23 SES 12 C, Education Policies and Development
This is a conceptual paper that draws upon scholarship from a range of disciplines that have a bearing on educational research, particularly philosophy and anthropology. The authors both have backgrounds in the humanities, and have a keen interest in how language is used in the education policy sphere.
The aim of this paper is to explore the tensions inherent in contemporary European education policy and practice by considering the evolution of the LEGO brand in recent decades. The authors argue that recent developments in the history of LEGO may serve as a metaphor for attempts by scholars, educationalists and policy-makers in the European policy arena to renegotiate the relation between playing and studying, between process and mastery in educational discourse. LEGO, like language itself, enables us ‘to hold the world as something’ (Lawson, 2001) and to reconsider some taken-for-granted antitheses in policy discourse. Exploring the evolution of the LEGO also affords a closer look at different ways of conceptualising creativity, a highly contested notion within contemporary education policy discourse. Previous work (Ward, 2013) has explored the genesis of the account of creativity as economic and cultural freedom, and considered how this discourse informed education policy prior to the ‘Great Recession’ (Streeck, 2011).
Drawing on the work of the anthropologist Tim Ingold (2010), two different forms of creativity are identified. Firstly, there is creativity as innovation, where the emphasis is on the ‘abduction from a finished object to an intention in the mind of an agent’ (Ingold, 2010, p. 3). This is the construction that pervades European policy documentation from the Treaty of Lisbon onwards. Secondly, there is creativity as improvisation, which‘assigns primacy to processes of formation as against their final products and to flows and transformations of materials as opposed to states of matter’ (Ingold, 2010, pp. 2-3).
At the classroom level, the tensions to which we referred above are between a focus on learning outcomes, lesson plans, the optimal execution of pre-defined tasks on the one hand, and a much broader view of learning as social performance on the other (Pirrie and Thoutenhoofd, 2013). These are often regarded as being at different ends of a spectrum and as having a particular bearing on different settings (i.e. early years education, schools, vocational and higher education). The argument advanced here is that the metaphor of LEGO enables us to hold the entire spectrum in our awareness, in a manner that ultimately will enable us to make effective interventions in the area of educational practice and reexamine dichotomies in the arena of policy and practice.
Using a global brand with trans-generational appeal as a metaphor enables an exploration of the embodied, situated, creative and affective aspects of learning that play out at a local level and yet are not restricted to a particular educational setting. Toying with LEGO (in the sense of using it as an analytic tool for critical enquiry) also provides the means critically to re-examine a number of dichotomies (Haack, 1998) that relate to education policy and practice: between progressive and traditional education; between learning as social performance and learning as the expression of individual agency; and between constructions of creativity that put the emphasis on end product on the one hand and process on the other. These apply across the settings identified above, but some have greater salience than others in particular settings.
Biesta, G. (2009). Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education, Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21, 33–46. Haack, S. (1998) Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate. Unfashionable Essays. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Ingold, T. (2010) Bringing Things to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. NCRM Working Paper Series 05/10. http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/1306/1/0510_creative_entanglements.pdf (last accessed 15 January 2015) Lawson, H. (2001) Closure: a story of everything. London: Psychology Press. Novoa, A. (2013) The blindness of Europe: new fabrications in the European educational space, SISYPHUS Journal of Education, 1, 1: 104-123. Pirrie, A. and Thoutenhoofd, E.D. (2013) Learning to learn in the European Reference Framework for lifelong learning, Oxford Review of Education, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2013.840280 Pirrie, A. and Ward, S. The LEGO story: remolding progressive education. Article under review. Streeck, W. (2011) The crises of democratic capitalism, New Left Review, 71: 5-29. Ward, S. (2013) Creativity, Freedom and the Crash: how the concept of creativity was used as a bulwark against communism during the Cold War, and as a means to reconcile individuals to neoliberalism prior to the Great Recession, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 11, 3: 110-126.
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