Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

Networking for Global and Sustainability Education – UNESCO ASPnet in Estonia

UNESCO is tasked to ensure that education serves the values of peace, human rights, freedom, justice and democracy, respect for diversity, and international solidarity as defined in the UN Charter and the Constitution of UNESCO. Since 1953, the organisation has offered schools in its member states the opportunity to apply to be part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet), which supports the promotion of the UNESCO ideals. Today, the ASPnet connects more than 11,500 schools in 182 countries, and the current strategy aim for the network is to support Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED). These are seen as the key instruments for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Target 4.7 with the aim of giving all learners the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development (UNESCO, 2014).

The ASPnet has, throughout its existence, aimed to strengthen the horizontal links between schools through twinning and flagship projects which support the diffusion of participatory and critical enquiry pedagogies (Schweisfurth, 2005). The Baltic Sea Project (BSP) is one of the oldest flagship projects. Since 1989, it has united schools in the countries bordering the Baltic Sea to tackle regional environmental problems through education. Currently, in the nine participating countries, over 165 schools (mainly upper-secondary level) are involved in the BSP activities (BSP, 2022).

My research deals with the history and current state of these school networks in the context of Estonia and analyses how the process of tighter integration of the BSP network into the UNESCO ASPnet contributes to achieving a more holistic understanding of a sustainable future through enhanced cooperation between different subject teachers and civil society organisations (CSOs).

Revitalising the school network

The process of revitalising the school networks started in 2014, when the Estonian UNESCO National Commission gave the task of coordinating the networks to two separate CSOs that both work as resource centres for schools and teachers: the Tartu Environment Education Centre (TEEC) started coordinating the BSP network while NGO Mondo’s Global Education Centre restarted the UNESCO ASPnet. Both centres are highly valued actors in their respective fields in Estonia.

The integration process of the networks started in 2018 with first the CSOs coming together – the coordinator from TEEC took part in Mondo’s Global Education training with some key teachers from the BSP network and the integration proceeded with joint planning, events and new guidelines for schools. According to the renewed guidelines, all ASPnet schools are encouraged to include global and sustainability education into school development plans, school regulations, management style, and community participation. They are required to do a minimum of one international UNESCO project/campaign/program and two UN thematic days yearly.

ASPnet schools are also expected to mainstream ESD and GCED to curriculum, working plans and lessons and support cooperation between teachers. As a follow-up activity to strategy renewal, all BSP schools were awarded ASPnet membership.

Analysis of the ASP Network in Estonia

The main aim of my study was to analyse the institutional and ideational context of ESD, GCED and ASPnet in Estonia, questioning whether networking can support a more holistic, critical, and transformative GCED and ESD – dimensions which are seen as crucial in the academic literature (Bamber, 2019). I used mixed methods to gather data from the ASPnet teachers and Estonian education policymakers and experts.

A survey questionnaire was completed by 24 teachers in the network, and 20 teachers took part in a participatory workshop during the ASPnet Annual Conference. In addition, ten teachers, five policymakers and five experts and coordinators were interviewed online. A review of annual reports from schools, previous studies, and policy documents was also conducted.

Identifying silos 

The survey data, interviews and workshop conducted with the ASPnet teachers showed some silos between different subject teachers. While teachers of natural sciences (chemistry, physics, biology) linked global competence to environmental awareness, teachers of social sciences (civics, history, geography) and languages linked it to intercultural competence. While all teachers saw the need to encourage students’ critical thinking, social science teachers saw more value in introducing controversial topics to discussions as well as critical examination of topics such as capitalism, colonialism, and nationalism.

Silos also exist in an institutional context where different ministries support various aspects of Target 4.7: the Ministry of Environment supports environmental education and ESD while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives funding for GCED activities. At the same time, the joining of the networks and increased collaboration between different subject teachers has been useful in breaking down the silos and increasing cooperation. However, there is room for improvement in ASPnet at all levels, from the school to national and international levels. Activities often end up being one-off events without a profound impact on the school as a whole. Communication problems and lack of resources also hinder UNESCO ASPnet from reaching full capacity.

Opportunities and challenges

Since the restart of the network, several new educational institutions have applied to join the Estonian ASPnet (including pre-schools, primary schools, and secondary schools), which could be seen as a positive result of the new, more inclusive approach. At the beginning of 2022, the Estonian ASPnet included 60 educational institutions (7-8% of all schools in Estonia). Many schools have joined after their teachers participated in Mondo’s in-service training in GCED.

Being a member of ASPnet is seen to give prestige and legitimacy to the schools (especially in situations where schools need to compete for students), as well as more resources to work on global and sustainability education. The network coordinators motivate teachers to be active by offering recognition, awards and opportunities for student participation and their resources are appreciated by the participating teachers.

Looking at the overall context of GCED and ESD in Estonia, we can see both opportunities and challenges for the promotion of UNESCO values. The main challenges are related to the overall policy discourse, which emphasises neoliberal, nationalistic and security discourses with limited reference to global solidarity. Emphasis is on subjects tested in high-stakes exams and PISA. At the same time, the autonomy of schools and teachers gives opportunities to place more emphasis on ESD and GCED in schools where teachers are trained, resourced, and motivated. The curriculum encourages including these themes in a transversal manner, which supports the activities of ASPnet. Openness and expertise in digital learning are also assets (GENE, 2019).

The study concludes that the ideas around holistic, critical, and transformative dimensions of GCED present in academic literature need contextualising. The decolonisation discourse is becoming more prevalent in academic GCED literature, where it refers predominantly to Global North vs Global South relations, while ignoring the post-Soviet experience.

When asked about criticality, one of the Estonian teachers noted that:

“in school, we should talk more about colonialism as we were ourselves colonized only recently, but we should not be too critical of nationalism as we need to protect our minority language and culture”.

This shows how concepts like ‘colonialism’ and ‘nationalism’ can have different meanings and connotations in different contexts. The ‘west’ in this context is not a symbol of past and current injustices, but a symbol of democracy and human rights as opposed to Soviet and Russian authoritarianism and chauvinism.

 One of the biggest current challenges for the Estonian education sector is the war in Ukraine, the integration of Ukrainian refugees into Estonian schools*, continuing integration of the Russian-speaking minority into Estonian society, as well as fighting propaganda and hate speech. In this situation, GCED can have a key role to play in supporting peace, global solidarity, and human rights, but special emphasis needs to be put on critical media literacy.

 

* By the end of May 2022, Estonia received more than 40 000 refugees from Estonia (3% of the Estonian population), and thousands of refugee children need access to education in Estonia.

