Refugees and Education – Voices, Discourses and Policies

Refugees and Education – Voices, Discourses and Policies

The issue of refugees and asylum worldwide is a topical debate, where statistics and states play a major role with regard to research. Research focuses almost exclusively on the now, on themes like borders, trafficking, and human rights. In Europe in particular, the years 2015 and 2016 marked a turning point, because the numbers of refugees who arrived and applied for asylum reached the highest level in the Post-World-War II era. The so-called ‘refugee crisis’ underlines the necessity to integrate the incomers into established communities. This is, however, not a new phenomenon. 

In political discourses and other actual debates around the entry, asylum process, and integration of refugees, historical comparisons to argue against refuge or to raise empathy are commonly used.

Why historical research of refugees matters for present policy decisions

From an educationalist view, there is an urgent need to historicize the topic of forced migration to improve our understanding of the present age of movement. Europe has a long history of refugees and providing asylum and nation-states were the main actors in making refugees in the 20th century. The reason why we inquire about the relation between present and past in discourses about refugees and providing asylum is that our frames of reference are coined by this history. We would like to give voice to the experiences of violence. Throughout history nations received refugees, schools have a long history in receiving traumatised children and still are often left helpless with regard to personnel, materials, etc. And each time the public discourse only seems to focus on the now, the new, the particular.  

Reconnecting EERA Online Conference – Refugees and Education throughout Time in Europe

During ‘Reconnecting EERA’ NW 07 Social Justice and Intercultural Education and NW 17 Histories of Education hosted a number of sessions in conjunction with the special call “Refugees in/and Education throughout Time in Europe: Re- and Deconstructions of Discourses, Policies and Practices in Educational Contexts”.

Anke Wischmann of Europa-University Flensburg, Germany, and Susanne Spieker of University Koblenz-Landau, Germany initiated the call. The aims of our joint call were: to bring the history of refugee-immigration into focus; to highlight continuities as well as changes; and to understand refuge not only as a single event, but also in a historical context, with particular discourses and practices around education, and as an inter-generational social process, which sees migrants as actors transforming education in states. This call was quite successful, as 25 abstracts were submitted. 

On 26th August 2020, Network 17 organised a series of three informal sessions. In the 2nd session, Susanne Spieker (presenting) and Anke Wischmann introduced the special call and historical research on refugees. We discussed ideas, sources, and approaches for historical research on refugees and forced migration. For example, we looked at the problem of complexity concerning the history of refugee movements. These histories need to be transnational and global. They have to take into account the voices of refugees themselves as well as the practitioners working with them. For historical research, the accessibility to experiences is related to historical sources such as letters.

Time perception is another aspect, which seems to make historical research on forced migration challenging. For instance, if one asks or reads documents from different age groups about the same event, grandparents or parents, small children or adolescents have their own perceptions of the same situation. Each age group will offer a different view.

Family migration is common, as visualised in the above copper engraving from 1698, which depicts Huegenots leaving France. Women and children are a marginalised group with regard to migration in general because former research presumed that mainly men migrate. The opposite is the case. As these families travelled, skills and handicrafts, religious ideas, and educational approaches spread across Europe. These individuals were also actors in the education of their children.

On August 27th, 2020, both networks cooperated in holding a virtual forum. Fourteen individual papers were presented in four parallel sessions. The regional focus of presentations ranged from Denmark to Namibia and from France to Australia. The presentations in the first two break-out sessions covered a range of topics, such as the practical experiences of adolescent refugees and participants of higher education and vocational education in Poland, Bangladesh, and New Zealand, to the empowerment of women from ethnic minority backgrounds in various European countries.

Another break-out session presented and discussed different approaches and experiences with Unaccompanied Minors (UAM) arriving in France and Italy in recent years. Researchers shared their experiences with various educational approaches, and the challenges children and adolescents face.

The second set of parallel sessions introduced school practices and captured the voices of practitioners. In another session, presenters shed light on hidden curricula by analysing exclusionary practices experienced by Ju|’huan students in Namibia, representations of refugees in Polish children’s literature, and a Latvian Gymnasium and its history in the context of the cold-war in Western Germany.

There were many parallels noticed with regard to the seemingly unique experiences that refugees and minorities face in different regional settings. We realised that the complexity of the topic united quite a broad spectrum of methodological approaches, which we found inspiring. However, linking history and present-day research is not evident at first sight.

The responses to the presentations were engaged and positive. In the closing session, researchers valued the opportunity to reconnect, which for most of us was badly needed, due to the restrictions related to the COVID-19-pandemic. We decided to organise a new special call for the Geneva (online) ECER, with a slightly broader scope. We will keep you posted!

In addition to the initiators, the following members assisted with the organisation, planning, and implementation:  Lisa Rosen (Link-convenor of NW 07) and Iveta Kestere (Link-convenor of NW 17). Throughout the two days sessions were chaired by Klaus Dittrich (Hong Kong), Geert Thyssen (Norway), Iveta Kestere (Latvia), and Lisa Rosen (Köln). Fenna tom Dieck (Köln) supported us with Zoom.

 

Dr. Susanne Spieker

Dr. Susanne Spieker

Substitute Professor at the department for educational theory, intercultural and comparative education at Hamburg University

Susanne Spieker is currently a substitute professor at the department for educational theory, intercultural and comparative education at Hamburg University (Germany). She is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau in the research unit on Heterogeneity in education. Her research expertise lies in the history of education. She has published on colonialism and its impact on educational thought. Her research interests include migration and inequality in education (race/ethnicity, gender, class). She was a member of the Editorial Assistant Board (2017 – 2018) of Paedagogica Historica, International Journal of the History of Education, and serves as an external reviewer for History of Education Researcher (UK) and Paedagogica Historica. Since 2016 she is editor of the Journal Jahrbuch für Pädagogik.

