
schools. Although I only generated frequency data from interactive
whiteboard use based on simplistic categories of traditional use vs. dynamic
use, there may very well be important distinctions within dynamic uses of
technology that have implications for inequality. Also, given that Foley
differs from the other schools because it is a private school, future work
might explore how high SES public schools might differ from comparable
private schools. A more focused study of these school contexts may reveal
new insights.
Discussion: Complicating Digital Inequality
While frequency data for dynamic use of the interactive whiteboard was
similar for both Flynn Elementary (mid SES) and The Foley School (high
SES), the reasons why technology was used dynamically were somewhat
different. At Flynn, teachers engaged in a “buddy-teacher” teaching style
that allowed innovative use of technology in the classroom. However,
Gaby’s view that technology should be used primarily to grab students’
attention, as well as social pressures from other, more senior and less
technologically skilled teachers, minimized the strength of the technological
changes to the educational field more broadly at the school. As a result,
while she used the interactive whiteboard in dynamic ways she did not use it
very frequently. At Foley, where I observed similar high rates of dynamic
interactive whiteboard use, the “buddy-teacher” style appeared to foster the
innovative use of technology. But pressures from parents to teach new
valued skills with technology and the need to “sell” the school to clients
demanded that teachers keep up-to-date with technology and its creative
employment in their classrooms. Parents encouraged the school to quickly
integrate the new changes in the educational field into classroom practices.
96 Rafalow – Technology and Schools
Brinker (low SES), however, exhibited a much different scenario.
Although Rob is more technologically skilled than the other interactive
whiteboard users, his “bootstraps-teacher” teaching style inhibited dynamic
use of the technology. While classrooms at Brinker are equipped with new
technology, the value of new competencies with technology were
superceded by existing school practices. Even when I “control” for the
availability of educational technology, how it is used in the classroom has
consequences for inequality. Despite high levels of technological skill, Rob
did not teach classes using the technology in dynamic ways. At Brinker,
opportunities for students’ class mobility offered by changes to the
educational field are staved off by his beliefs about students.
These qualitative case studies support the argument that curtailing digital
inequality by providing simply access to technology may not sufficiently
address disparities across schools that vary by social class. Inequalities may
persist due to differentiated use of technology by teachers. Teacher beliefs
about students’ race and class and institutional perceptions about the value
and purpose of technology structures classroom teaching practices with
educational technology. Education researchers, policy-makers, and
technologists would do well to consider the role school context serves in
shaping the use of innovative technologies in the classroom.
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Matthew Rafalow is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at University of
California, Irvine.
Contact Address: Direct correspondent to Matthew Rafalow,
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Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
Boys and their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming
Someone Else
Emilia Aiello1
1) Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Spain
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Aiello, E. (2014). Boys and their Schooling: The
Experience of Becoming Someone Else [Review of the Book]. International
Journal of Sociology of Education, 3(1), 101-102. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.05
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.05
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Reviews (I)
Whelen, J. (2011) Boys and their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming
Someone Else, McCall Teachers College, Columbia University
a obra de John Whelen Boys and their Schooling: The Experience of
Becoming Someone Else es un estudio etnográfico que trata de dar
respuesta a la pregunta de ¿Qué es ser un niño en la escuela?,
focalizando su atención en la identidad masculina durante este
período de escolarización y el papel del contexto educativo en su
conformación.
Desde su triple experiencia como profesor, personal de la administración
e investigador en las escuela en al que se llevó a cabo el estudio, Whelen
analiza en la primera parte de su trabajo el panorama actual de la política
educativa australiana. En ella se centra de manera específica en los discursos
existentes sobre igualdad de género desde el punto de vista institucional, y
cómo éstos se trasladan a la práctica escolar. En esta primera parte, también
se recogen distintas reflexiones derivadas de otros estudios etnográficos que
han analizado el proceso de conformación de la identidad masculina durante
el período de escolarización. Este análisis sirve al autor para concluir que en
muchas ocasiones la formación de niños descontentos o insatisfechos con la
institución escolar no depende de su logro o fracaso individual, sino de
políticas y prácticas educativas erróneas que perjudican al alumno. Esto se
debe, según Whelen, a que los chicos han padecido la sobrecompensación en
el logro y el bienestar de las niñas durante las últimas dos décadas, en
detrimento del suyo, derivada de una comprensión errónea de las políticas de
igualdad de género.
En la segunda parte, el autor presenta su estudio empírico fundamentado
metodológicamente en la etnografía postestructuralista, analizando los
discursos de los chicos entrevistados sobre sus experiencias en el proceso
educativo durante su etapa de Secundaria (Middle-School) y las aspiraciones
que surgen de esta experiencia y su consecuente conformación identitaria
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102 Aiello – Boys and their Schooling
masculina. El estudio se compone de dos grupos de alumnos identificados
por sus profesores como “descontentos con la institución escolar”, por un
lado, y “ejemplares de los valores de la escuela” (p. 30), por otro. Ello sirve
a Whelen para contraponer en su análisis lo que los alumnos son y esperan
ser y lo que el contexto educativo espera de ellos. En este sentido el papel
del docente cobra una relevancia especial, dado que es, según el autor, el que
aprueba o condena con sus expectativas al alumno. En este análisis
etnográfico se hace especial hincapié en las relaciones sociales en la escuela,
particularmente las relaciones de vigilancia y disciplina que se establece
entre docentes y discentes masculinos. Whelen concluye que los maestros
son un recurso en las escuelas que contribuyen a la conformación de los
sentimientos de los chicos mostrando cómo las ideas que transmiten estos
profesores pueden ser asumidas o rechazadas en las luchas de los chicos a la
hora de averiguar quiénes son y quiénes pueden ser.