Key Messages

UNESCO school network in Estonia motivates a growing number of schools to work on global and sustainability issues

There are silos between natural and social science teachers as well as different ministries in their understanding and promotion of Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Networking between different subject teachers can lead to more holistic approach to teaching global challenges

Critical theory needs to be contextualised in the local history and experience

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Johanna Helin

Johanna Helin

EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto)

Johanna Helin is an EdD candidate at OISE (University of Toronto) and carries out studies and evaluations through UbuntuEDU in Finland. She has many years of experience in Global Citizenship Education from Finland, Estonia and Canada. Her dissertation research is on global citizenship education and critical media literacy in selected ASPnet schools in different country contexts.

References and Further Reading

Baltic Sea Project website (accessed June 10, 2022): https://unesco-bsp.blogspot.com/ 

Bamber, P. (Ed.). (2019). Teacher Education for Sustainable Development and Global https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/oa-edit/10.4324/9780429427053/teacher-education-sustainable-development-global-citizenship-philip-bamber 

Citizenship: Critical Perspectives on Values, Curriculum and Assessment (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.4324/9780429427053

 GENE – Global Education Network Europe (2019). The European Global Education Peer Review Process – National Report on Global Education in Estonia. Available at: https://www.gene.eu/peer-reviews

Schweisfurth, M. (2005). Learning to Live Together: A Review of UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network. International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Vol. 51 Issue 2/3, p. 219-234. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-005-3579-9 https://research.birmingham.ac.uk/en/publications/learning-to-live-together-a-review-of-unescos-associated-schools- 

UNESCO (2003). UNESCO Associated School Project Network (ASPnet): historical review 1953-2003. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000130509?6=null&queryId=4f483e5c-0778-470e-9a63-5aaac01f9c13 

 UNESCO (2014b). ASPnet strategy for 2014-2021, Global network of schools addressing global challenges: building global citizenship and promoting sustainable development.Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000231049?14=null&queryId=d968d1b3-3718-42c0-a1ea-8835499d4ccc 

 UNESCO (2018b). UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for national coordinators. UNESCO: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000261994

 UNESCO (2019a) UNESCO Associated Schools Network: guide for members. Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000379707?4=null&queryId=3021db41-accf-4546-bf3f-12e6441595a9    

 

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.

 

Other blog posts on similar topics:

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

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 

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.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

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 

5 Tips for Emerging Researchers to get more involved with EERA and its Networks

5 Tips for Emerging Researchers to get more involved with EERA and its Networks

In this blog post, ERG Group Convenor, Dr Saneeya Qureshi addresses some of the frequently asked questions that she has received from EERA’s emerging researchers. A number of these have arisen from responses to the following question in the annual survey ‘What question(s) about the Emerging Researchers Group (ERG) or EERA still remain uppermost in your mind?’

Before we get to the responses, it is worth flagging the Emerging Researchers Group page, which links to various activities that are offered throughout the year.

“The early researchers are eager to learn beyond their field of research. For example, we would appreciate workshops or blog posts that would introduce us to research methods (so we can better understand, appreciate and link to the work others are doing). In addition, we are aware that we lack skills in presenting our work in a way that would be the most beneficial for our career progress. Where can we find information or resources for this?”

 

Answer: We know that early researchers are eager to learn beyond their field of research, to be introduced to research methods that would help them better appreciate and link their knowledge to the work others are doing. To address this need, we regularly share via the ERG mailing list information about workshops, seminars, summer schools, call for papers, and various other research-related opportunities are shared via the ERG mailing list. Join the mailing list by sending a blank message to erg-subscribe(at)lists.eera-ecer.de).

During the annual Emerging Researchers’ Conference (ERC), multiple capacity-building workshops and network workshops are also offered across the programme, in addition to the Annual EERA Summer Schools on Methodology.

Concurrently, the EERA Blog (to which anyone is welcome to subscribe at no cost) publishes regular posts on a diverse array of topics, ranging from research methods to educational engagement activities. The EERA Blog also provides tips on academic publication and conference attendance for emerging researchers. Further local opportunities for emerging researchers are available via the activities of their respective country’s National Associations.

Answer: There are a multitude of ways to get involved with EERA. You can do this via engagement with the ERG activities – including those highlighted above, the Best Poster Award, Best Paper Award, the ERG Mentorshipopportunities (access for which individuals must attend the ERG annual meeting at the ERC each year), or the respective EERA Network activities.

My advice would be to go through the EERA Networks, see which one(s) are most relevant to your research interests, and then join their mailing list. During the EERA Conference, attend their Network meetings to learn more about the senior academics who lead and engage with these networks and small communities, and build your own connections with them.  

It is worth noting here that Emerging Researchers and those who participate in the activities of the Emerging Researchers’ Group need to be members of their respective National Associations to qualify as members of EERA. Members of a national association that is a part of EERA can claim the lower fee for the annual conference, the ECER (European Conference on Educational Research). In addition, their associations can grant them free access to EERA’s scientific journal, the European Educational Research Journal (EERJ).

More information about being a member of EERA via one of its National Association members is available here.

Answer: Being involved with an EERA network does not require you to have any prior engagement with a specific network or Special Interest Group (SIG) that may or may not exist within your relevant national association. Your engagement with an EERA Network happens directly (see my tips in the answer above), without the need for pre-existing membership of a group, other than that of the main national association itself.

Answer: The answer to the first question in this blog covers information about networking opportunities between researchers at all career levels that are disseminated throughout the year via the ERG mailing list. The design of the wider ERG activities, and the ERC itself is purposefully done in a manner to afford emerging researchers the opportunities to meet and connect with researchers at all career levels, for instance, the exponentially successfully mentoring opportunities, as outlined above.

However, in a more focused approach to the issue raised in this question, the Annual ERC, when in-person, offers two lunchtime sessions dedicated entirely to a protected time and space for emerging researchers to engage and network with more experienced, senior academics, and EERA representatives. Since the onset of Covid and online events, the Annual ERG meeting has been combined with what would otherwise have been the first ERC lunchtime session on ‘Making the most of the ERC and Getting to know EERA’ session. It provides an opportunity for EERA’s emerging researchers, their supervisors, and research leaders to engage in interactive discussions which support:

    • broadening professional development opportunities and research dissemination experiences internationally;
    • exchanging experiences and ideas about research and researcher development;
    • actively participating in a European research community for Emerging Researchers.

