Sustainable university: A model of development in post-war Ukraine

Sustainable university: A model of development in post-war Ukraine

Sustainable development is one of the most topical concepts of our time. Established corporations, small businesses, NGOs, universities, and governments of leading countries strive to adhere to the principles of this concept. Being sustainable creates additional competitive advantages, and positively impacts the organisation’s reputation and recognition (perception) in society.

Sustainable development is often associated only with environmental measures and initiatives (environmental protection: clean water and sanitation; climate action; life below water; life on land). However, this is an incomplete vision that limits the nature of sustainability. Although the environmental component is extremely important in ensuring sustainable development, it is wrong to reduce the idea of sustainability exclusively to ecological aspects. The comprehensive sustainable development includes also economic (decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequality; responsible consumption and production) and social (zero hunger and poverty; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; peace, justice and strong institutions) aspects.

Since 2022 Ukraine has been facing terrible challenges of war. Higher education institutions have been subjected to enemy attacks by Russian troops and heavy shelling, as a result of which they are wholly or partially destroyed. Educational and research infrastructure, dormitory buildings and administrative structures were damaged. But the main and most painful thing for Ukrainian universities is the loss of intellectual capital due to the death or migration abroad of Ukrainian colleagues because of military operations in Ukraine. In the post-war period, much attention should be paid to the restoration of educational institutions in the country.

We support the idea that the post-war recovery of Ukrainian higher education should be made in the framework of sustainable development. Thus, we decided to study the situation in world-leading universities and build our own sustainable development model for Ukrainian universities in the post-war period.

Sustainable development of Higher Education Institutions worldwide

Fig. 1. Conceptual scheme of the Model of the University Sustainable Development

Source: developed by the authors

This study employs the analytical method of cognition.  To achieve the most objective results of the research, we studied the HEIs included in the international rating – Times Higher Education Impact Rankings (THE Impact Rankings). The study covered HEIs from all over the world, which were ranked top 50.  This enabled us to eliminate subjectivity in the assessment of the progress of world universities in terms of sustainable development.

The analysis of cases of leading higher education institutions allowed us to identify key aspects and components of ensuring sustainable development. The results of the conceptualization of our model of sustainable development of HEIs are shown in Fig. 1.

The ‘core’ of the model is the institution of higher education itself, represented by the synergy of the interaction of:

– students through their unconventional, creative thinking;

– researchers through their innovative developments and inventions;

– teachers through their initiative and innovative approaches to working with young people;

– management and administrative personnel through their ability to motivate, encourage and support.

Successful implementation of sustainable development models for HEIs requires coordinated interaction among all participants in the educational process, both by themselves and with stakeholders (public, local and central authorities, business, developing relevant regulatory support, and strengthening of the institutional capacity of universities. The key factor for the success of this model is the availability of stable support for sustainable initiatives both from the management of the HEI and from partners. Such support can be material and technical, financial, organizational, consulting, expert, methodological, informational, and so on.

The main blocks of the model of sustainable development of higher education institutions are:

I – Sustainable teaching – introducing the principles of sustainability in all educational programmes, mandatory inclusion of its aspects in final qualification papers of students of various majors, as well as in the teaching methods in the framework of different academic disciplines at universities;

II – Sustainable research – orientation of fundamental and applied research, research projects of universities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identification of ways and tools to overcome obstacles to the transition of higher education institutions to functioning based on sustainability;

III – Sustainable campus – implementation of a set of measures to improve the energy efficiency of university buildings, rational use of water resources, greening the territory, introducing environmentally friendly transport within the campus,  cultivating a culture of waste management, etc.;

IV Sustainable partnership – the widest possible involvement of various groups of stakeholders in the implementing initiatives to achieve the SDGs (not only as beneficiaries of the results and effects obtained, but also as members of project teams for developing relevant projects, planning a system of measures for their implementation, monitoring the effectiveness of achieving the goals set).

The introduction of the current model of sustainable development of higher education institutions proposed in the project will allow HEIs in Ukraine to strengthen their contribution to achieving the SDGs; increase the level of competitiveness; integrate into the world research and academic community; and attract more international students. In fact, sustainable development can be defined to a certain extent as a competitive advantage of the HEI, a way to improve its recognition in society, strengthen its brand and image, and deepen social responsibility.

Sustainable university development for post-war reconstruction

The proposed model of sustainable university development can be used as the basis for post-war reconstruction. This will lead not to a simple restoration of HEIs to their pre-war level, but beyond that a transformation of their educational, research, economic and international activities in accordance with the best international practices and European values. The authors see prospects for further research in the testing of the authors’ conceptual model of sustainable university development proposed in the project.

Acknowledgement. The research is carried out within the framework of the project “Sustainable University: a model of development in the post-war period”, implemented with the support of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and the Ukrainian Educational Research Association (UERA).

Key Messages

  1. Higher education institutions are more than a place for obtaining knowledge and competencies; they are the centres for accumulating the country’s intellectual capital, they are the research and training hubs, and they are the agents of sustainable changes in society. 
  2. The world’s leading universities are demonstrating how to progressively transform their activities in line with sustainable principles. They are investing heavily in the implementation of the latest technologies for energy saving, water conservation, campus landscaping and waste recycling.
  3. The main directions of sustainable development in higher education institutions are sustainable development of the campus, sustainable educational programmes and courses, sustainable research, and management.
  4. The authors’ conceptual model of sustainable university development consists of the following blocks:  sustainable teaching,  sustainable research,  sustainable campus, and sustainable partnership.
Dr Iryna Didenko

Dr Iryna Didenko

Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the Faculty of Economics of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

British Council teacher and teacher trainer in the following projects: English for Universities, English for Civil Servants, English in a New Context: Grades 5 – 9, Teaching English in Difficult Times, SWITLO: Skills and Well-being in Teacher Learning Opportunities.

Research fields: higher education, quality assurance in HEIs, sustainable development in HEIs, assessment and motivation in HEIs.

Dr Nataliia Kholiavko

Dr Nataliia Kholiavko

Professor of the Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance of Chernihiv Polytechnic National University, Ukraine

In 2012, Nataliia Kholiavko defended her PhD thesis on the topic “Management of Scientific and Educational International Projects in the Systems of State Innovation Policy”. In 2019, Nataliia defended her doctoral dissertation on the topic “Strategy for Ensuring the Adaptability of the Higher Education System to the Information Economy Conditions”.

Since 2017, Nataliia Kholiavko is the scientific leader and/or executor of educational projects: “Integrated Model of Competitive Higher Education In Ukraine under The Quadruple Helix Concept”; “Improving the Organization of Training for Personnel with Higher Education for the Development of High-Tech Industries in Ukraine”; “Sustainable University: a Model of Development in the Post-War Period”; “Promoting Professional Education and Active Participation of Students through the Establishment of a Comprehensive System of Mentoring and Tutoring in Higher Education Institutions”, “Distance Education for Future: best EU practices in Response to the Requests of Modern Higher Education Seekers and Labor Market”.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

Kholiavko, N., & Didenko, I. (2023). World Experience of University Sustainable Development. Economics & Education, 8(1), 89-104. https://doi.org/10.30525/2500-946X/2023-1-12

Kholiavko, N., & Didenko, I. (2023). Conceptual Model of Tthe University Sustainable Development. Studies in Comparative Education, (1), 40–54. https://doi.org/10.31499/2306-5532.1.2023.288421

Fostering Creativity in the Classroom  – developing a cross-curricular module in ITE

Fostering Creativity in the Classroom  – developing a cross-curricular module in ITE

Outside of the core curricular content that makes up initial teacher education (ITE) programmes, there are increasing callsfor input on a variety of pedagogical, social, cultural, and competence-based issues that impact future teaching practice (MacPhail et al., 2022). Most higher education institutions possess expertise in a range of innovative areas, but the practicalities of timetables, student availability, and academic structures often mean students must choose one or two five-credit, level nine modules from a range of electives. This blog outlines an effort to combat this through an integrated module on the Professional Masters in Education PME (Post-Primary) at Dublin City University, Ireland, which combines Digital Competencies, English as an Additional Language, and Drama-based learning under the umbrella of ‘Fostering Creativity in the Classroom’.

