Walking together apart – how mobile material methods can help us think towards better educational futures

Walking together apart – how mobile material methods can help us think towards better educational futures

Whilst working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been bound to our chairs and desks, suffering screen fatigue, isolation, and anxiety. In this context, an invitation to ‘get up and move’ enticed seven of us, all at different stages in our careers, to take part in a refreshing research opportunity. This blog offers some insights which emerged as we walked, talked, wrote, crafted, and immersed ourselves in walking as a methodological practice.

An invitation: ‘Get Up and Move’

Framed by the feminist approach of Collective Biography (Gannon and Davies, 2006), we shaped a practice of walking together-apart which involved us in walking in different geographical locations at more or less the same time in relation to an agreed aim. This helped us shape walking together-apart as a mode of knowledge-making that is relational, embodied, and collaborative, and that (we think) offers the means to think and work towards better, more hopeful educational futures.

Walking as method

Walking is an embodied, mobile, materialist research methodology which challenges the positioning of language and human interaction as the central feature in research (Taylor, 2020). It creates opportunities for research that is embodied, multi-sensory, emergent, relational, situated and bound to time, context, and location. Further, walking methodology reveals how geographies and histories are shaped by colonialist practices (Springgay and Truman, 2018).

In our Get Up and Move project, we experimented with paying attention to the places and spaces where we were walking. We adopted a materially engaged and situationally immersed research positionality, allied to Karen Barad’s feminist posthumanist orientation where ‘knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing but rather from a direct material engagement with the world’ (Barad, 2007, p.49). This methodology involves a research orientation to the not-yet-known and to knowledge as a space of possibility.

Walking together-apart

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll as we process and experience the traumas of living with the virus and the uncertainty regarding potential new viral mutations, fluctuating infection rates, and accompanying new bodily practices of mask-wearing, and varying governmental and personal restrictions on social freedoms. Within these new and harsh conditions, the lockdowns imposed to slow down the spread of COVID-19 offered educational opportunities to connect online in new ways.  
Using a feminist posthumanist walking as methodology and Collective Biography approach, we engaged in a series of walkings, writings and reflections, creating and co-creating knowledge together-apart. Collective biography focuses on the collaborative production of written memories and a collective re-thinking and re-writing of meanings. It is a feminist method for moving beyond the individual towards a practice of co-authorship (Fairchild, 2021) in which research productions are collaboratively produced and ‘owned’.
Collaborative Biography challenges traditional individualistic social science approaches and privileges the moments as they happen. It encourages us to pay attention to the mundane, the micro, and that which is often taken for granted.

The walks

We enacted the methodology of walking together-apart in three walks: the first was in a familiar place which focused on noticing; the second was in an unfamiliar place and sought to attend to bodies and bodily sensings, and the third was at dawn focusing on the elements and atmosphere.

After each walk, we recorded individual stories in which we attended to embodied moments, collecting these in our ‘treasure chest’ (our shared online site). Later, together-apart in online group discussions, shared themes, and experiences emerged in a process of collective re-creation of memory and meaning. Through this iterative telling, listening, and writing process, particular things came to matter.

Data experimentations

Our ongoing encounters in researching our walking insights together-apart encouraged us to engage creatively with the data. Our treasure chest encompassed multiple forms of data – photographs, videos, written text, poems, sounds, and recordings of online conversations.

In a ‘first pass through the data’ we sifted through the folder, responding to what was there. Sharing these responses led to conversations that sprawled in unanticipated ways ranging from how our bodies meet the world – cold teeth, runny nose, wet socks – to big discussions about colonialism, misogyny, violence, and poverty.

As we continued thinking, writing, talking, and crafting, certain moments resonated, providing us with themed scents to pursue and paths to wander. Our knowledge-making was rhizomic, a botanic metaphor of a plant stem which creeps underground sending out roots and shoots, and which we use, following Deleuze and Guattari (1987), to describe the complex, nonlinear, erratic and nomadic nature of knowledge production.

Our experimentations in collaborative writing (Cranham et al., 2023, f.c.), string figuring and collage, and painting with data in hybrid classrooms were swept by the affective, exhilarating processes of becoming-we, leaving us joyfully animated in nurturing collaboration.

Insights for education

Walking as a methodological practice unveiled insights to knowledge-making in the following ways:

First, such approaches are slow. They require time and space to linger in the moment and to experience and learn with the world as it is encountered.

Second, the methodological practice of attentive noticing enables us to apprehend the significant role of the more-than-human (for example, objects, animals, nature). This displacement of human exceptionalism can be life-affirming and produce more generous and inclusive research and education practices.

Third, through an ethical process of care, trust, honesty, and open collaboration, ‘I’ became ‘we’, and ‘mine’ became ‘ours’, enabling knowledge creation beyond the individual. The knowledge that emerged was transversal, becoming an affective flow across the group, materialising in shared moments of laughter, insight, and silent musing.

 Fourth, embracing the unknown involved trusting something exciting would emerge and a willingness to take a risk. 

Fifth, creative open-ended methods disrupt current thinking and help recast what matters in education. They reject disciplinary boundaries and goal-oriented approaches, resisting current neoliberal practices that tend to promote individualised competitive practices over collaboration.

 

Walking and Collective Biography helped us envisage and enact more relational, embodied, collaborative, inclusive and joyful research practices – these, we think, can help inform better educational futures for students and staff.

Key Messages

The COVID-19 pandemic enabled using online spaces to connect and do research in new ways.

Walking as a methodology offers possibilities for research that is embodied and attends to both the human and nonhuman world.

Collaborative approaches have potential to disrupt neoliberal practices that promote individualised competitive practices that dominate the academy.

Such approaches are slow and require developing care-full relationships founded on trust and ethical engagement

Eliane Bastos

Eliane Bastos

PhD Researcher, University of Bath, Department of Education

Eliane is an Education PhD Researcher at the University of Bath (UK) interested in understanding how primary school children come to reflect their learning into the everyday through storying with objects, and how longitudinal ocean learning experiences may enable an ontological turn towards children’s understanding of the human-ocean relationship as human as ocean.

Eliane’s research is located within a relatively new field – Ocean Literacy, which is concerned with the understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean. She has been active as a practitioner in the field of ocean literacy for over 7 years working with partners in the UK and internationally to accelerate ocean literacy in society, including playing a key role as a founding member of the We Are Ocean collective and as a Board Member of the European Marine Science Educators Association.  

Hannah Hogarth

Hannah Hogarth

PhD Researcher, University of Bath, Department of Education

Hannah is a PhD researcher in the Department of Education, University of Bath. Her doctoral inquiry explores the relationship between childhoodnature encounters and play in an urban forest school.

Co-researching with young children alongside non-human nature, she is interested in finding ways to create knowledge collaboratively using creative, playful and embodied methods inspired by feminist, posthuman, relational and materialist approaches.

Carol Taylor

Carol Taylor

Professor of Higher Education and Gender

Carol is Professor of Higher Education and Gender in the Department of Education at the University of Bath where she is Director of Research and leads the Learning, Pedagogy and Diversity Research cluster.

Carol’s research focuses on the entangled relations of knowledge, power, gender, space and ethics in higher education and utilizes trans- and interdisciplinary posthumanist and feminist new materialist theories and methodologies.

She is currently co-leading a University of Bath Research Beacon Living Well Now and in 2050. Carol is co-editor of the journal Gender and Education, and a member of the Editorial Boards of Qualitative Research, Teaching in Higher Education, Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning and Journal of Posthumanism.

Carol’s latest books are Fairchild, N., Taylor, C.A., Benozzo, A., Carey, N., Koro, M., & Elmenhorst, C. (2022). Knowledge Production in Material Spaces: Disturbing Conferences and Composing Events. London: Routledge; Taylor, C. A., Ulmer, J., and Hughes, C. (Eds.) (2020) Transdisciplinary Feminist Research: Innovations in Theory, Method and Practice. London: Routledge; and Taylor, C. A. and Bayley, A. (Eds.) (2019) Posthumanism and Higher Education: Reimagining Pedagogy, Practice and Research. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Karen Barr

Karen Barr

PhD Researcher, University of Bath, Department of Education

Karen has taught at Sheffield Hallam University for 15 years, mainly on courses relating to education and early childhood.