All ERC participants are invited to this informal session which is jointly facilitated by experienced academics and the ERG co-conveners to enable those attending the ERC to understand the EERA structure and chart their way through the ECER conference program.

 

The following themes are covered during the session in the breakout groups, for informal discussions pertaining with the experienced academics and the ERG co-convenor teams:

Doing Educational Research:
The session included representation from the Editors of ‘Doing Educational Research: Overcoming Challenges in Practice’. This SAGE/EERA book was developed as a result of feedback from PhD students and addresses challenges researchers have encountered in their projects. In this session, we heard accounts of how experienced researchers handled entry into the research field, how they discussed and managed research results that posed problems when accounted back to the field, and how doing research in a second language, i.e., English, creates a complex set of challenges from interpretation to the communication of your research.

Networks, Networking, and Development Opportunities:
Discussions around how emerging researchers could connect with experts in their field by identifying their network and attending their programs. Also discussed were opportunities and strategies for building professional networks during ECER and beyond.

Converting a conference paper into a publication:
Participants were given insights into the unique opportunities available to them after the Emerging Researchers’ Conference, to maximise their publication success. Also discussed were the multitude of possibilities that the ERC offers for emerging researchers to receive feedback on their work, for example, during and after their conference presentations.

ERG co-convenors:
Meet the Emerging Researchers’ Group co-convenors who shared their recent experiences as Early Career Researchers and provided helpful tips for making the most of the conference experience.

 

Moving forward, we hope to return to face-to-face ERCs, in which case we will offer the following dedicated opportunities for emerging researchers to network with those at all career levels, backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences:

    • First day of the ERC lunchtime session: ‘Making the most of the ERC and Getting to know EERA’
    • First afternoon of the ERC: ERG meeting, which is attended by numerous PhD supervisors
    • First evening of the ERC: Dedicated social activity for key ERC stakeholders at all career levels
    • Second day of the ERC lunchtime session: ‘Lunchbreak with Local Academics’

As such, colleagues are advised to engage with upcoming ERCs to avail the opportunities of these dedicated networking events.

I would like more information about research design issues and the European perspective – it is obviously an important agenda to seek transnational European mutual understanding and try to team up on important educational issues. However, we also need to talk about differences. Schools are not alike all over Europe. So many little things such as teacher-pupil-relations etc. need to be explored. How to balance quality standards and innovations, which go beyond standards? How to maintain, cultivate and acknowledge cultural and linguistic diversity beyond the Anglo-Saxon mainstream and the one-dimensional notion of the ‘international’? How can I find the space and time for a relaxing and inspiring intellectual experience?

 

Answer: At EERA, we couldn’t agree more about the need for time and space to further educational research, debate, and discussion for the benefit of society! This is at the heart of who we are and what we do, and is why we provide the various opportunities as outlined in answer to the first question in this blog.

The flagship world-renowned Annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) attracts about 3000 participants from more than 70 countries. It is the primary forum to meet and engage with researchers from a broad field of academic traditions, themes, and cultural backgrounds – 1000+ sessions across EERA’s 33 Networks are facilitated over the course of one week, and include a mixture of oral, video, paper, and poster presentations, Ignite Talks, panel discussions, symposia, research workshops, network meetings, social events and more – all designed to facilitate and share cutting edge research designs, projects, effective practices, information, debate, and discussions on the whole spectrum of educational topics.

To learn more about the ERG, ERC, and ECER, visit the EERA website, which is updated regularly with information, news, guidance, and job opportunities related to educational research: https://eera-ecer.de/  

Saneeya Qureshi

Saneeya Qureshi

Head of Researcher Development and Culture at the University of Liverpool, UK

Dr Saneeya Qureshi is the Link Convenor of the Emerging Researchers Group for the European Educational Research Association (EERA). She is also the Head of Researcher Development and Culture at the University of Liverpool, UK. She is responsible for the University’s provision for researchers at all stages of their careers. She manages activities related to the University's European Commission's HR Excellence in Research Award, liaising with stakeholders regarding Liverpool's commitment to the development of its Early Career Researchers.

She holds a PhD in Inclusive Education, and has over 15 years of experience in teaching and educational management in the UK and internationally.

Since 2015, Dr Qureshi has been a co-opted member of the EERA Council where she represents emerging researchers' interests. She leads an annual programme of EERA's developmental and capacity building activities for emerging researchers, including the annual Emerging Researchers Conference. She is also an Editorial Board member and a reviewer for several international educational journals. She can be found on Twitter 

Organising Global Conferences for Early Career Researchers

Organising Global Conferences for Early Career Researchers

Organising a global conference for Early Career Researchers isn’t a simple task. So we asked ERG  convenor Saneeya Qureshi to share her experiences in leading teams of ECRs on the design, organisation, and execution of two major conferences – the global EERA Emerging Researchers Conference (ERC 2021) and the UK National Postdoc Conference (NPDC21).

These conferences followed on the heels of the fourth year of the thriving Making an Impact Series, which she led for the University of Liverpool since 2018, and which has recently received the recognition of being shortlisted for the ‘Academic Engagement of the Year’ category in the prestigious UK PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange Awards.

For each event, the ECR teams engaged 2000+ individuals across various associated activities and sessions. Each flagship activity is co-created and co-designed with a community of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and internationally recognised thought leaders.

So, what’s the secret of organising successful global conferences for Early Career Researchers? For Saneeya, the skills learned during her PhD were critical.

 

Working to such a scale, on time and on budget, juggling coordination with multiple individuals who are sometimes spread across continents, demands an entirely unique set of academic competencies for which my PhD had nominally prepared me. However, having now been the lead organiser for these exponentially growing events since 2015, it’s fair to say that I am now an old hand at the helm. In this post, I share my top tips for designing, planning, and executing conferences for ECRs, which I think are worth particular consideration by any conference lead – however small or large-scale an event may be.

Reflect on your Intended Return on Investment

Using the base of genuine co-creation and co-design of activities with those from whom they are intended, i.e. ECRs, it is advisable to ensure that all aspects of planning and organisation from the outset take into account the post-event benefits to participants and to their organisations/ research associations. Focus on the short-term and long-term outputs, outcomes and impact upon ECRs’ practice, knowledge, skills, and attributes. Allow time during a programme (and encourage post-event protected time) for participants to have dedicated time and space for reflections during and after an event – you could even provide your own self-reflection logs. These are examples of how to ensure that you plan for the best possible return on investment (Bromley & Warnock, 2021).

Consider Value for Money (but don’t compromise on quality!)

