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.”

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 

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021 Geneva will focus on ‘Education and Society: expectations, prescriptions, reconciliations’. How relevant is this theme today in this specific context? Why is the city of Geneva a fertile ground in the field of education and of the development of the individual for hosting debates on reconciling societal expectations (sometimes disparate, diffracted or even contradictory) with the realities on the ground, and the needs of those involved in education, teaching and training?

This contribution from Dr Stefan Bodea aims to provide some socio-historical and cultural milestones which should support decanting the essence of the Geneva call for contributions covering this theme: an ‘urgent’ call, of fairly obvious topicality, stemming above all from the need to understand the tensions, resistances, pressures and cleavages with which the educator/teacher/trainer is confronted on a daily basis.

 

Education for All and its endeavours

Thanks to the decree of the Reformation, the birth of the Republic of Geneva (21 May 1536) coincided with the creation of the first compulsory and free public school in the world. Elementary education in Calvin’s City thus became accessible to and free of charge for all, regardless of the pupils’ status, and “the invalid, the orphan, the widow, the old man, and any need for assistance is taken into consideration in the same spirit”[1].

In the collective memory, this historical vocation of the Geneva educational institution even outweighs its other assets, such as the international reputation of its teachers[2]. Indeed, as Joy Kündig notes, “the most important aspect of Calvin’s Academy is not the great names of its teachers or students, but the fact that it really contributed to the democratisation of studies […] In Geneva, education was really for everyone” (Kündig, J., op.cit., p. 59).

However, although Geneva is generally considered to have successfully met this challenge, this success has always required, for the education actors engaged in this democratisation process, the handling of numerous tensions between expectations and feasibility, between injunctions and realities on the ground, between official prescriptions and the real needs of the students and educators. From this point of view, it can be argued that teachers should be considered as divided actors, ‘plural individuals’ as the sociologist Bernard Lahire would say; not insofar as self-unity would be an illusion, but because of the heterogeneity and the often-contradictory nature of the expectations that guide their social actions. Whether they are experienced as professional ‘sufferings’ or as structuring challenges of the educational praxis, these expectations seem to render more complex, or even make more difficult, the necessary construction of what Jacques Ardoino[3]calls the “authorisation capacity” as a process of “progressive and continuous creation of the self, both of social as of personal origin”, which is to be distinguished from “complacency in conformity, and therefore from the tendency to reproduce, characteristic of social practices which are artificial by dint of wishing to be only professional, strategic and technical”.

For the societal call for the creative accomplishment of educational action seems itself contradictory in that it is a matter of both “learning to enter the order of the law” and “developing the capacity for transgression”, which characterise the “impossible and yet necessary” professions[4].

From this point of view, ECER 2021’s invitation to reflect on and work towards the reconciliation of ‘divided’ socio-political/socio-cultural/socio-economic demands implies, among other things, working on the concrete modalities that today allow for socially meaningful, legitimate and acceptable articulations and adjustments of the different positions, roles, attitudes, experiences, convictions, options… of the actors concerned.

But what are the forces likely to generate such adjustments? They will undoubtedly be listed, discussed in detail, questioned and dealt with within the 33 EERA networks. We will limit ourselves here to pointing out essentially two of them, which fall within the scope of two types of problems widely shared by the actors in the field of education.

– The first concerns the need to work towards inclusive education that is permeable to difference and diversity, while ensuring a balance for all, through shared values and practices. In concrete terms, this means, among other things, that the school system can no longer “presuppose of all the pupils it welcomes what only some of them have built up before and outside their school experience and not to build it up explicitly in those who do not have it”[5]. We are indeed dealing with the issue of the equitable educational provision and the construction of common bases and habitus, concerned with considering the differential particularities of educational support and, in general, the heterogeneity of the social, political and cultural environment.