Fostering creativity in the classroom  – developing the module

We know that cross-curricular and integrated teaching can facilitate students in making creative connections and solving complex problems (Harris & de Bruin, 2017). Motivated by this, we began examining our content, values and teaching approaches and quickly realised a common thread of creativity ran through our work. Our module, ‘Fostering Creativity in the Classroom’ places explicit focus on the role of the teacher in fostering creativity and innovation in the post-primary classroom. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we allowed students to explore and experience a range of creative, collaborative and playful approaches to fostering creativity in teaching and learning. This was achieved through lectures, workshops, and a range of strategies from the Digital Learning(e.g. digital storytelling), Drama (e.g. soundscapes), and Linguistic Responsiveness (e.g. multilingualism) domains.

Underpinned by theories of creativity in education (e.g. Gilhooly & Gilhooly, 2021), our students, who are pre-service teachers, worked together to experiment with creative approaches, reflect on their experiences, and plan their practical implementation in the future. In order to draw the different strands together under the theme of creativity, we designed an innovative assignment. The assignments tasked students (in small groups) with creating a digital story on the theme of ‘fostering creativity and innovation in the post-primary classroom’. Their target audience was future PME students and practising teachers. Videos considered how digital media, drama and linguistically responsive strategies can enhance practice and encourage pupil creativity. Groups reflected on the strategies explored during the module and considered their application across curricular subjects. Videos were to be presented as a cohesive narrative or story and include a variety of audio-visual content.

Our reflections

Reflecting on the process, we were pleased it did not result in merely fitting our ‘pieces’ together, but in creating something unique that was enriched by our individual curricular areas. As academic staff, collaborating on the design and delivery provided us with opportunities to learn from each other’s curriculum design and facilitation approaches while demonstrating to students the connections that exist between subject areas. Our challenges were primarily around articulating our vision and structuring the delivery. While, as academic staff, our initial vision for the module was clear, our individual ‘flavours’ of that vision came through at first. It wasn’t until the second iteration of the module that we began to speak in one voice. The structure of the module delivery was another aspect that we found challenging initially and that we improved over time. In the first iteration of the module, we split the content into ‘blocks’, where each team member delivered their content in sequence after one another. We found that this meant students saw the module as three separate parts, and while that made sense in terms of the coherence of each aspect, it took away from the overall flow and interconnected nature of the work we were trying to achieve. Rectifying this was more than the simple act of moving lectures from one week to another. Instead, it necessitated the alteration of certain aspects of content so they more naturally connected to the other areas of study. We also spent more time ‘in’ each other’s lectures in order to display a unified voice.

Students’ impressions

Feedback from students on the experience of participating in this integrated module contained positives and potential areas for improvement. Students commented on the module’s ambitious and forward-thinking nature, saying it was ‘pretty ambitious’ and ‘very relevant in modern education’. They noted that they learned a lot from each strand and, perhaps most importantly, they learned more from how the strands linked together. Comments included: ‘Lovely to have different strands (E.g., Digital Media, Drama-based learning) each week. Helped the creativity’ and ‘It helps shift your focus from the ways in which you were taught at school and to focus on all of the possibilities that exist for enhancing your lessons and making them more meaningful’.

 On the other hand, students also found areas challenging. For example, they found that the three strands meant there was a lot to take in. Comments included ‘There was a lot of information in each module[strand] and not enough time to get to grips with all of it’. Some also found it difficult to see how everything aligned under the umbrella of developing pupils’ creativity in the classroom. Comments included ‘personally felt that there was a bit of a disconnect between the three strands’ and that they ‘did not find the necessarily all aligned under the umbrella of creativity’.

Fin

Our efforts to combine three elective strands into one coherent module were not without their challenges. However, as lecturers, we found that the process not only allowed us to examine connections across curricular areas but facilitated the development of a more nuanced version of ‘creativity’ than we had delivered before. Students also recognised the value of our integrated approach, which is encouraging. However, their comments also provide scope for improvements in the future. For example, further work may be needed to increase the connection between strands so that students see the module as a cohesive approach to develop pupils’ creativity in the classroom.

Key Messages

  • The practicalities of ITE programmes often make the provision of additional pedagogical, social, cultural, and competence-based initiatives challenging
  • We document the development of a cross-curricular, integrated module “Fostering Creativity in the Classroom”
  • The module integrates Digital Learning, Drama-based Learning, and Linguistic Responsiveness
  • The process provided us, as academic staff, with the opportunity to enrich our individual curricular areas and practice by learning from each other’s design and facilitation approaches.
  • Students found the module to be ambitious and forward-thinking, and learned more from how the curricular areas fitted together to ‘foster creativity in the classroom’.
Dr Peter Tiernan

Dr Peter Tiernan

Associate Professor in Digital Learning and Research Convenor for the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies in the Institute of Education at Dublin City University.

Peter is an Associate Professor in Digital Learning and Research Convenor for the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies in the Institute of Education at Dublin City University. He lectures in the areas of digital learning, digital literacy and entrepreneurship education. His current research focuses on digital literacy at post-primary and further education level as well as entrepreneurship education for third level lecturers and pre-service teachers.

Peter was shortlisted for the DCU President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in 2021.

Find Peter on Twitter.

Dr Fiona Gallacher

Dr Fiona Gallacher

Assistant professor in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (SALIS) at Dublin City University

Fiona Gallagher is an assistant professor in the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (SALIS) at Dublin City University. Before this, she worked as a teacher and CELTA teacher educator in Sudan, Italy, Spain, Ireland, the US, Australia and Portugal.  Her research interests lie primarily in the fields of second language acquisition, TESOL and bi/multilingual education with particular reference to: L1 use in language learning and teaching; translanguaging and plurilingual pedagogies; and teaching and learning in the linguistically and culturally diverse primary and secondary school classroom. 

She has published widely in her field, both as the author/co-author of various EFL textbooks and teacher guides and in high-ranking peer reviewed journals and edited volumes. 

Dr Irene White

Dr Irene White

Assistant professor in English and Drama Education in the School of Human Development at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University.

Dr Irene White is an Assistant Professor in English and Drama Education in the School of Human Development at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University. She is the Programme Chair of the Professional Master of Education and teaches across a range of initial teacher education programmes. Irene taught English and Drama at the post-primary level for twelve years, during which time she was a mentor for initial teacher education students and a State Exams Commission examiner for the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.