Prof. Dr. Anke Wischmann

Prof. Dr. Anke Wischmann

Professor for Education at the Europe-University Flensburg

Anke Wischmann is a professor for education at the Europe-University Flensburg (Germany). Her research focuses on social justice in education, in particular concerning race and ethnicity, analysed from a critical and qualitative perspective. She got her Ph.D. in 2010 at the University of Hamburg and her habilitation in 2017 at Leuphana-University in Lüneburg. In 2018 her article “The absence of race in German discourses on Bildung won the emerging researcher award of the German Educational Research Association (GERA). Since 2016, she has been the editor of the Journal Jahrbuch für Pädagogik.

 

School Uniform Policy in Scottish schools: Control and Consent

School Uniform Policy in Scottish schools: Control and Consent

A topic that is of continued interest to educational researchers – but also to teachers, pupils, and their parents – is school uniforms. As you may know, there is a marked difference between what pupils wear in school in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), Ireland and the rest of Europe (recently Malta changed from formal uniforms to tracksuits). We set out to look into the reasons that schools give for having school uniforms.

I conducted the research with thirteen students from across the University of Aberdeen. A week-long course was designed to teach the qualitative data analysis software NVivo while taking part in an authentic research project. This was to provide undergraduates both research skills and experience.

I chose to analyse secondary school uniform policies because the policies are publicly available on school websites and do not involve confidential or sensitive information. We began our work with the identification of school uniform policies, school handbooks, and other information related to uniforms on each school’s website. After uploading the files, we read and coded the materials where we saw the reasons that were given for having a school uniform. Over the week, I benefited from over 300 hours of research assistance while the students learnt NVivo and applied this learning in the project.

Key Findings

Together we identified the different reasons that schools gave for requiring a school uniform. These included:

  • ethos, identity, pride, sense of belonging
  • safety, security/reduce truancy
  • preventing competition/discrimination
  • discipline and reduce bullying
  • employability
  • the reputation of the school
  • financial benefits
  • attitude to learning/improving standards of work

Students noticed more areas of interest, including the formality of the compulsory uniform from informal (no blazer or tie), mixed (blazer or tie) to formal (blazer and tie).

Of the 357 publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland we discovered:

  • 343 schools (96%) require a uniform and just 14 schools do not
  • 320 schools mandate the wearing of a school tie by both girls and boys
  • 235 schools require a blazer to be worn
  • 200 schools ban jeans

Three students have continued to analyse the data in areas of interest they identified, and we are close to submitting journal manuscripts. The students have also been involved in teaching doctoral students and university staff how to analyse qualitative research data using NVivo.

I asked the students to provide a summary of the analysis conducted so far and some of the questions or issues that arose from the research.

Uniform Policies & Gender – by Kirsten Phelps

Our analysis of school uniform policies regarding gender found that there were generally more rules and prescriptive policies for girls. Many policies mentioned the length of girls’ skirts using language that centred on the idea of decency or modesty. This suggests a placing of normative categories on girls and young women using school uniform policies, with those that follow the rules seen as moral/good and those who break them immoral/bad. Most schools in Scotland include ties as a mandatory part of their uniform for both boys and girls. This is notable as ties are not something usually worn in the workplace, or otherwise by women, yet they remain an entrenched part of the British school uniform.

School uniforms and employability discourse – by Annabelle Olsson

 

One specific justification for the uniform, employability, was analysed through the lens of governmentality. ‘Employability’ (Fotiadou, 2020; Moreau and Leathwood, 2006) is a concept referring to the ‘human capital’ – i.e., the skills, knowledge, and personal attributes – that makes an individual more likely to gain employment. Such discourses of employability generally overlook structural causes of unemployment, instead of placing the responsibility on the individual to continuously develop their skills and adapt to a precarious and competitive job market. In the policy documents, we discovered a rationale for the uniform based on such discourses. Fifty-three schools (15%) made linkages between the uniform and the world of work, illustrating a semi-hidden curriculum that implies that pupils should be presentable and employment-ready, conforming to the market and the workplace as well as their subordinate role within it.

Power and control in schools– by Jasper Friedrich

There appeared to be a tension between the practice of enforcing strict uniform policies and the way these practices are justified. While almost all policies include highly detailed regulations (some go as far as specifying the minimum length of girls’ skirts) and strict enforcement measures, justifications tend to focus on ‘soft’ values such as creating a sense of belonging and giving pupils self-confidence. We found it useful to analyse this in terms of Michel Foucault’s theorisation of different historical modes of power . When school uniforms were first introduced in the early modern period, they were what Foucault terms a technique of disciplinary power: one that ‘compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes’. We still very much see this in how the policies homogenize dress while differentiating between girls and boys, creating hierarchies (prefects often wear special uniforms) and excluding those who do not conform.

In contrast, the justifications for these strict uniform policies are often cast in terms of what Foucault would call ‘governmentality’, a type of power that seeks to manage people with their consent instead of controlling them. The emphasis here is on how students will feel more included and improve their ‘human capital’ as a result of wearing uniforms – the uniform is justified not as a convenient tool of administration and control, but rather as a valuable part of the ‘product’ schools can offer parents.

