Vandra Lea Masemann (1944 - )

Masemann Vandra Lea

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Vandra Lea Masemann is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE) program of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, Canada. Masemann teaches the program's introductory course, providing students with a foundation in comparative education and assisting students in preparing for their academic and professional careers. She derives great satisfaction from teaching and embraces the opportunity to expand students' horizons and to have an effect on their theorizing, conceptualizing, and writing (Masemann to Ortegón, March 19, 2008).

Formerly its President and Secretary General, Masemann is a member of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES). From 1979 to the present, Masemann has served as a reviewer of manuscripts for the Comparative Education Review (CER). In light of Masemann's long, distinguished career, she was designated a CIES Honorary Fellow in 2008.

Masemann was born on December 14, 1944, in Erith, Kent, England. In her youth, she and her family emigrated from England to Canada. In Canada, Masemann attained her B.A. in anthropology and M.A. and Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Toronto. In 1975, while an Assistant Professor at OISE, she received an invitation from Matthew Zachariah, a former CIES President, to participate in a panel discussion on methodological approaches in comparative education at the CIES 1975 Annual Conference in San Francisco; this was Masemann's formal introduction to comparative education. Following the conference, Masemann accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she "really got into [the] anthropology of education," demonstrating "how you can use ethnographic methodology to explain the processes that are happening inside the black box" (Masemann to Ortegón, March 19, 2008).

Throughout her career Masemann has advocated for the employment, and demonstrated the utility of, anthropological, critical ethnographical, and qualitative methodological approaches in comparative education. In particular, Masemann has delineated the utility of the participant-observation approach in comparative studies of socialization. This approach underscores the importance of examining the interactions that transpire between and among social agents in their natural setting. According to Masemann (1976), through engaging in participant-observation, one is well situated to observe the complexities of social and educational processes, which are invaluable in understanding "the actual operations of [educational] systems in diverse cultural settings" (p. 373). While Masemann has acknowledged the importance of large-scale survey and macro-level studies in comparative education, she has argued that ethnographic studies allow for "deeper insights into the actual social realities," fostering the development of alternative directions for further research and providing "a more secure basis for comparative studies" (p. 380).

In 1991, Masemann received the George Bereday Award for best CIES article of 1990 for her Presidential Address, "Ways of Knowing: Implications for Comparative Education." The address holds personal significance for Masemann, as it is indicative of her lifelong efforts to unite anthropology and education (Masemann to Ortegón, April 2, 2008). In her Presidential Address, Masemann underscored the importance of understanding knowledge itself as a cultural construct. She contended that the legitimization of some epistemologies and not others had functioned to limit and restrict the definition of comparative education and contributed to the development of a false dichotomy between theory and practice and to the division between academics and practitioners. Masemann proposed that diverse ways of knowing be acknowledged and valued and that which constitutes knowledge be collaboratively determined rather than determined wholly by academics and researchers. Masemann contends that all knowledge forms are socially conditioned, and thus argues for the adoption of a holistic paradigm with regard to knowledge forms, and the redistribution of power and authority among researchers and practitioners as well as dominant and marginalized groups.

Masemann is co-editor and contributing author of Common Interests, Uncommon Goals: Histories of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (2007). Masemann dedicated three years of her life to the completion of the text, intent on leaving "a legacy for the next generation" (Masemann to Ortegón, April 2, 2008). The book outlines the history and development of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES) and of its member societies. For the editors, the deaths of central figures in comparative education prior to and during the project emphasized the importance of "recording histories while the remaining actors were still able to recount their perspectives and experiences" (p. 8). The text represents a vital contribution to the field, facilitating future generations of comparativists in attaining an understanding of the field's history and epistemological platforms.

