Sustainable food education – a way to create change

Food waste is a globally recognized problem, which connects all dimensions of sustainable development. Food consumption is responsible for a significant part of the environmental impact caused by humans (Mason & Lang, 2017, pp. 120–122). At the same time roughly one third of all food produced for human consumption ends up wasted (Gustavsson, Cederberg, Sonesson, van Otterdijk & Meybeck, 2011). Food waste also causes financial losses and is linked to social justice, such as global food security. Although famine is mainly a problem in developing countries, the need for food aid has not disappeared in more developed countries either (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO, 2020). The Russian attack on Ukraine has also worsened and will continue to worsen the global food crisis even more.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

Consumers are one of the biggest sources of food waste in developed countries. People may not even realize how much they waste food in their everyday life. Spoiled food can be easily disposed and thus, it’s out of sight and out of mind. In order to reduce the consumer-related food waste it is important to increase consumers’ knowledge and skills as well as create a culture that supports attitudes and values that encourage to fight against food waste. Previous studies have highlighted the importance of education in supporting sustainable culture related to food and food waste (e.g. Elorinne et al., 2020; Pollari et al., 2021; Ripple et al., 2017; Sekki, Autio, Lindblom & Niva, 2021). One of the goals of sustainable food education is transformative learning where the learner’s emancipatory and critical understanding are developed (e.g. Smith, 2017; Pollari et al., 2021). Basic education therefore plays a key role in providing the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable children and young people to better respond to food-related challenges.

In my doctoral dissertation (Pollari, 2022) I examine the current state of the pedagogy of sustainable food education related to food waste in Finnish basic education. Pedagogy is approached using textbook analysis, as textbooks are still the most used teaching and learning materials and they have also shown to influence teaching. Textbooks were chosen from home economics, geography and biology subjects. Sustainable food education is especially emphasized in home economics education. Geography and biology textbooks were also included in the analysis, as food waste is related to the curricula of these subjects as well.

The textbook analysis is based on KVP model (Clément 2006) in which it’s assumed that learning occurs between the interaction of knowledge, values and practices. In the analysis the contents of textbooks were approached from their 1) food waste-related content (knowledge), 2) value orientation given to food waste in relation with sustainable development (values) and 3) pedagogical text styles were used in presenting the food waste-related issues (practices).

The research revealed that food waste is covered the most comprehensively in home economics and least in biology textbooks. Analysed textbooks typically build the understanding of food waste from the subject’s curriculum. The textbooks don’t integrate the different dimensions of sustainable development – home economics textbooks emphasize economic and ecological meanings, while biology and geography textbooks highlight social and ecological sustainability. The most of the pedagogical text styles used in the textbooks do not necessarily motivate the learner to change their food waste behavior or guide the learner to a critical examination of it. The textbooks pedagogical potential which supports transformative learning could be increased for example, by favoring text styles that support learning, enhancing and expanding the perspective and diversifying the knowledge base so that the textbooks take into account the various dimensions of sustainable development and the value orientation connected to them. (Pollari, 2022.)

I believe that sustainable food education can support children and young people to become conscious and skilled citizens who truly appreciate food. However, if we really want to make difference and reduce the amount of food waste we can’t just shift responsibility for the change in consumer culture to children and young people. That is why: it is time to look in the mirror and see the change.

Milja Pollari, PhD

younger researcher

University of Eastern Finland


Clément, P. 2006. Didactic transposition and the KVP model: conceptions as interactions between scientific knowledge, values and social practices. Proceedings of ESERA Summer School 2006, IEC, Braga (Portugal), 9–18.

Elorinne, A-L., Eronen, L., Pollari, M., Hokkanen, J., Reijonen, H. & Murphy, J. 2020. Investigating home economics teachers’ food waste practices and attitudes. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability 22(1), 82–96.

FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO. 2020. The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.

Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., van Otterdijk, R. & Meybeck, A. 2011. Global food losses and food waste: Extent causes and prevention. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Mason, P. & Lang, T. 2017. Sustainable diets. How ecological nutrition can transform consumption and the food system. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Pollari, M., Hokkanen, J., Eronen, L., Reijonen, H., Murphy, J., Autio, M. & Elorinne, A-L. 2021. Perusopetuksen opettajat ruokakasvattajina – kohti kestävää ruokakäyttäytymistä edistäviä opetus- menetelmiä. Ainedidaktiikka, 5(3), 5–27.

Pollari, M. 2022. Perusopetuksen kestävä ruokakasvatus – ruokahävikki kotitalouden, maantiedon ja biologian oppikirjoissa. Publications of the University of Eastern Finland, Dissertations in Education, Humanities, and Theology No 183. University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu.

Ripple W.J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T.M., Galetti, M., Alamgir, M., Crist, E., Mahmoud, M.I., Laurance, W.F. ym. (15,364 allekirjoittanutta tutkijaa 184 maasta). 2017. World scientists’ warning to humanity: A second notice. BioScience, 67 (12), 1026–1028.

Sekki, S., Autio, M., Lindblom, T. S., & Niva, M. 2021. ”Koko ruoanvalmistusprosessi on täynnä ilmastotekoja!” – Kotitalousopettajien näkemyksiä perusopetuksen kestävästä ruokakasvatuksesta. Ainedidaktiikka, 5(3), 28–50.

Smith, M. 2017. Pedagogy for home economics education: Braiding together three perspectives. International Journal of Home Economics, 10(2), 7–16.

Political emotions affect the future of democracy –  how should education respond?

Illustration: © Karin Eremia

What are political fear, anger, hope and compassion, and why should they be discussed in the context of education? In this blog post, I revisit my PhD study, in which I tackled these questions from the viewpoint of educating for a democratic way of life and touched upon movements that have been successful in mobilising young people politically in recent years, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #FridaysforFuture. My central argument is that political emotions play a significant role in the establishment of democratic culture and in the political mobilisation of young people, which is why they should be discussed in education.

About the study

My PhD study scrutinized a world-known philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s work on political emotions – a perspective that had not been comprehensively examined in the field of education. The study explored both the tensions and the possibilities involved in education for political emotions, especially with respect to constructing collective political aims and addressing various global social and political challenges.

The study combined educational sciences and political philosophy. The work comprised three interrelated studies that approached the relevance of Nussbaum’s work to education from different angles through various real-life examples. Through the studies, Nussbaum’s work was discussed in three frameworks of political education: global citizenship education, democratic citizenship education, and human rights education.

Why talk about political emotions now?

”Polarisation and global challenges in liberal democracies increase the need for research on political emotions.”

Political emotions such as fear, anger and compassion have been recently observed in connection with the war in Ukraine. What is more, in recent years, the political culture of liberal democracies has become increasingly polarized. At the same time, societies are faced with complex shared global challenges, including climate change or the Covid-19 pandemic, for which constructive solutions should be sought together. Perhaps partly for these reasons, academic research on the significance of emotions in political mobilisation has increased in recent decades. 

However, as I see it, emotions are not discussed in education or related research to a sufficient degree. This is strange, considering that education plays a significant role in establishing and supporting a democratic lifestyle.

What are political emotions?

“Political emotions are significant, as they tell us something about our values and can induce people and groups to act.”

In my research, I view emotions as cognitive judgements and as value judgements. That is to say, emotions are about something and they are always evaluative, meaning that the object of emotion is something that has some significance to the person experiencing the emotion (e.g. Nussbaum, 2001).  The cognitive element of emotions suggests that they are intertwined with the way we receive information about the world and with the way we communicate information to others.