Next Steps

Further analysis of the data set includes looking at the affordability of school uniforms, to what extent religious/philosophical beliefs are taken into account in the policies, and what is in place for pupils who identify as non-binary or who are in the process of transitioning gender. I hope to conduct research in schools that have involved pupils in decisions around uniforms.

I also hope to collaborate with researchers in other countries on school uniforms, dress codes, and appearance policies, so please get in touch if this interests you.

Finally, this project showed how it is possible to combine the teaching of qualitative data analysis software such as NVivo with actual data analysis providing a win-win for the academic and the students involved.

References and Further Reading 

Maria Fotiadou (2020) Denaturalising the discourse of competition in the graduate job market and the notion of employability: a corpus-based study of UK university websites, Critical Discourse Studies, 17:3, 260-291, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2018.1546606

Marie‐Pierre Moreau & Carole Leathwood (2006) Graduates’ employment and the discourse of employability: a critical analysis, Journal of Education and Work, 19:4, 305-324, DOI: 10.1080/13639080600867083

The Power Thinker – Why Foucault’s work on power is more important than ever

School sends pupils home for wearing unpolishable shoes, no blazer and old footwear – Metro UK

Affordability of secondary school uniform in Scotland – University of Aberdeen (PDF).

Authors

Dr Rachel Shanks

Dr Rachel Shanks

Senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland

Dr Rachel Shanks is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She sits on the Executive Committee of the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA) and is the link person with the Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI). She is a co-convenor of EERA Network 6: Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures. Rachel is the Programme Director of the BA in Professional Development at the University of Aberdeen and regularly runs workshops on how to use NVivo. Her research interests fall into three main categories: professional learning and mentoring; digital technologies in education; and school uniform/dress code policies. Rachel is also a member of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and is currently conducting research funded by BERA on teacher preparation and new teachers’ responses to teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kirsten Phelps

Kirsten Phelps

Graduate Student, St Andrews University

Kirsten is a graduate student studying Middle East, Caucasus, and Central Asian Security at St Andrews University. Her interests include social movements and post-conflict transitions.

Annabelle Olsson

Annabelle Olsson

Graduate Student, University College London

Annabelle is a graduate student in Health Humanities at UCL. Her interests include emancipatory education and student wellbeing, social and anthropological perspectives on mental health, and interdisciplinary research methods. 

Jasper Friedrich

Jasper Friedrich

Graduate Student, University of Oxford

Jasper Friedrich is a graduate student at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. He is interested in social and political theory, especially critical approaches and theories of power.

Turning a leaf: a new procedure for European Education Research Journal Special Issues

Turning a leaf: a new procedure for European Education Research Journal Special Issues

2020 has been a year like no other. On 31st of December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of ‘pneumonia of unknown etiology’. Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered social life as we know it. The disease has taken tens of thousands of lives, whilst confining billions to their homes in worldwide ‘lockdowns’, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the lethal disease. In a matter of days, the global health emergency led to an education crisis, too. As country after country ordered school closures, education was suddenly faced with an extraordinary new reality: billions of children around the world became homebound, unable to go to school.

Yet, education did not stop. From nurseries to schools to higher education, we saw concerted and speedy adaptation efforts to create home-schooling and online education environments where students and teachers can interact. The extent to which these solutions are effective, or even available to all learners, will be studied in depth in months and years to come. What is certain is that, similar to all other social policy areas, the effects of the pandemic in education are disproportionately worse for those from more unstable and weaker economic and social backgrounds.

This challenging context was the one in which the European Educational Research Journal changed editors’ hands; after the hard work of its founding Editor-in-Chief Professor Martin Lawn, and a successful five years’ spell under the editorial leadership of Professors Maarten Simons and Eric Mangez that followed, EERJ has now become an established and scientifically recognised journal in the field of education research in Europe and beyond.

 

EERJ is interested in the changing education research horizons in Europe. It sees the field as one that crosses borders through its subjects of study, our scholarly collaborations and the increasing complexity of a fluid and interconnected world. We see our work as the new EERJ co-editors as one of further enhancing the European research identity of the journal. We believe that this will be achieved by following the footpath of our predecessors in promoting the peer review and publishing of robust empirical education research, as well as balancing the journal’s publication profile by moving to a greater parity of the journal’s share of special issues with issues that feature independent article submissions.

 

As many of you know, EERJ has been closely associated to the annual European Conference of Education Research (ECER); we take part in the early career researchers’ conference, giving publishing advice to younger scholars; we organise the conference’s MOOT, a discussion forum around a topic of current interest; and we publish the keynote lectures. The journal, for a long time now, through this productive relationship with ECER, encouraged strong conference panels to submit articles as special issue proposals. Although EERJ will continue to do this important work, it also has to be acknowledged that the journal would now benefit from turning over a new leaf and allowing equal space for the publication of independent research papers, too.

 

Further, it has also become apparent that this is not just an aspiration that relates to scholarship only but perhaps also to practicality: at the moment there is a list of special issues in the pipeline; although all of them are high-quality contributions to the field of education research, the current reality of the global pandemic further increases the need for the journal to be able to be responsive to its contemporary, highly demanding and fluid historical and political environment by publishing independent articles timely and proactively.

