Social Foundations of Education


Social Foundations of Education draws upon several disciplines and fields to examine education, namely history, philosophy, comparative/ international education, cultural studies, sociology, and political science. Social Foundations inquiry helps to sharpen students’ capacities to understand, analyze, and explain educational issues, policies, and practices in order to improve education.

Thus, the purpose of Social Foundations study is to draw upon these humanities and social science disciplines to develop students’ interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives on education, both inside and outside of schools (Council for Social Foundations of Education, 1996, 2004). The development of such perspectives helps educators to “exercise sensitive judgments amidst competing cultural and education values and beliefs” (CSFE, 1996). 

Rather than reducing education to a formula for best practice, courses in the Social Foundations of Education challenge students to think deeply about the relationships between education (formal and informal) and society(ies) at large.  Social Foundations encourages educators to use “critical judgment to question educational assumptions and arrangements and to identify contradictions and inconsistencies among social and educational values, policies, and practices” (CSFE, 2004).

What are interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives?

Each perspective or method of inquiry is described as follows:

Interpretive perspective: Students use concepts and theories from the humanities and social sciences to examine educational phenomena. Social Foundations perspectives (comparative, cultural, historical, and philosophical) are applied to examine and analyze an educational aspect or issue and these perspectives affect the meaning and interpretation of that educational issue.

Normative perspective: Students examine education in relation to differing value orientations and assumptions about schooling and education. Educational issues, policies, and practices are examined in light of differing value positions and students engage in reflection and development of their own values about education (Kubow & Fossum, 2007).

Critical perspective: Students develop the ability to question the contradictions and inconsistencies among educational values, policies, and practices.

How important are these Social Foundations of Education perspectives to teacher professional standards?

These perspectives are not only important to the development of pre-service and in-service educators but also central to the professional standards promoted by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Thus, all preparation programs for prospective teachers and other professional educators must include study in the Social Foundations of Education.

Principle #1: The educator has acquired a knowledge base of resources, theories, distinctions, and analytic techniques developed within the humanities, the social sciences, and the foundations of education. That is, the educator has developed habits of using this knowledge base in evaluating and formulating educational practice.

Principle #2: The educator understands and can apply normative perspectives on education and schooling. That is, the educator understands and employs value orientations and ethical perspectives in analyzing and interpreting educational ideas, issues, and practices.

Principle #3: The educator understands and can apply critical perspectives on education and schooling. That is, the educator has developed habits of critically examining educational practice in light of this knowledge base.

Principle #4: The educator understands how moral principles related to democratic institutions can inform and direct schooling practice, leadership, and governance. That is, the educator understands how knowledge from Social Foundations of Education illuminates the conditions that support education in a democratic society.

Principle #5: The educator understands the significance of diversity in a democratic society and how that bears on instruction, school leadership, and governance. That is, the educator understands how social and cultural differences originating outside the classroom and school affect student learning and how educational understanding includes sensitivity to human potentials and differences.

Principle #6: The educator understands how philosophical and moral commitments affect the process of evaluation at all levels of schooling practice, leadership, and governance.  That is, the educator can articulate the moral and philosophical assumptions underlying evaluation measures or processes.


Undergraduate Level

EDFI 2980: Schools, Society and Cultural Diversity (3cr, Fall, Spring, Summer)

Critical interdisciplinary examination of schooling, society, and cultural diversity in the United States. Inquiry into the origins of contemporary ideas, issues, and problems through the disciplines of history and philosophy, and analysis grounded in the social sciences on the relationships between schooling, diversity, and institutional issues in a globalizing society. (Fulfills BG Perspectives Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and Cultural Diversity in the US (CDUS) Requirements). 

EDFI 2990: Field Experience in Cultural and Community Contexts (1 cr, Fall, Spring, Summer)

Didactic seminar and fieldwork focusing on culture and community in learning.  Provides pre-service educators with supervised fieldwork experiences in schools or community agencies. Taken concurrently with EDFI 2980. 

Graduate Level

EDFI 6000: Philosophy of Education

Philosophical examination of issues pertinent to educational theory and practice. Readings of influential work in classical and contemporary philosophy, educational theory, and adjacent disciplines. Reading list varies depending upon the course focus.

EDFI 6010: Comparative Education (Fall)

Comparative study and critique of the role of education in national and global development. Emphasis on the interrelationship between cultural, economic, and political factors and the roles of education in selected developed and developing nations.

EDFI 6020: History of Education

Historical background of contemporary educational theory, practice, and reform. Emphasis on diversity of experience, institutional development, and the relationship between social change and education. Students are encouraged to develop focused research projects related to their professional and academic interests.

EDFI 6030: Social and Cultural Foundations of Education (Fall)

An interdisciplinary introduction to the concept of culture and its relation to education; cross-cultural and international education; globalization; text and language; immigration and displacement; human possibility, subjectivity and identity.

EDFI 7010: Comparative Higher Education (Spring)

An international, cross-cultural examination and analysis of educational issues and reforms in higher education.

EDFI 7600: International Education Policy (Spring)

Critical examination of the historical, cultural, economic, social and political forces shaping education policy from an international and global perspective. 

Updated: 12/16/2021 04:37PM