Irene’s research straddles the arts and education sectors, with a particular focus on creative mindsets, creative learning environments and creative activity for health and wellbeing. Her PhD examined creativity in participatory arts initiatives and articulated a Participatory Arts for Creativity in Education (PACE) model, an applied participatory arts model aimed at fostering creativity in education.

Irene is Chair of the Board of Directors for Upstate Theatre Project, a community-engaged participatory arts organisation funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. Her work in the field of participatory arts includes her role as artist and director with Upstate Theatre Project on The Crossover Project, a cross-border, cross-community participative drama programme, and her work with students from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, New York University on the study abroad programme. Irene has also worked with Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company on the ‘Acting for the Future’ programme using drama and theatre performance to promote positive mental health and the ‘Acting for Change’ programme using drama to explore cultural diversity and identity and promote anti-racism, anti-sectarianism and equality.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

Gilhooly, K. J., & Gilhooly, M. L. M. (2021). Aging and creativity. Academic Press.

Harris, A., & de Bruin, L. (2017). Steam education: Fostering creativity in and beyond secondary schools. Australian Art Education, 38(1), 54–75.

MacPhail, A., Seleznyov, S., O’Donnell, C., & Czerniawski, G. (2022). Supporting the Continuum of Teacher Education Through Policy and Practice: The Inter-Relationships Between Initial, Induction, and Continuing Professional Development. In Reconstructing the Work of Teacher Educators: Finding Spaces in Policy Through Agentic Approaches—Insights from a Research Collective (pp. 135–154). Nature.

The importance of diversity training for educators in predominately white places

The importance of diversity training for educators in predominately white places

The state of future education as a discipline will be possibly influenced by the importance it places on a conceptual, curricular, and pedagogical need to shift the emphasis toward transformative classrooms working for positive change through cultural diversity (Banks, 2020). Awareness of issues around race equality, inclusive growth, and community cohesion has heightened following George Floyd’s killing in the USA in 2020, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. This increasing awareness is particularly pertinent in Britain in areas of historically low ethnic diversity which have lately experienced a rise in ethnic minority populations, and where inclusive growth is a challenge.

The Research

My research explores the understanding and experiences of multiculturalism of students, parents and educators in four mainstream primary schools situated in the predominantly White South-West England. I adopted a qualitative case study methodology framed by a sociocultural theoretical framework (Vygotsky, 1978). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with adult participants, observation of students’ classroom activities, and documentary analysis of classroom and corridor displays.

The interviews had questions around books and topics reflecting multiculturalism. In the height of COVID-19, the classroom and corridor displays were photographed to see whether the school ethos and atmosphere reflect multiculturalism.

Background – Diversity, Curriculum and Education Inspectorate

Although 33.5% of the school population includes ethnically diverse children, out of 6478 children’s books published in Britain in 2019, 10.5% featured characters belonging to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities; of these, only 5% had a main character who belonged to the communities mentioned (Wood, 2019). The education inspectorate, Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills or in short, Ofsted (2019:11,12) is vocal about ensuring “inclusive education and training to all”, and extending the Curriculum beyond the academic and technical domains for students’ broader development, and creation of understanding, and appreciation of cultural diversity. However, race equality and community cohesion, which could help in the students’ broader development, do not constitute Ofsted’s school inspection criteria (Rhamie, 2014).  

Findings

My research findings suggest participants’ eagerness for more ethnically diverse content incorporated in teaching and learning. However, schools are considerably dependent on, and somewhat confined by, the knowledge-focused Primary National Curriculum in England for which efforts towards a multicultural reflection are less noticeable. The absence of culturally diverse content in the school Curriculum highlighted by the 1985 Swann Report and the 2007 Ajegbo Report makes England’s primary National Curriculum look like a “Brexit policy three decades before Brexit”  (Moncrieffe et al., 2020:20). The situation emphasizes the need to start afresh. The starting point may be to get thinking and acting while doing Curriculum making (Priestley et al., 2021). This is because Curriculum thinking  is at the heart of education practice today (Poutney and Yang, 2021).

Implications – Curriculum thinking and teacher training

The educators as Curriculum framers play a significant part in Curriculum thinking and delivery where the task design is crucial, and where the educators can place equal importance on the interwoven elements of “how”, “what” and “why” the task is taught (Moncrieffe et al., 2020:16-17). The educators need to build confidence in encouraging difficult conversations around racism, fear, indifference, and ignorance breaking the stereotypical barriers. This would help equip the students with the necessary creative skills so that they learn, grow and foster as responsible citizens in this changing complex world (Deng, 2022) with an apt cognition of a multicultural Britain. But how can they train students without the required training in the specific area?

Lander’s research (2014) showed that trainee educators in predominantly White areas often run the risk of sharing confined perspectives while educating children. I agree with Lander that no matter the geographical location, school educators can be equipped with the necessary culturally responsive initial training, and continuous professional development, with a focus on race-centric and multiculturally responsive education (ibid).   This may aid in the reduction of employees’ unconscious bias for which the CRE (2021)  recommended training and routine skills assistance. This becomes distinctly pertinent to avoid horrific cases of racism in the future like the one in Hackney, London where a Black teenager referred to as Child Q was wrongly suspected of cannabis possession, and strip-searched during her period, risking deep serious consequences for the child (FordRojas, 2022 ).

Having competent culturally responsive educators in 21st century classrooms may have important positive effects like boosted self-esteem, improved academic achievement, and greater engagement and well-being of students from ethnically diverse communities, which, in turn, have implications for fostering nurturing inclusive classrooms and school environments.

Key Messages

  • There is often a misconception that only schools with high ethnic minority populations or those situated in multicultural places need multicultural awareness.
  • Race equality and cultural awareness are essential topics amidst racist incidents in multicultural schools at the heart of London
  • These topics are equally important in predominantly White places in Britain, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the BLM movement, and post-Brexit rises in racist and xenophobic attacks.
  • School curriculum and atmosphere need to offer race sensitive multicultural reflection in these places.
  • Practitioners need training and preparedness to equip them with relevant knowledge, skills, and confidence.
Suparna Bagchi

Suparna Bagchi

Final year doctoral student in Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth, UK

Suparna Bagchi is a final-year doctoral student at the Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth. She worked there as a Doctoral Teaching Assistant from 2019 to 2022. Suparna’s doctoral research explores perceptions of multiculturalism in mainstream primary schools in South West England. With a research interest in race, equity and social justice, Suparna is a member of various race equality associations both inside and outside the University.

Suparna is a dignity and respect ambassador and student representative of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at Plymouth University. In 2022, Suparna received EDI Award from Plymouth University coming among the top three students. Suparna is a trained Compassionate Community Ambassador, mentor of the UNO-recognised Virtues Project, a certified Community Champion and trained Hinduism Faith Speaker. Suparna appears regularly on BBC Radio Devon as a guest speaker. Suparna has made academic presentations nationally and internationally.

