Changing spaces of education: notes on the FERA conference 2019

December 2019

by Heidi Henriksson

Having returned from the two-day conference at University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu, I want to share some of my reflections particularly from the perspective of global education and the GERIF network. Global education was visible at the conference mainly in two ways. First, as a recently accepted Special Interest Group (SIG-group) within FERA, we had the opportunity to present the GERIF network and its collaboration with the international ANGEL-network. Secondly, we organized a thematic group on global education with altogether five interesting papers, presented below:

  • Kati Keski-Mäenpää, University of Oulu: “Sierra Leonean Teacher Educators Conducting Action Research: First Timers’ Perceptions”
  • Crystal Green, University of Jyväskylä & Susan Wiksten, University of California Los Angeles: “Teachers’ role in promoting social justice and equity in Finland, Japan and the US: “Comparative Secondary Analysis from TALIS 2018”
  • Emma Clarke, Aimee Quickfall & Shaun Thompson, Bishop Grossetese University: “Developing well-being in Initial Teacher Training”
  • Joffy Conolly, University of Oulu: “Parental conceptions of global-mindedness”
  • Oona Piipponen, University of Eastern Finland & Liisa Karlsson, University of Helsinki: “Designing a method of intercultural encountering in primary schools”

The abstracts for these presentations are found here:

The two keynote lectures were not explicitly connected to global education, yet they provided inspiration for this area of research as well. Senior lecturer Lucila Carvalho’s keynote “Space matters: framing learning entanglement in evolving landscapes” explored the connections between education and spatiality. One of the methods Carvalho presented entailed the use of a mobile application called CmyView, through which students can relate to each other’s perspectives on their urban surroundings. What I found particularly interesting was that this material was also shared to municipal decision-makers and companies, with the idea of involving student perspectives in urban planning. This method serves as a low-threshold example for engaging students in having a say about the spaces they inhabit – in a creative way and on their own terms.

The second keynote, by Professor Minna Huotilainen with the title: “How to apply brain research for planning of teaching and learning environments” opened up different world of research, which I nevertheless found very relatable to global education. Huotilainen emphasized the importance of music, exercise and hands-on approaches to learning. She also stressed the contemporary understanding of the brain as flexibility and mouldable, resisting deterministic views on our students’ capabilities. Overall, the lecture in many ways highlighted how the research findings can be used to increase equity in education by supporting the learning processes of different types of learners. This, I would argue, resonates with some of the pedagogical underpinnings of global education, such as participatory and student-centred learning. On a more general level, the lecture served as a reminder that learning is severely hindered if structural and/or personal challenges impede us from focusing, sorting and storing new knowledge. This is important for all of us to keep in mind; to remember to value the well-being of the communities around us.

Returning to the question of spaces, the overriding pragmatic thought I took home from the conference was how to create spaces that function as a counterweight to this hectic, dense and result-driven world – spaces that would enable a sense of belonging, participation and creativity.

Heidi Henriksson

Doctoral student in sociology

Åbo Akademi University

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