22 SES 06 D, Social Justice & Responsibilities in Higher Education
In this paper we present the findings of a qualitative research exploring university students' learning dialogue on global responsibility. The purpose is to understand how future education professionals view and negotiate the complex notion of global responsibility in education development.
The notion of global responsibility is essential to understanding the complexities related to achieving global development targets, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Bexell & Jönsson 2017). Higher education plays an important role in faclitating and encouraging students' understanding of the connections between the local and the global (Rumbley and Altbach 2016; Lehtomäki, Moate and Posti-Ahokas 2018) and in prompting critical thinking and reflective questioning about the global and local development agendas (Odora Hoppers 2015; Stein, Andreotti and Suša 2016).
Our focus is on how a pedagogical intervention in higher education (HE) can reach beyond the rhetoric and support students' critical thinking within and around global education development through the notion of global responsibility. This approach acknowledges that the concepts of global education and global development are associated with connotations requiring critical reflection. Furthermore, HE students can be expected to critically engage with and challenge the common assumptions and dominant theoretical frameworks of the mainstream development discourses (Bryan 2008).
Bourn’s (2014) depiction of development education as a process of learning is reflected both in the pedagogical intervention presented here and in our continued collaborative research on our students’ learning and on our own pedagogical practice on themes related to international education development. Our research that has focused on identifying university students’ meaningful learning experiences (Lehtomäki, Moate & Posti-Ahokas, 2016) and exploring how students assign global responsibility at different levels (Lehtomäki, Moate & Posti-Ahokas, 2019) has characteristics of an action research. This paper builds on our previous findings and adds a further dimension by analyzing the student teams' evolving dialogue on complexity, critical thinking and commitment to social justice which are emphasized as key characteristics and objectives of development education (Bourn 2014; Brown 2014). We have found Brown’s (2014) description of transformative pedagogies in development education inspiring, with the aim to ensure that outdated or inequality-reproducing norms and persistent stereotypes are not further reinforced. The transformative pedagogies require reviewing of assumptions and biases, and challenging them in a fair and meaningful way, so that learners are informed and feel free to act, while maintaining the values and objectives of social justice (Brown 2014).
The understanding of transfromative pedagogies and development education is useful when working on the complex notion of global responsibility. It offers means to connect the importance of (historical) understanding of inequality and injustice, combining it with the commitment to social justice and emphasizes the learners' central role. According to Brown (2014) recognition of biases is allowed by exploring and challenging both personal and socio-cultural assumptions in dialogue. However, it is necessary to ensure a safe space for the dialogue for discovering deeply held assumptions and their influence on opinions. Moreover, dialogic approaches involve the respect and coming together of different perspectives that may challenge and question one another (Wegerif 2010). Learning of critical thinking can be seen as a precondition for critical engagement which Pashby and Andreotti (2016) suggest as a strategy towards ethical internationalization. It can be expected that through students’ critical engagement social justice may become the new norm and gain a strategic role in higher education discourses (Singh, 2011).
The participants are Finnish and international university students who attended an international seminar on global education development and sustainable development goal four (SDG 4) in Finland. In addition to the two-day seminar participation, the students' learning task included research literature, critical reading, reflective learning journal writing and online group dialogue over a three week period. Qualitative thematic content analysis was applied to ascertain how their learning process evolved, and how global responsibility was present and conceptually developed in the students’ written online dialogue contributions. Two groups of students (N=9) who had selected global responsibility as their online discussion theme were asked for a permission to use their written dialogue anonymously as material for research without affecting course results and grading. Group A consisted of five students and their online dialogue comprised a total of 17 written contributions (5180 words). The four members of the second group, Group B, produced in a total of 23 written contributions (3707 words). The researchers extracted and anonymised the online discussions from Moodle to start the analysis. After the first reading of familiarization with the data, we looked at how the students’ dialogues evolved including key questions posed by the participants, the introduction of different themes and the ways in which the participants collaboratively navigate their unfolding conceptualisation of global responsibility in education. An abductive approach (Patton, 2002) was used to explore how understanding of global responsibility was formed in the two group dialogues (Group A through social connections, Group B through conditions).
The findings elucidate the students' growing sense of responsibility, significance of renegotiating the relationships of key stakeholders in education and the recognition of the conditions for developing conceptualisations of global responsibility in education. The students reflected on their roles and responsibilities as future education professionals, showed understanding of challenges such as inequity in education globally and appreciated the interconnectedness of local and global educational stakeholders. Furthermore, their dialogue evolved in a critical way as regards to which conditions inform the potential realization of global responsibility in education development. The results suggest that the critical dialogue on responsibility supports students' understanding of complex global structures and connections. Following Brown’s (2014) conceptualization of transformation pedagogies the emphasis on justice and fairness in students’ discussion was an indication of a growing sense of responsibility, questioning not only the place of social justice in higher education but also contributing to discourses on social justice, as Singh (2011) suggests, and furthermore, willingness to act. Our experience encourages further development of the chosen pedagogical approach to development education. Finding ways to connect global education practice (e.g. the SDG4 seminars) with critical theorizing could be a step towards implementing responsible global education in higher education. Moreover, this study highlights the value of bringing students of education sciences as key partners into the dialogue on global responsibility in education. The results also suggest that higher education needs transformation to provide space for critical engagement.
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