She is studying for a PhD in Education at the University of Bath and the title of this research is ‘Affect and discursive-materiality in Early Childhood Studies placement assemblages’. This project considers placements as contingent and emergent assemblages of human-nonhuman forces; it explores the material aspects of placement contexts; how these material aspects come to matter discursively; and how affective forces influence students’ experiences.

Karen’s study takes up posthuman theory to investigate how placement works as a material-discursive affective assemblage and how that produces learning. Its aims are to contribute a novel way of considering placement and to make a methodological contribution through its creative research practices that attune to affective flows, rhythms, and momentary intensities, which often go unnoticed in learning events.

Elisabeth Barratt Hacking

Elisabeth Barratt Hacking

Deputy Head of Department / Senior Lecturer, University of Bath,

Elisabeth has published widely in the field of environmental education and global citizenship education. She has been involved in numerous educational research, evaluation and development projects relating to childhood and environment, education for sustainability and global citizenship education with nurseries, schools, children and young people, teachers and leaders. Much of this research has employed participatory methodologies in school contexts. 

Elisabeth is interested in advancing theory, policy and practice in the area of childhood and environment. With Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles and Karen Malone, she has been instrumental in creating the new concept ‘childhoodnature’ through editing the international ‘Research Handbook on Childhoodnature: Assemblages of childhood and nature research’ (2020). Most recently, the new concept, ‘relational becoming’ (with Carol Taylor, 2020) brings together work in global citizenship, environmental education and childhoodnature to rethink education in a posthumanist frame, that is, beyond anthropocentric notions which privilege (powerful) human exceptionalism. 

Working with a group of interdisciplinary researchers, the ‘nature relations’ research group, Elisabeth is working on ways of embedding childhoodnature and Relational Becoming within climate change education in schools and early years settings.  She is also Co-investigator of a University of Bath interdisciplinary research Beacon: ‘Living Well now and by 2050.’  

Joy Cranham

Joy Cranham

PhD Researcher, University of Bath, Department of Education

Joy Cranham has over twenty years of experience in the Primary Education sector.  Her doctoral research in the Department of Education at the University of Bath focuses on preventative approaches to safeguarding.  The essence of her research is how families construct knowledge collaboratively, enabling greater criticality and confidence to discuss concerns about safety and risk.  Joy’s interest in collaborative writing simultaneously derives from her commitment to non-hierarchical educational practices and modes of knowledge productions
Sally-Jayne Hewlett

Sally-Jayne Hewlett

PhD Researcher, University of Bath, Department of Education

Sally-Jayne Hewlett has a background in working with young people aged 16-25 with learning difficulties and / or disabilities and specialist tutoring in higher education. She is currently completing doctoral research in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. Her research focus uses critical realist methodology to explore the invisible, hidden and complex realities of accessibility in higher education through the lens of academics. Collaborative writing simultaneously is congruent to Sally’s interest in innovative and accessible methodologies for knowledge production.  

References and Further Reading

Barad, K., 2007. Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham and London: Duke university press. Barad, K., 2007. Meeting the universe halfway 

Cranham et al., 2023 (f.c.). Not mine, not yours, but ours: Collaborative writing simultaneously together-apart. In Hughes, C, Taylor, C. A., Salazar Pérez & Ulmer, J. (Eds.) The Routledge International Handbook of Research and Methods in Transdisciplinary Feminism. London: Routledge.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F., 1987. A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/a-thousand-plateaus

 Fairchild, N., 2021. Pedagogies of place-spaces: walking-with the post-professional, PRACTICE, DOI: 10.1080/25783858.2021.1968279 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25783858.2021.1968279 

Gannon, S. and Davies, B., 2006. Doing collective biography: investigating the production of subjectivity. Maidenhead, England: Open university press. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-6091-615-1_10

Springgay, S. and Truman, S.E., 2018. Walking methodologies in a more-than-human world. Abingdon: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Walking-Methodologies-in-a-More-than-human-World-WalkingLab/Springgay-Truman/p/book/9780367264956 

Taylor, C. A., 2020. Walking as trans(disciplinary)mattering: A speculative musing on acts of feminist indiscipline. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341470739_Walking_as_transdisciplinarymattering. In Taylor, C. A., Ulmer, J., and Hughes, C. (Eds.) (2020) Transdisciplinary Feminist Research: Innovations in Theory, Method and Practice. London: Routledge. pp. 4–15. https://www.routledge.com/Transdisciplinary-Feminist-Research-Innovations-in-Theory-Method-and-Practice/Taylor-Ulmer-Hughes/p/book/9780367500511 

Ukrainian Higher Education and the International Education Community in the Context of Russian Assault on Ukraine 

Ukrainian Higher Education and the International Education Community in the Context of Russian Assault on Ukraine 

On the 24th of February 2022, the world witnessed the most unexpected and unbelievable turn of events – a full-scale war in a country located in geographical Europe. Russian government and military, in cooperation with their partners in Belarus, launched a military assault on Ukraine’s infrastructure, civilians’ lives, freedoms, and sovereignty. Higher education (HE), along with other areas of life, has taken a backstage while people have been sheltering and/or fleeing to seek safety. Nevertheless, the backstage for Ukrainian wounded HE in these circumstances does not mean a full submergence by the war.

The number of damaged or destroyed educational establishments, including higher education institutions (HEIs), has been growing. Ukrainian academics and students are among those feeling the country seeking safety. Some students still hope there will be a chance to come back to their studies in Ukraine. Other members of the HE student community in Ukraine are staying, putting on a soldier’s uniform, and fighting for Ukraine. Some still manage to continue with their studies in various formats in the regions less affected by the war after the initial impact, as the Ukrainian government supports HEIs in ensuing uninterrupted payment of academics’ salaries.

The Ukrainian government and other HE stakeholders in Ukraine have been developing ways to support Ukrainian HE. For instance, on the 12th of March 2022, the Ukrainian Rectors’ Union supported the initiative of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science: to cancel the requirement for final year upper-secondary school students to pass the final exams (State Final Attestation) as well as the External Education Assessment previously used to determine university entrance; to simplify the rules for applying for master’s degrees in 2022 and cancelling the final exam ‘Krok’ at medical universities; to give the right to HEIs to set the amount of tuition fees; to request that the government of Ukraine increases the number of students by 30% whose fees would be waived for 2022 start, particularly for prospective students from the most affected regions of Ukraine; to appeal to all universities to donate one day’s pro-rata salary of academics to supporting Ukrainian soldiers, etc.

Such measures are being actively discussed and further solutions are being negotiated at multiple meetings with various Ukrainian stakeholders and international guests. An example is the online Open Consultation on the 16th of May 2022 with presenters such as the rector from a Ukrainian university, the leader of the non-governmental organisation ‘Emotional Intelligence Institute’, the director of the Ukrainian Start-up Fund, and an Association Professor from Lithuania.

Ukrainian HEIs have received a lot of support from the international community that has been watching the impact of the war on Ukraine, including its HE sector. For example, following the bombing of Karazin University in Kharkiv in Ukraine on the 2nd of March 2022, universities from other countries (e.g., Austria, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Senegal, and Turkey) sent their letters of support to Karazin University, condemning Russia’s aggression.

In another example, the Estonian University of Tartu has generously offered mental health support to Ukrainian academics as well as support with applications for studies and academic jobs for Ukrainians. Similarly, Polish National Agency for Academic Exchanges (NAWA) has launched a program of support for Ukrainian undergraduate and postgraduate students to continue their studies in Poland free of charge between March and September 2022. Comparable conditions have been guaranteed to 51 Ukrainian researchers who are going to continue their work in Poland, supported by the Polish National Research Centre. These are a handful of examples to illustrate the measures that have been so generously developed by other countries to support the Ukrainian higher education community.