 

Therefore, following a recent editorial board meeting and the agreement of all its members, EERJ will follow a new process for special issue submissions. This will be as follows:

 

EERJ will introduce a new ‘Expression of interest’ form with a deadline of the end of September annually. This form will be used as a tool for the evaluation of the significance of the proposal in relation to its empirical and conceptual analysis, and its contribution to the aims and the scope of the journal.  At the end of this competitive process, only a certain number of special issue proposals will go forward. The successful candidates will be invited to submit full proposals by the end of December. Full proposals will be evaluated closely: we will retain the option of rejecting a proposal if they do not fulfil the specified criteria, although we will be giving feedback and helping authors submit strong contributions. Following this process, we hope that annually, by late January, we will have an outcome that will trigger the preparation of three special issues per year.

 

The context in which EERJ is working today is one in which the mobilizing discourses of the European Education Area, combined with other ‘borderless’ flows of internationalisation of programmes, public-private partnerships and university alliances, are re-shaping the milieu of research in education. Above all, the current global pandemic, with its catastrophic effects on European economies and societies, has had -and will continue to have- a direct impact on education research in Europe. Regardless of the detrimental effects of this crisis, education research in Europe is currently thriving: a recent EERJ call for papers for a special issue on ‘Education in the Pandemic’ drew almost 200 high-quality abstracts of empirical research. A continuous challenge for EERJ is to be able to reflect on our current education condition and respond to it by publishing reflexive, robust and innovative research. We hope that this shift in the journal’s profile will help EERJ continue to flourish and grow in an increasingly competitive academic publishing environment and a highly uncertain and unequal world.

 

Professor Sotiria Grek

Professor Sotiria Grek

Professor of European and Global Education Governance / University of Edinburgh

Sotiria Grek is Professor of European and Global Education Governance at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh. Sotiria’s work focuses on the field of quantification in global public policy, with a specialisation in the policy arenas of education and sustainable development. She has co-authored (with Martin Lawn) Europeanising Education: Governing A New Policy Space (Symposium, 2012) and co-edited (with Joakim Lindgren) Governing by Inspection (Routledge, 2015), as well as the World Yearbook in Education: Accountability and Datafication in Education (with Christian Maroy and Antoni Verger; Routledge, 2021). 

Paolo Landri

Paolo Landri

Senior Researcher of the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies at National Research Council in Italy

Paolo Landri is a Senior Researcher of the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies at National Research Council in Italy (CNR-IRPPS).  His main research interests concern educational organizations, digital governance and educational policies. His latest publication is: (2020) Educational Leadership, Management, and Administration through Actor Network Theory, London, Routledge.

Caring for Those who Teach Online – Reflections from a Virtual Staffroom

Caring for Those who Teach Online – Reflections from a Virtual Staffroom

When schools and higher education institutions closed their doors in March 2020, some of the implicit and informal supports for teacher educators disappeared. As teacher educators migrated to new modes of teaching and learning, institutional supports such as IT upskilling, educational technologies, professional development, and assistance from HR were provided. However, many staff commented that the burden of the expectations placed on them often exceeded what they felt capable of responding to in a personal capacity. With this as the backdrop, I want to reflect on how staff in one institution developed more informal ways of supporting each other and building community in a time of isolation and fragmentation.

The imperative to create what Noddings calls ‘a climate in which caring relations can flourish’, and through which a sense of belonging can be maintained, led to us setting up a virtual staff room. The staff room doors opened for a coffee break from 11.00 to 12.00 every morning. To date, this has happened on over 120 occasions with more than 90 colleagues engaging in the staff room at different times. This casual drop-in space was hosted on Zoom with a reminder sent to all staff ten minutes before the room was opened. The live interaction was supported by emails, phone calls, and some shared photography and cooking projects.

As with any staff room, the tone was set by the people in the room at any given time.  Ultimately what emerged was a supportive conversational space which broke down barriers as people swapped the small details and intimacies of everyday living and allowed colleagues glimpses into one another’s lives. This online space was characterised by a framework of CARE: a space for free-flowing conversation on a range of topics from the sublime to the ridiculous, attention to each other, deepening relationships with colleagues, and an increasing empathy as we observed something of each other’s homes and family lives. What we learned from the virtual staff room is that each element of this framework of CARE has to be supported by a number of integrated principles for practice: presence, production, performance, persona, personal, pastoral, and peer-to-peer. 

Presence: Developing and maintaining a supportive space for conversation demands the fully engaged presence of the host in the virtual space. The host cannot dominate the conversation but will have to facilitate it. The continuity of having the same host, meeting at the same time, and sending a regular reminder, offered people a sense of assurance that some things stayed the same. As one colleague noted: ‘Just knowing that there are opportunities like this to connect goes a long way to help you feel more connected right away’.

Production: We learned that there should be no agenda or expectation of having to engage in quizzes or activities so that participants have the chance to ‘switch-off’ from having to do something. Participants wanted to ‘be’ with each other rather than to ‘do’.

Performance: Some personality types were comfortable adopting a virtual persona and spoke comfortably to the camera in the early stages of the virtual staff room, whereas it took others time to be comfortable in the space. Trying to ensure that all participants can be seen on one screen is vital for bringing quieter participants into the chat.

Persona: During the early weeks of meeting each other, there was a sense that participants were conscious of performing for the camera and projecting a positive persona. This mitigated against revealing what was really happening for them. Empathic conversations ensued when someone risked saying that things were not going so well for them.

Personal: The host has to ensure that people are introduced to each other as many colleagues may not have met in real-life. Deepening relationships in a CARE framework means that the virtual staffroom welcomed children, partners, and pets and provided glimpses of each other’s homes and gardens as part of caring for each other. In the words of one participant: ‘I like meeting people’s children and pets and seeing their homes and gardens – makes me feel more connected.’