– The second has to do with the relationship between the requirements formulated by educational policies and the real needs of learners/students, taking into account the expectations of civil society. This is seriously considered in Geneva, where teaching, from the outset, has been thought to be directly linked to practice. In this respect, we should not forget the importance given in Geneva to the empirical and experimental paradigms that developed in Europe at the end of the 19th century in educational sciences.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that nowadays, in the field of teacher education, this articulation is the subject of numerous debates, particularly with regard to the relationship of trainees to the academicisation of training, following the importance given to research in recent times. Beyond the variations of the relationship between training and academic research (which can be broadly grouped into two categories: training by and respectively to or for research), this phenomenon seems to produce painful effects on the trainees’ side; when certain aspects of the theoretical content prove to be of little use in the exercise of their profession or do not immediately show the empirical interest of their exploitation. Consequently, looking into the empirical potential of the conceptual systems used in training, in line with the specificities and needs of the field, emerges as an important subject for further reflection and study.

While there are many demands on teachers and trainers, pupils/students are also affected, albeit at different levels. They have to deal with, among other things, the thickness of the different institutional expectations, which are sometimes not fully harmonised or are already divided at the inter-institutional level; the pressure of certificate-based assessment (the frequency of certificate-based assessment practices specific to certain teaching systems could even suggest that in the educational economy there is more assessment than teaching); the impact of the health crisis on the current situation of young people, which undermines the mission of social workers notably, etc., is the icing on the cake[6]

The Geneva student, like an athlete in competition, is above all a student who must accept a double contract: training and academic endurance. Seen from this angle, his or her work is unquestionably part of the Geneva history of academic requirements, which reminds us of a memorable reply addressed by Theodore de Bèze to the father of one of his boarders[7]: “I fear that nothing good will ever come of your son, for in spite of my prayers, he does not want to work more than fourteen hours a day” (p. 78).

 

Education Nouvelle and the interest of the main questions it raises

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Geneva advocated an educational renewal that placed at the centre of its investments the study of the child, the laws that ‘govern’ his or her development, his or her needs and potentialities… Despite the difficulties in reconciling its assumptions with those of education sciences, this trend, fuelled perhaps more by reformist hopes than scientific challenges, has generated and continues to generate numerous reflections on the centrality of the pupil, on his or her development but also on the pupil as an object of study. Some of these ideas might be more fruitful; others seem to be more risky.

This ‘Copernican revolution’, as Edouard Claparède described the Education Nouvelle programme, essentially oriented by experimental projects, has not only had moments of fervour; it has also been questioned, debated and even accused. No doubt because of the emphasis given to the talents, interests and psychological predispositions of the pupil.

Today, the promises, opportunities and interest of this international movement[8] are being studied, researched and assessed. The aim is to understand its actual and/or potential contributions to the development of educational sciences, teacher training and research, apart from the numerous school reforms to which this movement has given rise.

In 2018, the LIFE laboratory of the University of Geneva organised a study day[9] of immense scientific interest, which deserves particular attention for the quality of the issues and debates raised, beyond the polemics that they may cause. The main argument of this event, by virtue of the questions it raises, invites a careful analysis of the real and potential contributions of New Education to the evolution of ordinary teaching practices. As the text of the argument suggests, this analysis cannot avoid the [three] major criticisms made of it (the weakening of school authority, the concealment of knowledge and the naturalisation of pupils’ difficulties and inequalities):

 One hundred years later, what remains of this hope? Is it outdated, even old-fashioned? On the contrary, is it necessary, because it was never realised? Or neither, because practices never evolve as ideals would like, but never without reference to them either? / […] what assessment can be made of the promises kept or aborted? Slogans such as “the pupil at the centre”, “the tailor-made school” or “teaching is learned” have been (and still are) alternately accused of undermining the authority of the school and of teachers, of hiding knowledge or erudition under activities, of naturalising difficulties and inequalities. 

