A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

EERA is celebrating 30 years in 2024, and as part of our anniversary celebrations, we have invited people who have been at the heart of the association to share their memories and reflections. In a series of blog posts, which will run throughout 2024, we will share those precious memories, from the people who helped foster the global EERA community.

In this blog post, Professor Fiona Hallett looks back on her 18 years of engagement with EERA and ECER, and what makes this community of researchers so unique.

In the realm of academic conferences, the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) stands out as a unique and transformative experience, especially for international students. My first encounter with ECER in 2006 marked the beginning of a journey that not only shaped my early career but also fostered a sense of intellectual camaraderie that set it apart from other conferences.

As an early career researcher navigating the landscape of academic associations, I was fortunate that ECER was my first exposure to this world. Little did I know that this event would not only broaden my horizons but also provide me with a mentorship experience that would become central to my academic growth.

What makes EERA and ECER so special

The distinctiveness of ECER lies not just in its academic sessions but also in the supportive atmosphere fostered by the organizers. During my first presentation, the session chair, doubling as a mentor, played a crucial role in creating an inclusive environment. The network meetings, characterized by their inviting nature, quickly drew me in, prompting a desire to actively contribute to the initiatives established by others.

In 2008, I assumed the role of the convenor for the Emerging Researchers’ Network, succeeding a predecessor whom I had the privilege to shadow. Professor Ian Menter, my appointed mentor during this transition, guided me with wisdom and generosity. The experience of taking over as the main convenor opened other doors, leading me to become a Council Member of the European Educational Research Association (EERA).

The collaborative ethos within EERA extended beyond administrative roles. Other networks offered support across a range of activities from reviewing papers and organizing sessions for early career researchers (including insightful sessions led by the Editors of BERJ); this support was invaluable. The intellectual generosity displayed by colleagues at EERA is a distinctive aspect that I have not encountered in other associations or conferences.

My journey with EERA and ECER

EERA has, undeniably, been pivotal in the trajectory of my academic career. From being an invited tutor at summer schools hosted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Hamburg, to being invited discussants at sessions at the ECER 2023 conference, the opportunities for growth have been immeasurable.

Reflecting on the past 18 years, the wealth of opportunities and the bonds forged with colleagues and friends stand out as a testament to the unique value of my engagement with EERA. The association continues to be part of my academic development, allowing me to contribute as a judge for the Best Paper Competition for the Emerging Researchers’ Group. This role enables me to support the next generation of researchers and assist emerging researchers at my own university in organizing their own research events.

In essence, the journey with ECER has been transformative, offering not only academic enrichment but also a sense of belonging within a community of scholars. As I continue to engage with EERA, I am reminded that this intellectual journey is a shared one, and the generosity of spirit within this community is something that I hope will endure for years to come.

Professor Fiona Hallett

Professor Fiona Hallett

Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Edge Hill University, UK

Professor Fiona Hallett is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Edge Hill University, UK. Professor Hallett is also Joint Editor of the British Journal of Special Education.

A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

In our blog series celebrating 30 years of EERA, Professor Fiona Hallett reflects on the sense of belonging within a supportive community of scholars.

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

In this blog post, Dr Peter Gray takes a rather light-hearted yet nostalgic look back over the meetings and encounters of EERA and ECER, and wonders whether the spark of a past love affair can be rekindled.

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

For our series on 30 years of EERA, Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos reflects on his involvement in EERA and ECER, and his time as EERA President from 2009 to 2014.

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

For our series on the 30th anniversary of EERA, Dr Jani Ursin, reflects on his experiences as a Networks’ Representative on the EERA council, and the inclusive community of researchers he has engaged with over the years. #30YearsEERA #EdSci

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

EERA is celebrating 30 years in 2024, and as part of our anniversary celebrations, we have invited people who have been at the heart of the association to share their memories and reflections. In a series of blog posts, which will run throughout 2024, we will share those precious memories, from the people who helped foster the global EERA community.

In this blog post, Dr Peter Gray takes a rather light-hearted yet nostalgic look back over the meetings and encounters of EERA and ECER, and wonders whether the spark can be rekindled.

EERA is 30! Like an old flame, there is nostalgia, the desire to tie up loose ends, regret, and exhilaration. I remember EERA, and ECER in particular, as a love affair with conversations and possibilities, ultimately something in the past that was life-changing, but unreal.

