NW 28 Sociologies of Education: Sociologies of Learning: Spaces, Knowledge, Technologies and Ontologies

Sociologies of Learning: Spaces, Knowledge, Technologies and Ontologies

Network 28 invites scholars to examine why and how has ’learning’ replaced more established practices and semantics in the European and OECD policy dicourse through a sociological lens. We invite submissions engaging with the ‘sociologies of learning’, mobilizing sociological theoretical and methodological resources to explore learning ‘as a phenomenon produced through the intra-action of a multiplicity of paths, networks and processes’  that shapes the future of education and poses challenge to the sociology of education itself. Questioning its contents, purposes, modalities, relationships and ontologies, contributions should aim to unbox ’learning’ as a sociological and political object.

The Call
Learning is the concept that best portrays the contemporary social, political and economic demands placed on education systems (Jarvis, 2007; Oliver, 2019). In the European and OECD policyscapes, any discourse on education assumes that economic competitiveness within global markets and societal cohesion requires the creation of knowledge societies and lifelong learning as an individual and system capacity and practice (Fejes and Nicoll, 2008; Ozga and others, 2013). The provision of high-quality education, training and lifelong learning for all through the implementation of a variety of skills-based teaching and learning approaches is identified as the imperative response to societal changes, globalization and the increasing uncertainty over the future. The increasing centrality of learning in the policy discourse has resulted in a process of ‘learnification of education’ and the tendency to express much if not all there is to say about education in terms of a language of learning (Biesta, 2015).

In such a scenario, sociology of education is called to intensify its efforts in addressing ‘the problem of learning’, bringing ‘learning’ and its multiple modalities at the centre of its research agenda, putting under scrutiny the implications of this epistemic, technological and ethical set of transformations, and at the same time renewing its criticism (Jarvis, 2007; Ball, 2012; Gewirtz and Cribb, 2020; Decuypere, 2019a). While metrics and international assessments are extended; while digitalization is increasingly penetrating education systems; and while positivist and experimentalist “what works” assumptions are taken over by policy-makers, the politics and policy of learning deserves new modes of reflexive sociological inquiry.

This special call invites scholars to examine why has ’learning’ replaced more established practices and semantics through a sociological lens. We invite submissions engaging with ‘sociologies of learning’, mobilizing sociological theoretical and methodological resources in a multidisciplinary perspective to understand and explore learning as a phenomenon produced through the intra-action of a multiplicity of paths, networks and processes (Youdell et al. 2020) that shape the future of education and address challenges to the sociology of education itself. Contributors are invited to pay attention to learning as a sociological and political object to be unboxed, exploring the entanglements between knowledge, politics/policy and practice.

More specifically, we will welcome proposals that focus, among others, on the following issues:

  1. The Learnification of Education and its implications: a) the politics and epistemologies of education (Grimaldi, 2019; Normand, 2016); b) the changing nature of the learner ontologies, mobilities and their environment (Landri and Neumann, 2014); c) changes in teaching or leading practices and their requirements; d) implications of learnification in terms of inclusion, equity and social justice (Gewirtz, 2006); e) the digital and political economy of learnification (Landri, 2018; Neumann, 2019; Williamson, 2017).
  2. Emerging learning regimes and spaces: socio-material assemblages of learning spaces, rationalities, technologies and ontologies that reconfigure education systems and policies in restructuring professions, developing new types of accountability, extending managerialism, and legitimizing new modes of evidence (Gunter and others, 2016; Piattoeva and Boden, 2020). 
  3. Developing new sociological approaches of experimental or instrumental devices, programs, and settings for learning: new learning environments studied through a reflexive and critical sociological eye; new analytical and empirical accounts of interaction, mediation, hybridization between technology, objects, standards, and learners (Landri, 2013 Decuypere, 2019b); reflections focused on multiple commitments and social atmospheres engendered by these new material and human relationships (Selwyn and Pangrazio, 2018); the presentation of new methodological approaches to research emerging learning environments.

Contact Person(s)
Emiliano Grimaldi (emilianogrimaldi(at)gmail.com)
Romuald Normand (rnormand(at)unistra.fr)

Ball, S. J. (2012). Foucault, power, and education. London: Routledge.

Biesta, G. (2015). Freeing Teaching from Learning: Opening Up Existential Possibilities in Educational Relationships. Studies in Philosophy of Education 34, 229–243. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-014-9454-z

Decuypere, M. (2019a). Researching educational apps: ecologies, technologies, subjectivities and learning regimes. Learning, Media and Technology, 44(4), 414-429.

Decuypere, M. (2019b). Open Education platforms: Theoretical ideas, digital operations and the figure of the open learner. European Educational Research Journal18(4), 439-460.

Fejes, A. and K. Nicoll. (2008). Foucault and lifelong learning: governing the subject. London: Routledge

Gewirtz, S. (2006). Towards a contextualized analysis of social justice in education. Educational Philosophy and Theory38(1), 69-81.

Gewirtz, S., & Cribb, A. (2020). What works? Academic integrity and the research-policy relationship. British Journal of Sociology of Education41(6), 794-806.

Grimaldi, E. (2019). An archaeology of educational evaluation: Epistemological spaces and political paradoxes. Routledge.

Gunter, H. M., Grimaldi, E., Hall, D., & Serpieri, R. (Eds.). (2016). New public management and the reform of education: European lessons for policy and practice. Routledge.

Jarvis, P. (2007). Globalization, lifelong learning and the learning society: Sociological perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Landri, P. (2013). Mobilising ethnographers investigating technologised learning. Ethnography and Education8(2), 239-254.

Landri, P. (2018). Digital governance of education: Technology, standards and Europeanization of education. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Landri, P., & Neumann, E. (2014). Mobile sociologies of education. European Educational Research Journal13(1), 1-8.

Normand, R. (2016). The Changing Epistemic Governance of European Education: The Fabrication of the Homo Academicus Europeanus? (Vol. 3). Springer.

Neumann, E. (2019). Setting by numbers: datafication processes and ability grouping in an English secondary school. Journal of Education Policy, 1-23.

Oliver, P. (Ed.). (2019). Lifelong and continuing education: what is a learning society?. London: Routledge.

Ozga, J., Seddon, T., & Popkewitz, T. S. (Eds.). (2013). World Yearbook of Education 2006: Education, Research and Policy: Steering the Knowledge-Based Economy. Routledge.

Piattoeva, N., & Boden, R. (2020) Escaping numbers? The ambiguities of the governance of education through data, International Studies in Sociology of Education, 29:1-2, 1-18, DOI: 10.1080/09620214.2020.1725590

Selwyn, N., & Pangrazio, L. (2018). Doing data differently? Developing personal data tactics and strategies amongst young mobile media users. Big Data and Society, 5(1), 1–12. doi.org/10.1177/2053951718765021

Williamson, B. (2017). Big data in education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice. Sage.

Youdell, D., Lindley, M., Shapiro, K., Sun, Y., & Leng, Y. (2020). From science wars to transdisciplinarity: the inescapability of the neuroscience, biology and sociology of learning. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(6), 881-899.

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Interview with Link Convenor 2019