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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.

«This book by Jason Nicholls provides an elegant and important contribution to the field of comparative education. At a time when cross national comparisons are being undertaken for a diverse range of purposes he provides researchers with a salutary reminder of the complexities and limitations of comparisons of the content of school textbooks across nations.» (Professor Paul Morris, Institute of Education, University of London)
«Jason Nicholls was an outstanding scholar and thinker. This book provides a welcome addition to the comparative education literature, and manages to capture some of the brilliance, subtlety and originality of Jason‘s thinking and his considerable abilities of communication. It is a fitting tribute to a brilliant scholar whose life was far too short.» (Professor Ingrid Lunt, Oxford University)
«Constellation Analysis is a very fine contribution – to both the field of comparative education and the philosophy of knowledge – by an even finer intellect and person. It is an extraordinary blend of perspicacious observation and deep and expansive philosophical reasoning. Conceptualizing an educational curriculum as a complex system defined by its component parts and various elements of the context in which it sits, Jason Nicholls shows how a curriculum and its meaning are defined by the interplay of these constructs. Without deconstructing that system, one cannot hope to understand the nature or assess the reliability of the «knowledge» embodied in educational curricula, or compare seemingly comparable curricula across contexts. In addition to its methodological contribution, Constellation Analysis is a highly compelling reminder that taking ideas at face value often has no value.» (Professor David Bloom, Harvard University)