Such developments have been an expected chain reaction to other important milestones in the changing geopolitics of the international HE space. Early examples include:  the announcement of the European Commission on the 3rd of March 2022 about ceasing its cooperation with Russian entities in the area of education and research; on the 7th of March, Quacquarelli Symonds announced the plan to exclude Russian and Belarus HEIs from international university rankings; subsequently, the European Association for Quality Assurance in HE (ENQA) Board issued a statement on the 8th of March 2022 in response to the war about suspending the rights of their member and affiliate agencies in Russia. Organisations of different executive power in Ukraine and HEIs have also been actively pursuing justice in the face of the brute force of the invaders, holding consultations with multiple international organisations regarding breaking the ties with the aggressors in the area of HE. A couple of examples include appealing to the international-level coordinators of the European Education Research Association and the European Higher Education Area.

An appeal was made by the Ukrainian Education Research Association – the biggest and most influential national-level research organisation in Ukraine. It issued an open letter with a request for action to its sister organisations in the European Education Research Association (EERA) on the 4th of March 2022, following  EERA’s timely statement about condemning the war. In response, on the 13th of April 2022, EERA unanimously and unequivocally denounced the invasion of Ukraine, and announced a few generous ways of supporting educational research in Ukraine, such as cancelling the need for Ukraine to pay EERA membership fees, granting free entry to all Ukrainian researchers to the conferences organised by EERA, committing to continue working to develop funding opportunities for Ukrainian researchers, and more.

In another example, the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine addressed the international Bologna Follow-up Group which coordinates the work of the European Higher Education Area on the 1st of March 2022 with a request for them to lobby for justice and break ties with Russia. A similar letter followed from the Ukrainian Education Research Association on the 28th of March 2022. European countries were divided in whether to break the ties with Russia in the area of research and education, including HE. This was because academic cooperation was still seen by some as a potential tool to save the lost diplomacy with Russia and override the disinformation campaign within the Russian borders. However, these optimistic voices were set aback by the statement made by Russia’s Rectors’ Union in early March, which openly supported Russia’s propaganda which masks the war under the disguise of ‘a special military operation’. In this statement, Russia’s Rectors’ Union maintains: ‘This is Russia’s decision to finally end the eight-year confrontation between Ukraine and Donbas, achieve the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, and thereby protect itself from growing military threats’. This disgrace on behalf of Russian rectors is disheartening.

This could not have gone unnoticed by the international Bologna Follow-up Group which met on the 11-12th of April 2022 and issued a statement about suspending the memberships of Russia and Belarus in the European Higher Education Area. This membership suspension did not mean, however, burning all the bridges with Russia and Belarus since Bologna Follow-up Group has asked in the statement everyone affiliated with the EHEA to offer support and protection to those actively condemning the war at their own risk.

This description of the examples above of the apparent shift in the international geopolitics of HE and the national-level adjustments to the war in the Ukrainian HE sector suggests the onset of long-term changes and subsequent consequences for the structure of the Ukrainian HE, the HE of the countries that are hosting representatives of the Ukrainian HE community and helping them in other ways, and consequences for international cooperation in HE more broadly. These changes are emerging as an area which calls for academics to advocate for democracy and be at the forefront of the (re)production of knowledge and truth about HE in the dynamic context of the war.

Research into this area is needed for evidence-based policy-making to support the Herculean task of the Ukrainian HE community to handle the situation and preserve its identity. It is also essential for developing further the so-called ‘protective factors’ currently in place, illustrated above, such as the generous support of other countries and external organisations, policy adjustments both in Ukraine and abroad, and technological opportunities connecting people and enabling communication and joint decisions. Pathways should also be explored for mitigating possible risks resulting from the developments, such as a potential brain drain in Ukraine, the marginalisation of those from Ukraine who do not receive support or those abroad who cannot benefit from the opportunities that have now been channelled to tackle the consequences of the war, and the difficulty of promoting democracy through HE in the world which the war has changed.

Key Messages

There has been an apparent shift in the international geopolitics of HE and the national-level adjustments to the war in the Ukrainian HE sector.

These developments suggest the onset of long-term changes and subsequent consequences for the structure of the Ukrainian HE, the HE of the countries that are hosting representatives of the Ukrainian HE community and helping them in other ways, and consequences for international cooperation in HE more broadly.

These changes are emerging as an area which calls for academics to advocate for democracy and be at the forefront of the (re)production of knowledge and truth about HE in the dynamic context of the war.

Dr Iryna Kushnir

Dr Iryna Kushnir

Dr Iryna Kushnir is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at Nottingham Trent University. She previously worked at the University of Sheffield and the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Kushnir’s interdisciplinary research interests combine the following main areas: higher education, education policy, European integration, post-Soviet transition and migration. Her interdisciplinary approach has led to empirical and theoretical contributions, which reveal how education policy on the one hand and Europeanisation processes and post-Soviet transition on the other hand are interrelated and mutually shape one another.

Twitter: @IrynaKushnir7

Orcid: 0000-0003-0727-7208

University webpage: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/staff-profiles/education/iryna-kushnir

Gender and attainment in Northern Ireland: How can we understand the division?   

Gender and attainment in Northern Ireland: How can we understand the division?   

Post-primary attainment is commonly measured through GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) examinations which are completed in the final year of compulsory schooling in the UK at age 16. The GCSE attainment outcomes of pupils are annually reported in Northern Ireland by the Department of Education. They are presented according to school type (grammar schools which select pupils based on their academic ability on an entrance test (also known as the transfer test) or non-grammar schools which are not academically selective in their intake of pupils), socio-economic status (Free School Meal Eligibility) and gender. The gendered division in educational attainment in Northern Ireland continually receives policy attention, most recently from the Expert Panel on Educational Underachievement in Northern Ireland. This leaves the questions: what is the gender attainment divide, and how can we understand it?

What is the gender attainment divide?

Gender is an important determinant of attainment differences across the compulsory education system in the UK. Studies report the consistently higher performance of female pupils compared to males (Adcock et al., 2016; Department for Education, 2020; Cavaglia et al., 2020; Francis and Skelton, 2005; Gorard et al., 2001; Melhuish et al., 2013; Tinklin et al., 2001).

Northern Ireland reflects a similar trend to the rest of the UK, with females achieving higher GCSE attainment than males (Borooah and Knox, 2017; Department of Education, 2019; Gallagher and Smith, 2000; Shuttleworth, 1995). Most recently, in a newly published study we used a dataset in Northern Ireland that linked the 2011 Census with the School Leavers Survey and School Census for the first time.

The study explored how a pupil’s gender, religious affiliation, socio-economic status (measured by mothers’ and fathers’ education qualifications and occupational status, Free School Meal Eligibility, home ownership, property value, and the 2010 Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure for income) and attended school (grammar or non-grammar) influenced their GCSE attainment.

We found that females had higher educational attainment as they achieved higher GCSE scores than males. The gendered effect on GCSE attainment was the joint second greatest effect (with mothers’ education) in our study. Although the gendered division of attainment outcomes is likely to emerge at an earlier stage of the compulsory education system in Northern Ireland, this is not possible to explore as there are no available individual-level attainment data prior to GCSE. Despite this limitation in the Northern Ireland context, an attainment difference according to gender is clear, which leaves the question: how can we understand this gendered divide?

How can we understand the gendered attainment divide?

An interdisciplinary framework consisting of Bourdieu’s theory of practice and Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theorycan help our understanding of the gendered attainment divide.

 Bourdieu’s (1986, 1984) writings predominantly focus on social status and how position affects an individual’s ability within the education system. His work on habitus, which can also be described as an individual’s dispositions or character, is relevant to understanding the gendered attainment division. Social identity theory developed by Tajfel and Turner (1979) can also aid our understanding of the gendered division in attainment as it outlines the process an individual is exposed to when forming an identity based on characteristics such as gender.

Habitus refers to an individual’s dispositions or character which organise and affect how they perceive the social world. Habitus reflects a degree of fluidity as it can change according to context, time and the social identity of an individual based on characteristics such as their gender. Habitus is therefore connected to social identity theory in a cyclical process where an individual’s identity influences their habitus, and vice versa.

