EERJ Moot 2020

Time Friday, 11:00 - 12:00
Location tba
Introduction Ben Williamson
Chairs Sotiria Grek, Paolo Landri

EERJ Moot 2020: Softer than Soft? Socio-emotional Skills and the Rise of the Measurement of the Self

Education practice and policy are witnessing notable changes due to digital technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the application of neurosciences. There are great expectations that the landscape of education, the forms of schooling and higher education will not be the same as we have known them before. Complex and unexpected human, bio and digital assemblages seem the coming scenarios of the future of education. New discussions on the possibility of replacing emotional and cognitive human capacities with robots, artificial intelligence, learning analytics are leading to new demands on teachers, headteachers, and all other education professions.

The potentialities of the current technologies substantially shape the current global educational agenda. The pervasiveness of the new bio-technological advancements suggests a concurrent rethinking of the priorities of the curriculum. It has been argued that the wide investment in AI and digital technologies will lead inevitably to pay attention to non-cognitive, or socio-emotional skills. As non-cognitive are meant to be not replaceable, they should receive more room in education policy and practice. This discourse suggests that, while cognitive skills can be made more efficient with the use of new technologies, there should also be a need for education systems to cultivate other skills, not completely reproducible by new technological arrangements (at the moment at least).

It has been noted that educational professions and research have always paid attention to emotional and social dimensions of educational practice. However, while the attention to these aspects are generally welcome in permitting a more comprehensive account of the processes of education, it raises some concern when they become the foci of global programs of assessment and of complex economic investments of Ed-tech companies, and public-private partnerships. Developing a metric, here, on such sensible aspects concerning psychological, social and cultural dimensions could pave the way to a new technology of self at the global level. It can have a convergent and uniform effect, promoting a new wave of standardization of education, that could harm, according to some, the ‘irreducible’ character of any educational event. The emergence of a new space of comparison on socio-emotional skills risks to reinforce existing social stereotypes between national socio-emotional configurations in a time of increasing fragmentation of communities at the global level.

Finally, and not least, the development of technologies, platforms and apps for the learning of socio-emotional skills supported by private enterprises, and complex assemblages with universities problematizes the existing understanding of education in this field, so far framed in human-to-human relationships. It raises some questions about how these new bio-technological assemblages are shaping current educational research and how these new technologies of the self are restructuring ‘traditional’ education to fit the measurement agendas of socio-emotional skills and competencies.