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/suparnabagchi2?lang=en-GB

Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2498-2892

ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Suparna-Bagchi

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

Banks, J. A. (2020). Diversity, transformative knowledge, and civic education: Selected essays. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003018360

Deng, Z. (2022). Powerful knowledge, educational potential and knowledge-rich curriculum: pushing the boundaries. Journal of Curriculum Studies54(5), 599-617. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220272.2022.2089538

FordRojas, J.P. (2022). Child Q report: Met Police culture ‘under scrutiny again’ after case of schoolgirl strip-searched by officers, says policing minister. Sky News. 13 April. https://news.sky.com/story/child-q-report-met-police-culture-under-scrutiny-again-after-case-of-schoolgirl-strip-searched-by-officers-says-policing-minister-12572253

Lander, V. (2014). Initial teacher education: The practice of whiteness. In R. Race. and V. Lander (Eds.), Advancing race and ethnicity in education, (pp. 93-110). Palgrave Macmillan.http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137274755

Moncrieffe, M., Race, R., Harris, R., Chetty, D., Riaz, N., Ayling, P., Arphattananon, T., Nasilbullov, K., Kopylova, N. and Steinburg, S. (2020). Decolonising the curriculum. Research Intelligence142, 9-27. British Educational Research Association. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340870420_Decolonising_the_Curriculum_-_Transnational_Perspectives_Research_Intelligence_Issue_142Spring_2020

Ofsted. (2019). The education inspection framework. Draft for Consultation–January 2019.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-inspection-framework-draft-for-consultation

Plymouth Report. (2019). Plymouth: Plymouth City Council.https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/publichealth/factsandfiguresjointstrategicneedsassessment/plymouthreport

Pountney, R. and Yang, W. (2021). International perspectives on the curriculum Implications for teachers & schools. BERA Research Intelligence, 148, pp. 15 https://www.bera.ac.uk/publication/autumn-2021

Priestley, M., Alvunger, D., Philippou, S., and Soini, T. (2021). Curriculum making across European nations. BERA Research Intelligence,148, 16-17. http://hdl.handle.net/1893/33293

Rhamie, J. (2014). Resilience, the black child and the Coalition Government. In .R Race, and V. Lander (Eds.), Advancing Race and Ethnicity in Education (pp. 230-249. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/1057/9781137274762_15

Sewell, T., Aderin-Pocock, M., Chughtai, A., Fraser, K., Khalid, N., Moyo, D., … and  Shah, S. (2021). Commission on race and ethnic disparities: The report. Commission on Race, Ethnic Disparities. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/974507/20210331_-_CRED_Report_-_FINAL_-_Web_Accessible.pdf

Vygotsky, L. S., and Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Harvard university press.https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvjf9vz4

Wood, H. (2019). New CLPE report into kids books warns over simplified depictions of BAME characters. The Bookseller. https://www.thebookseller.com/news/clpe-reveals-increase-bame-representation-urges-against-jasmine-default-1085896

Beyond Research: The transformative power of the Emerging Researcher’s Conference

Beyond Research: The transformative power of the Emerging Researcher’s Conference

EERA’s Best Paper Award is part of EERA’s strategy to promote emerging researchers and support high-quality research in the field of education. The award is specifically designed to motivate young researchers to turn their conference presentations into full papers suitable for publication in research journals.

We asked the winner of the EERA Best Paper Award, Aigul Rakisheva, to tell us about presenting her research at ERC 2022, the invitation to participate in the Best Paper Award (BPA), and the effect it had on her career and her life.

Participation in ERC 2022

The process of writing the manuscript began long before the competition. Initially, I prepared an application to participate in the conference, which resulted in two blind peer-review feedback. I am thankful for the feedback from the peer reviewers, which proved to be instrumental in effectively preparing my presentation. The feedback primarily focused on clarifying aspects of the research methodology, the conceptual framework, and adding a final section that highlights the significance of my work in the European context. While the overall feedback did not require significant changes to my work, it provided essential guidance as I continued to develop the paper based on my research.

Subsequently, I presented my research at the ERC 2022 conference. The disparity in educational outcomes between urban and rural students remains a pressing challenge not only in my home country but also in various regions, including Europe. The study aimed to explore the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in addressing this issue. By investigating the 2018 PISA data, the research sought to identify how ICT impacts Kazakhstani students’ academic performance in Reading, Math, and Science, potentially bridging the urban-rural education gap. This research adopted a fully quantitative approach, utilizing data from the 2018 PISA assessment, which includes a diverse sample of Kazakhstani students from both urban and rural schools. The statistical analysis revealed that access to ICT resources in schools is vital in improving students’ learning outcomes. Additionally, students’ interest in ICT and their perceived competence in using ICT are significant factors contributing to their academic success.

An invitation to participate in the Best Paper Award

About a month after presenting my work, I received a call inviting me to participate in the Best Paper Award (BPA) competition. Initially, I felt concerned that my manuscript was not fully prepared, and I doubted if I could meet the short time frame and the rigorous review process. However, after careful consideration, I realized that participating in the competition would be beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, the set time frame would motivate me to expedite the completion of my manuscript. The additional expert review would be invaluable in improving my paper, making it more robust and suitable for submission to a reputable journal for consideration.

Additionally, selected authors can submit their work published in the international peer-reviewed European Educational Research Journal (EERJ) and Studia Paedagogica journals which I believe to be a great opportunity. These platforms offer scholars an excellent opportunity to share their findings on local or national European studies, further amplifying the impact and relevance of their research within the scholarly community.

The process

Participation in the competition involves a months-long journey, during which emerging scholars tirelessly work on their articles, adhering to deadlines. During this process, I sought formative feedback, further enhancing my work and providing clear direction for improvement. I also engaged in discussions with my co-author Dr. O. Toskovic, which proved immensely beneficial in refining my ideas, strengthening my arguments, and ultimately producing a more polished and impactful paper. The iterative nature of incorporating feedback has been crucial not only for my paper but in my growth as a researcher and has allowed me to continually strive for improvement.

Winning the Best Paper Award

Winning the Best Paper Award increased the visibility of the study within the academic community. This award not only acknowledged the significance of our work but also drew attention from researchers and other emerging scholars. This recognition has paved the way for further dissemination and opportunities for my research to make a broader impact.

I encourage future participants in the Best Paper Award to embrace the spirit of competition and rise above any self-doubt that may hinder their progress. While it is natural to have uncertainties about the quality of the work, remember that what truly matters is the invaluable feedback you receive and how you utilize it to fuel continuous improvement. Embarking on the journey toward excellence entails an unwavering commitment to growth and lifelong learning.

Key Messages

  • Engaging with ERGs/ERCs provides valuable networking and collaborative opportunities with fellow researchers and education experts.
  • Participating in ERGs/ERCs can enhance the visibility of researchers’ work, potentially leading to broader dissemination and increased recognition.
  • Involvement in ERGs/ERCs cultivates better communication skills and boosts emerging researchers’ confidence as they interact with peers and present their work to diverse audiences.
     
  • ERGs/ERCs create a nurturing environment that encourages constructive feedback, paving the way for ongoing research enhancement and continuous improvement.

Read more

Aigul Rakisheva

Aigul Rakisheva

Third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, USA

Aigul Rakisheva is a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, USA.

She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Department with Global Studies in Education concentration. Aigul is actively engaged in research and teaching activities at UIUC.Her research focuses on Virtual Exchange, Information and Communication Technologies, and Initial Teacher Education, contributing to various research projects in these areas.

 For more information about Aigul’s academic work and research interests, please visit her university researcher profile: https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/8837/329025165

 

Be different at ECER 2023 Glasgow with SERA-ECR

Be different at ECER 2023 Glasgow with SERA-ECR

The Scottish Educational Research Association Early Career Researchers (SERA-ECR) invites attendees of ECER in Glasgow to participate in a fun and thought-provoking video series.

We asked Hermione Miao and Carrie Walton, SERA-ECR network co-convenors to tell us more about their August action plan at ECER.