Tajfel (1972) suggested that social identity was a result of the socialisation process, which provides an individual with the ability to identify with social groups they have a common characteristic with (for example, gender). The social identity process can result in individuals internalising behaviours associated with their gender, which can alter their habitus. This process, coupled with potential gendered socialisation experiences, could heighten habitus differences between males and females in settings such as schools. For example, an individual’s gendered identity and habitus may influence academic attitudes and expectations based on the norms and values of the affiliated social group, all of which can influence educational attainment and lead to a gendered division.

We must acknowledge that the cyclical process between habitus and social identity is not straightforward as more than one male and female social identity exists. For example, studies have reported multiple male social identities (also termed as masculinity) in educational settings (Connolly, 2006, 2004; Lyng, 2009; Travers, 2017). Lyng (2009)identified various masculinity types in schools, such as macho, geek, golden boy, and nerd. It could be argued that each of these identities has a varying influence on an individual’s habitus, which ultimately affects their educational attainment. For example, the identity of macho may have a greater negative influence on educational attainment compared to the identity of geek, which reflects a greater attachment to school. Femininity identities are also important to consider but are under-researched (Lyng, 2009).

Key Messages

  • A gendered attainment divide remains in Northern Ireland (and the wider UK).
  • Gender remains a key factor driving educational attainment differences between pupils (Early et al., 2022).
  • A dual framework of Bourdieu’s theory of practice, more specifically the concept of habitus, and Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory can help our understanding of why a gendered attainment divide persists.
  • The social identity process can lead to individuals internalising behaviours associated with their gender, which can alter their habitus and affect their educational attainment outcomes.
Dr Erin Early

Dr Erin Early

Dr Erin Early, Research Fellow (CEPEO, IOE - UCL's Faculty of Education and Society)

Erin Early is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. She was previously a Research Assistant at Queen’s University Belfast. Her background is Sociology and Criminology (BA Hons), Social Research Methods (MRes) and Education (PhD). Her research interests are centred around social inequalities, particularly in education and the family.

References and Further Reading

Adcock, A., Bolton, P. and Abreu, L. (2016). Educational performance of boys. London: House of Commons. Available at: https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/27199/1/CDP-2016-0151.pdf

Borooah, V.K. and Knox, C. (2017). Inequality, segregation and poor performance: the education system in Northern Ireland. Educational Review, 69(3), pp.318-336. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2016.1213225   

Bourdieu, P. (1986). ‘The forms of capital’, in Richardson, J. (ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Westport: Greenwood, pp. 241-258.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste (translated by Richard Nice). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

 Calvaglia, C., Machin, S., McNally, S. and Ruiz-Valenzuela, J. (2020). Gender, achievement, and subject choice in English education. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(4), pp.816-835. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/graa050 

Connolly, P. (2004). Boys and Schooling in the Early Years. London: Routledge Falmer.

Connolly, P. (2006). The effects of social class and ethnicity on gender differences in GCSE attainment: a secondary analysis of the Youth Cohort Study of England and Wales 1997-2001. British Educational Research Journal, 32(1), pp.3-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920500401963

Department for Education (2020). Key stage 4 performance, 2019 (revised). Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/863815/2019_KS4_revised_text.pdf 

Department of Education (2019). Year 12 and Year 14 Examination Performance at Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland 2018-19. Available at: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/education/Revised%20-%20Year%2012%20and%20Year%2014%20Examination%20Performance%20at%20Post%20Primary%20schools%20in%20Northern%20Ireland%202018_19%20_%20Revised.pdf

Early, E., Miller, S., Dunne, L. and Moriarty, J. (2022). The Influence of Socio-Demographics and School Factors on GCSE Attainment: Results from the First Record Linkage Data in Northern Ireland. Oxford Review of Education (forthcoming). doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2022.2035340

Francis, B. and Skelton, C. (2005). Reassessing Gender and Achievement: Questioning contemporary key debates. London: Routledge.

Gallagher, T. and Smith, A. (2000). The effects of the selective system of secondary education in Northern Ireland. Bangor: Department of Education. Available at: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/223409/2000_The_Effects_Of_The_Selective_System_Of_Secondary_Education_In_Northern_Ireland_Main_Report.pdf

Gorard, S., Rees, G., and Salisbury, J. (2001). Investigating patterns of differential attainment of boys and girls at school. British Educational Research Journal, 27(2), pp.125-139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920120037090

Islam, G. (2014). Social Identity Theory, in Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, (ed. Teo, T.), pp. 1781-1783. New York: Springer. doi: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gazi-Islam-2/publication/281208338_Social_Identity_Theory/links/55db57ec08ae9d6594935f59/Social-Identity-Theory.pdf

Lyng, S.T. (2009). Is there more to “antischoolishness” than masculinity? On multiple student styles, gender and educational self-exclusion in secondary school. Men and Masculinities. 11(4), pp.462-487. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X06298780

Melhuish, E., Quinn. L., Sylva, K., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Taggart, B.(2013). Preschool affects longer term literacy and numeracy: results from a general population longitudinal study in Northern Ireland. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 24(2), pp.234-250. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2012.749796

Power, E.M. (1999). An introduction to Pierre Bourdieu’s Key Theoretical Concepts. Journal for the Study of Food and Society. 3(1), pp.48-52. doi: https://doi.org/10.2752/152897999786690753

Shuttleworth, I. (1995) The Relationship between Social Deprivation, as Measured by Individual Free School Meal Eligibility, and Educational Attainment at GCSE in Northern Ireland: a preliminary investigation. British Educational Research Journal, 21(4), pp.487–504. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1501372

Tajfel, H. (1972). ‘Social categorization (English manuscript of ‘La categorisation Sociale’)’, in Moscovici, S. (ed). Introduction à la psychologie sociale (vol. 1). Paris: Larousse, pp. 272-302.

 Tajfel, H. and Turner, J.C. (1979). ‘An integrative theory of inter-group conflict’, in Austin, W.G. and Worchel, S. (eds.) The social psychology of inter-group relations. Belmont: Wadsworth, pp.33-47.

Tinklin, T., Croxford, L., Ducklin, A. and Frame, B. (2001). Gender and Pupil Performance in Scotland’s Schools. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh. Available at: https://www.ces.ed.ac.uk/old_site/PDF%20Files/Gender_Report.pdf

Travers, M.C. (2017). White working-class boys: teachers matter. London: UCL Institute of Education Press.

Harnessing Digital Technology as a Pedagogical Tool in Early Childhood Education

Harnessing Digital Technology as a Pedagogical Tool in Early Childhood Education

Children today are born into a world where digital technology is omnipresent and permeates all areas of their lives (O’Neill, 2018).  Yet one area which appears hesitant to embrace technology and harness the possibilities it can provide is the early childhood education sector (ECEC). 

Here in Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills (DES) has developed a digital strategy for primary and post-primary schools. This is fortified by a national support service which provides training and resources to support teachers in successfully incorporating technology in their educational practice. However, the DES has stopped short of recommendations for technology to enhance learning for children in ECEC and has instead recommended further research in this area (DES, 2020). 

Internationally, the European Commission has stated that 26 out of 38 countries included in their 2019 report are incorporating technology within their ECEC educational guidelines.  Ireland is not included in that list of 26 (European Commission, 2019).

From passive to active use of technology

Current research has found that young children are already proficient in digital technology use by the age of 3 years old (Marsh et al, 2015).  In addition, further research findings from the Growing up in Ireland longitudinal study report that technology is the most favoured form of play for 9-year-old children, more popular than reading a book or even playing with their friends (ESRI, 2021).

When considering technology, devices such as smartphones and tablets initially come to mind, but what if the foundations were laid at the ECEC stage for thinking about technology as much more than streaming animations, social media, and games?  An opportunity exists here for the introduction of technology as a developmentally appropriate pedagogical tool for ECEC children, many of whom are already technologically proficient, to open up the possibilities of technology for more than the aforementioned passive activities.  This knowledge could inform and expand children’s engagement with technology right through their educational lives.