Pastoral: Taking a CARE approach to hosting the virtual staff room will occasionally draw the host into providing pastoral support for some participants. CARE will sometimes call for actions that we might not have anticipated.

Peer-to-peer: CARE is ultimately a peer-to-peer activity based on the realisation, again in the words of a participant, ‘that we are in this together, I look forward to seeing the familiar faces.’ The virtual staff room extended people’s social network by creating new links and new modes of engagement between colleagues.

 

What began as an informal approach to caring for staff and keeping us connected with each other, the virtual staff room has become an example of how taking a CARE approach to an online space can provide a positive space for conversation, characterised by empathic attention to each other in our evolving relationships.

The door remains open, and the kettle is on.

Dr Sandra Cullen

Dr Sandra Cullen

Assistant Professor of Religious Education, Dublin City University

Dr. Sandra Cullen is Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Dublin City University where she specialises in second-level religious education. As Director of the ICRE (Irish Centre for Religious Education) she supports research and teaching in religious education in a variety of contexts. She is the APF (Area of Professional Focus) leader for Religious Education on the Doctor of Education Programme at DCU, and serves on the Executive of EFTRE (the European Forum for Teachers of Religious Education) and on the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Religious Education.

Education Outside the Classroom – An Innovative Teaching Concept During COVID-19

Education Outside the Classroom – An Innovative Teaching Concept During COVID-19

These days, pupils’ everyday life is characterized by health-endangering behaviors e.g. lack of physical activity or excessive sedentary times, resulting in physical but also mental health problems.

Additionally, pupils nowadays have to deal with unprecedented challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Imposed restrictions of contact and limitations of recreational activities or sport might affect their physical and mental health status negatively. 

Pupils – mandatorily – spend most of their waking hours in schools. Schools further have been identified as stress-provoking, which can be a source of mental health problems. Consequently, schools represent an ideal setting for health-related interventions reaching all kids and adolescents. This is where Education Outside the Classroom (EOtC) comes in. EOtC represents a health-related intervention in terms of a teaching concept which aims to counteract the abovementioned health risks and further support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what is Education Outside the Classroom (EOtC) exactly?

Is EOtC an outdoor excursion over several consecutive days in summer, detached from the core curriculum? No!

EotC is integrated into the regular curriculum. On a regular and long-term basis, learning environments are deliberately moved outside the regular classroom setting.

EOtC typically takes place in nature, e.g. in forests, fields, or parks. Places of cultural, political, and social significance, such as museums, libraries, and other public institutions, further represent suitable learning environments.

Wherever EOtC takes place, the outdoor location most often becomes part of the object of learning. EOtC is by no means limited to subjects that everyone would immediately associate with outdoor lessons, such as biology, physical education, or geography. EOtC can be integrated into the regular curriculum and enhance teaching of all school subjects.

Research into EOtC

In a systematic literature review, we found several studies reporting positive effects of EOtC on pupils’ social interaction, learning motivation, physical activity, and mental health. Our early results from this evolving research field—both on a practical and scientific level—are supported by more recent findings, e.g.:

Practical Implementation of Education Outside the Classroom

In our opinion, teachers cannot simply transfer indoor teaching and the respective teaching methods to an outdoor learning environment. Similar to regular classroom teaching, teaching outside the classroom requires thorough planning geared to the respective setting in order to enable EOtC to its highest potential.

EOtC involves e.g. the following characteristic features:

  • no walls limiting the learning environment
  • unpredictable and changing weather conditions
  • new and unknown materials
  • a variety of affordances and stimuli (e.g. interaction with natural elements such as trees, rivers, living animals)
  • several logistical challenges (e.g. active transport to the outdoor learning environment, transport of material for an outdoor laboratory)

EOtC’s organization differs depending on e.g. the school subject, weather, and location. If schools have a suitable permanent outdoor location nearby, classes can e.g. build long-term shelters with branches for rainy days, plant their own vegetables or use tree trunks as seating accommodations. Regardless of the general variety and flexibility in EOtC, fixed routines can provide clarity and promote discipline as well as motivation.

EOtC has great potential to enable pupil-centered and hands-on learning experiences in which teachers support pupils’ autonomy in their learning process by e.g. transferring responsibility to the students. Examples in this regard are learning by doing, trial and error, and the experience of competence or social relatedness.  

Education Outside the Classroom during COVID-19 

EOtC is a teaching concept that might help to reduce the risk of a SARS-CoV-2 infection as study results indicate that the risk of infection is highly increased in closed environments via aerosols in comparison to outdoor environments. Outdoor infection is very unlikely if distance and hygiene rules are being followed (Nishiura et al., 2020; Qian et al., 2020).

During the tuberculosis-pandemic in the 20th century, ill pupils or pupils suspected to have tuberculosis were taught outside (Open-Air-Schools) to separate them from healthy children. Instead of getting the infectious disease or becoming more ill, most pupils stayed healthy or recovered in the Open-Air Schools. In these Open-Air Schools, pupils sat on their normal tables in open-air environments, such as rooftops, factories without windows, walls, or gardens. In a New York Times article, Open-Air Schools were lately reconsidered as a promising approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to the idea of Open-Air-Schools, EOtC could enhance teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. The outdoor learning environment on the one hand involves a provably reduced – but by no means non-existent – risk of infection. On the other hand, EOtC might issue a challenge to teachers as well as students – and their parents – who are not used to outdoor teaching and learning. By our work, we aim to meet these challenges and form a basis which facilitates including EOtC into everyday teaching – now and in the future.