What is ‘political’ about ‘political emotions’? I draw attention to the distinction between private and individual, on the one hand, and public and collective emotions, on the other (e.g. grief over a lost loved one as a private emotion vs. climate anxiety as a political emotion). I view political emotions as public, both in terms of their object and in terms of their expression. Furthermore, I wish to highlight that emotions are associated with political potential: that is, emotions can motivate the pursuit of social change and transformation, which can take a variety of forms, including voting, advocating for policy, activism, or sharing information about injustices on social media. Also, it should be noted that I understand the ‘political’ in political emotions in its broadest possible form, describing the public life and the public realm and not as restricted to, for instance, existing political institutions, party politics or voting. 


”Emotions should be thoroughly understood in all their ambiguities and possibilities to make them useful to the culture of democracy.” 

My PhD study offered several findings, starting with the problematic consequences that negative political emotions (fear and anger) can have for the democratic decision-making and education policy. Furthermore, the political, in citizenship education, should be understood as a collective striving toward shared goals, supported by constructive political emotions, rather than as a conflictual relation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The study also took the first steps in envisioning a ‘Nussbaumian pedagogy’, suggesting different ways in which political compassion and narrative imagination could be reflectively practised in classrooms when teaching and learning about human rights issues, laying down a sustainable foundation for global democratic citizenship.

I argued that a well-functioning democracy should establish and pursue at least some shared political goals, and that political emotions, such as hope, compassion and trust, engender the desire and motivation to commit to these shared goals. Thus, political emotions become pertinent also for education. Education has an essential role in learning to adopt democracy and in the dismantling of political and social challenges, such as racist discrimination. 

However, not all political emotions are necessarily constructive and beneficial to democracy; emotions need to be analysed and understood, and critically assessed in today’s polarised social and political environment, so that they can be utilised in educating people for a democratic way of life. Therefore, I urge that emotions, their different manifestations as well as potential benefits and harms, should be introduced both to public and school discourse.

As a whole, my PhD study offered new perspectives and ways to explore the relationship between politics, emotions and education. The present times have been considered by many as exceptionally dark, so I have strived to articulate much needed suggestions for education which are constructive and hopeful.

Iida Pyy

PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher at DEMOPOL project

Faculty of Educational Sciences

University of Helsinki


Twitter: @iidapyy

Researcher profile:


The PhD thesis Evolving Emotions: The relevance of Martha Nussbaum’s theory of political emotions in Education was presented for public discussion at the University of Helsinki, on the 27th of May, 2022. The thesis earned distinction, and its summary can be accessed here.

The PhD thesis was based on the following original publications that are available online:  

Pyy, I., Leiviskä, A., & Mansikka, J-E. (2020). Contesting the Politics of Negative Emotions in Educational Policymaking: A Ban on Asylum Seekers’ School Visits in Finland. Global Discourse, 10(2–3), 371–390.

Leiviskä, A., & Pyy, I. (2020). The Unproductiveness of Political Conflict in Education: A Nussbaumian Alternative to Agonistic Citizenship Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education. 55, 577– 588.

Pyy, I. (2021). Developing political compassion through narrative imagination in human rights education. Human Rights Education Review, 4(3) 24–44.   

Who am I?

I am Iida Pyy, a Postdoctoral Researcher of the DEMOPOL project in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Before my postgraduate studies, I studied at the University of Oulu and the University of Melbourne, Australia, with intercultural education as my major subject. Previously, I have worked as a bilingual class teacher and a special class teacher as well as at UNICEF Finland. In addition to research, I am involved in activities associated with antiracism and social responsibility. 

Conceptual reflections in Finnish Educational Research Association of Education 2021

The 2021 FERA Conference was organized remotely 25-26.11.2021. GERIF organized a thematic group with a topic “Global education in advancing local and global wellbeing / Globaalikasvatus paikallisen ja maailmanlaajuisen hyvinvoinnin edistäjänä”. The group provided an opportunity for researchers in global education to present current research. Two sessions included six papers, all presented in English.

The first of the sessions was more concerned on perspectives about teachers’ role in advancing global education and the second more concerned on students’ perspectives. All six provided a different answer to the challenges of educating interdisciplinary subjects in different school systems and levels, from teacher education to vocational education. Possibly because of the challenges in different sites, many papers discussed what are the relevant concepts and perspectives through which we should approach global education. Interestingly, almost all of the papers included a reference to postcolonial theory, which therefore seems to be a common interest among global education researchers in Finland now.

