Researchers from the Education & Social Research Institute participate in the 2018 European Educational Research Association Conference

Researchers from ESRI participated in the four-day conference of the European Educational Research Association in September.

Held in Bolzano, Italy, the conference attracts 2, 500 researchers annually. This year’s theme was ‘Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?’.

In a session on accountability in schools, Dr Linda Hammersley-Fletcher, Reader in ESRI, presented a paper (written with co-authors Dr Sam Sellar of ESRI, Dr Emile Bojesen of the University of Winchester and Professor Matthew Clarke, York St John University) entitled ‘Rethinking teacher professional development using a conversational research methodology’. The authors drew from philosophical perspectives on accountability as responsibility, presenting two empirical case studies of educational leaders who are working to develop more democratic leadership and accountability cultures in a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) and a Teaching Schools Alliance (TSA). The paper provided a response to the question of how we can re-invent educational accountability in an era of datafication without subordinating teacher professional knowledge.

Dr Steph Ainsworth, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, presented data from a project (conducted in collaboration with Dr Jeremy Oldfield, also at Manchester Metropolitan University) that sought to quantify key constructs in the area of teacher resilience. This presentation shared survey data that demonstrates the importance of contextual factors on the process of positive adaptation in teachers. Although individual factors such as self-esteem, emotional intelligence and self-care were found to be associated with higher levels of positive adaptation in teachers (e.g. wellbeing and job satisfaction), aspects of the school environment (e.g. support from management, workload and support from colleagues) were found to be just as important. The implications for policy and practice were discussed within the context of a prevailing discourse which tends to place the responsibility of ‘being resilient’ at the feet of individual teachers.

Dr Matthew Carlin, Senior Lecturer, presented a paper entitled ‘A Worker’s Education’ as part of a symposium developed with colleagues from Aalborg University in Denmark. The symposium opened up a discussion about the ways that schools are currently preparing students for integration into a globalized, techno-fetishized work force. Matthew’s paper drew on a range of philosophical texts in order to demonstrate how school-based forms of manual, practical, and collaborative work can be integrated into public school curriculum in a way that serve as a buttress against the immateriality of contemporary pedagogical trends and the associated existential desperation endemic to students’ vocational future.

Reader Dr Karen Pashby and Research Associate Dr Su Corcoran presented data that was generated as part of a British Academy project that brings together critical scholarship in education for sustainable development and global citizenship in order to critically engage with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.7. In a session on Promoting Social Justice, Dr Pashby and Dr Corcoran presented ‘Barriers and enabling factors to teaching ethical global issues in support of SDG 4.7: Participatory research with teachers’. This presentation shared early findings from surveys and expertise-sharing discussions with secondary (and upper secondary) teachers in England, Finland and Sweden regarding their motivations for teaching ethical global issues in complex ways, as well as factors that enable or prevent them from doing so. Later, Dr Pashby (co-authored and presented with Dr Louise Sund of Maladarlen University) shared early findings from workshops with the teachers in a presentation entitled ‘Bridging 4.7 through ethical global issues pedagogy: Combining critical work in Environmental and Sustainability Education and Global Citizenship Education’. A common critique of both fields is the reproduction of colonial systems of power. This presentation shared key themes emerging from teachers’ discussions of a pedagogical approach grounded in post- and de-colonial theoretical resources.

Ethnographic research on youth participation

Janet Batsleer, Principal Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Harriet Rowley, with their Turkish colleague Demet Lukuslu of Yeditepe University, presented a set of papers at a symposium dedicated to the four-year EU HORIZON 2020 project “Spaces and Styles of Participation” (PARTISPACE). Professor Dennis Beach chaired the symposium with Professor Elisabet Öhrn acting a discussant, both of the University of Gothenburg. The papers drew on cross-country comparative findings from eight EU cities, and, in particular, ethnographic case studies of youth participation. Prominent themes across the papers included:

  • How different spaces and places structure and are in turn structured by young peoples’ activities;
  • The borders created by pedagogic and philanthropic interventions designed to enhance young people’s participation in public life one the one hand and young people’s reappropriation of spaces which become places on the other;
  • Narratives constructed by young people of formal, informal and non-formal modes of participation and how styles of participation involve processes of resignification;
  • The opportunities and challenges of doing a multi-sited ethnographic study which simultaneously involved other research methods including action research, biographical interviews, focus groups and surveys.

