A bird’s-eye view on curriculum publications concerning seven countries: A bibliometric analysis

A bird’s-eye view on curriculum publications concerning seven countries - A bibliometric analysis

20 Jul 2022 (22:12)

Paper presentation by Dr Pia Kreijkes at the 10th European Conference on Education, 14-17 July 2022. The study reports a bibliometric analysis providing a bird’s-eye view on publications on curriculum pertaining to Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, India and Estonia.

Video transcript

[00:00:03] Hi everyone and thank you very much for joining me for this presentation entitled A bird's eye view on curriculum publications concerning seven countries: A bibliometric analysis. My name is Pia Kreijkes. I'm an educational researcher here at Cambridge University Press & Assessment, and I'm working in a research team that mostly focuses on curriculum but also does more general research and education, as well as research related to specific products. In this talk, as the title suggests, I'm going to present a bibliometric analysis of publications that concern curriculum matters in seven countries. These seven countries are Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, India and Estonia. These countries have not been selected for some specific theoretical reason, but rather because they are of interest to the organisation, especially to Cambridge International. So just to give you a brief outline of what I'm going to speak about over the next, I'd say 20 minutes, and I'm going to start by explaining what bibliometric analysis is and what it is used for, and then share the purpose aims and the research questions for the specific project. I'm going to also, of course, discuss the methods as well as the results and discussion. And lastly, I'm going to share some general thoughts as well as the main limitations of this analysis. So what then is bibliometric analysis? It is the quantitative analysis of the bibliometric features of a body of literature. Bibliometric features are the kind of things that you will find in an abstract and citation database such as Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar, ERIC just to name a few.

[00:02:03] So this includes things like author names, author affiliations. So that's the institutions that authors work at. Of course, the title of articles and the abstracts, as well as the keywords for the article and the overall purpose of bibliometric analysis is, is to provide an overview of the scholarly production within a given field and to determine the structure of that field. So this analysis can help, for instance, to identify the patterns and the themes or topics that are published on it can identify or show the production and changes in production over time. It can help to identify most prolific authors, institution, countries and journals, and it can also do things like showing which office and countries work together, which ones are publishing together in the field, as well as what is what the impact of a specific journalist. So the results of these kind of bibliometric analyses are very often presented in so-called science maps. So these are maps that show the relationship between these different bibliometric features for a specific body of literature. More on this when I actually discussed the results. So while very similar really to the general purposes of bibliometric analysis, the study was conducted to provide an overview of the landscape of curriculum publications that deal with the seven countries I have mentioned.

[00:03:47] So in particular, I wanted to get insights into the production and changes in production over time across the countries. I want to identify the key players or the research hotspots in the curriculum field. I want to identify the main themes of interest in contemporary academic curriculum debates and ideally also identify areas where more research is needed. So these are the specific research questions then. So the first one is all about the curriculum landscape over the past 20 years, what, 20 years? 21 years actually. So this looked at how much has been published, where has the work been conducted? So this is based on countries of author affiliation and in which journals did these publications appear? The second question then focussed on the last five years to identify the key topics or themes within curriculum publications. So turning to the methods. So I used the Scopus database. This is a curated collection, which means that only peer reviewed work is included. And there are a couple of other criteria that Scopus uses, such as that the journals that are included need to be published and fairly regularly, and they need an abstract and title in the English language as well. So I've conducted multiple searches with the search terms that are listed here. I'm not going to go through detail, but basically I wanted to capture publications on curriculum and I wanted to capture those that are focussed on the countries of interest.

[00:05:43] So after the search, I exported the data into Excel where I cleaned it. So sometimes, for instance, an institution might have been linked to the wrong country. Things like this. And then I used VOSviewer to analyse the data. VOSviewer is a free software for conducting bibliometric analysis and it has been developed in the Netherlands and I found it really, really straightforward to use. So I can recommend it. So this table here shows the document base for the time periods of interest. And as you can already see, they are quite big differences in the number of publications for the different countries. But I'm going to go into more detail in a minute. A second, rather. So here you can see how much has been published over the past 21 years. And it's very clear that there's much, much more work that pertains to Australia, South Africa and India. You can also see that there has been an increase in publications for these countries over time. So there's been really relatively little in 2000, but there's quite a lot in 2021. I did check whether there would be any notable spikes in publication, for instance, at times of curriculum reforms. But that's something I did not find. So instead, that just seems to be a rather steady growth of publications, which is very much in line with the general global trends on the Scopus database. So we cannot really think or see from this that there has been necessarily an increase in interest for the curriculum field specifically.