Professionally, I owe everything to chance meetings at ECER, and its kaleidoscope of cities, Geneva, Ghent, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Istanbul, Cadiz, Porto, Budapest, and more, the complex architecture of education in bricks and cuisine, locality and world-making. Passionately, I loved the anticipation of arrival, meeting the wonderful EERA office team, everything in order and yet everything in the chaos of ideas and interactions, fluid, a kiss of learning and desire. Desire for what? 

Always there was the Manhattan moment of critical mass, the idea that two and a half thousand people, intelligent, bright, outward-looking people, could somehow explode education into what it should be, a blinding light overcoming the desperate human condition of violence and stupidity. Yet, how could we achieve this? Thousands of papers, presentations, and answers, yet no progress. How could this knowledge be captured and made to fly?

We tried, of course. The spark was there, the team was forming, and the technology kept moving forward. But still, we are at the margins of science, amateur researchers with our small, dim-burning candles of evidence against the hadron colliders and their fundamental particles. Not a single useful result, and yet physics gets billions; we get what’s left. 

This is the disappointment of lovers, the promise unfulfilled of nirvana, crushed by the realities of work and domesticity. We all went home afterwards and filled in forms, did the washing, went back to the everyday. The same thing happens at festivals, a sudden sense of community ending in a long journey home. 

No-one is to blame, because the essence of this communality is that there is no divine leader, no mindless idiot in a suit driving us towards death and degradation. We tried and did our best, but, as in love, there is always a fatal flaw. We have mountains of evidence, but no vision. We have an army, but no ammunition. We have the desire, but reality always drags us back.

 ECER was and is, at least for me, about becoming an insider, whilst outside dull reality, about knowing the personalities and the systems, about recognition. And yet there should have been more. Being inside is no good unless there is a relationship with the outside. Educational research, our love, ultimately retreats into the comfort of home, rather than becoming the one true source of light and inspiration.

My great ECER moment in Porto, 2014, was not a three people and a dog presentation in a sleepy seminar room. It was a massive outdoor concert, Stopestra, the answer to musical and political austerity. Eighty musicians playing to five thousand dancing professors, singing our way out of the past. That was our moment, but we missed it. Education continues as a dismal drizzle of PISA results, pointless testing, PhDs with no philosophy.

How can we return to our love, when she has settled down in a nest of flatpack furniture and earnest upbringing? Can we ride out for the last time, giving everything we have to the cause? Like an affair, we began with a future and ended in the past. Why have we not generated something beyond the boundaries of tradition and history? Why are we not changing the world?

 I loved EERA and ECER, and I still love them, but when we meet, it is shy, awkward, a quick coffee in Conftool. I wonder about how it could have been, and how it could be still. I am not jealous of her new lovers, who are doing what lovers always do. I am happy to keep the faith, to review and rewind. Thank you for everything, EERA. See you someday!

Dr Peter Gray

Dr Peter Gray

Dr Peter Gray has a long history of working with European projects, starting in the field of vocational education for industry in 2002 and continuing through a wide range of projects in teacher education, science/STEM education and even in astrophysics. However, he owes his career to EERA/ECER, having met Norwegian colleagues there in 2006 and subsequently becoming projects adviser at NTNU in Trondheim, until retiring in 2022. He was convener of the Teacher Education Research Network at ECER for several years and still does reviews for the network.

He has worked as an evaluator/rapporteur and Vice–Chair for the European Commission in the Horizon programme and is currently on the advisory boards of the London School of Management Education and Golden Links Educational Consultants. Dr Gray was also a visiting professor at Nord University (May 2023-April 2024). Amongst other publications, he was co-editor, with Per Ramberg, of “Servants of the School: Building Teacher Education in Mid-Norway, 1998-2018”, published in 2019.

A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

In our blog series celebrating 30 years of EERA, Professor Fiona Hallett reflects on the sense of belonging within a supportive community of scholars.

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

In this blog post, Dr Peter Gray takes a rather light-hearted yet nostalgic look back over the meetings and encounters of EERA and ECER, and wonders whether the spark of a past love affair can be rekindled.

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

For our series on 30 years of EERA, Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos reflects on his involvement in EERA and ECER, and his time as EERA President from 2009 to 2014.

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

For our series on the 30th anniversary of EERA, Dr Jani Ursin, reflects on his experiences as a Networks’ Representative on the EERA council, and the inclusive community of researchers he has engaged with over the years. #30YearsEERA #EdSci

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

EERA is celebrating 30 years in 2024, and as part of our anniversary celebrations, we have invited people who have been at the heart of the association to share their memories and reflections. In a series of blog posts, which will run throughout 2024, we will share those precious memories, from the people who helped foster the global EERA community.

