ANGEL Conference 2020: Online meeting of the global education research community

August 2020

by Riikka Suhonen

On 10 June 2020, I received the anxiously anticipated e-mail from the University of Helsinki, starting with: “Welcome to study at the Faculty of Educational Sciences!” Just two days later, I was due for a presentation at an international academic conference on my PhD research topic for the first time. Although the task felt a bit daunting, it was also a great honour to be accepted among the presenters at the Academic Network on Global Education & Learning (ANGEL) Early Career Researchers Conference. Here, I would like to share some personal insights from the conference.

Pleasant conference surroundings.

The ANGEL conference was hosted by the University of Oulu in Finland, and organised fully online through Zoom due to the special circumstances of 2020. This was the first academic conference that I attended online, and after the initial minor hiccups, the experience was extremely positive – a great success for the organisers in Oulu!

Online mode probably increased the representativeness of participants from all over the world. Face-to-face conference participation can be difficult for researchers based outside the Global North due to the lack of financial support, long distances, and tedious visa processes. Hopefully online participation will become the new normal, and this way make conference opportunities more equal.

The central theme this year was to explore the conceptualisations of global education and learning, and how they guide our research.

The programme included keynote speakers, panels, and thematic sessions with 30 papers from overs 20 different countries. Keynotes, panels and abstracts are available online on the conference website. I would recommend watching the discussion on the conceptualisations of global education and learning. In this opening panel, Professor Thiago Gehre from the University of Brazil urged for a change on societal, personal and pedagogical levels, while Professor Fazal Rizvi from the University of Melbourne talked about cosmopolitanism as a form of learning where everyday contradictions and conflicts are being analysed.

As Dr. Karen Pashby is a co-author of a recent article “A meta-review of typologies of global citizenship education” (2020), I was particularly curious to hear her views. She stressed how we, as researchers, need to reflexively explore our own ethical responsibility, challenge ourselves and push the conceptual debate forward.

Since there were no possibilities to mingle face-to-face during breaks this time, it was immensely important to have breakout sessions in Zoom. In smaller groups, we had the chance to get to know each other; exchange information about research funding possibilities; and share our views on the topics raised by the keynote speakers.

On the second conference day, it was time for my own presentation in the thematic session “Critical typologies”, with the title “Constructing global citizenship in vocational education: critical analysis of the future competency needs of the working life”.

A Tweet by the Chair of the Critical Typologies session, Dr. Madeleine Le Bourdon.

It was both reassuring and challenging to give a presentation in a virtual conference room full of people well versed in the theoretical discussion on the various typologies of global citizenship education. Being in the starting phase of my research, it felt that I did not have much new thinking to offer. However, the theme of vocational education seemed to spur interest among the listeners, and I received many well-thought questions and tips during the session, and also afterwards via e-mail.

GERIF members were visibly involved in the conference. Professor Elina Lehtomäki hosted the conference;  Dr. Crystal Green and Heidi Henriksson were also among the presenters (see all abstracts); Dr. Antti Rajala chaired one thematic session; while other GERIF members attended as active listeners. 

Liam Wegimont, the Director of GENE (Global Education Network Europe) stressed the need to work with policymakers who are trying to cope with the current challenges.

Finally, I would like to thank all the conference organisers in Oulu (and beyond).

The ANGEL conference 2020 was an extremely valuable occasion to immerse oneself in the latest global education research. Although the community of researchers interested in global education and learning is growing, many researchers may feel a bit isolated in their own university or country. It is empowering to know that networks such as ANGEL (Academic Network on Global Education & Learning) internationally, or GERIF for Finland, exist. Beyond purely academic knowledge, conferences like these build something more: a sense of belonging to these research communities, and a feeling of having a common aim all over the world.

PS. To have a peek into what other conference participants experienced, you might want to check the conference hashtag on Twitter: #ANGELConference2020. At least I found quite a few new people to follow!

PPS. Three students from the Education and Social Research Institute at the Manchester Metropolitan University also wrote about their learning in a nice blog post.

Text & photos:

Riikka Suhonen

Doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Educational Sciences

Doctoral Programme in School, Education, Society and Culture (SEDUCE)

University of Helsinki

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