This is especially important in the post-Covid context of reduced financial capacities for institutions and educational associations. I am very aware of the expected versus final development cost per participant for all the events I lead. This usually involves discussions with session speakers and facilitators about pre-and post-session open access resources, along with a fair bit of pre-event negotiation about sessions with number caps, to account for high no-show rates.

With the advent of the online-pivot arising from the pandemic, and future hybrid and hyflex working approaches (Gaebel et al., 2021), it is worth being even more mindful of the pressures on ECRs’ time and the resultant impact on their abilities and best-laid intentions to engage with planned activities. This means ensuring that the programme design respects participants’ time and meets their needs simultaneously.

Shine a Spotlight on Accessibility and Inclusion across Every Aspect of the Event

The NPDC21 has been hailed as a sector-leading example of how accessibility, inclusivity and equity of access and engagement were at the forefront of every single aspect of the participant experience. This accessibility ranges from pre-event communications and networking activities to the manner in which speakers introduced themselves during sessions, and the use of sign language interpreters and professional transcription as the norm, to the post-event resources and sharing of best practices.

It is worth noting the difference between equity and equality (Hardie, Fernando and Turbill, 2021) – and that inclusivity considerations must also be reflected in the profile of the speakers and facilitators who lead sessions, and in the pre-and post-event resources that participants can access freely at any time, for instance, the NPDC21 Virtual Delegate Pack.

Don’t Lose Sight of Networking and Engagement Opportunities

Related to the above point about how time-poor we increasingly find ourselves, it is important to consider the immeasurable hidden benefits of conferences that result from ECRs’ networking and engagement activities (Merga and Mason, 2020). This includes not just the provision of opportunities for ECRs to network with each other and senior academics (such as this ERC 2021 session), but also incentivised activities that happen during and post-events, such as the EERA Best Poster Award and the Best Paper Competition.

Prioritise the Human Welfare Aspect

Mental health and wellbeing should be a cornerstone of any ECR event.
Johnson and Weivoda (2021) affirm that the “need to elevate and support ECRs at all stages to ensure they have access to peer networks, supportive mentors, mental health resources, information about alternative career options, and appropriate career-stage opportunities.”
Building on the excellent tips offered by Byrom et al. (2020), for the NPDC21, we created a Wellbeing Oasis that was signposted before, during, and after the event. These self-led resources include guided meditations, yoga sessions, relaxing music, nature observation, and more, coupled with active wellbeing sessions that were specifically facilitated during the event, showing participants how we prioritised their overall sense of wellbeing. We even included aspects of wellbeing in the Conference Bingo activity to ensure this priority message was communicated in different ways.   

Listen to the Voices of the Community

It goes without saying for any activity, organisers must put the individuals for whom the event is meant at the heart of all the planning, design, and execution. As one example that informs this aspect, the UK has recently witnessed a burgeoning focus on nurturing positive and inclusive research cultures and research environments. Indeed, the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers provides a framework around aspects of employment, culture, and environment, professional and career development for researchers.

To further bolster community voices, each event was led by a steering group consisting of a cross-section of diverse disciplinary, career-level, and geographically spread representatives who meet regularly to feed into and support every stage of the event from conception to post-event reflections.

Expect the Unexpected

It goes without saying that for flagship events, as lead organiser, you should have a backup plan for your backup plan! For me, part of the preparations involved:

Comprehensive pre-event briefing sessions with key stakeholders, speakers, and the wider team behind-the-scenes, supplemented with notes and useful resources that would help them add value to the overall event.

A regularly updated FAQ section to empower participants to troubleshoot any issues themselves first. We signposted the NPDC21 FAQs in every single communication that went out before and during the event, whether via email, social media or in-person meetings and sessions. We did the same for EERA’s use of the OnAir Platform via an eminently visible and accessible ‘Help’ Button, through which participants could video call a support colleague, or simply type in their queries for an interactive chat.

For wholly online events, plan for backup platforms, in case the main platform goes down.

A constantly-manned helpdesk and email address, which has a pre-scheduled auto-response message answering commonly-asked questions, and flagging the FAQ page.

And Finally, Enjoy the Event! 

A well-designed and well-prepared event means less stress for you on the day, and more opportunities for you to engage with participants, whether in person (via Zoom or face to face), or via social media. By having the time to dip in and out of all the 100+ Zoom-based parallel sessions during the ERC 2021, and the 30+ sessions of the NPDC21, I was absolutely delighted to meet participants, chat with them and understand even more about what the event meant to them.

It was, for instance, through conversations such as these that I talked with 3 ECRs who were between 7-9 (yes 9!) months pregnant, and who were so happy that the online programmes meant they could participate. Some sessions were also chaired by ECRs who themselves has small babies in their laps – upon whom I was able to bestow the titles of ‘Cutest’ or ‘Most Adorable’ or ‘Most Endearing’ ‘Baby EERA Emerging Researcher Award’!  

The impact of a well-organised and well-designed event is inestimable – not only on the participants and key individual stakeholders – but on the overall national and international reputational gain for an institution or national association. Having an engaged and committed steering group that makes teamwork and organisation easy is half the battle won, and I am constantly reminded of this quote,

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

As with a PhD, the most challenging parts of making any activity or initiative go smoothly are always the ones that are most satisfying at the end. Or in the words of the renowned  American opera singer: 

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

 

On a closing note, there is no better last word to be had than by the participants themselves across these events. The participant feedback for the NPDC21 can be found in this MURAL Board.

For the ERC 2021, feedback could be summarised in this testimonial,

 

“The Emerging Researchers’ Conference was useful in creating bridges and connections between students, researchers, and teachers, promoting open and critical reflections, discussions, and dialogues about educational research. I think that the experience of participating in ERC was very rewarding, since I was able to share my Ph.D. research work in a free and plural environment of critical reflection and collective debate.”