In this blog post, Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos reflects on his involvement in EERA and ECER, and his time as EERA President from 2009 to 2014. 

EERA has for thirty years grown from non-existence into an active and important participant and agent in European education research. It has been pivotal because global and European politics and its dissemination channels, such as transnational agencies[1], from the outside constructed the educational space: networks, flows and policy scapes. The influences increased rapidly and became cornerstones in the contexts and frames in which educational research works (EERA: a participant or an agent).

I have been privileged to take part in the development of the association in the greater part of that period: In the late 90s, I was a regular participant in the ECERS. In the first decade of the new century, I was a member of the EERA Council, followed by five years as the president. Over the latter decade, I have again enjoyed participating regularly in ECERs, but with minor knowledge about the inner life of our association.

The life of EERA has changed enormously from being a loose association of 12 national associations with a small office in Glasgow to being a large association with an office in Berlin. When we experienced that more, many more associations wanted to join us (from 32 in 2009 to 42 in 2024), we found there was a need for more organized and professional structures. The office was moved to Berlin, and highly professional staff was hired. The EERA governance also needed modernization, so a new Constitution described the relations between the Council and the Executive Board, the Emerging Researchers Group, the networks and their convenors, the journal, and, of course, the ECER.

We extended our activities to become more attentive to our surroundings and contexts. It may be claimed that EERA has gotten more political over time, and that is true and well-founded because it is pivotal to know the situations that individual researchers must work in, and that also applies to national and, in particular, transnational associations. One example is the relations with the European Commission through work on the Horizon 2020 project. Another, according to the Council minutes, is the public response to the Russian war on Ukraine.

From the very beginning, EERA was intended to act as an important link between national research associations and the European Union, in line with the European Commission’s discourse of Europeanization. A few EC initiatives were recommended by the association, but over time this link vanished. One reason for that was that EERA had gone beyond the EU area to include membership from more European countries and, at the same time, was active in co-constructing the WERA (World Education Research Association). Another reason was that the EC moved in directions that were incompatible with EERA’s thinking. In 2010, when the Horizon 2020 White Paper was launched, it had no room for humanities and social sciences and thus for education research. We had to respond and react to this tendency, and we did so with help from Philip Keraudren from the EC. We were active, together with more than 40 (now 70) other associations, in establishing the EASSH (European Alliance for Social Science and Humanity) in 2015. Since then, this alliance has been very active and successful in influencing the EC together with the ISE (The Initiative for Science in Europe) and, of course, EERA.

I think the work on the council and with the network conveners on Horizon 2020 has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my work in EERA. Colleagues from a vast majority of national associations and scientific fields were eager and committed to collaborating with colleagues and the Executive Board in several seminars and discussions, and in establishing the EASSH. These activities have contributed a great deal to finding and defining EERA’s place in the political and scientific landscape while at the same time strengthening the relations between EERA and the national associations through the functions of each representative on the council.

As mentioned above, for thirty years, EERA has seen ourselves as working within and for the Europeanization and, at the same time – as real academics – being profoundly critical in the ways the EU and EC work in relation to education and educational policies.

Looking back, we have worked for two major changes over time: We have wanted to expand our reach beyond the EU member nations, into a Greater Europe. This is clear when reading the list of member associations to EERA. Secondly, we wanted to further high-quality educational research for the benefit of education and society as a European space for critical, scientific exchanges of ideas, discourses, and discussions in relation to transnational and national research and governance, and their diverse forms of hard, soft, and discursive governance (A panel discussion).

Summing up, I see a very successful association that continuously and successfully works to assist and inspire education research and education researchers all over Europe, as mentioned above, but even more important is the continuous work of the networks and, of course, the ECER. In 2023, there were more than 3.000 participants in Glasgow. I wonder: How big shall EERA and ECER become?

[1]The EU (European Union), EC (European Commission), the UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)

Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos

Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos

Associate Professor Emeritus at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University

Lejf Moos is an Associate Professor Emeritus at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.

He has, for many years,  worked on research and education, education of educational leadership and governance. This has brought numerous publications (Pure) as author or editor. He founded and is a co-chief editor of the Springer book series on ‘Educational Governance Research’. 

He was also the president of EERA from 2009-2014. 

A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

In our blog series celebrating 30 years of EERA, Professor Fiona Hallett reflects on the sense of belonging within a supportive community of scholars.

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

In this blog post, Dr Peter Gray takes a rather light-hearted yet nostalgic look back over the meetings and encounters of EERA and ECER, and wonders whether the spark of a past love affair can be rekindled.