Examples of active uses of technology

From an accessibility perspective, it is important to acknowledge that ECEC settings may have varying degrees of access to technology.  For example, access may be limited by resources, practitioner training, or funding, however, there are ways to incorporate technology which are both affordable and accessible and do not require a large investment.

Some simple methods for active uses of technology with ECEC children might include:

  • Examining bugs under a digital microscope.
  • Simple robotic sets.
  • Reflecting with children using photographs, video, and audio clips of them and their play.
  • Engaging with another setting as online “pen pals” via email or even video conferencing.
  • Invite parents who have an interesting job or story to tell into the setting via video conference.
  • Microphones for children to interview each other and listen back together.
  • Use an online tool such as Google Drawings to collaborate on artwork with family or with another setting.
  • Silent videos for children to narrate and act out.
  • Email and pictures from home – favourite food, my room, my favourite toy.
  • Search for recipes and order ingredients online, then cook together.

 

The future of technology in ECEC

Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash

But why stop there! Imagine the possibilities of the future and how they could have been so useful for children during the COVID-19 pandemic.  For example, so many children missed out on their final year in ECEC and the associated social and emotional preparation for their transition to primary education that would have been provided. 

What if augmented or virtual reality technology had been mainstream and accessible during that time.  Children could have engaged in a virtual walkthrough of their new primary school environment and had a meet and greet with their primary school teacher and even classmates. This may sound like a somewhat futuristic idea for ECEC, but who would have imagined 30 years ago the technologies which exist today? Such technologies may be expensive now, but like all new technology, surely they will become more affordable over time.

Moving forward, a 2021 report on the uses of technology in ECEC, both pre- and post-pandemic, has highlighted the need for policies and procedures to be developed to provide appropriate guidance for increased utilisation of technology within ECEC pedagogical practice (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2021).  This is reflective of the current lack of direction on technology within the ECEC curriculum in Ireland’s Aistear curriculum and Síolta quality frameworks. Although notably, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) are currently engaged in a project to update the Aistear curriculum framework which will hopefully address this gap in an Irish context.  The OECD (2021) has also recommended the provision of practitioner training and the development of age-appropriate tools to further support the effective incorporation of technology in ECEC pedagogical practice. Of course, there are practical concerns that must be considered, such as ensuring that a balance is struck between engaging with technology for pedagogical use and avoiding an excess of screen time, as suggested by Finnish pedagogues (OECD, 2021). Additionally, we must ensure that the ECEC curriculum does not become dependent on technology so that those who do not have equitable access to technological tools are not disadvantaged. However, such issues further underpin the importance of developing and providing relevant training for ECEC professionals, appropriately embedding technology within the curriculum and quality frameworks, and considering the possibilities of technology in broader terms beyond merely smartphones, tablets, search engines, and streaming apps.

 

Paula Walshe

Paula Walshe

ECEC Trainer and FET Assessor

Paula Walshe is an ECEC trainer and placement assessor in the further education and training sector and a freelance writer. She currently holds a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and will complete her studies for a Master’s Degree in Leadership for ECEC in 2022. Paula has extensive ECEC experience in both pedagogical practice and ECEC management. You can learn more about Paula’s work at her website (www.thedigitalearlychildhoodeducator.ie), where she writes a weekly blog on current topics in Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland and provides useful professional and academic resources for students and professionals in this sector.

LinkedIn: Paula Walshe

Twitter: @digitalearlyed

Instagram: @digitalearlychildhoodeducator

Paula and an ECEC colleague have also established a Twitter page @ECEQualityIrl – a community of professionals sharing ideas and knowledge on all things quality, pedagogy, and professional practice in ECEC in Ireland.

References and Further Reading

Department of Education and Skills. (2019). Digital Learning Framework for Primary Schools. Dublin: Stationery Office. https://www.dlplanning.ie 

DES. (2017). Síolta the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. Dublin: Early Years Education and Policy Unit. https://siolta.ie/manuals.php 

DES. (2020). Digital Learning 2020: Reporting on practice in Early Learning and Care, Primary and Post-Primary Contexts. Dublin: Stationery Office. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c0053-digital-learning-2020-reporting-on-practice-in-early-learning-and-care-primary-and-post-primary-contexts/ 

ESRI. (2021). Growing Up in Ireland, National Longitudinal Study of Children: The lives of 9 year olds of cohort ‘08. Dublin: ESRI. https://www.esri.ie/publications/growing-up-in-ireland-the-lives-of-9-year-olds-of-cohort-08 

European Commission. (2019). Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe – Eurydice Report 2019. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/key-data-early-childhood-education-and-care-europe-–-2019-edition_en 

Marsh, J. 2014. The Relationship Between Online and Offline Play: Friendship and Exclusion. In Children’s Games in the New Media Age, edited by A. Burn and C. Richards, 109–134. London: Ashgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303572020_The_relationship_between_online_and_offline_play_friendship_and_exclusion

National Council for Curriculum Assessment. (2009). Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. Dublin: NCCA. https://ncca.ie/media/4151/aistear_theearlychildhoodcurriculumframework.pdf 

O’Neill, S. (2018). Technology Use in Early Learning and Care: A Practice Dilemma. ChildLinks: Children and the Digital World, Barnardo’s, Issue 3, 2018. https://shop.barnardos.ie/products/ebook-childlinks-children-and-the-digital-world-issue-3-2018 

OECD. (2021). Using Digital Technologies for Early Education during COVID-19:  OECD report for the G20 2020 Education Working Group. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/using-digital-technologies-for-early-education-during-covid-19_fe8d68ad-en 

Equity in Education during COVID-19 and the Danger of “Microwave Equity”

Equity in Education during COVID-19 and the Danger of “Microwave Equity”

The last two years have been quite challenging for the world and for educators. First, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world for a while, and many learning institutions were closed as a result of the pandemic.[1] At the same time, the increasing strength of the anti-racism movement from the United States and across the world has highlighted the importance of equity, inclusion, and equality in education in such a time as this. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closure globally led to 1.6 billion children[2]missing out on education, which has further amplified the inequalities inherent in many education systems. In many regions around the world, for example, in Europe, groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic on education may include students of minority migrant background, new language learners, disabled students, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others (LGBTQ+) students. My PhD research study on developing culturally inclusive teaching and learning environments in Ireland, funded by the Irish Research Council postgraduate scholarship and Galway Doctoral Research scholarship programmes, has caused me to reflect deeply on the concepts of equity, inclusion, and equality in education. Furthermore, my research and work with student-teachers, teachers, parents of minority migrant backgrounds, in Ireland and beyond, has further revealed the importance of an understanding that is all the more urgent in the context of the inequalities that will exasperate equitable and quality education for all learners in the era of COVID-19.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

The image to the left is a graphical representation of equality, while the image to the right represents equity 
Image credit: Maryam Abdul-Kareem

 

It is quite challenging to unpack the concepts of equality and equity in education, particularly the differences between these two concepts. It is critical for teachers to know the differences between these two concepts to ensure equitable learning for all students, especially in a time of crisis.

In the left image, everyone is provided with equal support to watch the football game. In the right image, everyone is equipped with differential supports that allow equitable access to the game.

It should be noted that understanding the differences between equity and equality is not straightforward. It is layered with many complexities. Therefore, the above image provides a basic representation of the differences between equity and equality.

In summary, equity is based on needs, that is, responding to students’ individual or specific needs in our classrooms to ensure quality teaching and learning. In contrast, equality is based on fairness, which means being fair to all, without acknowledging the additional challenges faced by some.

