5 Research Focus of the Proposed Program

The primary research focus of the proposed Ph.D. program will be the study of urban education as an interdependent system of social institutions across many scales of organization: from the family and neighborhood community; to classrooms, schools, and partner institutions; to school districts and larger-scale political and economic institutions. The program will seek to understand how urban educational systems integrate activities across time scales that range from a "teaching moment," to a developmental curriculum, to the long-term processes of policy formulation and systemic change.

As a new and relatively small program, we recognize the wisdom of identifying within this broad approach a more limited and well-defined set of initial research priority areas. These priorities will guide the program in planning and structuring further curriculum development, in faculty and student recruitment, and in formulating initiatives for external funding.

In identifying these areas we have tried to take into account both pressing issues and future prospects for the field of Urban Education as well as existing research strengths of The Graduate Center and the wider CUNY faculty in education and other relevant disciplines. The research focus of the program will properly evolve with new and changing interests of faculty and students and with emerging issues in the field of Urban Education. The four priority areas we have identified represent the starting points for our work together. In each of these areas there will be a focus on combining perspectives from policy analysis and curriculum studies, including school and classroom research and research on teacher education.

The general descriptions for each focus area highlight what we regard as the major educational issues at stake; the illustrative questions that follow represent only examples of more specific topics and are not meant to exclude other specific research agendas.


Systemic Reform of Urban Education

Implications of curricular reform and higher student learning standards for changes in teacher preparation, effective assessment of learning, and university-school-community partnerships; investigation of systemic reform as a process distinct from normal policy evolution, including issues of accountability, governance, public and private sponsorship and funding, and evaluation of outcomes; development and testing of new conceptual models of institutional and organizational change relevant to the case of systemic educational reform.


New Information and Communication Technologies

Implications of new information and communication technologies for changes in teacher education, curriculum enrichment, teaching methodology, educational administration, school-community relationships, effective assessment, and student achievement. Development and testing of new theoretical models of computer-mediated human communication and learning.


Language, Representational Media, and Culture

Educational challenges and opportunities of urban language and dialect diversity; language and personal and cultural identity; educational implications of varying relationships among home, community, and school cultures; relationships between academic standards and curricular demands for language and literacy skills, creation and critical interpretation of visual and hybrid representational media, and critical aesthetic literacy.


Urban Education and Global Communities

Education of all students for participation in global society and its social, cultural, and economic networks; education of students representing diverse global populations in a world city; global communication systems, international urban communities, and institutions as resources for teaching and curriculum in all subject areas.

Students in the program will concentrate their work within one of the program's three disciplinary studies specializations (AHSS, SMT, Policy) as well as developing research competence in one or more of the four research focus areas. Major research questions within the studies specializations that are motivated and informed by the four research priority areas of the program as a whole are described in more detail in Section 8.

Research in each of these fields presents profound intellectual challenges that can only be met by creating a partnership among disciplines. No single disciplinary tradition provides the range of conceptual foundations or analytical research techniques needed to respond to the complexity of urban education. To pursue research effectively in any of these areas, doctoral candidates will need effective preparation across a wide range of conceptual perspectives and their associated methodologies. None of these issues can be fruitfully investigated without some degree of sophistication with regard to their historical, cultural, sociological, political, and ethical dimensions. No one today can read the best research literature on these questions without a grounding in methods of analysis of documentary and interview data and direct observation, as well as in statistical methods and the use of quantitative measures.

Research on urban education should be expected to contribute to the development of fundamental theoretical perspectives in many disciplines other than the field of education as such, as well as to provide genuinely useful knowledge and new critical discourses for policy-makers and educational leaders and practitioners. The institutions of urban education, the discourses and practices of its participants, and the intersection of curricular and instructional concerns with policy issues provide the unity of focus for this multidisciplinary program. Education as a field of scholarly research with a long and distinguished tradition has never defined itself by an exclusive body of theory or a single methodology, but by its object of investigation. Whatever perspectives and methods are needed are brought to bear. Many current members of the CUNY faculty are already doing outstanding research in curriculum and policy studies in education. Like their colleagues in Educational Psychology and Psychology, these scholars and their research need a proper institutional base within the University to develop programs effectively for training and mentoring future researchers. The mission of this distinguished urban university invites us to provide such a base for research and teaching programs that can contribute directly to the welfare of the community that supports us.