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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In summary, the retreat proposes the following key positionalities:

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

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

 

Other blog posts on similar topics:

Johan Estiévenart

Johan Estiévenart

Masters student, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu

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

GENE Awards

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

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

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

References and Further Reading

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

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

 

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

 

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

Translating across words, paradigms, and traditions of education 

EERA is delighted and honoured to be partnering with the Global Educational Network in Europe (GENE) to make significant research funds available to our members to further research the area of global education. We asked the recipients of the Global Education Award 2020/21 to share their research with the broader EERA community.  

 At the beginning of 2021, the two authors of this blog, along with Finnish colleagues Inkeri Rissanen and Katri Jokikokko, received a Global Education Award from the GENE network. With this award, they promised to do something they were all passionate about: Explore teacher students’ implicit knowledge in issues related to global education and consider how teachers’ beliefs might play out in their future work as teachers.

As we write this blog a year after receiving the award, we are deeply immersed in data analysis in Bamberg, Germany, where Mervi is visiting Susanne. While delving into the data, we try to see if we can find harmony within the diversity of Finnish and German teacher students’ thoughts. Yet we find that we must also create harmony in our research practices, translating not only data in three languages but also our own implicit understandings of the educational traditions and research paradigms we may take for granted.

In our research, 32 Finnish and 35 German preservice teachers discussed issues related to diversity, culture, and change. All of the students had participated in a course focusing on these issues, and we hoped this shared experience would re-activate their common orientations. The groups conversed in three languages, Finnish, English, German, depending on the language of instruction of their course.

 Our method, documentary analysis (Bohnsack, 2010), requires us not only to understand the literal meaning of words but go beyond it and understand the values behind words. This proved rather difficult to do in a group in which none of us spoke all three of the required languages. For less critical sections of the transcripts, we used transcription software. For crucial parts of our research, we hired professional translators. The software, trying to be helpful, created words that looked Finnish but made no sense. We were able to remove this nonsense with a lot of manual revision and discussions, but the trickier task was to translate the context-specific understanding behind the words.

Translation beyond words

Our analysis focused on concepts such as culture, diversity, or change, all loaded with meaning. For example, instead of translating the term diversity, Germans use the English word, but as a strictly normative concept, meaning plurality is a good thing. In Finnish, diversity can be translated as moninaisuus, but it has not yet found its way into natural everyday conversation. So, it is not surprising that it could rarely be found in the preservice teachers’ discussions. The fact that some terms are missing could be a methodological challenge: how can the students talk without these particular words? However, with the documentary method, it was not: after rounds and rounds of analysis and abduction, the discussions revealed the students’ orientations towards diversity without the word even being mentioned.

Translation beyond paradigms

The need to translate went beyond needing to agree on the literal meaning of words. We also had to translate our practices as researchers, making them compatible. Susanne works within a reconstructive paradigm, focusing on language. Mervi is most at home within participatory paradigms, with the analytical focus on practice. We soon found out that our attention points in the same direction, trying to find educational practices that can respond to the needs of the changing world; we just use slightly different lenses.

Translation beyond traditions of education

Finally, perhaps most interestingly, we translated our understandings across slightly different educational traditions. We share an interest in global education, but explicating what we mean by education, Bildung or kasvatus, was a fascinating task. The Finnish kasvatus and German Bildung are both complex terms describing educational processes and practices which are impossible to simply translate into English. We came to an agreement that Bildung is in line with our understanding of global education: it refers to the processes in which an individual acquires the needed skills and knowledge for individual growth and character formation (on an individual level), while also learning to be an active and critical member of their community (on a social level) to open up new possibilities for individual and shared lives (Kaukko, et al. 2020).

Experimenting with new research methods required us to problematise some of the ways of working we might take for granted. Multilinguality pushed us to scrutinise our understanding of some of the words we work with. Only working in and through English would have left some of the nuances in the shadows. All the steps pointed out very clearly that we need humans for all this as software cannot do this. Moreover, all these steps pushed us to consider the dimensions of global education in our own work. It is not enough to say that our research is framed within global education. We need to shape our research practices accordingly, so that we genuinely try to see the issues from another point of view.

A global education lens also requires us to reconsider our own responsibilities as researchers: What can we as educational researchers do to “open people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awaken them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all”? (Maastricht Global Education Declaration, 2002, see also 2018; Scheunpflug, 2021) A deeper understanding of the beliefs and orientations of preservice teachers, which could help us develop better, fairer, and more sustainable teacher education, is one way to pursue this.

Blog Authors

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Dr Mervi Kaukko

Associate Professor in Multicultural Education, Tampere University, Finland

Dr Mervi Kaukko works as associate professor in multicultural education in Tampere University, Finland. She was previously a lecturer at Monash University, Australia and Oulu University, Finland. Her interests include global education, refugee/migration studies, participatory methodogies and practice theories.

Dr Susanne Timm

Dr Susanne Timm

Research Assistant, Otto-Friedrich-University, Bamberg

Dr Susanne Timm worked as a research assistant at the University in Göttingen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and is currently at Otto-Friedrich-Universität in Bamberg. Her special interests are comparative and intercultural education. During the last years, Dr Timm has carried out a qualitative study on culture in teacher education while focusing more and more on global education.

GENE Awards

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

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

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

References and Further Reading

Bohnsack, R. (2010). Documentary method and group discussions. In R. Bohnsack, N. Pfaff, & W. Weller (eds.),Qualitative analysis and documentary method in international educational research (p. 99-124). Barbara Budrich. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-317339 https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/31733/ssoar-2010-bohnsack-Documentary_method_an_group_discussions.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&lnkname=ssoar-2010-bohnsack-Documentary_method_an_group_discussions.pdf

Kaukko, M., Francisco, S., Mahon, K. (2020) Education in a world worth living in. In Mahon, K., Francisco, S., Edwards-Groves, C., Kaukko, M., Kemmis, S., and Kirsten P. (eds). Pedagogy, Education and Praxis in Critical Times. Springer, 1-13. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-981-15-6926-5 

Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002) A European Strategy Framework for Improving and Increasing Global Education in Europe to the Year 2015. Dublin: GENE. https://rm.coe.int/168070e540

Scheunpflug, A. (2021). Global learning: Educational research in an emerging field. European Education Research Journal, 20(1), 3-13.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1474904120951743