UN Sustainability Goals and

the importance of equity and inclusion in education

Many education systems around the world are concerned with the issues of equity and inclusion in policy and practice. However, more work needs to be done in developing and implementing equity and inclusion policies and practices in education, particularly in the current COVID-19 crisis. Equity can be explained as providing students with personalised support that overcomes potential hurdles such as poverty and minoritised cultural backgrounds.[3]While inclusion in education implies that all students, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds or disabilities, are accepted and fully catered to in mainstream school environments. In other words, ‘inclusion is about all students belonging’ in a classroom.[4] The concepts of equity and inclusion in education are not new. Global educational goals have long sought to advance the principles of equity and inclusion in education systems internationally. For example, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 requires countries worldwide to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The SDGs were passed in 2015 by United Nations member states as a holistic approach to ensure that countries around the world achieve equitable and sustainable development in different sectors of society by 2030. [5] However, recent reports by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tasked with tracking the world’s progress in achieving SDG 4 presented that it is unlikely for the world to meet the targets of SDG 4 by 2030.[6]Unfortunately, the current humanitarian emergency of COVID-19 has further validated the reality of the findings of this new report on the impact of the pandemic in achieving the SDGs[7]

The role of teachers in addressing equity and inclusion in their classrooms

Moving forward, teachers can begin to address equity and inclusion in education with support from other educational stakeholders to ensure equitable learning for all students and developing peer accountability systems. Secondly, teachers can build better working relationships with students and their guardians/parents. Third, they can commit to continuous professional development programmes. Finally, teachers can promote equity and inclusion in their classrooms during this COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by constantly checking ‘whether what they are doing enables or empowers the students to help improve them.’[8]

Avoiding the quick fix of ‘Microwave Equity’

Cornelius Minor, a US-based educator, coined the term ‘Microwave Equity,’ which means teachers and educators attempting to achieve equity quickly or overnight. Instead, he warns, the work on equity in education takes time and patience. In his book, We Got This, Minor argued that to be equitable and inclusive, teachers need to intentionally listen to kids in achieving equity in the classroom, decentralise power by empowering students’ voices, and do the self-work without blaming students.

The push to introduce more equity in education is badly needed, but it comes at a time when teachers are already facing significant challenges and additional responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Equity and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

Teachers are crucial to achieving equity and inclusion in education, and the current crisis has further affected teaching and learning. The pandemic has denied millions of learners access to equitable and quality education.[9] Teachers, to a large extent, are critical stakeholders in helping to manage the crisis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has further changed the nature of teachers’ work, e.g., many teachers were expected to switch to online teaching quickly. The burden of additional responsibilities placed on teachers in a crisis is not new. Research has shown that all humanitarian emergencies have affected teachers’ work. For example, in post-conflict Liberia, teachers’ responsibilities included serving as second parents, humanitarians, role models, parents, counsellors, guardians, unifiers, and psychologists to help students affected with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [10] From the case of Liberia and in similar contexts, teachers can be adequately supported and performance improved when education stakeholders possess a deep understanding of the factors that limit their capacity to function effectively.[11] Therefore, placing the responsibility for achieving equity and inclusion solely on teachers is problematic. Educational stakeholders and the entire education system must be involved to make equitable and quality learning for all students a reality, even in the current era of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, school leaders in the United Kingdom took proactive steps and initiatives to provide support for teachers and promote sustainable good practices during the global pandemic. The research study finds that school leaders developed effective and pragmatic approaches to engage other stakeholders such as parents, pupils and policymakers, allowing learning to continue during the pandemic.[12] It is hoped that more attention will be given to having discussions on what equity and inclusion in education really mean in different contexts and levels of education. For example, regional educational research associations such as European Educational Research Association (EERA)  can engage existing platforms such as the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) conferences, within their network for educational researchers to continue to engage in discussion and research on issues of equity and inclusion in European education systems and globally. This knowledge and understanding will undoubtedly help concerned educational stakeholders working on equity and inclusion in education to address the challenges of ensuring an even playing field for all learners.
Seun B. Adebayo

Seun B. Adebayo

PhD Researcher, Research Supervisor, Teaching Assistant, NUI Galway

Seun B. Adebayo is currently a PhD Researcher, Research Supervisor and Teaching Assistant at the School of Education, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland (NUI Galway). His PhD study explores developing culturally inclusive teaching and learning environments in Irish schools.

Aside from his research study, Seun organises workshops on culturally responsive pedagogies for student-teachers at NUI Galway.

His research interests include education policy, teacher education and professional development, culturally responsive pedagogy, equity and inclusion in education, progressive education reforms, practitioner/action research, education in conflict/post-conflict contexts, and quality education.

Seun has extensive work and research experiences with Aflatoun International, UNESCO HQ., UNESCO Office in Monrovia (Liberia), the European Research Council Executive Agency of the European Commission, the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, VSO International, Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Education Development Trust and UNDP in New York.

ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Seun-Adebayo

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Royalseun

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=anOwtUQAAAAJ&hl=en

References and Further Reading

[1] UNESCO (2021). Education: From disruption to recovery. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse 

[2] Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (2022). Prioritizing learning during COVID-19. https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/114361643124941686/pdf/Recommendations-of-the-Global-Education-Evidence-Advisory-Panel.pdf 

[3] Waterford (2020). Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom. https://www.waterford.org/education/equity-vs-equality-in-education 

[4] Giardina (2019). What does an inclusive classroom look like? https://inclusiveschools.org/what-does-an-inclusive-classroom-look-like/ 

[5] https://sdg4education2030.org/the-goal 

[6] UNESCO (2020). Inclusion and education: ALL MEANS ALL. Global Education Monitoring Report. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/in/documentViewer.xhtml?v=2.1.196&id=p::usmarcdef_0000373718&file=/in/rest/annotationSVC/DownloadWatermarkedAttachment/attach_import_d3682741-8fe5-4012-98c6-66d2bb13b7f0%3F_%3D373718eng.pdf&locale=en&multi=true&ark=/ark:/48223/pf0000373718/PDF/373718eng.pdf#p29 

[7] Shulla, K. (2021). The COVID-19 pandemic and the achievement of the SDGs. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43621-021-00026-x 

[8] Adebayo and Chinhanu (2020).  Ubuntu in Education: Towards equitable teaching and learning for all in the era of SDG 4. NORRAG. https://www.norrag.org/ubuntu-in-education-towards-equitable-teaching-and-learning-for-all-in-the-era-of-sdg-4-by-chiedza-a-chinhanu-and-seun-b-adebayo/ 

[9] Moss and Bradley (2021). Education in a Post-COVID World: Creating more Resilient Education Systems. https://blog.eera-ecer.de/resilient-education/ 

[10] Adebayo S.B. (2019). Emerging perspectives of teacher agency in a post-conflict setting: The case of Liberia. Teaching and Teacher Education. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X18300143?via%3Dihub 

[11]Tao, S. (2013). Why are teachers absent? Utilising the Capability Approach and Critical Realism to explain teacher performance in Tanzania. International Journal of Educational Development, 33 (1): 2-14 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257243592_Why_are_teachers_absent_Utilising_the_Capability_Approach_and_Critical_Realism_to_explain_teacher_performance_in_Tanzania 

[12]Beauchamp, G., Hulme, M., Clarke, L., Hamilton, L., & Harvey, J. A. (2021). ‘People miss people’: A study of school leadership and management in the four nations of the United Kingdom in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational Management Administration & Leadership49(3), 375-392. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1741143220987841 

The Hero’s Journey – What PhD Students can learn from storytellers

The Hero’s Journey – What PhD Students can learn from storytellers

Are you an early educational researcher struggling with the three monumental philosophical questions – where am I, where do I come from, and where am I headed – regarding your project? Nice to meet you. I wrote this post for you.

Having experience as an educational researcher, I was recently asked to share it with my peers, who are also pursuing a master’s degree in pedagogical supervision – the majority of whom are teachers, and for whom this is a first-time experience undertaking educational research.

I revisited my PhD Hero’s Journey to share with them the joys and hardships of an educational research project. The hero’s journey refers to the mythological narrative archetype that has inspired storytellers throughout time and tale, and which can be summarized in three quintessential moments (Campbell, 1949):

Departure

Initiation

Return.

I hoped to acquaint my colleagues with some of the hero’s trials and troubles that are sure to come their way. I gathered ten lessons, which I also share with you, early educational researchers out there.

1. Be prepared for multitasking. Think of Camões, the 16th-century Portuguese poet, swimming for survival after a shipwreck while holding the manuscript of his epic poem, Os Lusíadas, above the waves, arm stretched out (legend says). While you’re trying to swim (for) your (personal, family, and professional) life, you will have an arm stretched out holding your opus.