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

For our series on 30 years of EERA, Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos reflects on his involvement in EERA and ECER, and his time as EERA President from 2009 to 2014.

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

For our series on the 30th anniversary of EERA, Dr Jani Ursin, reflects on his experiences as a Networks’ Representative on the EERA council, and the inclusive community of researchers he has engaged with over the years. #30YearsEERA #EdSci

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

EERA is celebrating 30 years in 2024, and as part of our anniversary celebrations, we have invited people who have been at the heart of the association to share their memories and reflections. In a series of blog posts, which will run throughout 2024, we will share those precious memories, from the people who helped foster the global EERA community.

In this blog post, Dr Jani Ursin, reflects on his experiences as a Networks’ Representative on the EERA council, and the inclusive community of researchers he has engaged with over the years.

What I’m reflecting on in this blog post mainly relates to my time as Networks’ Representative on the EERA Council (NRC) from September 2015 to September 2019. What does a Networks’ Representative do? Well, I didn’t know much when I was elected as the new NRC in 2014, but a year of shadowing prepared me well for my role as an NRC.

The main role of an NRC is, as the name suggests, to represent all the EERA networks. EERA has more than 30 networks, which vary greatly in size and nature. As I moved from being a Link Convenor in Network 22: Research in Higher Education to being an NRC, it obviously took some work on my part to adopt this role. However, my four years’ experience as an NRC has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and insight into educational research that has far exceeded my initial expectations.

My time as NRC involved many meetings (Executive Board, EERA Council, and Link Convenor meetings), seminars (such as the Network Seminar), planning for future ECERs and other EERA activities, and all kinds of informal gatherings (the best decisions are made over dinner, right?). Common to all of these were lively, profound, and sometimes challenging discussions about educational research and its role in Europe and beyond. Occasionally these discussions ended up being very philosophical and thorough, such as what constitutes a network or what is a European perspective (I still do not have a comprehensive answer to these questions). Nevertheless, all the discussions we had really broadened my understanding of educational research and especially of the different contexts in which educational research is carried out. I think that participating in various EERA activities has helped me to get out of my own rabbit hole and really try to look at educational research from a ‘European perspective’.

A community of researchers

One of the strategic priorities of the EERA is to be an inclusive community of researchers. I think that EERA has succeeded in this. The openness of EERA and its networks to different research traditions and methodologies, as well as the promotion of dialogue between them, is evident when participating in ECERs. In addition, EERA pays particular attention to welcoming the next generation of researchers, and colleagues from countries where educational research is still in development, into the EERA community and into the educational dialogue. Personally, participating in EERA activities for more than two decades has helped me to build a network of great colleagues, many of whom I consider friends, with whom I can discuss and share whatever is on my mind.

In EERA we often tend to say that the networks are the essence of the association. I would argue that the people – network members, early career researchers, ECER and ERC participants, Council members, the Executive Board and the EERA office – are the heart and soul of EERA. The EERA community is made up of genuine, hard-working, committed, yet fun-loving people. In times of uncertainty, a sense of belonging is important – and belonging to the EERA community gives hope for a better and brighter future!

Dr Jani Ursin

Dr Jani Ursin

Senior Researcher at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Dr Jani Ursin is a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His research has focused on academic work, the assessment of higher education learning outcomes, mergers of higher education institutions, and quality assurance in higher education. He is a former Link Convenor of EERA Network 22 (Research in Higher Education), after which he represented all the networks on the EERA Council. His profile is at: https://ktl.jyu.fi/en/staff/ursin-jani

A Transformative Journey: Nurturing Emerging Researchers at the European Conference for Educational Research.

In our blog series celebrating 30 years of EERA, Professor Fiona Hallett reflects on the sense of belonging within a supportive community of scholars.

EERA and ECER – nostalgic reflections of a past love affair

In this blog post, Dr Peter Gray takes a rather light-hearted yet nostalgic look back over the meetings and encounters of EERA and ECER, and wonders whether the spark of a past love affair can be rekindled.

Maturing an association – EERA turns 30

For our series on 30 years of EERA, Associate Professor Emeritus Lejf Moos reflects on his involvement in EERA and ECER, and his time as EERA President from 2009 to 2014.

30 years of EERA – It’s the people who make EERA

For our series on the 30th anniversary of EERA, Dr Jani Ursin, reflects on his experiences as a Networks’ Representative on the EERA council, and the inclusive community of researchers he has engaged with over the years. #30YearsEERA #EdSci