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Constellation Analysis

A Methodology for Comparing Syllabus Topics Across Educational Contexts


Bryan Cunningham

Jason Nicholls’ Constellation Analysis is an important contribution to studies in Comparative Education. From a deeply philosophical perspective (drawing in particular on the work of Hegel, Gadamer and Foucault), the author explores the ways in which topics in history education may be analysed and compared across international contexts. Utilising the Second World War as an «exemplar topic», the depiction of this crucial historical event in three countries, Japan, Sweden and England, is subjected to a highly novel form of interrogation. The book provides the reader not only with important insights into the nature of the books in use in classrooms across these contexts, but also into the educational – and indeed broad socio-political – environments beyond the classrooms.
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Chapter Two: Possibilities and Choices: Reflections on the Literature


[L]abour shapes and fashions the thing… [T]his activity giving shape and form, is at the same time… the pure self existence of that consciousness, which now in the work… is externalised and passes into the condition of permanence.

G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology, 1966, p.238

A wide body of literature informs this book. Philosophical and methodological texts have played a major role, as have those on the Second World War, history education, and the educational systems of Japan, Sweden and England. Essentially, the themes that emerge are the expression of a fundamentally hermeneutic dynamic. Patterns and meanings developed and consolidated themselves as this researcher engaged – increasingly and persistently – with texts. Over time it became possible to cluster texts around particular themes.

In many respects the writings in my personal journals express the dialectical unfolding that characterises the entire book. In Volume III (1993–1995) the entries are philosophical in nature, written before I begin my period as an overseas educator. During this time I would live in London, frequently writing down my thoughts on Hegel, Foucault, Adorno, and Weber in my journal. In Volume IV (1995–1996) the content of the journal entries changes. Although continuing to be philosophical in nature, I had now qualified as an educator, and would look to find employment in Japan.

Volume V (1996–2000) covers the entire period of my stay in Japan and China. In this text I apply philosophical perspectives to concrete...

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