Educational Background

B.A. (Honors), Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada (1966)

M.A., Social Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada (1967)

Ph.D., Social Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada (1972)

Professional Background

Secondary School Teacher with Canadian University Service Overseas, Accra Girls' Secondary School in Ghana (1967-1969)

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (1972-1975)

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1975-1978)

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Philosophy and Sociology of Education, Faculty of Education, University of Toronto. Principal, Continuing Education courses in Multiculturalism in Education, Faculty of Education, Ontario Ministry of Education (1980-1982)

Instructor, Faculty of Education, University of Toronto (1987-1994)

Facilitator, Partners in Change Project, East York, Ontario; Responsible for needs assessment of delivery of municipal services to ethnocultural and racial minorities (1990-1991)

Associate Professor, International/Intercultural Development Education Program, Department of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies, College of Education, Florida State University (1995-1998)

Visiting Associate Professor, Comparative and Global Studies, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Graduate School of Education, State University of New York at Buffalo (1999-2000)

Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Education, Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh (2000)

Adjunct Associate Professor, Comparative and International Development Education Program, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (2004-)

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES), President (1987-1991); Liaison for follow-up to the World Conference on Education for All (1990-1994); Chair, Congress Commission, and Member, Executive Committee (1992-1996); Secretary General (1996-2000); Chair, Search Committee for WCCES President (2004); Co-opted Member (2004-Present).

Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Comparative Education Review (1979-1984); Member, Board of Directors, Ethics Committee, Member and Chair, Awards Committee (1982-1985); Vice President and President Elect (1987-1988); President, Organizer and Program Chair for CIES Annual Meeting, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1989-1990); Member, Organizing Committee for CIES Annual Meeting, Kingston, Jamaica (1992-1993); Member, Nominating Committee, Gender and Education Committee (1993-1994); Member, Gender and Education Committee, Conference Handbook Planning Committee, CIES Secretariat Search Committee (1994-1995); Reviewer of Manuscripts for Comparative Education Review (1979-); Associate Editor (Book Reviews), Comparative Education Review (1995-1998); Member and Chair of George Bereday Award Sub-Committee and Gail Kelly Award Sub-Committee (1990s); Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Comparative Education Review (1998-2003).

Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC), CIESC Association Editor for Canadian Journal of Education (1981-1985); Vice President (1983-1985); President (1985-1987); Chair, Awards Committee (1992-1994).

Member of the International Steering Committee for the World Conference on Education for All, Thailand (1989-1990).

Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Representative of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education on the Sub-Commission on the Status of Women (1991-1993) and the Sub-Commission on Education (1993-1994).

Selected Publications

Masemann, V. (1974). The "Hidden Curriculum" of a West African Girls' Boarding School. Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, 8(3), 479-494.

Masemann, V. (1976). Anthropological Approaches to Comparative Education. Comparative Education Review, 20(3), 368-380.

Masemann, V. (1982). Critical Ethnography in the Study of Comparative Education. Comparative Education Review, 26(1), 1-15.

Masemann, V. (1990). Ways of Knowing: Implications for Comparative Education. Comparative Education Review, 34(4), 465-473.

Masemann, V., & Welch, A. (Eds.). (1997). Tradition, Modernity and Post-Modernity in Comparative Education. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht.

Masemann, V. (2003). Culture and Education. In R. Arnove & C. Torres (Eds.), Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local (Second Edition) (pp. 115-132). New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Masemann, V., Bray, M., & Manzon, M. (Eds.). (2007). Common Interests, Uncommon Goals: Histories of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies and its Members. Comparative Education Research Centre The University of Hong Kong: Springer.

Larsen, M., Majhanovich, S., & Masemann, V. (2007). Revised version in 2008. Comparative Education in Canadian Universities. In C. Wolhuter & N. Popov (Eds.), Comparative Education as Discipline at Universities Worldwide. Sofia, Bulgaria: Bureau for Educational Services.

Masemann, V. & Janigan, K. Gender and Education. (Forthcoming 2008). In K. Mundy & R. Hayhoe (Eds.), Issues in Comparative Education for Teacher Education. Teachers College Press.


Created: 6/3/2008

Updated: 6/3/2008

Contributed By: Nicole Desirée Ortegón, Loyola University Chicago