[00:07:41] But over time, there is just the tendency that more and more is being published. While you can see, though, that for the other jurisdictions or countries, the number of publications was very low at the beginning and it remained very low over time. And I'm going to address potential reasons for this after looking at where the works have been conducted. So this table here shows the five most frequent countries of author affiliation. And I just want to highlight two points, really. So the first one is that perhaps not surprisingly, the work concerning a specific country has also been mostly been conducted in that country, as you can see in the first row. The other thing I want to highlight is that the UK and the US appear in the top five countries of author affiliation for all the US discussions, but not for Estonia. So I think that is quite an interesting finding and an interesting question as to why researchers at the US and UK institutions do not seem to be involved in curriculum work that concerns Estonia. So why are the rates of publication so different? So we probably cannot just say that this reflects a difference in interest, but it's more likely going to be a difference in resources. So previous research has already shown that poor countries, again, perhaps not surprisingly, publish less.

[00:09:19] So I've looked at the GDP per capita and the research and development expenditure for the seven countries, and I found that with exceptions overall, the pattern of the rate of publications does seem to follow the pattern of the resources. This is without having done proper statistical analysis, just an observation, really. But what we can take away from this is that it seems to be important to invest into research in countries that do not have seem to have the resources to do them so themselves, as well as to focus on the development of international curricula that these countries then can draw on. So this is something that Cambridge International is doing with their international curriculum. Interestingly, India and Estonia did not follow the pattern of resources, so there were more publications than you would expect for India, and there were less publications than you would expect for Estonia based on resources. And I think one potential explanation might be the language of publication. So Australia, South Africa and India, who are kind of high publishing ones. They also have English as one of their national language. So that, of course, then increases the chance that researchers are going to publish in English, which increases the chance that these publications feature on Scopus. And perhaps scholars in Estonia are less likely to publish in journals that have an English title, an abstract. So moving on to where the work has been published, this is in which journals did they appear? Again, this table shows the top five journals.

[00:11:16] And in general, I just also want to point out that the number of different journals is really high. So just looking at this is not in the table, but just looking at Australia. And so publications concerning Australia appeared in over 500 different journals. So they're really broad field, really. And as you can see in this table. And. The journals where they're the most frequent journals can roughly be divided into three different domains. And these are journals that are focussed specifically on curriculum, journals that focus on general education or education in general, and then journals in the medical field. There was no journal that kind of immediately stood out, but there are a few journals that appeared in the top five of more than one jurisdiction, and these are the ones that are shown in different font colours here. So you can see, for instance, that the Journal of Curriculum Studies appeared in the top five of three countries. So I'm moving on to the second research question. So this looks at the main themes in publications over the past, while not really five years now 2017 to 2021. So what you see here, first of all, is a so-called keyword co-occurrence map, which I created using VOSviewer. So these maps show how prevalent a keyword is within publications, as well as which keywords appear together within publications so they co-occur.

[00:13:03] So the researcher has to choose a threshold for each map. And this is the number, the minimum number of publications within which a keyword must occur in order to be included. In this case for Australia, this is five. So the size of the node or the text that you can see, the keywords indicate how often the keyword occurs. So the bigger the writing, the higher the number. And then the links indicate which keywords appear together. And if two keywords co-occur in multiple publications, the lines become thicker. It is quite difficult to see in these screenshots, but I do want to mention that VOSviewer is an interactive map so you can click on things and it's going to show you numbers, links, strength of links and so on. The closer the keywords are as well, the stronger is the relationship. And another interesting feature is that one of your clusters keywords based on its own network algorithms, and this is indicated by the by the different colours. So these are keywords that tend to cluster together across publications. OK, so much as an introduction to to the actual maps. This one that you see here is the map of Australia. I included all the key data basically on the left. So these are the number of key words, the threshold for the map, how many keywords met the threshold, as well as the five most frequent keywords.