We hope that the current need for innovative teaching concepts which involve minimal risk of infection and enable regular classroom teaching will create awareness of EOtC’s various possibilities.

Together with colleagues from the German Forest Conservation Society, we publish EOtC teaching materials for various subjects and grade levels open access. These documents may help interested teachers taking their pupils outdoors more often. 

If now is not the time to teach pupils outside the classroom in forests, on fields, in parks, or anywhere in nature, when will it be?

References and Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you can find out more about our research here. 

 Global trends in insufficient physical activity among adolescents: a pooled analysis of 298 population-based surveys with 1·6 million participants – Guthold, Stevens, Riley, & Bull, 2020

Analysis of Sedentary Times of Children and Adolescents between 4 and 20 YearsHubert & Köppel, 2017

The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health, Kohl et al,. 2012

Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: evidence for action Kieling et al., 2011

Sources of stress and worry in the development of stress-related mental health problems: A longitudinal investigation from early- to mid-adolescence – Anniko et al., 2018

The extent and dissemination of udeskole in Danish schools Bentsen et al., 2009

 Effects of Regular Classes in Outdoor Education Settings: A Systematic Review on Students’ Learning, Social and Health DimensionsBecker et al., 2017

 Stress in School. Some Empirical Hints on the Circadian Cortisol Rhythm of Children in Outdoor and Indoor Classes Dettweiler et al., 2017

 Stress Response and Cognitive Performance Modulation in Classroom versus Natural Environments: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Study with Children – Mygind, et al., 2018a

 Stress in School. Some Empirical Hints on the Circadian Cortisol Rhythm of Children in Outdoor and Indoor Classes – Dettweiler et al., 2017; Becker et al., 2019

 Children’s physical activity during a segmented school week: results from a quasi-experimental education outside the classroom intervention – Schneller et al., 2017

 The association between education outside the classroom and students’ school motivation: Results from a one-school-year quasi-experiment – Bølling et al., 2018

 Primary teachers’ experiences with weekly education outside the classroom during a year  – Mygind et al., 2018b

 Closed environments facilitate secondary transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)Nishiura et al., 2020

 Indoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2Qian et al., 2020

Dr. Christoph Mall

Dr. Christoph Mall

Senior Research Fellow at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Christoph is a sports scientist particularly interested in student physical activity, health, and learning motivation during Education Outside the Classroom. He furthermore studies how interventions taking place in open community spaces promote children’s and adolescents’ physical as well as psychological well-being. He is the project leader of Active City Innovation within the international Sports-Innovation-Network (SINN-i). He is the founding member of the Play, Learn and Teach Outdoors Network (PLaTO-Net).

See Christophs’ Twitter, Researchgate and ORCID profiles.

Jan Ellinger

Jan Ellinger

2nd Year PhD Student, Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Jan is a sports scientist and works at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health, Department of Sport and Health Sciences at TUM. His doctoral research focuses on health promotion and prevention in the population of children and adolescents. Jan’s research focuses on the school setting, but also considers other living environments, such as the community.

Leslie Bernhardt

Leslie Bernhardt

Student Assistant, Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Leslie studies Health Science in the 5th semester at TUM and works as a student assistant at the Associate Professorship of Didactics in Sport and Health at TUM. She is involved in the project Education Outside the Classroom which investigates the effects of regular school lessons outside the classroom on the behavior and health of pupils. She will graduate in 2021.

Posthumanism and Education

Posthumanism and Education

The rapidly changing world and new challenges have led many of us to wonder if the current ways of understanding and organizing education are adequate. One emerging perspective in the field of education is posthumanism. Although posthumanism is often considered in a coherent-sounding way in many contexts, it is not a single, unified theory and it has been used in many areas of education. Its multiple voices can be interpreted in many ways – ways that cannot all be introduced in this short text.

In general, however, the common goal of the posthuman is to shake dualistic thinking and the dominant position of the humanism. This means that in posthuman thinking humans are not seen as privileged, and the focus is not on how something is but rather how and in what kind of socio-material relations it emerges.

 

What is the posthumanist approach?

Posthuman questions could be posed when discussing issues related to the relationships between human and non-human. This would include topics such as, for example, animal-human relationships or climate change.

Importantly, instead of thinking simply how humans use nature, the focus could be on what emerges when human and nature inter-act and intra-act (become) together. One of its most interesting perspectives of this time, in my opinion, is the becoming of physical space.

This approach stems, in this case in particular, from the concept of becoming as discussed by Karen Barad which has made visible the school social practices in time-space relationships. The concept functions as a so-called relational concept, in which human and non-human, such as matter and discourse, or social and material, are not separated, but rather focus on how through entanglement they become something new.

Not only what is but how it is becoming

In our study, we examined the social and material becomings in two schools which operated in open and flexible learning spaces. An examination of everyday events and processes concretely opened up how space (matter), discourse and social practice were shaped together. This was seen in situations where, for example, teachers and students negotiated new meaning for physical space and how it could be used. In these situations, space was not seen as fixed or given according to someone’s pre-determined (often political) agenda but actively shaped by its users. An active approach to space allowed for experiences of agency and ownership of one’s own learning, for both teachers and heterogeneous groups of students.

Examining the becoming of physical space also brought out broader perspectives. By recognizing of becoming rather than the static perception of space, we realized that changes over time should also be taken into account at the school level and more broadly in decision-making. From the point of view of using the space, it is as important to continue investing in the stages of rebuilding the space as it was to invest in the new school building as a one-time purchase. Investment can mean, for example, re-building the physical space, but also time for teachers co-planning or a sufficient number of teachers. Therefore, in order to understand the often messy everyday life of education, space cannot be confined to a static, already predetermined perspective, but must be viewed as situational, in relation to other situational and existing components (Massey, 1994; Barad, 2007).