The SERA Early-Career Researcher (ECR) Network supports ECRs in Scotland to develop their capacity and capabilities as researchers within a supportive network and to share their research and connect with colleagues in education and the broader academic community.

The network co-convenor (Hermione Miao and Carrie Walton) organise monthly SERA_ECR events, currently featuring:

  • E for Edit your writing,
  • C for Conversations with scholars,
  • R for Reading club.

As a SERA Network, we have started making short videos with scholars talking about their research in plain words, making abstract concepts more accessible. We think this is a good way of sparking conversation, making connections and learning more about educational research.

We are now proposing to continue this short video series at ECER 2023, Glasgow (21-25 August 2023) as a fringe event.

An invitation to meet us at ECER Glasgow

Where to meet us

Our proposal is that during the networking time over tea/coffee breaks at ECER, we will take the opportunity to record some short video interviews. To gather questions for the interviews from conference delegates and ECRs we have developed a padlet that is now open for your questions.

How long would it take?

If you are willing to spend 10 minutes in conversation with the SERA_ECR network during ECER, please contact us, either in advance or at the conference. Or if we approach you for an interview at the conference, please, say yes!

It won’t be too formal, and it is not a research project, we just want to make a short video series, so that more people who are interested in education and educational research can hear directly from educators and educational researchers themselves.

In recognition of your contribution, and to get an idea of the international background of delegates, we will invite you to engage with the interactive posters we made for ECER. The first collaborative poster has a colourful world map and Scotland map for you to make connections between your place(s) and Glasgow.

The second collaborative poster invites you to reflect on “the value of diversity”.

Follow us on Twitter @SERA_ECR to track this fringe event.

As a network, we are interested to see how this fringe event unfolds and the potential connections it may create.  See you at ECER Glasgow!

Hermione Miao

Hermione Miao

PhD Student

Hermione Miao (she/they) is studying for her PhD at the University of Stirling, and is nearing the finishing line to submit her thesis this autumn. Her research is about curriculum making and teacher agency. She used to teach geography in Chinese schools and international schools. She is a certified interpreter, with a passion for bridging for intercultural conversations. Since February 2023, she has started a Mapping Inspirational Women initiative. She likes organising events to connect people from diverse backgrounds and sustain these connections to improve the visibility of diverse cultures.
Carrie Walton

Carrie Walton

PhD Student

Carrie Walton is in her final year of a PhD at the University of Sunderland. Carrie also works as a Special Projects Lead for NHS Education for Scotland and is researching the professional practice of educators in the NHS. She is an avid collector of qualifications and a passionate devotee of lifelong learning and the pursuit of personal and professional development.

SERA – Early Career Researchers Network

The SERA Early-Career Researchers (ECR) Network supports ECRs to develop their capacity and capabilities as researchers within a supportive network and to share their research and connect with colleagues in education and the broader academic community. The network reflects on education within and beyond Scotland therefore we welcome ECRs from within and outside Scotland

Our ECR network includes:

  • Postgraduate students (PhD and Masters)
  • Educational practitioners researching any area of Scottish education
  • Postdoctoral researchers within 5 years (excluding career breaks/maternity or paternity leave) of completing their PhDs
  • Researchers/practitioners new to the field of educational research

Network activities:

  • Estelle Brisard Award: The prize is awarded for the best research paper written by an early career researcher based in Scotland and is presented annually at the SERA conference.
  • Writing workshops
  • Conversations with scholars (short video series)
  • Collaboration with other ECR networks (e.g. EERA and BERA).
  • Reading club (followed by conversational events with authors/editors)
  • Rapid-thesis competition (masters and doctoral students) – prize awarded for most effective presentation of dissertation/thesis in 3 minutes
  • Seminars and workshops in collaboration with members, other SERA networks, and external educational partners (e.g. ECR networks in other associations).
  • Networking events at the annual SERA conference

If you want to be involved, please join our mailing list  or contact the convenors:

Convenors

Hermione (Xin Miao), PhD candidate, University of Stirling

Carrie Walton, PhD candidate, University of Sunderland; works for NHS Education  Scotland

Our general contact email is: ecrsera@gmail.com

Other blog posts on similar topics:

The UK Sustainability and Climate Change policy paper – An analysis

The UK Sustainability and Climate Change policy paper – An analysis

In April 2022, the UK Department for Education (DfE) published a policy paper laying out a strategy for the education and children’s services systems on the topic of sustainability and climate change. Dr Athanasia Chatzifotiou, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland in the UK took a closer look at the policy paper to help us understand its provisions and proposals.

Key Messages

  • The Strategy identifies the importance of sustainability and climate change aiming to reach teachers and other professionals engaged in a variety of children’s service systems.
  • The Strategy has limitations that emanate from the language used and its actual content that is not presented in a clear and coherent manner for different stakeholders.
  • The Strategy acknowledges the DfE’s role in sustainability, and it promotes mainly knowledge on its environmental aspect (e.g. focus on biodiversity, outdoor/nature knowledge, etc.). The social aspects of sustainability are hardly addressed, and the economic ones are presented as job opportunities.
  • The Strategy takes into consideration important policies, and national and international initiatives but it fails to show how these can inform the action areas and initiatives that drive the Strategy.
  • The Strategy does not enable practitioners to facilitate a thorough climate and sustainability education where both socio-economic and socio-scientific issues can be taken into consideration.

The Strategy

The policy paper Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems (referred to as the Strategy onwards) should be welcomed. It had been missing from the wider political and educational context (Greer, King and Glackin, 2021).

The Strategy identifies the importance of sustainability and climate change and is aimed at teachers and other professionals engaged in a variety of children’s service systems. Aside from the positive note upon its entry, however, the Strategy has limitations. These limitations emanate from the language used and its actual content that is not coherently presented for different stakeholders (e.g. teachers, civil servants etc.). For instance, the vision presented aims to make the UK ‘…the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030’, but the Strategy applies to England only. This rhetoric is accompanied by principles (e.g. ‘..we will seek opportunities to work with others… Evidence will be at the heart of our activity… we will make the greatest impact. We will adopt a systems-based approach…’, etc.) that are hard to argue against, but it is also hard to see how these aims will be achieved. These limitations are discussed below in relation to the general provisions the Strategy makes and to climate education in particular.

The Strategy’s provisions

The Strategy acknowledges the DfE’s important role in all aspects of sustainability. It highlights the overall aim of reducing our environmental footprints in accordance with achieving Net Zero. Net Zero is the ‘umbrella’ UK policy for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy by 2050.  However, there is a focus on environmental sustainability that creates a disequilibrium among the social, economic and environmental aspects. This also favours the country’s economic goals rather than its educational or environmental ones (Dunlop and Rushton, 2022).

While the Strategy acknowledges the DfE’s role in sustainability, its focus centres upon knowledge (e.g. biodiversity, outdoor/nature knowledge, etc.). Rushton and Dunlop (2022, p.3) identified a similar issue arguing that the Strategy: “…is on learning more about…not empowering young people to act for the environment or challenging the root cause of climate change.” This is evident in the Strategy’s identified Action areas (five in total) and initiatives (three in total).

The Actions are:

1) Climate Education,

2) Green Skills and careers,

3) Education Estate and Digital Infrastructure,

4) Operations and Supply Chains and

5) International

 

The initiatives are:

1) the National Education Nature Park (a virtual nature park)

2) the Climate Leaders Award (similar to other awards like the John Muir Award, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, etc.)

