30 SES 11 B, New Materialist Methods in ESS/ESD Research in Action
This paper aims to contribute to NW30’s joint paper session of ‘New Materialist’ approaches.
For several years, research has repeatedly drawn attention to the problems of ‘black boxing’ more-than-human participation in educational research (Fenwick, Edwards and Sawchuk, 2011) and more specifically in Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) research (Clarke, D. A. G., & Mcphie, J. 2016; McKenzie, M., & Bieler, A. 2016; Rautio, P. 2014; Ross, H., & Mannion, G. 2012). Sørensen (2009) suggests that even if materiality is theoretically acknowledged, there is a risk that material participation disappears empirically in favour of pedagogical aims. Hence, the question we seek to adress is not whether the more-than-human participate, but rather how more-than-human participation can be recognized in research methodologies.
The aim of this presentation is to explore how material participation may be approached methodologically in ESE. With point of departure in two empirical cases focusing on ESE in Swedish schools, on the one hand, and Danish kindergartens on the other, we discuss two different methodological approaches to exploring how children and students interact with materials in processes of ‘making’, and the challenges these entail for the research process.
Theoretically we draw in Tim Ingold’s writings (2000; 2011a; 2013) on ‘the mesh’ and his notion of ‘making’. A main line of thought in Ingold’s work is that the world we inhabit is a meshwork of ‘entangled lines of life, growth and movement’ (2011a:63) in which human and more-than-human life interweave. Thus, humans, animals, plants and materials are all participants in the same world , and ‘the forms that all these creatures take are neither given in advance or imposed from above, but emerge within the context of their mutual involvement in a single, continuous field of relationships’ (2000:87). This understanding forms the background for Ingold’s understanding of ‘making’. In processes of making, Ingold argues (2013), people are joining forces with materials in a ‘practice of correspondence’ (2013:20,108). Correspondence is not a process of interaction in which two closed parties connect through some kind of bridging operation (2013:107); rather, the parties are open to one another and bind together as lines (201a1:152).
With inspiration from Ingold, we explore making activities by examining the encountering – the mesh – in which practices of correspondence are constantly emerging, including the research activity. Analytically, the key question is not what materials or human are, but what they are doing in correspondence. We seek to address this question through two different methodological entry points, one of them being the sensuous experiences through which we become aware of our connections to materials (cf. Ingold 2011b; Pink 2011; Mason 2017), the other descriptions of material participation that goes beyond pedagogical aims (Sørensen 2009).
The paper is based on two different empirical research projects. Jørgensen’s empirical research focuses on vulnerable children in Danish daycare institutions. The material discussed in the presentation relates to educational activities on art and nature/sustainability carried out in a kindergarten situated in a social housing area, studied through ethnographic fieldwork involving participant observation, and unstructured and semi-structured interviews with pedagogical staff. Methodologically, Jørgensen is interested in how attention to sensuous experiences may contribute to the analysis of human-material correspondence in a situation where a group of children are drawing trees on large sheets of white paper with branches of wood soaked in India ink at a windy, outdoor setting. To correspond with the world, Ingold highlights, is ‘to mix the movements of one’s sentient awareness with the flows and currents of animate life’ (2013:108). Senses, in other words, could be seen as a starting point for exploring material participation in processes of making, approached methodologically through ethnographic participant observation with a heightened reflexive attention to the ‘sensoriality’ of experience (cf. Pink, 2009; Ingold, 2011b): the sounds of scratching sticks, of sheets of papers fluttering in the wind, of a little girl singing in Arabic, and of a tractor passing, the feeling of wind in the hair, of holding the rough branch which connects to ink and paper, and of soft, green moss on a large tree trunk. Hofverberg’s empirical study focuses on the relevance of human-material relationships in crafting learning processes by following an embroidery project with year 8 students in the Swedish craft subject of educational sloyd. By making observations through filming of an embroidery project, the human-material correspondence is analysed with the aid of Ingold’s (2013) practice of correspondence and Sørensen’s (2009) notion of participation, performance and imagination. The analysis presents three analytical cuts: threading the needle, handling knots and dividing the thread. Who and what is participating in the crafting activity and further how this participation is performed is described. By zooming in on the thread’s participation as it encounters the student, Hofverberg describes in detail how the thread participates. These descriptions, presented as footnotes in the presenting test, are rather technical and should be considered as an imaginary concept that is introduced in order to facilitate an understanding of the interrelations and performance of embroidering as a practical endeavour. The descriptions of ’participation, performance and imaginaries’ are further discussed using Ingold’s notion of practice of correspondence.
Participant observation focusing on the ‘sensoriality’ of experience and the analytical focus on the participaton of materials in educational situations are examples of methodologies which bend our research attention beyond words and verbal interactions. We propose that as such, they bring attention to aspects of educational situations which are often overlooked. Accounting for sensuous, embodied engagements and human-material correspondences challenges anthropocentric understandings of the world and of education, highlighting that ESE is processes of joined human and material forces, rather than a set of educational ideas to be imposed on a material world and a group of students (cf. Hovferberg and Kronlid, 2017). Also, they challenge educational policy and practice focused primarily on ‘visible’ (= verbalised) learning and, in particular in relation to refugee and immigrant children, on language acquisition (cf. Jørgensen & Martiny-Bruun, forthcoming). Acknowledging the ‘meshed’ or entangled character of reality highligts the methodological challenge that in any given activity or situation, there are a multiplicity of correspondences going on at the same time, and any attempt to make sense of the activity becomes a reduction, which is also in some sense a political act, as some ‘voices’ are ampified while others are silenced. In the presentation, we discuss the analytical and representational choices made in our empirical data descriptions of human-material interactions in processes of ‘making’ craft and artwork, illuminating how certain ‘lines’ are followed while others are left unexplored, and reflecting upon the dynamics of power and resistance involved.
Clarke, D. A. G., & Mcphie, J. (2016). From places to paths: Learning for Sustainability, teacher education and a philosophy of becoming. Environmental Education Research, 22(7), 1002-1024. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging approaches to educational research: Tracing the sociomaterial. Oxon: Routledge. Hofverberg, H. & Kronlid D. (2017). Human-material relationships in environmental and sustainability education – an empirical study of a school embroidery project, Environmental Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2017.1358805 Ingold, T. (2000). The Perception of the Environment – Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Ingold, T. (2011a). Being Alive – Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Ingold, T. (2011b). Worlds of sense and sensing the world: a response to Sarah Pink and David Howes. Social Anthropology, 19(3), 313–317. Ingold, T. (2013). Making – Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Jørgensen, N. & Martiny-Bruun, A. (forthcoming). Bodies, language, trees and tractors: The potential of ambiguous socio-material relations in early childhood pedagogies with refugee children in Denmark. Environmental Education Research Mason, J. (2017). Affinities. Potent Connections in Personal Life. Polity Press. McKenzie, M., & Bieler, A. (2016). Critical education and sociomaterial practice: Narration, place, and the social. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Pink, S. (2009). Doing sensory ethnography. SAGE. Rautio, P. (2014). Mingling and imitating in producing spaces for knowing and being: Insights from a Finnish study of child–matter intra-action. Childhood, 21(4), 461-474. Ross, H., & Mannion, G. (2012). Curriculum making as the enactment of dwelling in places. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 31(3), 303-313. Sørensen, E. (2009). The Materiality of Learning – Technology and Knowledge in Educational Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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