From familiar to strange

As illustrated by the above example, posthumanist thinking can be used to explore the processes that are often left out, perhaps precisely because of their mundane and routine nature, hidden and excluded from research. Therefore, studying becoming can offer an opportunity to make the familiar strange. This familiar alienation, in turn, can open up new perspectives on extensively studied phenomena.

On the other hand, even the possibilities of posthumanism are often discussed I think it is important to understand also its incompleteness. Emphasizing the becoming of certain combinations automatically excludes others. Although in our study we found some answers, the study also left a number of questions. In other words, instead of being able to give comprehensive answers to phenomena, posthumanism draws its strength from illuminating phenomena from a particular alternative perspective, while inviting new perspectives to the debate.

Nor was the purpose of our research to present posthumanist thinking exhaustively, but rather to promote a discussion to what questions posthumanist thinking can find an answer. Although the posthumanist becoming has been associated with educational discussions, it is still in the margins of educational research. Is posthumanism thus something more than just a new post? Although posthuman thinking has its own challenges that would require its own writing, turning attention away from how something is at the moment to what human and non-human together become, offers an opportunity to understand more complex and messy worlds of education.

References and Further Reading

Barad, K. (2003). Posthuman performativity: Towards an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs. Spring, 801–831. 

Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

 Kokko, A.K., Hirsto, L. From physical spaces to learning environments: processes in which physical spaces are transformed into learning environments. Learning Environ Res (2020).

Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.

 

Anna Kokko

Anna Kokko

Second-year doctoral student in the University of Eastern Finland

Anna Kristiina Kokko works as a younger researcher at the University of Eastern Finland. Her research interests related to the issues of posthumanist and new materialist theories. In her dissertation, she studies the becoming of agencies in comprehensive school settings.

How Design Thinking in Education can Help During COVID-19

How Design Thinking in Education can Help During COVID-19

In April 2020, Dr Fiona Chambers, a Senior Lecturer in PE and Sport Pedagogy at University College Cork in Ireland, drew an idea on the back of an envelope. She envisioned a plan to kickstart sport and physical activity during and beyond the pandemic, using the principle of Design Thinking in Education.

This idea has become the first Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity. Here she tells us the reason behind this challenge and how she went about organising it. But first, we wanted to know – what is Design Thinking and how does it work in the field of Education?

Design Thinking in Education

Design thinking is universally used in innovation to solve intractable human-centred problems (Buchanan 1992) in any field, including education. It can be used to innovate processes, products, or services. In so doing, it engages creative multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder teams to use a systematic and collaborative approach to identifying and creatively solving problem (Luchs, Swann and Griffin, 2016, p. 2).

Design thinking brings ‘designers’ principles, approaches, methods, and tools to problem-solving’ (Brown, 2008, p.1). Lockwood (2016) asserts that the design thinking process ‘emphasises observation, collaboration, fast learning, visualization of ideas, rapid concept prototyping, and concurrent business analysis’  (n.p.). The defining pillars of design thinking (Brown, 2008) are problem centeredness, nonlinearity, optionality, and the presence of uncertainty and ambiguity (Liedtka, 2015).

Design challenges are wicked (complex) as they are ‘not stable but continually evolving and mutating and had many causal levels’ (Blackman et al, 2006, p.70) and adding to this complexity, there are intergenerational, multisectoral, and multicultural stakeholders associated with the challenge that hold a range of philosophical views. Design thinkers use empathy to understand the end-user and spend 80% of their time defining the problem before moving into the solution space.

Design thinkers have a particular mindset (open, optimistic, comfortable with ambiguity), follow a process (six stages), and use space as a tool for optimising creativity. Design Thinking can be used to develop educational strategy, innovate curricula, assessment, and develop new ways of researching the experiences of young people and all stakeholders in the field of education.

Design Thinking, Education and COVID-19

We are seeing empty football stadiums, matches taking place behind closed doors, and sports clubs of all kinds restricting access. Social distancing restrictions are making training different and changing the nature of participation in sport. At the same time, people are more conscious than ever of the need to stay physically active. The ‘free to enter’ global challenge we set was designed to ask  the question:

How might we sustainably redesign sport and physical activity for children and families, the young and the not-so-young, for participants, spectators, fans, and community groups, so that it is inclusive, accessible, attainable – and fun! –  during the pandemic and afterwards?

We drew together some of Ireland’s leading sporting organisations, and a range of world organisations, to launch this global design challenge aimed at reimagining what sport and physical activity might look like during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sport Ireland, the Federation of Irish Sport, the Irish National Centre for Outdoor Education and Training, University College Cork Sport, Cork Local Sports Partnership, ISCA, TAFISA, TACTHUB, Deporte para la Educación y la Salud, and Sport for Life Canada looked for the best ideas on how sport and physical activity could survive and thrive in a world remarkably different from what has gone before.

Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity

The Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity took place over the weekend of the 26 – 28 June 2020, with teams asked to submit ideas online.  In all, 189 teams took part.

When coming up with ideas, participants considered some of the following dimensions:

  • What is the potential of sport and physical activity to help moderate the impact of Covid-19?
  • Can you evaluate the current methods for managing the safe use of sport and physical activity locations during and after the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • How can we improve the clinical care of people with Covid-19 infections through sport and physical activity?
  • How can we reduce disparities in sport and physical activity opportunities during crises and post-crisis?

