Student-faculty power/knowledge relations: The implications of the Internet in mathematics education and social studies education programs at Sultan Qaboos University
Hamood K. Al-Harthi, University of Pittsburgh, United States
University of Pittsburgh . Awarded
This study examines the experiences of professors and undergraduate students in the Mathematics Education and Social Studies Education programs at Sultan Qaboos University in using the Internet in relation to their courses. The focus is on whether and how this use intersects with the traditional form of student-faculty power/knowledge relations.
The theoretical grounding for this study is based on critical theory and post-structuralism, with special emphasis on Foucault's notion of power/knowledge relations. An ethnographic approach was undertaken with data collected via observations, formal and informal interviewing and open-ended questionnaires.
The findings indicate that the existence of the Internet and even its use by professors and students have not changed the existing structure of student-faculty power knowledge relations. This is the case because the Internet is perceived as just another, less-valued source of knowledge. Faculty control over knowledge evaluation and selection and student regulation discourage students from going beyond knowledge selected by faculty, at least in relation to coursework. Nevertheless, professors' control of knowledge and students was not completely unchallenged. Students showed different type of resistance to this control, including consulting the Internet sources when they did not understand or were not convinced by what the professor or the textbook said. The study also shows differences in students' perceptions and actions in relation to power/knowledge and the use of the Internet depending on their academic majors and (to a limited extent) gender.
The study concludes that in order for the Internet to change existing student-faculty power/knowledge relations in Sultan Qaboos University and other similar institutions, there is a critical need to shift from the “big school” to a “college” culture. This shift requires the reconstruction of the processes of student evaluation, teaching methods, and selection of sources of knowledge. However, it is not enough to encourage professors to use different teaching methods or students to consult the Internet for their own research papers. The more fundamental socio-political questions that needs to be addressed are whose knowledge is to be evaluated and selected, and who controls this evaluation and selection and for what purposes.
Al-Harthi, H.K. Student-faculty power/knowledge relations: The implications of the Internet in mathematics education and social studies education programs at Sultan Qaboos University. Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh.
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