Through the use of rich case study material and the mobilisation of theoretical tools, the material highlighted forms of participation that are about resistance, struggle, association and expression, exploration and experimentation in the pursuit of alternative ways of living, being and acting according to young people’s aspirations, motivations and interests. This led to an exploration of the central claim from the PARTISPACE study; that there needs to be a great re-awakening in Europe to the democratic potential of the creative spaces of civil society. Janet and Harriet enjoyed presenting their work at this opening symposium of the Education and Ethnography strand, and really appreciated engaging with colleagues from the Education Faculty at the University of Gothenburg.

Policy studies and the politics of education

Dr Emilee Rauschenberger, Professor Moira Hulme, and Professor Robert Hulme presented a paper entitled ‘Trials, Toolkits, and ‘Global Evidence’ Banks’. The presentation considered how Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) fit into the global script of evidence-based education and how and why the approach is being adopted and adapted in a variety of international contexts. More specifically, the presentation highlighted the background, methodology, and social networks of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and its strategy for influencing educational decision-making in England. Next, the presentation explored the recent international spread of its approach and its Teaching and Learning Toolkit to Australia, Chile, and Scotland. Through the study into these cases utilizing 15 interviews with key informants and network analysis, the presentation considered: Why and how is the RCT-based approach in education, as exemplified by the EEF, being adopted and translated in other countries? And what types of international networks exist, or are forming, to further the use of RCTs to build a ‘global evidence bank’ for educational decision-making? Following the presentation, there were questions and a helpful discussion about the implications of the EEF’s work, the underlying contextual conditions promoting the use of Toolkits in various contexts, and reflections on how policy networks may be better captured over time as they evolve.

Dr Rauschenberger also organised and participated in a joint Symposium entitled ‘Teach For All in Europe and Beyond: Examining the emergence and impact of a globally-marketed education policy’.  The symposium featured her research into the origins of Teach For All in the original programme model, Teach For America, and its first recreation abroad as Teach First in the UK. Her paper, Teach For America vs. Teach First, highlighted the similarities as well as critical differences between the corporate-backed teacher education model in the two countries and discussed how Teach First emerged in 2001-3 through the efforts of policy entrepreneurs and network-building. Her presentation was followed by a paper presentation by Katrine Nesje which examined the Teach First initiative in Norway and a paper presentation by Seyda Subasi which detailed the development and components of Teach For Austria. The symposium attracted a number of attendees, including individuals from the US, Lithuania, and Australia, who asked further critical questions into the funding and influence of these expanding models.  From the discussion, the symposium appeared to achieved its goal of raising critical awareness and prompting further questions that will helpfully stimulate research into the expanding role of private interests in the teacher education sector.

Reflexivity and educational research

Professor Kate Pahl, Head of ESRI, presented a session on ‘Re-thinking Literacies with communities: Literacy as a collaborative concept’ as part of a session on ‘Revisiting communities and spaces: Considering longitudinal affiliation and reflexivity’ organised with co-presenters Professor Annette Woods, Queensland University of Technology, and Catherine Compton-Lilly, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The session focused on ways in which researchers’ reflexivity governed and guided understandings of the field – how do we engage with the places where we do research and what do we bring as well as how do we learn from those engaged encounters? The subject of Kate’s presentation will be presented in a forthcoming book with Mike Grenfell entitled ‘Bourdieu, Language-Based Ethnographies and Reflexivity: Putting Theory into Practice’ (New York: Routledge 2019).

ESRI researchers look forward to participating in next year’s conference in Hamburg.