Other blog posts on similar topics:

References and Further Reading

Bromley, T., & Warnock, L. (2021). The practice of the development of researchers: the “state-of-the-art”. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Educationavailable at: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SGPE-12-2019-0084/full/html

(accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Byrom, N., Jackman, P., Zile, A., James, E., Tyrrell, K., Williams, C. J., Haughey, T., Sanderson, R., Priestley, M. and & Cogan, N. (2020). Call to Action: How can universities support doctoral and early career researchers during COVID-19 (and beyond!), available at: https://pure.ulster.ac.uk/ws/files/91095601/Article_Suggestions_for_Institutions_and_Supervisors_FINAL.pdf(accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Gaebel, M., Zhang, T., Stoeber, H., & Morrisroe, A. (2021). Digitally enhanced learning and teaching in European higher education institutions. Survey Reportavailable at: https://eua.eu/downloads/publications/digi-he survey report.pdf (accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Hardie, G., Fernando, M., & Turbill, J. (2021). Equity, Equality and Digital Inclusion: Evidence of practice from an Australian University. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 2021, No. 1, p. 12677). Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510: Academy of Management, available at: https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/AMBPP.2021.12677abstract(accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Johnson, R. W., & Weivoda, M. M. (2021). Current Challenges for Early Career Researchers in Academic Research Careers: COVID‐19 and Beyond, available at: https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jbm4.10540 (accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Merga, M., & Mason, S. (2020). Early career researchers’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of sharing research with academic and non-academic end-users. Higher Education Research & Development, 1-15, available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07294360.2020.1815662 (accessed 26th October 2021).

 

Vitae Concordat (2019), “Concordat to support the career development of researchers”, available at: https://www.vitae.ac.uk/policy/concordat  (accessed 26th October 2021).

Saneeya Qureshi

Saneeya Qureshi

Head of Researcher Development and Culture at the University of Liverpool, UK

Dr Saneeya Qureshi is the Link Convenor of the Emerging Researchers Group for the European Educational Research Association (EERA). She is also the Head of Researcher Development and Culture at the University of Liverpool, UK. She is responsible for the University’s provision for researchers at all stages of their careers. She manages activities related to the University's European Commission's HR Excellence in Research Award, liaising with stakeholders regarding Liverpool's commitment to the development of its Early Career Researchers.

She holds a PhD in Inclusive Education, and has over 15 years of experience in teaching and educational management in the UK and internationally.

Since 2015, Dr Qureshi has been a co-opted member of the EERA Council where she represents emerging researchers' interests. She leads an annual programme of EERA's developmental and capacity building activities for emerging researchers, including the annual Emerging Researchers Conference. She is also an Editorial Board member and a reviewer for several international educational journals. She can be found on Twitter 

Violence in Didactics – A Poem

Violence in Didactics – A Poem

The struggle for humanization has long been a concern of humankind. But today, it has become epistemologically exigent, giving voice to contemporary discourse of restructuring education for humanity. 

Many researchers argue that education systems as we know them today are broken. They lead students to careers that they do not resonate with, are not skilled for, and rather dislike. (Dore, 1976, Illich, 1971) They do not serve the humanistic need for social connections as they are competitive and emotionally unhealthy.(Kumar and Sarangapani, 2004, Kumar, 2016, Pathak, 2002) Most often, they serve the state’s political agenda of education. (Apple, 2004, Freire, 1970, Kumar, 1991) Thus, the rigid structures, limiting curriculums, disciplinary pedagogy of schools question the utility of education that they aim to provide.  

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 Redefining Education for the 21st Century provides renewed focus on Education for Peace (EfP) to make education a way to re-store ‘humanity within humanity’.

Education for Peace not only intends to build competencies, values, behavior and skills to confront violence but becomes a practice where the purpose, i.e., why to teach, the content, i.e., what to teach and the pedagogy, i.e. how to teach become conducive to nurturing values of peace.

(Kester, 2010:59).

 

However, EfP’s aim to build peace through education is challenged by its incompatibility with its most formalized manifestation as schooling (Cremin and Bevington, 2017, Harber and Sakade, 2009). Historically, “schools have been known to endorse and perpetuate violence” and are an “obstacle in development of peaceful individuals and societies(Harber, 2008:1). Moreover, Schooling itself effectively counteract the very idea of peace education, and hence be harmful” reaffirms (Galtung, 2008:3).

Since Education for Peace (EfP) itself has been conceptualised as a space for vocalising lived experiences of violence, sharing vulnerabilities and stories (Kester, 2007), the following prose serves as a platform to capture violence inflicted by schooling, of which the author herself has been a victim. This prose closely examines the realities of Indian classrooms as they continue to evolve under ‘lingering colonialities’. (Williams, 2016:1) 

Violence in Didactics

Explicating ‘violence’ in didactics;

I lay open my experience candid

 

Perhaps violence exists more naturally than peace;

Hence I unfold the story in its anti-thesis

 

The teacher asks me to bite off more than I could chew;

While he was ready to teach me addition, I failed to hold numbers in lieu

 

He asks me to write home a ‘letter’;

While I struggle to write lines of ‘letters’ better                                     

 

Lost in the mechanics of the classroom, he is unconscious of my reality;

While we finish reading the story in the textbook, he fails to read the story of my existentiality

 

In this rushed academic training, he is even unaware of my poor pencil grip;

Not understanding, how violent must be this educational trip

  

The class lesson is not clear, his instruction also did not steer;

‘Waiting for the period bell to ring’, certainly conveys my desperation clear

 

He mortified my dignity under the garb of the lesson;

In that classroom that day, I remember losing not only my pencil but my self-possession

 

Sitting dazed, handicapped by his brazen instruct;

I was shunned as a black sheep and odd duck

 

Not only self-worth and self-image but also the loyalties of my peers shifted with my academic grades;

Encouraging me to look how friendships trade

 

I understand that the injuries to my feelings were not personal;

But he enacted from the consolidated structural

 

He made me mediocre chained to a routine;

He made me a stepford student, to elicit the conformist in me.

 

He incentivized my actions, he rewarded my compliance;

Being an echo, I soon realized that I lost my voice

 

In a mad rush from home to school every day, I missed on education;

Education can be a panacea, just that education needs education.

 

By Ashmeet Kaur

Analysis

The author in the poem portrays herself as a ‘learner-subject’ who is controlled through fear, authority, hierarchy, and domination. It captures her anxieties as a learner in an Indian classroom.

Since violence shapes the definition of peace in her context, it encourages her to acknowledge the violence stemming from the very structures of her learning environment.  The author, through the systemic markers available in a classroom, explains various structures of violence which affects her learning process. She portrays herself as a quite shy and sensitive learner, someone few saw and even fewer acknowledged.

This, in turn, reflects in calls for teachers to treat learners as learners and not for their dis/abilities to be potential failures and successes – as dis/abilities are socially constructed and result in expectations from the environment. It is societal practises and norms which govern what are considered typical dis/abilities. Students like the author who learn differently stand out simply because they do not comply with the expectations teachers or educators have set for them. Hence, it reaffirms the importance of teacher agency, which is far more than teachers themselves are aware of.