2. Take care to conduct your research project and dissertation/thesis seriously, but without taking yourself too seriously. Despite all the swimming, your opus will not be perfect and will not change the (scientific and academic) world. Alas, the day after the public defense of your dissertation/thesis and after all your labors, the (scientific and academic) world will remain unaltered.

3. Learn to master the logistics. Get your tools together so you may: organize yourself; work daily on your research; write unabashedly (fear not the mystical blank page); avoid procrastination; and also, find your motto and put it to good use (remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so keep calm and breathe,because the journey is the reward).

4. Drop the baby analogy. Your research project and your dissertation/thesis are not a human being whose life is in your hands and with whom you are emotionally attached. It is an opus, which should and shall be open to questioning, discussion, and rebuttal.

5. Know when it is time to turn off your computer. If you struggle with this, ask a few good friends to be kind enough to ask you out for ice cream or a hike, and a good dose of ranting. Any excuse to make you get out of your sweatpants, comb your hair, and leave the house is more than welcome.

6. Create a support group. I am not referring to your “out-for-ice-cream-crew”, but to those who are making the same journey as you, and who understand what you are going through and what you are up against. Your mom, husband, kids, spiritual leader, and pets (the list goes on) are empathetic, and yet they cannot fully understand your hero’s journey. Reach out for your travel companions; this is a collaborative (not competitive) process.

7. Trust yourself. Your supervisor is in that rowboat alongside you, yet you are the one sculling in the first seat, the one responsible for steering the vessel; your supervisor’s job back in the stroke seat is to keep pace for the rowboat. If nobody rocks the boat, you both are rowing in the same direction, but you have better visibility and the duty-right to participate in the decision-making processes.

8. Cultivate positive attitudes – like curiosity, rigor, ethics, persistence, bravery, pride. You are making Science, so your point of arrival shall become the starting point of another researcher. Deliver a fine map. Instead of leaving the room as you found it, leave something beautiful behind. Contribute with something relevant.

9. Enjoy yourself. If you are too afraid to make mistakes or take steps back, you are missing out on the thrill of the adventure. Very often, in educational research, you will find the unpredicted. If your data differs from your hopes and dreams, it does not mean that you did something wrong; it means that you are doing it right.

10. Be ready to untangle the ball of thread and pass it on. You untangle as far as you can, and then you pass your ball of yarn on to another researcher, for them to unravel some more, and so on, in this craft that is to make Science. At the end of your research, you will have found some answers, and you will have found plenty of questions, and that is how it goes.

Each hero’s journey is unique, and while some of these lessons emerged for me, they may not save another hero’s life (metaphorically speaking). Perhaps conducting an educational research project is one of those things that you have to experience in order to fully understand the depths of its impact on you. Many factors influence an early researcher’s well-being and satisfaction during the research process (Levecque et al., 2017;Schmidt & Hansson, 2018; Sverdlik et al., 2018).

Regardless, early researchers out there on the heroic journey, with you, I share the one thing I know for sure regarding one’s trip down the educational research lane: at the end of the journey, the hero returns home. Wiser, tougher, smarter. More resilient, analytical, and courageous. Ready for another round. So, gather your tools, hold on tight, and just keep swimming.

Dr. Amanda Franco

Dr. Amanda Franco

Postdoctoral Fulbright scholar at North Carolina State University, USA

Dr. Amanda Franco is currently a postdoctoral Fulbright scholar at NC State University (USA), and her research aims to analyze the perceptions of faculty who participated in TH!NK, a program on critical thinking and creative thinking held at NC State, in the frame of faculty development, and its impact on their teaching practices. Her doctorate (2016) and post-doctorate (2020), both in Science of Education, focused on critical thinking and its promotion in higher education. She is pursuing a master’s degree in pedagogical supervision at University Aberta (Portugal).

References and Further Reading

Campbell, J. (1949). The hero with a thousand faces. Bollingen Foundation.

Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46(4), 868-879. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048733317300422 

Schmidt, M., & Hansson, E. (2018). Doctoral students’ well-being: A literature review. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 13(1), 1508171. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17482631.2018.1508171 

Sverdlik, A., Hall, N. C., McAlpine, L., & Hubbard, K. (2018). Journeys of a PhD student and unaccompanied minors. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 13, 361-388. http://ijds.org/Volume13/IJDSv13p361-388Sverdlik4134.pdf 

Hackathons: A Creative Approach to Developing Researchers and Solving Educational Challenges

Hackathons: A Creative Approach to Developing Researchers and Solving Educational Challenges

What do we expect from our education postgraduate research graduates in the 21st Century? The pace of society and its workplaces demands innovative, creative thinkers. This sits alongside all of the composite research skills they should acquire during their research degree (Ireland’s Nationals Skills Strategy 2025, DES; Doctoral Skills Statement, IUA).

During the slow burn of a research degree, it can be tricky to obtain fast-paced transversal skills, such as innovation, dynamism, and quick problem-solving. Events that allow research students to use strategies like design-based thinking (Razzouk & Shute, 2012) through challenge-based learning (CBL) tasks offer a way to do this. An example of one such event is a hackathon. A hackathon is a rapid, time-bound, pressurised problem-solving event.

Hackathons first emerged in the late 1990s. The ‘tech’ community broadly agrees that software programmers working on the export of cryptographic software in the OpenBSD project coined the phrase ‘hack’ to describe the exploratory work they were doing. Since then, Hackathons have been used widely in companies the world over; for example, they have led to the creation of many so-called ‘unicorn’ companies. More recently, their worth has been recognised in addressing worldwide challenges affecting climate and education

DCU Institute of Education held its own two-day virtual hackathon event called ‘Hack to Transform. This weekend event for postgraduate research students invited participants to solve/hack an education challenge for the 21st Century. In Hack to Transform, the focus was on one particular quadrant of The DCU IoE Postgraduate Researcher Development Framework: Personal Effectiveness Competencies. These intangible competencies include personal agility, teamwork, independence and creativity. Hack to Transform enabled research students to practise their creative problem-solving skills in order to create a pragmatic solution to the education challenge. The education challenge was broad enough to cover the range of research interests among the teams:

How can we ensure the most effective education experience for all in the 21st Century?

After one-minute pitches delivered by the students to their fellow participants on their proposed approaches, they voted on the five most workable solutions, using Tricider. They then formed five teams of three within which they could hack. The research students used the six stages of Design Thinking as a foundation for their approach to the challenge (Razzouk & Shute, 2012).  These are:

  1. Empathy – gaining an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. Setting aside your assumptions and gaining insight into users and their needs
  2. Define – stating users’ needs and problems. Defining the core needs and creating the problem statement.
  3. Ideate – challenging assumptions and creating ideas… thinking outside the box. Looking for alternative ways to solve the problem
  4. Prototype – creating some possible solutions
  5. Test – checking with key stakeholders regarding viability of prototype…seeing if solution meets stakeholders’ needs
  6. Launch – putting the solution out to ‘market’. This was not achievable in the short space of time on this event. 

Working in a new team was central to the event. Education research students can often operate in a workspace vacuum, working in a solitary independent manner on their research (Carpenter, 2012, Pyhalt Toom, Stubb, Lonka, 2012). Indeed, most of the students who participated in this event had never met one another. The feeling of togetherness (even virtually) generated in working towards a common goal intensively over the two days developed relationships among the students which didn’t exist previously. They relied on one another and pulled expertise from a wide-ranging pool of resources.

The teams of research students were each supported by a mentor from outside of the university and academic setting. This increased their awareness of differing audiences for their work and the importance of clarity in what they were suggesting as a solution.  Mentors were approached as they were experienced leaders in their fields. Some were international and some were from the tech industry, from where Hackathons are thought to have originally emerged 

Students were encouraged to present their solution to the assembled judging panel in an innovative way, so no slide decks! Some solutions included short films and interviews with key stakeholders. Judging criteria were provided in advance, and a scoring rubric was used by the five judges to pick the worthy winner: FUNdamential Education, which offered a novel approach to delivering education in the future.    

