Once again, Network 23 had a very successful conference in Bolzano in 2018. We continue to attract large numbers of European education policy researchers, the majority of whom are now regular participants of ECER conferences in general and Network 23 events in particular, presenting their work year after year and strengthening with their contributions the presence of the critical social research traditions within the ECER conferences as a whole.
Evaluations of this year’s conference venue and the network programme were very positive, particularly as network sessions were all in close vicinity to each other and this gave a coherent feel to the programme. Generally, it was felt that the network programme worked well, with papers in paper sessions sharing some commonality, and all linked clearly to the conference theme. Indeed, although we are a very large network, a number of participants are regular attendees at ECER and many focus largely on Network 23 activities. This helps the network work as a genuine academic community.
Most sessions were well attended, with thirty or more participants in some of the symposia and between ten and twenty in many of the paper sessions. Sixteen symposia formed the backbone of the conference programme, on themes that included The Shifting Geographies of Lifelong Learning; Looking at the OECD ‘from within’; Contextualising Opportunities for Educational Transitions; and The European Education Space after the Economic Crisis. However, we also had a high number of papers gathered into nearly forty themed sessions as well as a smaller number of research workshops, panel discussions and posters. These covered a diversity of policy concerns, including Accountability and Marketisation; Adult Education and Lifelong Learning; Citizenship and Careers Education; Early Childhood Education; National and Supranational Education Governance; Education Knowledge Traditions; Higher Education; ICT and STEM Education; Inclusion; Refugee Education; and Teaching and Teacher Education. Taken together, these contributions reflect the considerable range and depth of network members’ research and scholarly activities.
The ’European Dimension’ of education policy was a theme running through many papers, and this included those addressing policy lessons from outside of Europe. This clearly fitted with the EERA view that papers should take account of the European and/or international context; and help a European dialogue to develop by reference to current European policies or intellectual and educational traditions.
Session chairs and participants reported a good standard of papers presented in the sessions they had attended. Many papers and symposia were thoughtfully and thoroughly prepared, and reported the original findings of well-theorised studies.
The network’s joint sessions comprised two linked symposia with Network 03 (Curriculum Innovation) on Comparative Education Knowledge and Knowledge Production, one symposium with Network 10 (Teacher Education Research) on Teach for All in Europe and Beyond and two linked symposia with NW28 (Sociologies of Education) on Globalising Test Based Accountabilities. These were all very well attended, and presentations were clear, interesting and insightful.
This year we ran a Capacity Building Workshop on Tuesday morning at the start of the main conference with the title, ’Promoting Inclusive European Collaborative Education Policy Research’. Our aim was to support (a) collaborative and/or comparative education policy research, especially where this involves diversely constituted research teams, and (b) research comparing diverse cultural and policy contexts and socio-economic conditions across Europe. In so doing, we began to consider (c) methodological challenges in collaborative and/or inclusive education policy research. This workshop built on our Networking Seminar at University College Copenhagen in August 2017, ‘Promoting Inclusive European Collaborative Education Policy Research: Creating a third space’ which argued the need for pan-European cross-national policy research collaborations. In total, 35 participants attended the workshop, which was led by the five Network 23 convenors. Participants represented 17 countries from Northern, Central, Southern and outside Europe (including China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the USA and the UK). Participants reported that they had found the workshop useful, and a number of network initiatives have been identified for the coming year (see the report on this event together with an analysis of Network 23 submissions to ECER 2018 and a collaborative project case study in the Network Activities section).
Our plan for this Capacity Building Workshop was last year’s main network initiative, which aimed to increase the contribution of Network 23 to European critical policy research and strengthen relations among members of the network and researchers of other networks with similar research interests. Following the workshop’s success, we have suggested a Special Call on the same theme for ECER 2019, and will then recruit potential contributions to propose a special issue to the editors of the European Educational Research Journal. During the year, we have continued to develop our relationship with Emerging Researchers Group. Meanwhile, network convenor Anne Larson continues to be responsible for the network’s mailing list on the EERA Network 23 website. Those interested in the work of the network can register for inclusion, so as to be connected with the network between conferences and receive information related to critical education policy research. To join the mailing list, send a blank message to nw23-subscribe(at)lists.eera-ecer.de.