The poem also bears reflections on cultural beliefs surrounding corporal punishment, e.g., that it encourages respect and socialises students towards discipline (Jones and Pells, 2016, Morrow, V. & Singh, R. 2014, Sawhney, 2018), and the moralistic vision of a sacrosanct bond of teacher and student. This belief suppresses voice and critical thinking, skills much in vogue in 21st-century educational reforms. This also raises questions on the challenges of non-western teachers as peace educators (Kurian, 2020) as the authority of non-western teachers’ is considered sacrosanct and have moral groundings. It is these normativities which potentially restrain non-western from encouraging informality; disrupting the expected image of a peace educator.

While the author reflects upon the bullying experiences at the hands of her teachers and the loss of engaged educational praxis, the poem peeks into the possibilities of the ideal.Education needs Education’ beautifully captures the central argument. It culminates into a message that what educational reforms are trying to correct has a lot to do with teacher education. It reaffirms that EfP seeks urgent need to ‘school teachers’ so that education can be directed towards peace

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Ashmeet Baweja

Ashmeet Baweja

PhD Candidate (Peace Education) , TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, India

Ashmeet Baweja is a PhD candidate at TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, India working on mainstreaming peace education in K-12 schools. Her ethnographic research explores institutionalisation of peace education at an elite school in India. An academic at heart, her purpose is to create peaceful and SEL oriented environments as a way to create sustainable individuals and communities. Her research interests include peace education, elite schooling , sociology of education and qualitative research methods.

Peace Educator I Education Sociologist I PhD Candidate I Mountains are home I Period lifestyle enthusiast

Find out more about Ashmeet’s professional journey at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashmeet-baweja-a60435112

References and Further Reading

Apple, M. W. 2004. Ideology and Curriculum, London, Routledge Falmer.

Cremin, H. & Bevington, T. 2017. Positive Peace in schools: Tackling Conflict and Creating a Culture of Peace in the Classroom. London: Routledge.

Dore, R. P. 1976. The Diploma Disease: Education, Qualification and Development. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED153584

Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Galtung, J. 2008. The form and content of Peace Education. In: (Ed.), M. B. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Peace Education. North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.

Harber, C. 2008. Schools, Violence and Peace Education. The Encyclopedia of Peace Education. Charlotte,NC: Information Age Publishing.

Harber, C. & Sakade, N. 2009. Schooling for violence and Peace: How does peace education differ from ‘normal schooling’? . Journal of Peace Education, 46(4), 171-187.

Illich, I. 1971. Deschooling society. New York: Harper and Row. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/019263657205636016  

Jones, H. & Pells, K. 2016. Undermining Learning: Multi-Country Longitudinal Evidence on Corporal Punishment in schools. Innocenti Research Briefs, No.2016-06E. Italy: UNICEF Office of Research, Innocenti, FLorance.

 Kester, K. 2007. Peace Education: Experience and Storytelling as Living Education. Peace and Conflict Review, 2(2), 1-14.

Kester, K. 2010. Education for peace: Content, form, and structure: Mobilizing youth for civic engagement. Peace & Conflict Review, 4(2), 58-67.

Kumar, K. & Sarangapani, P. M. 2004. History of the quality debate. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 2(1),30-52.

Kumar, K. 1991. Political Agenda of Education: A Study of Nationalist and Colonialist Ideas. New Delhi: Sage.

Kumar, K. 2016. Education, Conflict and Peace. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan.

Kurian, N. 2020. Kindness isn’t important, we need to be scared’: Disruptions to the praxis of peace education in an Indian school. Journal of Peace Education, 17(2), 186-207.

Morrow, V. & Singh, R. 2014. Corporal Punishment in schools in Andhra Pradesh, India: Children’s and Parents’s Viewsa. London: Young Lives.

Pathak, A. 2002. Social Implications of schooling: Knowledge, Pedagogy and Consciousness. New Delhi: Rainbow Publishers.

Sawhney, S. 2018. Tokenisation of children’s right to safe and protected environments: Indian teacher’s perspectives on corporal punishment. In: G. Sainz, S. I. E. (ed.) International Perspectives on Practice and Research into Children’s Rights. Mexico: Center for Human Rights.

Williams, H. M. 2016. Lingering Colonialities as Blockades to Peace Education: school Violence in Trinidad. In: Hantazopoulos, M. B. M. (ed.) Peace Education: International Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

How Broadening Horizons leads to the Development of Intercultural Competences

How Broadening Horizons leads to the Development of Intercultural Competences

I would like this post to inspire emerging educational researchers. That’s why I’m going to include a lot of my own experiences.

Currently, in Poland, intercultural competences are developed only during philological studies. While learning a foreign language, we can understand what these competences are and how they are supposed to work. What about the rest of society? Should only foreign language students be ‘citizens of the world’? There are Erasmus type programs that allow all students to study abroad. However, not everyone knows how to take advantage of them.

From an early age, children should be accustomed to diversity and taught that nothing is better or worse. Everyone deserves respect and love. We all have similar needs, despite the colour of our skin. Meanwhile, there is still not enough content like this in the educational programs for the youngest students. When it appears in older classes, it is associated only with the culture of the country whose language they are currently learning.

Beginning my intercultural journey

I started my adventure with interculturalism by volunteering in Vietnam in the small village of Sapa. I taught English there and conducted art classes. A young Vietnamese Hmong couple ran the Homestay. In exchange for working with the local children, I spent quality time with their family, participated in all celebrations, and had meals with them. I met people from different countries and even continents every day. It was an extraordinary and fascinating experience for me.

After a month’s stay, I returned to Warsaw. Nothing was the same as it was before I had left. Even the tea lost its flavour. I felt a huge thirst for travel, and I was hungry to discover, taste and admire new things. I felt a terrible hunger for knowledge. Only then did I understand how much we lose by closing doors and surrounding ourselves with people from the same cultural circle. If it weren’t for this trip, I would not have realized how diligent and hungry for knowledge these children are and how much they care about learning. They can truly appreciate it. Unfortunately, the region lacks English teachers with intercultural experience. The teachers I encountered had little awareness of the use of English in different cultural contexts.

Thanks to my stay in Vietnam (apart from trying durian, drinking fresh coconut juice, making my own spring rolls), I experienced Milton Benett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity myself. I have gone through all the phases, from Denial (Ethnocentric stages) to Integration (Ethnorelative stages). I believe that I will remember this process for the rest of my life.

Exploring the Concept of Intercultural Sensitivity 

It was the beginning of my doctoral studies, and I was eager to explore this concept. So I started looking for universities that interested me in terms of the research they conduct, hoping to complete a short internship or a study trip.

