Recent events of the COVID-19 global pandemic, coupled with racial protests in response to police brutality, have made explicit the widespread inequality and structural forms of racism that impact social progress and the wellbeing of marginalized communities in the United States. In response to the structural oppression laid bare by this historic moment, we witnessed decision-makers within higher education faced with demands for action to change practices and policies. This time period required urgent decisions ranging from campus closures, removal of racist emblems (e.g. confederate statues and building names), efforts to combat anti-black racism, shifting to virtual instruction, and determining how to support students, staff, and faculty. While some campus leaders took time to pause, reflect, and pivot toward actions that centered the challenges of the most marginalized groups in higher education, it is evident from the decisions and public statements of many college leaders that structural forms of oppression continue to be neglected in coming up with equitable solutions.
This time period presents an opportunity for researchers and educators to also pause, rethink, and pivot research approaches in order to authentically address the needs of historically underserved groups in higher education (Hrabowski, et al., 2020). Indeed, while higher education largely reflects society, it can also reflect the society we aspire to become (Bowen, 1977; Hurtado, 2009).
While scholarship focused on increasing or valuing diversity in higher education has been a common approach and strategy for social justice, the problems within higher education and society require scholarship and solutions that address deeply rooted structural inequality. In other words, higher education must pivot away from research and practices that cater generally to diversity, and pivot toward scholarship and empirical work that addresses the multi-layered, nuanced, power-infused, and dynamic nature of structural inequity. Higher education scholarship can, and must, reflect the society that we aspire to become. Advancing equity in postsecondary education involves all areas of academic, career and democratic outcomes for historically marginalized groups at many levels of education. We seek papers that illuminate how transformational research, theory and practice can be conducted and implemented in higher education contexts (Hurtado, 2015; Mertens, 2007; 2008; 2010) using identity-conscious, equity-minded strategies toward advancing progress for students, faculty, and leadership from marginalized communities (Arday & Mirza, 2018; Dowd & Bensimon, 2015; Harper, 2016). It is not enough to demonstrate differences and inequality, now is the moment for researchers and educators to move toward solutions and perspectives that empower communities.
Distinguishing features of the transformative paradigm in research and practice include an expressed concern for the vulnerability of populations in the research process, identifying the issues and the complex web of structural and individual factors that reinforce unequal outcomes, tensions between researchers and communities, and use of alternate frames and evidence that bring about greater awareness of educators’ roles in maintaining the status quo or enhancing capacities for change. Transformative research incorporates many forms of qualitative, critical quantitative, and mixed methods research techniques (Merton, 2008), but differs in axiology, ontology, and epistemology embedded in other paradigms (Hurtado, 2015).
The purpose of this special issue of Education Sciences is to seek work that helps researchers and educators see their worlds differently, pushes the boundaries on research, theory, and practice to advance equity and social justice in higher education and implications for social mobility (e.g., careers). This entails not only identifying the problem(s) but interrogates more complex dynamics that reproduce inequality and identifies opportunities for radical transformation and empowerment of marginalized students, faculty, and institutions. Understanding that this moment marks an opportunity to re-envision higher education and society, proposals to this special issue of Education Sciences might address one or more of the following questions:
- How can higher education research paradigms, methods, and forms of scholar-activism address inequality or structural forms of oppression to support student success, persistence, and retention?
- What new possibilities in higher education practices and policies advancing equity can emerge?
- What structures (systemic policies and practices) and assumptions (ideologies) need to change to achieve greater equity in outcomes and processes?
- As ideologies and research paradigms shift, what new language is formed and how does that impact research and practice?
- What are transformative examples of research and practice that can offer guidance for radical social change in higher education?
We encourage submissions from scholars in higher education and related fields, including those involving interdisciplinary collaboration.
We look forward to reviewing your contributions to advancing equity and social justice in higher education.
Arday, J. & Mirza, H.S. (2018). Dismantling race in higher education: Racism, whiteness, and decolonizing the academy. Palgrave McMillan.
Bowen, H. (1977). Investment in learning: The individual and social value of American higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Dowd, A. & Bensimon, E. (2015). Engaging the “race question”: Accountability and equity in U.S. higher education. Teachers College Press.
Harper, S. R. (2016). Closing the opportunity gap: Identity-conscious strategies for retention and student success. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Hrabowski, F. A., Tracy, J. K., & Henderson, P. H. (2020). Opinion: At a Crossroads: Reimagining science, engineering, and medicine—and its practitioners. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(31), 18137-18141.
Hurtado, S. (2009). Assessing higher education’s advancement toward a new vision of society. Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures, 12 (1), 1-3.
Hurtado, S. (2015). The transformative paradigm: Principles and challenges. In A. Alemán, B. P. Pusser, & E. Bensimon (Eds.), Critical approaches to the study of higher education (pp. 285– 307). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.
Mertens, D. M. (2010). Philosophy in mixed methods teaching: The transformative paradigm as illustration. International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches, 4(1), 9-18.
Mertens, D. M. (2007). Transformative paradigm: Mixed methods and social justice. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(3), 212-225.
Mertens, D. M. (2008). Transformative research and evaluation. Guilford press.
Dr. Sylvia Hurtado
Dr. Krystle Palma Cobian
Manuscript Submission Information
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This special issue is now open for submission.