3) Sustainability Leadership (noting support from senior management leadership).

Within the above, the social aspects of sustainability are barely identified, and the economic ones are presented as job opportunities. For instance, the Action area ‘Green skills and jobs’ highlights only the potential number of green jobs that will be created and nothing more; the Action area ‘Education Estate and digital technology’ contains information around heating solutions, water scarcity, etc. that links them to school buildings without clearly showing the role of teachers and children in these. 

Even though the Strategy takes into consideration important policies, national and international initiatives (e.g. the United Nations’17 Sustainable Development Goals and UNESCO’s ‘Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the Paris Agreement and Glasgow Climate Pact, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), the UK Climate Change Act (2008), etc.), it fails to show how these can inform the action areas and initiatives that drive the strategy. An example of such failure can be seen with the initiative National Education Nature Park. The focus seems to be mostly on environmental knowledge (e.g. ‘deliver improvements in biodiversity, contribute to the implementation of the nature recovery network, etc.); a ‘trend’ that shows in other counties as well (Monroe, Plate, Oxarart, Bowers and Chaves, 2019). Nowhere is visible how the 17 SD goals or the Convention on Children’s Rights can inform the above in a manner that professionals can make a change. The focus on environmental knowledge is prevalent throughout the Strategy including climate education.

Action Area 1 – Climate Education

I want to focus on Climate Education (Action Area 1) because the proposals are for children to learn about nature, the cause and impact of climate change and the importance of sustainability. These suggestions reflect once more an approach to ‘learning about’ rather than empowering action. Admittedly, the latter is much more difficult to achieve, especially in an educational context where mainly discipline and conformity are promoted amongst pupils.

The Strategy highlights particular National Curriculum subjects (e.g. science, geography, etc.) that can promote such learning from early years onwards. It highlights the GCSEs (General Certificate for Secondary Education) in design and technology, food preparation and nutrition, and economics as topics that can further enhance the importance of learning about sustainability while at the same time, it announces a new natural history GCSE by 2025 for ‘deeper knowledge of the natural world’.

This interest in knowledge is further enhanced by the proposed annual Climate Literacy Survey from 2022 to benchmark progress in improving the climate knowledge of school leavers. Knowledge is important, but Rushton and Dunlop (2022) identified that teachers and students alike were asking for more critical thinking, doing research, taking action, communicating and networking with others. Knowledge alone does not necessarily lead to environmental action (Skamp, Boyes and Stannistreet, 2009). Still, the Strategy sees science knowledge as most fitting for climate education. This is reflected in science teachers’ Continuing Personal Development (CPD) and on developing a Primary Science Model Curriculum to include ‘an emphasis on nature to ensure all children understand the world’.

This ‘knowledge overload’ manifests itself in the implicit alignment that the Strategy brings between Climate Education and Education for Sustainable Development. However, throughout the Strategy there is neither a clear distinction between the two nor any links made for teachers to see how they relate to each other.

Climate change and political impartiality

Finally, and most disappointingly, the section on Climate Education closes with a message on political impartiality.

The message, amongst other things, says: “Teaching about climate change, and the scientific facts and evidence behind this, does not constitute teaching about a political issue and schools do not need to present misinformation or unsubstantiated claims to provide balance.” 

Climate education is a socio-scientific issue (Henderson, Long, Berger, Russell, and Drewes, 2017) and as such it carries socio-political dimensions. A systematic review of effective education strategies in climate change education highlighted a distinction between ‘just the facts’(that is, ‘learning about’) and ‘also the actions’ approaches which refer to an apolitical and a political approach to the issue of climate change education (Monroe et.al, 2019).

When priority is given to ‘just the facts’, then the socioeconomic dimensions of climate and sustainability education – which are explicitly included in the United Nations Sustainable Goals – are compromised. Scholars like Gayford and Dillon (1995) have clearly shown since the ‘90s the dilemmas and difficulties that teachers face when teaching environmental issues precisely because they span through all domains (social, economic, physical). There needs to be a balance between the scientific information and the value-laden nature of climate and sustainability education. This kind of balance is missing from the said Strategy.

Conclusion

The Strategy has given schools an opportunity to consider their sustainability and climate education approaches. In a way, it is contributing towards ‘spreading the word’ on the importance of educating and acting upon environmental and climate issues. Acquiring scientific knowledge about these issues is paramount; but also of paramount importance are the socio-economic dimensions of these issues.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Dr Athanasia Chatzifotiou

Dr Athanasia Chatzifotiou

Senior Lecturer, University of Sunderland, UK

Athanasia Chatzifotiou gained her Ph.D. from Durham University in the UK. She examined primary school teachers’ knowledge and awareness of environmental education in two European countries, namely England and Greece. Her subsequent work addressed issues concerning the status of education for sustainable development in the National Curriculum in England and Greece, policy initiatives in England, the Eco-school approach in early years and primary schools, etc. She teaches in the BA Hons Childhood Studies degree at Sunderland University where she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences.

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8517-598X

References and further reading

Department for Education, (2022). Policy paper: Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sustainability-and-climate-change-strategy/sustainability-and-climate-change-a-strategy-for-the-education-and-childrens-services-systems

Dunlop, L. and Rushton, A.C. (2022). Putting climate change at the heart of education: Is England’s strategy a placebo for policy? British Education Research Journalhttps://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3816

Dunlop, L. and Rushton, A. C. (2022). Five ways the new sustainability and climate change strategy for schools on Englabd doesn’t match up to what young people actually want. The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/five-ways-the-new-sustainability-and-climate-change-strategy-for-schools-in-england-doesnt-match-up-to-what-young-people-actually-want-181966 [Accessed 5/4/2023]

Gayford, C. and Dillo, P. (1995). Policy and the practices of environmental education in England: a dilemma for teachers. Environmental Education Research, v.1, p.173-183.

Greer, K. King, H. and Glackin, M. (2021). The ‘web of conditions’ governing England’s climate change education policy landscape, Journal of Education Policy, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2021.1967454

Henderson, J. Long, D. Berger, P. Russell, C. and Drewes, A. (2017). Expanding the foundation: climate change and opportunities for educational research. Educational Studies, v.53, n.4, p.412-425. DOI: 10.1080/00131946.2017.1335640

 Monroe, M. Plate, R. Oxarart, A. Bowers, A. and Chaves, W. (2019). Identifying effective climate change education strategies: a systematic review of the research, Environmental Education Research, 25:6, 791-812, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2017.1360842

 Skamp, K. Boyes, E. Stannistreet, M. (2009). Global warming responses at the primary secondary students’ beliefs and willingness to act. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, v. 25, p.15-30

You’ve been hired! Exploring the future of learning design using speculative methods

You’ve been hired! Exploring the future of learning design using speculative methods

The latest annual survey from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) highlights the changes in the profession of those who work in the spaces where technology, teaching, and learning intersect. The brokers who work in these vital in-between places of education have been referred to as “third space professionals”.

A range of titles is reported in the ALT annual survey by respondents, with the most common being “learning technologist”. For real, paid work, people apply for more prosaic-sounding jobs than that of a “third space professional”. There may be gaps, if not tensions, between academic parlance and how we speak in the real world.