Education Nouvelle raises questions, doubts, debates and critical analysis concerning teaching practices. It, however, also allows for extremely useful reflections in terms of research and of the construction of training systems based on scientific and experimental contributions relating to the study of the pupil (more precisely, to the study of what Christian Orange calls the ‘intellectual activity of the pupil’[10]).

The flagship programme envisaged by Edouard Claparède in his landmark work ‘Child Psychology and Experimental Pedagogy’ (1905) is in many respects echoed in research focused on the analysis of the cognitive activity of the pupil and the organisation of his or her actions within the framework of the specific school tasks. In this context, probing the student’s interests in order to better respond to his or her needs, means above all converting these interests into levers for the diagnosis and treatment of learning/educational/developmental needs, as anchored in the formalised expectations of the educational system. This aspect is of great importance in the training of teachers, centred on the study of the pupil, insofar as it makes it possible to distinguish between needs belonging to the private/intimate sphere and objectively identifiable educational needs, in order to better articulate them, when their articulation is possible and, above all, necessary.

In this respect, the invitation of the ECER 2021 scientific committee to focus on the issue of the tensions between, on the one hand, “the stated aims of formal education” (insofar as they are the result of a “collective, mandated endeavour”) and, on the other hand, “the realities or social contexts within which the education process takes place”, seems to us to be of great interest and of great international relevance, as it can be witnessed by the reality in Geneva.

Indeed, educating, teaching, training, in a multicultural context such as that of the City of Calvin, are missions that are difficult to think about without a certain mastery of the social conditions that allow the construction of living together as the main entry point in the formation and development of the citizen, but also in the resolution of social problems.

In summary, this is what allows us to say that a theme such as that of ECER 2021 could not be better received than in Geneva, the home of reconciliation, probably “the most conducive to happiness”, to quote Jorge Luis Borges’ memorable phrase.

 

ECER 2021 - Online Conference

ECER 2021 (online) will take place over four and a half days, starting Monday morning 6th September and ending Friday 10 September at lunchtime. In addition to interactive paper sessions, research workshops, panel discussions, ignite talk sessions, poster sessions, and symposia, there will be a poster exhibition a publisher exhibition, both exhibitions offering opportunities to chat and/or get together for a one to one video meeting.

We plan to have the keynote videos available prior to ECER and the ECER week will culminate with the Keynote Panel on Friday. There will be plenty of opportunities to socialise and network throughout the conference and there will be special activities organised by networks as well as Geneva-themed events hosted by the local organising committee in Geneva.

ECER Programme

Find out about the ECER theme, the general timetable as well as keynote speakers, and other ECER events here.

Emerging Researchers' Conference

The Emerging Researchers' Conference (ERC) precedes ECER and is organised by EERA's Emerging Researchers' Group.

Keynote Speakers 

At ECER 2021 six keynotes will be held by: Jo-Anne Dillabough (University of Cambridge), Phillipp Gonon and Lorenzo Bonoli (University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET), Kirsti Klette (University of Oslo), Laura Lundy (Queen’s University, Belfast), Anne Rohstock (University of Tübingen), Ninni Wahlström (Linnaeus University).

Registration and Fees 

Information on how to register, the fee structure, terms of registration etc. Registration deadline for presenters is 1 July 2020.

Dr Stefan Bodea

Dr Stefan Bodea

Lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva

Stefan Ioan Bodea is a lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva. In April 2015, he defended a thesis in educational sciences on the didactic dimension of the teaching action in the discipline of plastic and visual arts (“Teaching praxeologies and professional postures in the teaching of plastic and visual arts. A didactic analysis of experienced and novice practices in Geneva secondary schools”). His research focuses on: the didactisation of works and cultural practices of reference in artistic education; the intelligibility of the joint teacher-student action, as well as the specificity of their semiotic organisation; the didactic approach to the learning-creativity relationship in the context of artistic education; the professional training of teachers of artistic disciplines.

https://www.unige.ch/fapse/dam/equipe/

https://www.unige.ch/fapse/dam/?cID=151

References and Further Reading

[1] ‘Geneva 1536. Independence and Reformation’ [Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme]. Brochure published in 1986 by the Department of Public Education of Geneva, for students in lower secondary school (p. 79).

