WERA Symposium: Global Challenges for International Research in Didactics

Wednesday, 24 August, 5:15 pm - 6:45 pm
Location: OB-George Moore Auditorium

Symposium Information

Discussant: Kirsti Klette

This symposium will address some key global challenges for international research in didactics – learning and teaching and also consider some of the associated epistemological, pedagogical and methodological issues and questions that arise in this process. In doing so we bring perspectives from the UK, South Africa and Australia. The first paper addresses issues of social justice and human rights in education by focussing on the relation between equitable learning and epistemic quality and illustrates this through a focus on developing mathematical thinking in the primary classroom in the UK. The second paper addresses vocational education and training (VET) from a context in South Africa. The question is raised as to whether there are distinct pedagogies in vocational education and training and the needs of teachers who ‘face both ways’ in relation to the classroom and the workplace are considered. The third paper from Australia addresses methodological issues in relation to international comparative research. In particular it proposes that pursuit of commensurability through the imposition of a general classificatory framework misrepresents the way in which valued performances and school knowledge are actually conceived by each community and sacrifices validity in the interest of comparability. It aims to illustrate the compromise that is central to international comparative research studies in education and provides examples of how the production of complementary comparative accounts might honour both validity and comparability.

On the Relation Between Epistemic Quality and Equitable Learning in the Mathematics Classroom

Brian Hudson (University of Sussex UK, United Kingdom)

This paper aims to address the relation between epistemic quality and equitable learning. Thinking about didactics – learning and teaching in the global context foregrounds the challenge of inequality as a core challenge for contemporary societies and for educational systems. The crucial role of education in relation to this challenge is highlighted by Sayed (2013), who stresses education as a “fundamental human right in itself as well as an enabling right, fostering the accomplishment of all other social, cultural, economic and political rights”. This report calls for two main education specific goals to be addressed as part of the future development framework, which are equitable access and equitable quality education (Sayed, 2013: 36). The paper will consider how to redress the extent to which educational systems, as well as everyday teaching practices and classroom interaction reproduce inequality, i.e. unequal preconditions and chances of autonomous participation and success. In doing so it uses the guiding framework discussed in Hudson et al., (2016) to consider equity, equality and social justice as key issues at the societal, institutional and practical/didactical levels. The work of Stojanov (2011) is of particular relevance that gives an account of the ways in which many students have experiences of defiance, contempt and humiliation and even degradation that hinder the development of their self-identity and autonomy. Accordingly equitable learning is defined as learning that produces educational justice (“Bildungsgerechtigkeit”), that enables students to overcome societal and familiar limitations of access to and success in education, that fosters subject autonomy and that allows for the development of participatory competences for life in all societal fields. Central to achieving this is the need to consider the epistemic quality of the content involved (Hudson et al., 2015: 377) and also the potential for associated processes of alienation (Lakatos, 1976).

Vocational Pedagogy or Just Good Teaching? Education Research and the Development of a Knowledge Base for Training TVET Teachers (in South Africa)

Volker Wedekind (University of the Witwatersrand, ZA, South Africa)

Vocational education and training (VET), predominantly associated with intermediate skill formation in colleges, is receiving a lot of attention internationally. Policy makers are looking to VET as a strategy for dealing with high levels of unemployment particularly amongst the youth and dealing with skills shortages. In many countries VET teachers have had little or no formal educational training. In contexts where the system is rapidly expanding, new teachers are needed and cannot simply be recruited from workplaces. The training of these new teachers poses interesting challenges for the field of teacher education. Are there distinct pedagogies associated with vocational education? How do we prepare teachers that ‘face-both-ways’ (Barnett, 2006), to the classroom and the workplace? What can be learned from the diverse traditions in vocational education across contexts when exploring vocational pedagogy (Claxton, Lucas, & Webster, 2010; Rauner, 2007)? And what knowledge of education and work do the teachers need? This presentation reflects on the example of developing new teacher education qualifications for VET teachers in South Africa and how the concept of vocational pedagogy has been explored to inform the curriculum development, and the tensions in recontextualising Anglophone, Germanic and other pedagogic research into specific socio-cultural and policy contexts.

International Comparative Research: Constructing and Concealing Difference

David John Clarke (University of Melbourne AU, Australia)

The pursuit of commensurability through the imposition of a general classificatory framework misrepresents the way in which valued performances and school knowledge are actually conceived by each community and sacrifices validity in the interest of comparability. This presentation will illustrate the compromise that is central to such international comparative research studies in education and provide examples of how the production of complementary comparative accounts might honour both validity and comparability. In seeking to make comparison between the practices of classrooms situated in different cultures, the most obvious comparator constructs become problematic. In some studies, the power to make generalizations about national patterns of classroom practice has been bought at the cost of explanatory power related to the antecedent and consequent conditions by which the motivations and consequences of participants’ actions might be understood. The “validity-comparability compromise” is proposed as a theoretical concern with significant implications for international cross-cultural research. The presentation draws on current international research to illustrate a variety of aspects of the issue and its consequences for the manner in which international research is conducted and its results interpreted. The effects extend to data generation and analysis and constitute essential contingencies on the interpretation and application of international comparative research.

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The aim of the ‘European Conference on Educational Research’ is to create an inclusive platform for initiating, reporting, discussing and promoting high quality educational research ...
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