If this resonates with you, and you are a pragmatic person who seeks tangible, real-world solutions, rather than abstract academic notions, then stop reading now. If, however, you would like to work at a more-than-real posthuman University – in an entanglement of technology, plants, animals, emotions, gods, and demons, where you would write learning designs directly onto other people’s hearts – then read on.

Key Messages

  • Learning designer/technologist roles continue to increase greatly both in number and their scope.
  • The roles of learning designers/academic developers/learning technologists/heads of teaching and learning centres are vitally important but complex.
  • Speculative methods are being increasingly used in both teaching and educational research.
  • Speculative methods (specifically speculative fiction) can be used to think about the impact of learning design roles and imagine strange but bright university futures for and of them.

Conceptualising learning design roles

A recent exercise conducted with learning designers in Ireland aimed to creatively analyse, conceptualise and represent the role of learning designer. It proceeded from the contention that a digital learning consultant, or an academic developer, or a head of digital education, are more than their titles. And they are more than their skills. Indeed, they are more than human. We do not live as job titles, as bunches of disembodied skills and competencies, nor even as perfectly differentiated individual human beings. Rather, we live deeply entangled in the language that describes us, in the tools we use [1], in each other, and in the non-human beings of this world [2].

To make sense of this provocation, and to learn how learning designers actually feel and live this entanglement, we adopted a more-than-real speculative approach. Speculative methods are not premised on measurement or “what works” but rather on “not-yetness”. They attempt to create or leave space for dreaming about what is yet to come. They are approaches “aimed at envisioning or crafting futures or conditions which may not yet currently exist, to provoke new ways of thinking and to bring particular ideas or issues into focus” (Ross, 2007).

In our study, we analysed a collection of job postings for learning technology roles advertised in Ireland during the pandemic. Based on these, we interviewed several fictional learning designers. These people had just been hired into a strange university that exists in the near future. Below is an excerpt from one such fictional interview, adapted from the preprint version of our article, the full version of which you can read in the journal Learning Media and Technology

Christine:

What was your last question? My learning design super-power? Ha ha, I like it! Well, we took this Info Lit class one time on posthumanism and speciesism. Also, that year we were editing Wikipedia, to fill in gaps on famous women, so I did Frances Power Cobbe. She campaigned for animal rights and the rights of women to vote and attend university. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole then, and read all about the Brown Dog affair, but I had to stop after a while because it was just so horrible that someone could be cutting up a dog who was clearly in distress. When I read about the medical students taking down the statue that commemorated the dog, I just felt my body shaking and I took both hands off my iPad and let it drop to the ground.

 Anyway, long story short, I pick the ability to speak to animals as my superpower. I look after all the animals here in the Animal Aid Division of the Learning Design Deck. Me, and my friend Pema.

It all started with Isha. As a blind student, she had to fight for literally everything during her time in the University and for her dog Sandy too. But one time we were doing all this big data stuff, trying to catch people cheating in exam halls. An algorithm checked the similarity of students who sat close together and triangulated with sweat levels the system could see on their skin. We were looking at all these mood maps and I noticed that people sitting near Sandy in the exams seemed calmer. So that’s how the project of allowing dogs in exam halls started, because they had such a positive effect on people. And then we were loaning dogs out to students to take walks with. That evolved into our Library Dogs initiative. Later, I went back and looked at the data and realised that there was some uplifting effect for students in exams sitting near windows. Turns out, just seeing some plant life is good for you, a little bit of green. So, we started working connecting students with trees. The researchers were all excited and talking about oxytocin levels and so on, but it just seems like basic sense to me. It’s like something I heard once about how you need connection but you don’t need another person necessarily, just one tendril of love to something, and that could be looking in a dog’s eyes or touching a tree [3].

And the whole thing grew from there really, and we are rewilding parts of the University now. I look after all the animals, primarily the dogs, but also the ones that are part of other projects: cats, monkeys, snails, kites, buzzards, crows. And the sand martins who do this like hunting ballet over the lake in the evening when I’m walking home – sweeping through invisible clouds of insects. There was some dispute I think, a student protest, as the University wanted to build something where the lake is – maybe a carpark.

How does that one go? University (noun): A set of warring fiefdoms united around a common cause of parking. That’s the biggest threat to the plant and animal projects – new university buildings and developments. But my favourite part of the Uni is a patch of old scrub out back of the library. It must be earmarked for a building because it’s not landscaped or mowed or anything. It’s just thistles and poppies and stones but sometimes I go in and lie down there. I try to feel the world under me to see if I’m still here or maybe if it’s still there.

Conclusion

This blog post attempts to give a flavour of how speculative methods, in this case, design fiction, can be used to represent and explore evolving educational roles. The next step of the research involved analysing the above persona, along with two others, by presenting them to real-life learning designers to seek their feedback on the fictions’ validity, and resonance or otherwise, with their own lived experience.

We drew on literature related to ethics of care in education and the philosopher and theorist Simone Weil to help frame this analysis. You can read about what happened next in the full version of the associated article. Our work tried to show people with complex embodied existences that spread beyond the formal boundaries of their work in educational settings. We attempted to counter the neoliberal construction of identities of workers that are comprised of disembodied skills. Instead, we tried to problematise this question of who and what people do in particular roles, not according to their skills alone, but as people who have bodies that experience joy and suffering.

We attempted to show learning designers as existing in a tangled web of objects, people, and experience. In this way, we hopefully shone some light on the complex roles these people play in the messy territories of contemporary, and near future, education.

Acknowledgements

A wonderful team of learning design and learning design-adjacent superheroes contributed to the published article (Costello et al, 2022): Steve Welsh, Fiona Concannon, Tom Farrelly, Clare Thompson and Lily/Prajakta Grime (who is doubly acknowledged as the creator of the beautiful images).

Dr Eamon Costello

Dr Eamon Costello

Associate Professor of Digital Learning

Dr Costello has worked in industry and university settings for over 25 years. He is deeply curious about how we learn in different environments. He is also concerned with how we actively shape our world so that we can have better and more humane places in which to think, work, live, and learn. He has taught and researched a wide range of topics in the places where people and technology mingle. He is an advocate of using the right tool for the job or sometimes none at all, for not everything can be fixed or should be built.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/eam0 RG: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eamon-Costello Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eamoncostello?originalSubdomain=ie Website: https://www.dcu.ie/stemeducationinnovationglobalstudies/people/eamon-costello

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

[1] Fawns, T. (2022). An Entangled Pedagogy: Looking Beyond the Pedagogy—Technology Dichotomy. Postdigital Science and Education, 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-022-00302-7

[2] Gourlay, L., Littlejohn, A., Oliver, M., & Potter, J. (2021). Lockdown literacies and semiotic assemblages: academic boundary work in the Covid-19 crisis. Learning, Media and Technology, 46(4), 377-389. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2021.1900242

[3] Brach, T. (2012). Radical Acceptance: Awakening the Love that Heals Fear and Shame. London: Random House.

Costello, E., Welsh, S., Girme, P., Concannon, F., Farrelly, T., & Thompson, C. (2022). Who cares about learning design? Near future superheroes and villains of an educational ethics of care. Learning, Media and Technology, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2022.2074452

EERJ Special Issue: The Bologna process – diverse harmonisation 

EERJ Special Issue: The Bologna process – diverse harmonisation 

The European Educational Research Journal  (EERJ) was created by EERA to further the aims of the association and its members, educational researchers across Europe. It is a scientific journal interested in the changing landscape of education research across Europe. It publishes double-blind peer-reviewed papers in special issues and as individual articles. As part of the ongoing cooperation with EERJ, the EERA blog will share updates and information about upcoming and published special issues and articles alongside blog posts from EERJ contributors. 