[2] At the end of the 16th Century, “the best teachers in the world were in Geneva” (Kündig, J. (2009). Ils ont découvert Genève. Éditions du Tricorne, p. 54).

[3] Ardoino, J. (1994). Praxeology and poietics. In Recherche scientifique et praxéologie dans le champ des pratiques éducatives. Actes du congrès de l’AFIRSE : Aix en Provence, Tome 2, 1994, p. 107- 117.
https://afirse-international.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Praxeologie-et-poetique.pdf (p. 8).

[4] Idem, p. 2.

[5] Rochex, J.-Y. (2003). Some reflections on the relationship between school and cultural institutions. In Alberton, S. (coord.) (2003). Ecole et culture. Proceedings of the symposium initiated by the Cellule pédagogique, Département de l’Instruction Publique, Bâtiment d’art contemporain. Geneva, 26 and 27 February 2002, pp. 19-26 (p. 20), with reference to Bourdieu P. & Passeron J.-C. (1964). Les Héritiers. Les étudiants et la culture. Paris: Minuit.

[6] A Geneva administrative councillor recently said: « We are only interested in the health aspect, but the social impact of what we are doing to young people is immeasurable ».

[7] Reply quoted by Gabriel Mutzenberg, in his contribution (cf. chapter “Calvin”, p. 78) to the collective work « Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme », mentioned above.

[8] The International League for New Education brings together, thanks to its emblematic figures, Swiss, Italian, Belgian, French, English-American and Japanese specialists, among others.

[9]  « The New Education: trapdoor or course for better teaching? A pedagogical utopia put to the test of ordinary work » [L’Éducation nouvelle : trappe ou cap pour mieux enseigner ? Une utopie pédagogique à l’épreuve du travail ordinaire]. LIFE Interviews © AIJJR. University of Geneva, 1 November 2018. https://www.unige.ch/fapse/life/files/6115/3891/8134/entrevue-life-l-education-nouvelle.pdf

[10] cf. Orange, C. (2006). Analyse de pratiques et formation des enseignants. In Recherche et formation [en ligne], 51 | 2006. http://journals.openedition.org/rechercheformation/506.

How to prepare for your first ERG conference

How to prepare for your first ERG conference

The Emerging Researchers’ Group holds an annual conference, the Emerging Researchers’ Conference (ERG), preceding the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). We asked Estella Ferraro for some tips on preparing and attending your first ERG Conference.

Going to an international conference for the first time can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. It is an excellent opportunity to meet fellow colleagues from all over the world – I have met colleagues from Europe but also from Australia, Asia, South America, and Africa.  It also gives you feedback on your research from outside the own academic framework, which can really open your eyes to entirely new perspectives.

You can’t just show up on the first day of the conference. There are a number of preparations you should undertake, and some of them start months before the conference even takes place. Especially when planning to go to ECER for the first time, it is easy to lose track of the upcoming necessary deadlines. So here are some tips on how to prepare for your first (or second or third) ERG conference.

Deadlines and preparations in advance to the conference

The Proposal

Many reasons may have led you to want to attend the ERG conference. Perhaps the topic is of great interest to you, or you have always wanted to travel to the place ECER takes place that year, or maybe your supervisor asked you to come along. The first decision is if you wish to present yourself or if you are attending to watch, learn, and network. Both have their advantages: it can be very inspiring to participate for the first time without being nervous or stressed about your own presentation, especially if your funding permits that.

On the other hand, I would suggest that if you have a chance to present you should go for it! The ERG conference is a great place to practice your presentation skills and get helpful feedback on your research in an extremely friendly atmosphere on an international scale.

Submission usually starts in December before the conference and ends in January. You can find the current deadline here. This timeline is something you should keep in mind and plan for so you can write the proposal and hand it in in time.