Debido a estas conclusiones, la principal contribución de la obra de
Whelen es la demostración de que la construcción de una identidad
masculinas positiva, fundamentada, entre otros elementos, en el éxito
escolar, puede trabajarse en el aula, cobrando el docente un papel
fundamental. Es, por tanto, la escuela un contexto que puede determinar que
un chico se desencante respecto a la institución educativa, o que se
constituya en un estudiante de éxito, superando el estructuralismo que niega
este papel transformador y de altas expectativas a los centros escolares.
Emilia Aiello, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
[email protected]
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
Europeanizing Education. Governing a New Policy Space
Joan Cabré1
1) Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Spain
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
Edition period: February 2014-June 2014
To cite this article: Cabré, J. (2014). Europeanizing Education. Governing
a New Policy Space [Review of the Book]. International Journal of Sociology
of Education, 3(1), 103-104. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.06
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.06
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
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and to Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)
RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 pp. 103-104
Reviews (II)
Lawn, M., Grek, S. (2012) Europeanizing Education. Governing a New
Policy Space, Oxford, Symposium Books
a publicación de Lawn y Grek analiza el actual Espacio Europeo de
Educación como una red de instituciones y empresas que se ha ido
tejiendo a lo largo de los últimos 60 años, mediante la circulación
transfronteriza, multidireccional y multisectorial de ideas políticas,
conocimientos y prácticas. Para ello localizan en el centro de su discurso el
estudio de los flujos transnacionales de personas, ideas y prácticas a través
de las fronteras europeas, los efectos directos de la política de la Unión
Europea, y las consecuencias de la europeización de las instituciones
internacionales.
El libro se desarrolla en diez capítulos. En el primero, los autores
analizan la creación del Espacio Europeo de Educación como un proyecto
progresivo que se puso en marcha a través del uso de datos comparativos,
indicadores y estándares, desarrollados por expertos, agentes y redes, que
propiciaron la despolitización del proceso. Los capítulos dos y tres se
refieren a las etapas de la educación europea en el período comprendido
entre 1970 y 2000, analizando el papel de actores de la política educativa
internacional como la UNESCO, la International Association for the
Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) y el International Institute for
Educational Planning (IIPE), destacando el carácter de proyecto común de la
educación europea. En el capítulo cuarto se analiza el papel de los nuevos
actores educativos, tales como las asociaciones y redes profesionales y de
investigación, en este proceso de europeización, especialmente a partir del
año 2000, poniendo especial énfasis en la labor de la European Education
Research Association (EERA). En los capítulos cinco, seis y siete, el análisis
se centra en la llamada fase post-comparativa de la política de la UE,
destacando el relevante papel de los datos, por ejemplo en el caso de los
informes de Eurydice y Eurostat, a la hora de coordinar las políticas
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104 Cabré – Europeanizing Education
educativas y los criterios de desempeño comunes para toda la Unión
Europea. El capítulo octavo se centra en el Programme for International
Student Assessment (PISA) como agente de europeización de la educación,
mediante el estudio de las diferentes respuestas nacionales hacia los datos
sobre el desempeño de los estudiantes proporciona este informe. En el
siguiente capítulo Lawn y Grek destacan un fenómeno inverso a los
anteriores, pero que también ha contribuido a la antedicha europeización, la
diseminación de políticas y estrategias locales hacia niveles más globales,
como la iniciativa School Self-evaluation (SSE), nacida en Escocia, pero
actualmente diseminada por toda Europa. En el último capítulo se señalan
las conclusiones del análisis de situación llevado a cabo durante todo el
trabajo, destacando la idea de una construcción del Espacio Europeo de
Educación como un proyecto y no como una situación puntual.
En definitiva, el libro de Lawn y Grek supone una revisión histórica de la
construcción de la política educativa europea que se construye y funciona a
través del flujo a través y dentro de las fronteras nacionales de
conocimientos y prácticas, de lo local a lo global y viceversa, que se van
integrando hasta llegar a un nuevo espacio de gobernabilidad y regulación
educativas que posibilita un contexto de acción común para lograr la
excelencia educativa.
Joan Cabré, Universitat Rovira i Virgili
[email protected]
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://rise.hipatiapress.com
List of Reviewers
th
Date of publication: February 25 , 2014
To cite this review: (2014). List of Reviewers. International Journal of
Sociology of Education, 3(1), 105. doi: 10.4471/rise.2014.07
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.447/rise.2014.07
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
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RISE – International Journal of Sociology of Education Vol.3 No.1
February 2014 p. 105
List of Reviewers
As the editor of the International Journal of Sociology of Education I would
like to thank all the reviewers for the evaluations realized in 2013. I deeply
appreciate their work, which have contributed significantly to the quality of
this journal. Yours sincerely,
Carmen Elboj
Editor
Aguilar, Marta
Ahedo, Manuel
Aiello, Emilia
Álvarez de Sotomayor, Alberto
Bailey, Carol
Beloki, Nekane
Burgués, Ana
Cabré, Joan
Campdepadros, Roger
Durlan, Cristina
Fachelli, Sandra
Fernández, Juan Sebastián
García, Juan
García, Livia
Guirao, Cristina
Gutiérrez, José Miguel
Iñiguez, Lara
Jiménez, María
Lagos, María Dolores
Latorre, Pilar
López, Isabel
Martínez, José Saturnino
Matswetu, Vimbai
Mayoral, Dolors
Molina, Silvia
Otero, Beatriz
Pastor, Inmaculada
Pérez-Agote, José María
Plumed, Marta
Pulido, Cristina
Sanz, Elvira
Serrano, Cecilia
Sobczyk, Rita
Vidu, Ana

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