The experienced judging panel remarked on the “high standard and innovation of the student presentations despite the limited timeframe”. Both they and the mentors were impressed by the professionalism, creativity, and reflexivity exhibited by the first-time participants. Mentors observed the bi-directional learning that occurred between themselves and their team. Strong working relationships were built.  

Feedback from the students was also very positive, with many of them citing the “fun” they had and the opportunities they had to networkwith people with whom [they] otherwise would not be in contact” and “to work on creative ideas under pressure”. One student stated, “It has been fantastic to share this experience with people interested in solving big questions in education”. Many of the wider staff in the Faculty (including Management) attended the final presentations and prize-giving ceremony. Their presence and subsequent endorsement of the event, coupled with the positive feedback from participants, has ensured that Hack to Transform will be an annual fixture on the Faculty’s research events calendar into the future. 

This Nano CBL event provided an opportunity for the realisation of the vision for Doctoral study in the Institute of Education at DCU. That vision espouses the principle that postgraduate study does not operate within a blank space, but rather within a vibrant, dynamic, and interactive academic community. 

Dr Gillian Lake

Dr Gillian Lake

Assistant Professor in Early Childhood Education and Chair of Postgraduate Studies by Research at DCU Institute of Education

Gillian is an Assistant Professor in Early Childhood Education and Chair of Postgraduate Studies by Research at DCU Institute of Education. She is also a Fellow of Advance HE, (FHEA) in the UK.

She was a Primary Teacher in Ireland for many years before first undertaking an MSc in Child Development & Education (University of Oxford). She was then awarded the Elfrida Talbot Scholarship to undertake a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education at University of Oxford, focusing on language development and Early Childhood Education. She has continued to work in this area, both as a lecturer (DCU & Oxford Brookes University, UK) and a researcher.

Her current research projects in the area of Early Childhood Education have allowed her to collaborate with industry, the early childhood sector and international research partners. She was recently invited to join the review panel for the International Journal of Early Years Education and is a regular reviewer for the European Early Childhood Education Research Journal.

Gillian was shortlisted for both the DCU President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the DCU President’s Award for Engagement in 2021. She is DCU’s representative on the National Academic Integrity Network and has just secured SATLE Funding – €15, 000 (National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) for a project which is investigating Awareness of Academic Integrity across all DCU stakeholders.

Profile DCU 

Reimagining Global Education together: towards a more comprehensive and contextually relevant understanding for the future

Reimagining Global Education together: towards a more comprehensive and contextually relevant understanding for the future

Global education is an emerging research theme in Finland. Although primarily framed within a European context, it is important to ensure that any form of global education is locally relevant. Within a local Finnish context, then, research done by different scholars at different institutions must be in tune with one another. With this purpose in mind, scholars from various universities in Finland met for a three-day retreat organised by the Global Education Research in Finland (GERIF-network) on 9 December 2021 at the Konnevesi research station, near the town of Jyväskylä.

Global education research, as any research topic, benefits from being mapped and made visible. This allows peers to provide feedback, while providing room to explore and consider new ideas for further research. It is particularly worthwhile for global education to be subject to a collaborative process of inquiry because of the challenges the topic holds, both ideologically as well as in more practical educational terms.

First, globalisation has proven to be an elusive concept to grasp. Some consider globalisation to be an “ideological construction”, while others see globalisation as a historical process of structural change at the social, economic, political, and cultural level. From a national perspective, the way in which countries interpret globalisation determines how global education will be implemented. Because these interpretations can be greatly nuanced, global education can sometimes also be understood as international education.

Second, these implementations of global education are generally underpinned by a guiding ideological framework. This ideological foundation defines the purpose of global education according to its view and envisions what the ideal ‘global citizen’ would look like. Among the definition outlined in the Maastricht Global Education Declaration, there are those proposed by the OECD and UNESCO in addition to more critically oriented conceptions such as those by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures research community and scholars like Vanessa Andreotti.

Because global education involves the elusive ‘global’ component, the need to include diverse viewpoints is essential. This is why the five workshops of the retreat were participant-led and emphasised constructive dialogue. The underlying idea of engaging in dialogue is to progress towards a common understanding of the object of discussion with the willingness to diverge from one’s original viewpoints. A commitment to hear and acknowledge other perspectives is what is needed when trying to come to a common understanding of global education and to teach it in schools. Reaching a common understanding is not necessarily synonymous with reaching consensus. Rather, it is about providing equal ownership of the process of creating meaning.

Providing room for the participants to recognise their own contribution to the debate is precisely how the five workshops proceeded. The first workshop invited the participants to critically consider established definitions of global education and to reflect upon one’s own understandings. Touching upon a similar theme, the second workshop probed at the limits of global education. The aim was not to set limits, or to define what global education should and should not be about, but to understand issues, one’s own perspective, and others’ perceptions. Listening to yourself and others fosters an awareness of what people think and why they think the way they do while also avoiding polarisation.

In a similar spirit, the third and fourth workshops explored how people, or in educational contexts, learners can co-create knowledge in collaborative learning spaces. Both workshops emphasised the value of diverse perspectives in coming to a common understanding. While the third workshop put forth the idea that the process of accommodating new knowledge coincides with a “groan phase”, a moment of tension as the mind is trying to transcend its understanding, the fourth workshop focussed on intercultural dialogue.

Lastly, the fifth and final workshop revolved around the purpose of critical thinking which by now may have become somewhat of a buzzword. In relation to dialogue and collaborative knowledge creation, critical thinking has the disadvantage that it occurs primarily within the individual mind. As an alternative, organic thinking proposes a shift from anthropocentrism to a more connected form of thinking that involves others and the environment as a whole. As such, thinking becomes a collective activity that converges to a common understanding.

In summary, the retreat proposes the following key positionalities:

  • All knowledge is incomplete and can be questioned.
  • Acknowledging that diverse perspectives can help overcome obstacles.
  • Knowledge and knowledge-creation is contextual.
  • Transcending anthropocentric thinking by shifting to organic thinking.

The combination of dialogue and a shared purpose can help us question established definitions of global education, not to add to the list of definitions or dictate the norms, but to encourage the development of inclusive and contextually-relevant approaches to knowledge-creation that ultimately contribute to a more just, peaceful, and environmentally friendly global society.

 

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Johan Estiévenart

Johan Estiévenart

Masters student, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu

Masters student of the Education and Globalisation degree programme at the faculty of education, University of Oulu. Former French, English, and history middle school teacher from Belgium. Current research focus is the internationalisation of higher education institutions and employability of (international) degree students.

GENE Awards

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research in the area of global education.

These research awards are funded by Global Education Network Europe (GENE), the European network of Ministries and Agencies with national responsibility for policymaking, funding, and support in the field of Global Education. For this reason, the subject area for research projects undertaken is that of Global Education.

The purpose of the award is to support quality research around the themes outlined here  – which have been identified as of interest to policymakers. Gathering of existing research, application of existing research from other areas of education to Global Education, follow-up studies, all are perfectly acceptable. It is not expected that the research has to draw policy conclusions – but to make available up-to-date, policy-relevant research from which policymaker can draw their own conclusions.

References and Further Reading

Conolly, J., Lehtomäki, E., & Scheunpflug, A. (2019). Measuring global competencies: A critical assessment. ANGEL Briefing Paper. https://www.gene.eu/publications or https://www.gene.eu/s/measuring-global-competencies.pdf

Oxley, L., & Morris, P. (2013). Global citizenship: A typology for distinguishing its multiple conceptions. British journal of educational studies, 61(3), 301-325. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00071005.2013.798393?casa_token=5cGBztTjkcoAAAAA%3APe7LREaYJUykq4Ds746xojRFC4NURoqFy40ij-DIycTRwC3HUrVIO4xUOjrNSDoG7AOLI8LSOy0

 

Lehtomäki, E., & Rajala, A. (2020). Global education research in Finland. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning; Bourn, D., Ed, 105-120. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338763792_Global_education_research_in_Finland_Global_education_research_in_Finland