Funding

With that in mind, you might also consider funding opportunities. There are many opportunities for travel grants and funding you can apply for (from EERA, your home country, or home university). It is worth researching the conditions and deadlines for funding opportunities so that you don’t miss a chance! Make sure you can get all necessary documents in time, especially if you need something from others who might take some time such as a recommendation letter.

Accommodation, Visa and Flights

Obviously, this won’t apply if the conference takes place digitally. In April review results are usually announced, and this is when things get real! It can be advisable to book accommodation even before results are announced if you have an option to cancel free of charge. ECER is a huge conference and often in small cities so affordable accommodation can be booked out quickly. Don’t leave this to the last minute. Similarly, if you need to apply for a visa, check the deadlines so you don’t miss anything.

Deadlines and Preparations Closer to the Conference

Preparing your Presentation

Once time draws closer to the conference, you should start preparing your paper if you have been accepted to present one. Here it is important that you don’t overload your presentation as timing can be tricky. Participants often want to include too much information, while often it’s better to keep it simple and clear. Don’t be scared about presenting in another language.  Your English doesn’t have to be perfect and, in my experience, everyone at the ERG conference is really helpful even if you forget how to say something. If you have questions on your research or about something you’re stuck with, it’s fine to ask for that in the discussion too, so that you can really get the most from your experience and presentation at ECER.

Scheduling your conference

Look at the schedule and think about what interests you, and what you want to get out of the conference. Be prepared to pick out some sessions in advance but also accept that sometimes you might end up spontaneously changing your mind. Don’t overschedule yourself Leave some space for networking opportunities and meeting other academics as well.

Finally, all I can say is the emerging researcher conference is an amazing platform to learn, engage and network, so: Enjoy your time there!

Further Information

Find out more about the ERG Conference, including deadlines, programme, and accepted presentation formats on the EERA website.

Want to know what to expect? Have a look at the previous ECER and ERG conferences and check out our YouTube channel for videos of the ECER keynote sessions in 2020. 

Dr Estella Ferraro

Dr Estella Ferraro

Dr Estella Ferraro (née Hebert) is a Post-Doc researcher at the Goethe University in Frankfurt at the chair for theory and history of education. She is also a co-convenor for the Emerging Researchers Group and for Network 6 Open Learning: Media, Environments, and Cultures of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Her research interests focus on questions of media education including teaching and learning with new media, datafication and big data, digital surveillance, identity in the light of personal data, and questions of digital ethics. Her PhD thesis published under the title of „Willful Blindness – on the relationship of identity, agency and personal data“ exemplifies the intersection of a bildungs-theoretical perspective with post-digital theories that characterise Dr Ferraro as a researcher.

She has over six years of experience in teaching and researching media education and has worked and studied internationally. For more information on her research and work go to: https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/55826755/Estella_Hebert

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.

The Rights of Children in Education

The Rights of Children in Education

Some weeks ago, I was invited to deliver a speech at the ‘Wicked Problems in Children’s Rights in Education’ conference organised by the European Educational Research Association. Whilst preparing my talking points, I was reflecting on the fact that a ‘wicked problem’ is one that is difficult to resolve. There is no simple solution to a wicked problem and it creates tensions, depending on the lens used to analyse the issue. Within this context, I decided to throw some light on one of the more radical rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC): children and young people’s right to participate and its intersection with the right to education.

The UNCRC has been recognised as revolutionary because, for the first time in history, it entitled children and young people with a specific set of human rights, including the right to participate. The UNCRC’s views deem children and young people to be rights-holders and is supported by the childhood studies field that positions them as competent social actors. However, three decades after the UNCRC entered into force, participation rights continue to be challenging to implement, and the educational system is no exception. 

In order to discuss these issues, it is critical to review three key global policy instruments:

  • the UNCRC
  • the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC’s) General Comment No. 1 on the aims of education
  • the CRC’s General Comment No. 12 on the right to be listened to.