I was able to find a university that not only suited my needs scientifically but was also willing to accept me for a short stay – the first Center for Cultural Psychology in Europe, which was then at the University of Aalborg in Denmark.

The stay in Denmark exceeded my expectations. I cooperated with scientists from all over the world in meetings, seminars, conferences and workshops, which provided a lot of inspiration. At that time, I also had the opportunity to communicate in English on a higher level than before. I met people not only from Europe but also from South America, Asia and the United States. Every Wednesday, a ‘kitchen seminar’ was organized. That was the name of the meetings of scientists from around the world where we discussed one given topic every day. 

Imagine discussing one specific scientific topic from different cultural perspectives. This experience enriched me​​ scientifically. I am still very grateful to the scientists who are developing this Center, who took me under their wings. I think that was a milestone in my scientific development.

ECER and the Emerging Researchers’ Group

Shortly after defending my doctoral dissertation, I learned about the opportunity to participate in the European Educational Research Association Conference (ECER). The Emerging Researcher group was of particular interest to me. I imagined how wonderful it would be to be among young scientists from all over the world. Those are the young people who want to change the educational space. They are brave, and they look at the world with trust and openness. They have broad horizons, and they want to keep learning and improving.

 I learnt that there was an opportunity to receive a conference scholarship. I decided to apply. I was happy to find out that my application was accepted and that I could go to Hamburg!

The organization of the entire conference was excellent, starting with critical, interesting comments that I had the opportunity to hear, to various workshops and events that were organized to fill the time fruitfully. Everything was arranged on a world-class level. During the ERG and EERA conference, I had the opportunity to meet fantastic people from all over the world. We were all one big family.

One of the most interesting events for me was the exchange of personal experiences with women of my age in a similar scientific situation (facilitated by the ERG). Long conversations about our experiences during meals or while sightseeing around the city provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on our lives and goals. The exchange of scientific understanding is always invaluable. Communicating with people so culturally different teaches us humility and greater self-awareness.

It also allows you to understand your location on the map of the world and in space. Finally, it teaches that what is objectively good is not always good in reality. And what’s bad is not only bad. Indeed, there is more than just gray.

 

Forging lasting friendships through intercultural experiences 

What is the result of all these experiences? First, I teach Intercultural Competences at my university, The Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw. It is in the form of workshops and is aimed at students of education of all years and nationalities.

Apart from fruitful intercultural cooperation, I have gained unforgettable experiences and friendships. I discovered that there is more than a Polish educational space, that dumplings are not only eaten in Poland because they can also be eaten in Argentina (as Empanadas). The concept of marriage can vary between continents and countries, and collective memory has become an inspiring research topic. 

It is impossible to develop intercultural competences without experience with OTHERS. We will never know who we truly are without exposure to foreign cultures. We will never appreciate our country and culture without knowing others. If you want to be an outstanding teacher or scientist, you must have intercultural experience.

Developing intercultural competences through communing with others is a beautiful relationship. Maybe a bit turbulent at first and bringing a bit of fear, but in the end, giving a great sense of satisfaction, security, and fulfilment.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Dr Maja Wenderlich

Dr Maja Wenderlich

Assistant Professor in the Department of Supporting Human Development and Education, The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw, Poland

References and Further Reading

What is Erasmus+? European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/about_en  (05.06.2021)

Curriculum for Primary School in Poland: https://podstawaprogramowa.pl/files/D2017000035601.pdf   (09.06.2021) 

R. Flowers, Ethnic minority education in Viet Nam: challenges and opportunities during COVID-19 outbreak, https://www.unicef.org/vietnam/stories/ethnic-minority-education-viet-nam-challenges-and-opportunities-during-covid-19-outbreak (04.06.2021)

E. Pachina, My Vietnamese Experience: Challenges for English Learners in Vietnam,

https://www.teflcourse.net/blog/my-vietnamese-experience-challenges-for-english-learners-in-vietnam-ittt-tefl-blog/ (05.06.2021).

M. J. Bennett, 1986, 1993, 2002, 2005, 2011, A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, The Intercultural Development  Research Institute: https://www.idrinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FILE_Documento_Bennett_DMIS_12pp_quotes_rev_2011.pdf  (05.06.2021).

AAlborg Univeristy, Denamark: https://www.ccp.aau.dk/ (05.06.2021).

Promoting Emerging Researchers:  https://eera-ecer.de/about-eera/promoting-emerging-researchers/ecer-conference-bursaries/ (05.06.2021)

M. J. Bennett, Becoming interculturally competent. (In): J.S. Wurzel (Ed.), Toward Multiculturalism: A Reader in Multicultural Education. Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation, 2004.

Gu, Intercultural Experience and Teacher Professional Development, (in:) RELC Journal; Volume 36, Issue 1, April 2005, pp. 5–22.

Further Reading

Bennett, M. J., & Wiseman, R. (2003). Measuring intercultural sensitivity: The Intercultural Development Inventory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(4), 421-443.

Koester, J., & Lustig, M. W. (2015). Intercultural communication competence: Theory, measurement, and application. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 48, 20-21

Martin, J. N. (2015). Revisiting intercultural communication competence: Where to go from here. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 48, 6-8.

Minzaripov R. G., Fakhrutdinova  A. V.,  ,Mardakhaev  L. V., Volenko O. I., ,Varlamova E. Y. (2020) Multicultural Educational Approach Influence on Student’s Development.  International Journal of Criminology and Sociology, 9, 1-5.

Savicki V. (2008). Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation: Theory, Research, and Application in International Education, Stylus Publishing; Illustrated edition.

 

Fostering Cultural Creativity in Foreign Language Classrooms

Fostering Cultural Creativity in Foreign Language Classrooms

As language is one of the prominent ways in which people express their cultures, language classrooms cannot be isolated from the teaching of cultures. In addition to four basic skills of language, which are listening, speaking, writing, and reading, culture is suggested to be regarded as the fifth skill of language classroom (Kramsch, 1993). Culture can be defined as concepts carrying historical roots represented through symbols, characters, or interactions in the daily lives of people (Geertz, 1973).

Culture comes from the Latin word colere, meaning to cultivate, which implies developing and pursuing common goals. It entails being a part of a group that shares a mutual past, collective thinking, and a language (Kramsch, 1998).