The registered teams were provided with free support in the form of a preliminary one-hour Workshop on Design, with Judie Russell of the Vidacademy providing video-making resources to help participants prepare their pitch.

Having completed the judging in July, there are now 37 finalist teams from across 40 countries and 12 time zones. These teams are now entering the eight-month incubation phase (September 2020 to April 2021) where Partners/Incubators will help teams to test their ideas and to seek funding. Successful teams are also being mentored by experts from across all sectors.

The Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity is being observed by UNESCO, Commonwealth Secretariat, and the World Health Organisation.

Many research organisations are supporting the Challenge, including AIESEP, and PHE Canada and EERA, in particular, NW18 Research in Sport Pedagogy i.e. Dr Rachel Sandford and her team of convenors. 

You can find the other participant videos here

“We are using the principles of Design Thinking to reimagine a world of sport and physical activity and we invite the best ideas from around the globe”.

If you want to know more:

Here is our website: https://www.tacthub.com/sportinnovation

Follow us on

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/globaldesignchallengesport/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalDesignChallenge/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlobalDesignCh1

 

Global Design Challenge 2.0 will be launched in May 2021

Dr Fiona Chambers

Dr Fiona Chambers

Head of the School of Education, University College Cork in Ireland

I am the Head of the School of Education, a Senior Lecturer in PE and Sport Pedagogy at University College Cork in Ireland. I am also a Hasso-Plattner Institute-certified Design Thinking Coach and the Programme Director for the new PGDip in Innovation through Design Thinking at my university.

My teaching, research and civic engagement focuses  particularly on the areas of (a) Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, (b)  Mentoring, and (c) Social Innovation. Since 2009, I have been a reviewer on 12 international high impact peer review journals and a reviewer for Routledge books. Since 2009, I have published 4 edited books, 14 books, 27 book chapters, 18 peer reviewed articles and 115 conference papers. I am (i) an Invited Member of UNESCO Scientific Committee for Physical Activity; (ii) Secretary General, Association Internationale des Écoles Superiéure d’Éducation Physique (AIESEP); (iii) Co-founder and Convenor of European Educational Research Association (EERA) Network on Research in Sport Pedagogy (iv) founder of the Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity.

http://publish.ucc.ie/researchprofiles/A013/fchambers

Intercultural Translation through EERA and ERG

Intercultural Translation through EERA and ERG

María Angélica Mejía Cáceres first heard of EERA and ECER via a post on the web about the summer school: Doctoral Studies in Environmental and Sustainability Education: Contextualizing the Process at the University of Cambridge. It was the first event that María Angélica attended where she needed to speak English all the time so it was a bit of a challenge. María Angélica agreed to write about her experiences, both at the summer school and her further engagement with EERA at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in 2019.

The Summer School in Cambridge

When I got to the Cambridge summer school, I was excited to meet recognized environmental education researchers from around the world, and I was glad to see other doctoral students who were interested in similar topics. As a consequence of this summer school, I did my visiting research in Canada in 2017 with one of the professors who led the summer school in Cambridge. These experiences generated my interest to participate in the European Conference on Educational Research, so I submitted to present two papers and to receive the bursary. And it happened! I was a bursary winner, and my papers were accepted.

The European Conference for Educational Research

The ERC and ECER moment was as I expected because it enabled me to have a dialogue with various researchers, acquiring knowledge, readings, experiences, and participating in debates, and activities.

In addition, participation in this conference was an opportunity for cultural exchange, and to recognize Latin representation with dignity because we want to have a voice in different spaces. 

In Latin America, we have discussions about how Europeans and North American countries made hierarchical impositions and colonization. In response, we have developed the epistemology of the south.

We have other realities, other problems, but we are generating knowledge too, from other local interests. I agree that sometimes certain communities, such as Latin people, and their research are considered inferior.

“The South is rather a metaphor for the human suffering caused by capitalism and colonialism on the global level, as well as for the resistance to overcoming or minimizing such suffering.”

– Santos Boaventura

I am glad that I was a bursary winner, alongside other people from the south. I interpreted it as a step to break discrimination and to be inclusive. And I don’t feel that this was just with the bursary.

I observed it during the whole event. I participated actively in the conference, workshops, network meeting, social events, and meeting others. I learned about education, but also about the cultures, and the similarities and differences between our realities.

I had high expectations about what I would find in the Conference, and I am glad to have found it to be a high level, in comparison with other events in which I have participated in the past. In the ERC, I listened to the interesting, critical, and constructive comments of the participants. It shows the commitment of EERA to emerging researchers.  

This congress helped me to create new connections with emerging researchers from Poland, India, Kenya, Germany, Spain (fellow bursary winners). I was also able to establish connections with professors who have distinguished trajectories.  I hope to consolidate more through collaborations in projects, writing papers, and more. That for me is awesome because as Santos Boaventura so fittingly put it:

“In order to bring together different knowledges without compromising their specificity, we need intercultural translation.”

– Santos Boaventura

The ERC and ECER permit the intercultural translation!

María Angélica Mejía-Cáceres

María Angélica Mejía-Cáceres

Doctor in Sciences and Health Education, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Maria Angélica Mejía-Cáceres is a doctor in Health and Sciences Education from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She is a member of the research group Languages and Media in Science and Health Education at the university. She is also a member of the research group Science, Education and Diversity and the research group Science, Actions, and Greeting at the Universidad del Valle in Colombia.
Currently pos-doc at NUTES Science and Health Institute, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, she is doing research about climate change education.