The Aims of Education

 

General Comment No.1 highlights that education is not only composed of the formal schooling system, but it should also include the development of life experiences and learning processes to strengthen children and young people’s personalities, talents, and abilities. In the same line of thought, the UNCRC’s Article 29 outlines the aims of education as the holistic development of children and young people’s full potential, including the development of respect for human rights, an enhanced sense of identity and socialisation, and interactions with others and the environment. Thus, children and young people’s right to education is not only a matter of access; it is also about content, which must be child-centred, child-friendly, and empowering.

Unfortunately, children and young people’s experiences in many educational systems around the world reveal that these aims are not always achieved. Often the focus is only on improving academic skills and sharpening intellect, ignoring other critical formative components. Here is where education systems’ aims contrapose UNCRC’s ideals, including the promotion of children and young people’s empowerment, as stated in General Comment No.1 and the UNCRC’s Article 12. 

Empowerment can be achieved by developing children and young people’s social skills, supporting learning and other capacities, valuing human dignity, and supporting self-esteem and self-confidence. This raises the question of whether this aim is attained or undermined by the systemic focus on academic success.

The Right to Participate

 

In turning the discussion to children and young people’s right to participate, defined by General Comment No. 12 as ‘the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them’, an ‘ongoing process, which includes information-sharing and dialogue between children and adults based on mutual respect’. This definition embraces the notion of participation as a process with three pivotal components:

    • an impact on decision-making
    • mutual respect between children and young people and adults
    • a collaborative learning process.



The Disconnect between Rights and Reality

Now, where is the tension? What makes the implementation of this right to participate in education problematic? Children, as rights-holders, competent social actors, and empowered decision-makers, should be able to have opportunities to form and express their views freely, and these views should be respected and taken seriously. However, reality shows that children and young people seldomly have meaningful opportunities to participate in decision-making processes at school, and they rarely perceive positive results from their participation.

The major constraints are consistently the same across time and spaces:

      • the authority of adults, in this case, school teachers and educational staff, over children and young people that perpetuates patriarchal structures of power
      • inequalities in education which includes or excludes children and young people based on their social categories
      • tensions between children and young people being considered objects of education and subjects of mutual learning.

 Yet, this ‘wicked problem’ can be easily addressed, if all parties involved take the key principles outlined in the UNCRC, General Comment No. 1, and General Comment No. 12 seriously.

Hence, in order to discuss the future direction needed to ensure the realisation of children and young people’s rights, we must link participation rights and education aims when designing educational systems. Children and young people must be front and centre as subjects of rights, subjects of learning, and competent social actors, able to shape their educational environments. The challenge will always be to create spaces where adults listen to children and young people and take their views seriously. Thus, adults also need to build their abilities to listen to children and young people and adapt their decision-making processes to be more inclusive and equitable.

Photo Credit: World Vision/Jon Warren

Dr Patricio Cuevas-Parras

Dr Patricio Cuevas-Parras

Director for Child Participation and Rights with World Vision International

Dr Patricio Cuevas-Parra is the Director for Child Participation and Rights with World Vision International. He leads strategies and programmes to ensure that children and young people are at the centre of the advocacy and policy debate.

He holds a PhD in Social Policy from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, a Master of Advanced Studies in Children’s Rights from University of Fribourg-UIKB, Switzerland, and a Master of International Relations. Patricio has worked in more than 20 countries, including long-term roles in Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia, Lebanon, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. He has published a variety of books and reports on the topics of children’s rights, child participation, indigenous children and gender equality.

Dr Cuevas-Parra has a keen interest in looking at cutting-edge child rights advocacy tools and models to enhance children and young people’s engagement in decision-making. His research interests fall into three main categories: children’s participation in public policy, child-led research methodologies, and children’s perspectives on violence and abuse. Patricio is currently conducting research projects on children’s participation with Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Edinburgh.