You can find out more about the EERJ and the benefits of a European journal presenting international educational research at the end of this blog post.

The EERJ March 2023 Special Issue was dedicated to the topic of student tradition patterns, from bachelor to master’s level in post-Bologna Europe. We asked the guest editor, Lars Ulriksen, to share his research with the EERA blog.

Special issue: Student transition patterns from bachelor to master’s level in post-Bologna Europe

Vol 22, Issue 2, 2023

First published online March, 2023

Lars Ulriksen

Jens-Peter Thomsen

David Reimer, Ulrike Schwabe

Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Lars Ulriksen

Lene Møller Madsen, Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard

Heather Mendick, Anne-Kathrin Peters

When, during the past two decades, I have attended conferences and seminars on higher education, ‘the Bologna process’ has been a recurrent theme, sometimes linked to a discussion of ‘the European Higher Education Area’. One of the intentions behind the formation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was to make it easier for students to move between higher education institutions and programmes in different European countries. The Bologna process was launched to achieve this goal, setting up various principles and guidelines with which the countries that had decided to join the process had to align.

 

What is the Bologna process?

At the heart of the Bologna process is an idea of harmonisation. To allow for a smooth transition between different institutions across countries, there had to be a similarity that allowed students to transfer credits. A key part of this harmonisation was (and is) the 3+2 structure, stipulating that university programmes should be structured in two cycles, a three-year bachelor programme and a two-year Master’s programme. In some countries, this structure caused substantial changes, e.g., in countries where Master’s programmes had previously been integrated entities rather than two separate stages of a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.

This harmonisation has been an object of criticism [1]. At the same time, it has been questioned to what extent the implementation of the EHEA was, in fact, as uniform as assumed [2]. The adoption of the Bologna principles into national policies was affected by national agendas and developments. Thus, the harmonisation unfolded differently in different countries. One could argue that diversity would be an advantage in order to benefit from the possibility of studying in different countries, but in all events, the Bologna process has harmonised the EHEA, but with national differences.

A student’s perspective on Bologna

However, what does it look like from the perspective of the students who have to navigate the structures and principles of EHEA? What happens when the policy is made into text, as Ball puts it [3]? The March EERA Special Issue of EERJ addresses this with an emphasis on the student perspective. Previous studies of the Bologna process have tended to focus on the policy and curriculum level, but at the end of the day, it is students who experience the consequences of the way policy documents are interpreted and transformed into specific study conditions at courses and study programmes.

The papers in the special issue discuss this with different focuses and methods. Some consider the effects at a macro level based on quantitative data. Others use qualitative methods to investigate the way students at an individual level act within the changed framework of a 3+2 structure. In both approaches, the focus is on the consequences at a national level: What are the implications of changes implemented as a part of the Bologna process for students in different countries and programmes? However, what becomes visible when looking across the papers is that the consequences not only vary across countries, but that even at the same institution, disciplinary differences mean that students are affected differently by the new structure.

Differences between countries

One example is the papers by Thomsen [4] and by Reimer & Schwabe [5]. The two papers take a quantitative approach to explore the consequences at a macro level of the introduction of the 3+2 structure in educational systems that had previously been characterised by integrated master’s degrees. The papers analyse data from Denmark and Germany respectively. While each paper offers interesting results at a national level, together they provide a comparative look at differences across systems. A striking result is the effect on access to higher education for different socio-economic groups. In Germany, it seems that introducing the transition state from the bachelor to the master’s level has made the system less equal (contrary to one of the expressed intentions of the process (Prague Communique, 2001)). In Denmark, on the other hand, this does not seem to be the case. The structure does not affect the chances of students of different socio-economic backgrounds – instead, the inequality has remained depressingly unchanged since the 1990s.

Differences between disciplines

Another example is a comparison of the reflections and experiences of students in two different study programmes at the same university [6]. While the students in the integrated programme could just follow the traditional path of the discipline with a long history in science, students in the other programme found choosing what to do after the bachelor’s degree more challenging and uncertain. This is because they attended an interdisciplinary bachelor programme without a long tradition. Thus, differences between disciplines and the institutional capital linked to the disciplines present the students with different opportunities and difficulties.

The benefits of the EERJ Special Issues

For me, the papers of this special issue show why we should have an EERJ journal and special issues, and why we should use different methods in educational research. Looking across national contexts makes us aware of similarities as well as differences, and it reminds us of both what is different and what is common across borders. Bringing analyses of the same topic in different contexts together in one issue emphasises precisely this point because the separate analyses engage in a conversation with each other. This conversation concerns national differences, but also the contributions of different methods and levels of analysis – that the patterns at the macro level are lived in individual practices that, in turn, are reflected at an aggregate level in the statistical analyses. The dialogue between the papers invites curiosity and further study of the dual process of harmonisation and diversity.

Key Messages

  • The Bologna process has mostly been studied at a policy level, but we should also consider what it looks like from the students’ perspectives
  • Even though the Bologna process introduces a uniform structure, its implementation does not always have the same consequences in different countries, e.g., concerning how it affects equal access to higher education
  • Even within the same country, students at different study programmes may experience the 3+2 structure differently because the disciplines have different institutional capital
  • The special issue is an example of what is gained by using different methods and bringing together different contexts
Dr Lars Ulriksen

Dr Lars Ulriksen

Professor at the Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen

Lars Ulriksen is a professor at the Department of Science Education at the University of Copenhagen. His research focuses on the encounter between students and the higher-education programmes with a particular focus on students’ transitions into higher education and onwards. He is the head of the University Science Education research group.

ORCID: 0000-0002-7094-132X

https://www.ind.ku.dk

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

[1] Wihlborg, M. (2019). Critical viewpoints on the Bologna Process in Europe: Can we do otherwise? European Educational Research Journal, 18(2), 135-157. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474904118824229

[2] Broucker, B., De Wit, K., Verhoeven, J. C., & Leišytė, L. (Eds.). (2019). Higher Education System Reform. An International Comparison after Twenty Years of Bologna. Brill Sense.

[3] Ball, S. J. (1993, 1993/04/01). What is Policy? Texts, Trajectories and Toolboxes. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 13(2), 10-17. https://doi.org/10.1080/0159630930130203

Ball, S. J. (2015, 2015/05/27). What is policy? 21 years later: reflections on the possibilities of policy research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(3), 306-313. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2015.1015279

 [4] Thomsen, J.-P. (2023). Moving to opportunity: Student trajectories in the post-Bologna university system in Denmark. European Educational Research Journal, 22(2), 146-169. https://doi.org/10.1177/14749041211046748

[5] Reimer, D., & Schwabe, U. (2023). Stability or change? Social inequality at the transition from bachelor’s to master’s degree programmes in Germany. Empirical evidence from four graduate cohorts. European Educational Research Journal, 22(2), 170-197. https://doi.org/10.1177/14749041221101293

[6] Madsen, L. M., & Holmegaard, H. T. (2023). Science students’ post-bachelor’s choice narratives in different disciplinary settings. European Educational Research Journal, 22(2), 216-235. https://doi.org/10.1177/14749041221095151