Using language activities to help student develop a multicultural understanding

While the main emphasis of the language lesson is generally on the culture of the target language, providing a perspective through students’ own culture helps them to develop multicultural understanding. When the students recognize and evaluate the values of their own culture and the target culture, they can better adapt to cultural differences and do not have a sense of intimidation or alienation (Byram, Lloyd & Schneider, 1995; Byram, Holmes & Savvides, 2013).

UNESCO (2017) highlights culture as one of the key steps to consider while developing textbooks and materials. Knowing the culture helps the learner gain perspective and better communicate out of the classroom context. However, developing cultural awareness is not a task that can be handled quickly through a few activities, books, or exercises when limited exposure to language is taken into consideration during foreign language learning. Cultural diversity needs to be represented through content, images, depictions of genders, races, and religions. If teachers design materials themselves, they need to pay attention to such inclusive elements.

Using digital tools in foreign language lessons to improve cultural awareness

Increasing use of digital media positively affects learning about culture in language classrooms as students can work on the target language while practising their 21st-century skills. Language classrooms may not always have a multicultural structure if the students come from the same background. By integrating multimedia and web tools in the classroom, learners can reach out to peers from different countries, share their experiences in practising the language and overcome some of the challenges they face while learning. Interactions through social networking platforms, emails, web 2.0 tools, recordings, and video conferences with target language speakers are among contemporary ways to improve cultural awareness and connection (Murray & Bolinger, 2001;Wu, Marek & Chen, 2013).

Teachers can help the students get to know the culture and provide a network to make them witness a culturally diverse setting. Teachers should pave the way for creating a harmonious classroom, as is indicated in the photo above, welcoming all races, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and disabilities.

Practical tips for teachers to promote cultural diversity in foreign language classrooms

Nowadays, language teachers try to focus more on communicative techniques and blend them with process and product-based instructions (Richards, 2006). Projects, portfolios, learning journals, and collaborative works are popular in designing learner-centered lessons. While giving such assignments, teachers can encourage the use of authentic materials that represent different ways of life and communicative styles. Even if there is no access to technological resources, adapting lesson plans, curriculums, and materials to implement cultural teaching can be a good solution.

In addition to using coursebooks or teacher-made instructional materials, integrating different teaching resources allows student autonomy to have dynamic learning of culture in language classrooms.

Here are 12 simple ways of familiarizing students with cultures and fostering cultural creativity: 

  • greeting each other in various languages in the morning
  • reading about or bringing realia like food, clothing, crafts or any kind of daily objects from different cultures
  • playing music from other cultures and doing some dictation activities with lyrics
  • bringing in authentic materials like newspaper or magazine articles, posters about the lesson topic of the week and creating a bulletin board in the classroom or a page on portfolio websites
  • encouraging students to display learning journals, diaries or making posters out of them to display on the bulletin boards or portfolio websites
  • inviting or video conferencing with a native speaker or a target language speaker who also has proficient knowledge about the culture
  • communicating online with penpals from the target culture
  • introducing and practising cultural etiquettes
  • practising non-verbal cues like facial expressions or gestures from the target culture
  • writing collaborative online blogs, recording podcasts or videos about cultural elements
  • celebrating the special days or festivals of target cultures along with the ones in local culture to embrace diversity and awareness
  • organizing a cultural day in which students introduce concepts or materials from the target cultures

Teachers often want to focus on teaching culture, but they may not know how to implement the cultural content in the lessons or may experience other constraints like lack of material, time, or planning (Castro, Sercu & Méndez García, 2004; Young & Sachdev, 2011). Taking simple steps to engage in activities like the ones suggested above can help boost interest in cultural topics and raise cultural awareness. Such a positive classroom atmosphere and the dynamic between students and teachers promote cultural awareness for improved interaction.

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Dilara Özel

Dilara Özel

PhD Student and Research Assistant at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey

Dilara Özel is a PhD student and also a research assistant in Guidance and Psychological Counseling program at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. She received her master’s degree from the same department in METU with a master thesis titled An Examination of Needs and Issues at Refugee- Receiving Schools in Turkey from the Perspectives of School Counselors. She is an alumnus of the Faculty of Education Bachelor’s Program in Guidance and Psychological Counseling department at Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. She worked as a volunteer at several projects and trained in peace education, conflict resolution, and human rights. Then, she gave short training sessions on negotiation and mediation techniques. Dilara worked as a school counsellor at a private college with preschoolers. Her research interests are peace education, multicultural education and refugee studies.

Ayşegül Yurtsever

Ayşegül Yurtsever

English teacher, Bursa, Turkey

Ayşegül Yurtsever is an English teacher in Bursa, Turkey. She completed her master’s degree in English Language Teaching from Hacettepe University in Ankara with a thesis titled A Teacher Inquiry into the Effects of Teacher’s Motivational Activities on Language Learners’ Classroom Motivation. She holds a B.A in ELT from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul. She previously worked as an assistant language teacher in Belgium. Her research interests include the psychology of language learning, self and group dynamics.

References

Byram, M., Holmes, P., & Savvides, N. (2013). Intercultural communicative competence in foreign language education: Questions of theory, practice and research. The Language Learning Journal, 41(3), 251-253. doi:10.1080/09571736.2013.83634

Byram, M., Lloyd, K., & Schneider, R. (1995). Defining and describing ‘cultural awareness’. The Language Learning Journal,12(1), 5-8. doi:10.1080/09571739585200321

Castro, P., Sercu, L., & Méndez García, M. C. (2004). Integrating language‐and‐culture teaching: An investigation of Spanish teachers’ perceptions of the objectives of foreign language education. Intercultural Education, 15(1), 91-104. doi:10.1080/1467598042000190013

Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York: Basic Books.

Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murray, G. L., & Bollinger, D. J. (2001). Developing Cross-Cultural Awareness: Learning Through the Experiences of Others.TESL Canada Journal, 19(1), 62-72. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i1.920

Wu, W. V., Marek, M., & Chen, N. (2013). Assessing cultural awareness and linguistic competency of EFL learners in a CMC-based active learning context. System, 41(3), 515-528. doi:10.1016/j.system.2013.05.004

Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative language teaching today. New York: Cambridge University Press.

UNESCO. (2017). Making textbook content inclusive: A focus on religion, gender, and culture. Paris

Young, T. J., & Sachdev, I. (2011). Intercultural communicative competence: Exploring English language teachers’ beliefs and practices. Language Awareness, 20(2), 81-98. doi:10.1080/09658416.2010.540328

Further Reading

Byram, M. & Grundy, P. (eds.) (2002). Context and culture in language teaching and learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

https://www.learningforjustice.org/

https://www.education.com/worksheets/community-cultures/