[00:14:45] I want to point out three things for this map, and the first one is that a lot of publications are focussed on higher education rather than, say, primary and secondary school. A lot of the publications are in the medical field. So you can see yeah, you can see lots of kind of medical terms in here. And another one is that pedagogy seems to be really relevant in publications and curriculum in Australia as well. And before moving on to the next countries, I do want to point out something that I perceive as quite a big limitation, or at least something you have to be very aware of. So VOSviewer only counts identical keywords together. So for instance, let's say you would have the keywords assessment, peer assessment, formative assessment, assessment for learning, which are all clearly involved with assessment. They would not actually be counted together. So as a consequence, that might not show up in the map. And you would underestimate the importance of assessment in the field. So this just highlights that you need to be quite careful when you interpret these kind of maps. So this then is the map for South Africa, and the most frequent keywords show that many publications are again related to higher education, as it was the case for Australia. A specific topic that stood out is decolonisation. So this is an important topic in the recent debates in South Africa.

[00:16:32] You can see that the keywords form five clusters and the largest of those is the red one, which includes keywords such as culture, diversity, entrepreneurship, education, policy and indigenous knowledge. I found entrepreneurship quite, quite interesting because it's a keyword that did not at all appear in publications for Australia. And I think one reason why this seems to be a topic of interest is that South Africa has a severe problem of unemployment, one of the highest in the whole world. And entrepreneurship has been proposed as one way to tackle the problem of unemployment. Okay. Moving on to India. Here again, you can see that medical education is a very prominent theme. You can see that in the green cluster here. And medical education in India is a highly important topic amongst many reasons, one of them being that the availability of health workers is very low, much below what is recommended by the World Health Organisation. There's also been a new bill introduced in 2019 that aims at improving the medical education system and the relatively high number of publications on medicine might also explain why there are so many curriculum publications in general, much more than resources would suggest. So previous research actually found that poorer countries have a relatively large share of publications in the medical sector, most likely because that is where their needs are. So the maps for Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Estonia contain much less information because the number of publications is so small, which then obviously means that there are relatively few keywords that appear in multiple publications.

[00:18:40] So you can see for this map, for instance, I've set the threshold to only two. So it is really not possible to detect any particular patterns on important topics. That's why I'm really just showing this very quickly. So here is Kenya. You can see there are only ten keywords that met a threshold of two. And if a keyword occurred in two publications over the last five years I don't think that you can claim that it has particular importance. And then the same for Ghana and not even showing a map for Estonia because there were no links or coherence between keywords and the only keywords that are accurate more than twice where curriculum, Estonia and curriculum development, which is really general. So you can't really guess what is happening within these publications really. So overall, then, I do think that bibliometric analysis has a lot of value in providing a useful overview over publications in a specific field. I think that analysis can really highlight what topics related to curriculum are particular important or of interest in a given country. And this, of course, you can do these analysis with any field you're interested in. And I can see, for instance, that this analysis could be very interesting as well when you embark on a new project to kind of see what what the landscape already is like, what the gaps are, for instance.

[00:20:32] I think it can also highlight which countries might need more support in terms of research into curricular matters because they don't seem to have the resources to do so themselves. And I think it was also very obvious to see that a lot of research was in the medical field. So it might be interesting to think why that is and how we can invest more into other important areas. Lastly, I just want to point out that I think that only relying on the tool without really digging any deeper into actual publications or at least abstracts, can lead to misleading conclusions. So as I've explained, there is the issue of that only identical keywords account together which can lead to underrepresentation. So overall, I would just say, yes, a very useful tool. I think you can really make very interesting comparisons across countries, but also across time. Compare what happened in one time period and then how did the interest shift in a different period? But overall, I also think that analysis need to be taken with a grain of salt because it is really just this overview rather than providing a lot of details or what the publications are dealing with. Wait. Well, many thanks for listening. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this particular project. Thank you very much.

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