Methodological Developments In Growth of Research in Comparative Education

The 9th UKFIET International Conference On Education And Development

Oxford September 2007

There is an on-going dialogue related to content boundaries, organizational resources, teaching programs, personnel, literatures used, and themes pursued in the content of university coursework in comparative and international education. (Tikly and Crossley 2001: 561) Torres expressed an editorial view of the poverty of research and theory in the field. (Torres 2001) A few previous studies had compared comparative and international education course outlines. In 1994, there was a worldwide survey of individuals, programs, and centers in comparative and international education, covering 120 institutions. A second study in 1995 reviewed course outlines at all levels in thirty-four colleges and universities in the United States. At the 2005 Oxford Conference, Wilson presented results of web-site research and follow-up questionnaire covering over 100 education departments in the U.K. (Wilson 2005) This had been updated research based on a 1999 survey that had reported a virtual disappearance of comparative and international education in initial teacher training. (Schweisfurth 1999)

The evolving interest in examining the course content of comparative and international education has emerged into examination of course outlines to analyze comparative education as a field of study. In 2002, a dynamic international research project was developed and resulted in a web-based global resource designated as CIECAP – Comparative & International Course Archive Project that included an extensive database of course outline information and bibliographic references covering thirty universities.

Since 2004, CIECAP has manifested an articulated plan for acquisition of course outlines from U.S. universities and overseas institutions of higher education. A coding system has also been integrated into the database to add updated information without eliminating the original data. In 2005 the CIECAP project was formally accepted and endorsed by World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES) and provides access to associations worldwide belonging to the WCCES. The CIECAP web-site is an example of new developments in the use of the Internet as a resource for global research collaboration, transnational surveys, database information, and sharing data through web-site resources. CIECAP is now in the process of uploading on the CIECAP web-site complete course outlines.

Another consideration involves the type of research commonly found in comparative education. Arnove notes that discussions about the history of CIES often contrast the international side with the comparative side of the field. The international side has a geographic perspective and is concerned with the movement of scholars and students between countries and the various accounts of what they observed. Arnove believes that these case studies are likely to continue to be the most commonly used approach to studying education-society relationships. Rust et al., after reviewing over 1,800 journal articles from 1955-1997, found that over seventy percent of the comparative education research was qualitative and relied mainly on natural settings. (Rust 1999) The comparative side of comparative education is more of an explanatory one oriented to comparative education as a social science, and is concerned with theory building. (Arnove 2001: 496)

A significant aspect of the CIECAP database involves the quantitative analysis of extensive bibliographic references. Each course outline was examined, and every bibliographic reference cited in the outline was entered into the database by author(s), type of reference, title, and copyright date. The types of references included textbooks required for the course, as well as additional books, journal articles, and readings. The CIECAP database generates descriptive statistics and includes an analysis of the bibliographic references by decade of copyright date and reference frequency of journals. A significant CIECAP component relates to data on authors cited in bibliographic references, and the frequency of authors cited in course outlines compares with the authors who were indicated as influential figures in the previously cited study by Cook, Hite, and Epstein (Cook, Hite and Epstein 2004: 141)

Topics covered in the introductory course in comparative education provided additional data. A graph of topics is included in the CIECAP web-site. Cook, Hite and Epstein examined the field’s contemporary dimensions through an attitudinal survey of the members of CIES. The research was based on the premise that a field’s contours and boundaries are best discerned through assessing the thoughts and actions of the field’s practitioners, and that it is individuals in the profession who determine the field’s contours. (Cook, Hite and Epstein: 2004) Bartolomei and Stone (2005) developed a coding of major topics in comparative education in a longitudinal analysis of the conference programmes from 5 years of CIES Conferences. The topic codes derived from that study were similar to the topic codes found in the CIECAP research as well as the CIES member survey. As a result, a formal topic coding system is being developed and will facilitate future statistical analyses. The methodology used in CIECAP is an example of pragmatic application of Internet research leading to growth in the field of comparative and international education. The CIECAP web-site can be accessed at:


Arnove, Robert F. 2001. Presidential address: Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) facing the twenty-first century: challenges and contributions. Comparative Education Review 45(4): 488-489.

Bartolomei, Angela, & Stone, Kathleen. (2005) Dichotomies emerging from longitudinal analysis of CIES conference presentations. Presentation at 2005 Comparative & International Education Society Annual Conference, Stanford University, California.

Cook, Bradley J., Steven J. Hite, & Erwin H. Epstein. (2004) Discerning trends, contours, and boundaries in comparative education: A survey of comparativists and their literature. Comparative Education Review 48(2): 123-149.

Rust, Val, et al. (1999) Research strategies in comparative education. Comparative Education Review 43(1): 86-109, 101, 105, 107.

Schweisfurth, M. (1999) Resilience, resistance and responsiveness: comparative and international education at United Kingdom universities in R. Alexander, P. Broadfood, and D. Phillips (eds) Learning from Comparing: New Directions in Comparative Education Research Vol. I.

Wilson, Maggie (2005) Regression, repositioning and regeneration; comparative and international education in UK higher education institutions. Paper presented at 8th UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development, Oxford.

Tikly, Leon, and Michael Crossley. 2001. Teaching comparative and international education: A framework for analysis. Comparative Education Review 45(4): 561.

Torres, Carlos Alberto. 2001. Globalization and comparative education in the world system. Comparative Education Review 45(4): vi-

CIECAP Presentation