This year we’ll see in Oulu! It seems, that the debate about the relevant concepts will continue there!

Please look through abstracts. They can all be accessed here  Abstracts.pdf

“I felt I had no other options but to do something” – the transformative moment in climate agency formation among Finnish youth

The climate movement of youth is one of the most visible phenomena of our time in civil society. Youth have claimed the public sphere in order to address the climate crisis and the urgency of actions needed. The action and resistance practised by youth has evoked public discussion concerning not only the climate crisis, but also the political agency and citizenship of youth in the era of crisis. My master’s thesis “We have a say, we must act, now – youth as climate active citizens” (Ahola 2021) examines youth climate action from the perspective of political agency. The study focuses on the formation process of agency, in addition to which the supportive and preventive factors of agency are explored. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 12 Finnish youth aged between 15 and 19, the study also contributes perspectives on global education and global citizenship.

The Maastricht global education declaration (2002) states: “global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all”. In the interview data, descriptions of eyes opening and awakening to the reality of the climate crisis and its social consequences were identifiable (cf. climate realization, Pihkala 2019). For most of the youth, the process of climate active agency formation took the first steps in late 2018 followed by the IPCC report and global school strikes. The interviewees discussed about a moment of awakening, where their way of seeing the world and being in the world was transformed for good. Something that they cared for – whether it was nature, their future, the wellbeing of distant others, etc. – was threatened.

Before that I felt I had been in the dark, no one really talked about climate change. Some tiny matters at school sometimes, but one couldn’t understand the real severity of it. The increasing news led me to find out more… I was reading some studies. I don’t remember how far I read the report, quite far, and then… It made me feel terrible. (Roosa, 18)

As Roosa mentions above, becoming climate active happened outside of formal educational settings. For the youth, e.g. school was seen as a place where growth for political engagement was predefined and restricted instead of creating space for youth-led action. The moment of awakening was a rather self-educative experience, as the youth would not only get to know about, but feel the meaning of being connected to the world and understand their place – role, responsibility and lifestyle – in it. Questions of guilt, justice and moral responsibility or obligation stemmed from the understanding of the climate crisis as a social threat causing suffering both close and distant. For the youth, realizing they had to and they could do something in order to mitigate the climate crisis opened up and extended their political agency, and changes in individual behaviour, together with joining climate active collectives, followed.

I see the climate realization of youth as a counteraction to social inertia (Brulle & Norgaard 2019), as socially constructed silence around the topic of climate crisis begins to crack. Youth among other members of the public were faced with the uncomfortable reality of the climate crisis, caused by the unsustainable way of living. The IPCC report, school strikes, media attention and public discussion created a moment of crack (see Holloway 2010) by shedding light on the status quo. A moment of crack forges a space for saying no to business-as-usual, and saying yes to bringing about change. Saying no and yes by dissenting from the business-as-usual views, together with unconventional practices, may create disturbance, conflict and rebellion – both at individual and collective level of thinking, feeling and doing. But saying no and yes is first and foremost an act of care and an antidote to indifference and apathy. That is why moments of crack are a window of opportunity for the growth towards active and caring global citizenship.

Paula Ahola

Ahola graduated from social sciences in May 2021 with major in social pedagogy. Her master´s thesis is linked to Pedagogy of Concrete Utopias -project.


Ahola, Paula (2021) We have a say, we must act, now – youth as climate active citizens. Master´s thesis. University of Eastern Finland. Https://

Brulle, Robert J. & Kari Marie Norgaard (2019) Avoiding cultural trauma: climate change and social inertia. Environmental Politics. Https://

Holloway, John (2010) Crack Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.

Pihkala, Panu (2019) Mieli maassa? Ympäristötunteet. Helsinki: Kirjapaja.

The Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002) Https://

GERIF creates space to discuss Global education research at the Finnish Educational Research Conference

The GERIF network has taken shape as a special interest group (SIG) of the Finnish Educational Research Association (FERA). The position as a SIG gives global education research visibility as an independent research field and helps interested researchers to present their work to an engaged audience.  

The 2021 FERA conference provided an opportunity to invite global education researchers to present their work in a thematic group on global education. The call was aligned with the general conference theme Sustainable education – sustainable future to focus on research on global perspectives and responsibility in creating sustainable futures. 

The call for proposals invited papers on topics of teaching and learning about how global and local sustainable development are connected.  

Following the Maastricht declaration, the call was welcome to presentations dealing with  Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education. Presentations may concern one or some of the following questions: What are the tasks of global education in promoting sustainable futures? What are the means and opportunities of global education in building of sustainable futures? How do teachers and students critically reflection their own activity in promoting sustainable development goals? How can we educate for responsibility and how responsible is the conduct of schools and communities of learners? What new opportunities are there in learning and education for global cooperation? What does addressing global and local contexts add to learning and sustainable futures? How are global and local responsibility connected in teaching and learning? What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global learning? How can we develop virtual international cooperation as part of teaching and learning?

Picture: Soili Rinne

A total of 6 papers were presented in the two Zoom sessions of the SIG on 15 and 16 December. Abstracts 

Antti Kylänpää: Empowerment in human rights education: a thematic analysis of adult students’ answers

Inkeri Rissanen and Elina Kuusisto: New approach to studying teachers intercultural competencies: investigating the role of implicit theories of malleability

Heidi Layne and Siao See Teng: Developing intercultural mindedness through an experiential learning activity – case Singapore?

Riikka Suhonen: ”Kyllä amiskin voi olla sivistynyt” ‒ globaalin kansalaisuuden rakentuminen tulevaisuuden ammatillisessa osaamisessa

Antti Rajala, Pihla Soinnunmaa, Emma Kurenlahti, Anu Tasajärvi and Hannele Cantell: Nuorten kansalaisvaikuttamisen edistäminen konkreettien utopioiden pedagogiikan avulla / Fostering students’ active citizenship through a pedagogy of concrete utopias

Marja-Leena Juntunen and Heidi Partti: Taiteidenvälinen työskentely osana globaalikasvatusta: opetuskokeilu aineenopettajankoulutuksessa

The Annual meeting of the SIG was convened on 16 December in connection with the conference. Here are the highlights:

  • Professor Douglas Bourn (UCL) introduced the newly published Bloomsbury Handbook on global education and learning containing contributions from several GERIF members. 
  • Global education specialist Anna Kivimäki-Pelluz from Fingo presented key findings from the MFA’s Evaluation of Development communications and global citizenship education project funding
  • Selection of a new GERIF coordination group for 2021: Antti Kylänpää (chair), University of Tampere; Anna Kivimäki-Pelluz, Fingo;  Hanna Posti-Ahokas, University of Helsinki;  Riikka Suhonen, University of Helsinki; Oona Piipponen, University of Eastern Finland;  Audrey Paradis, University of Oulu;  Marianna Vivitsou, University of Helsinki
  • Planning of activities for 2021

SIG meeting minutes 
The GERIF Team thanks all presenters and participants for the interesting, hopeful and forward-looking discussions during these events! We look forward to seeing you and your colleagues in the next FERA conference in Jyväskylä in November 2021!


Have you checked out the new Bloomsbury handbook of global education and learning?

Among the many interesting contributions we would particularly like to mention the following chapters co-authored by some of the GERIF coordinators:

“Global education research in Finland”  Elina Lehtomäki (University of Oulu, Finland) and Antti Rajala (University of Helsinki, Finland)


“How do Higher Education Students Negotiate Global Responsibility in Education?” by Hanna Posti-Ahokas, Josephine Moate (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) and Elina Lehtomäki (University of Oulu, Finland)

Make sure the library at your institution has a copy!

More information:

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

How do children interpret encounters that happen during an international story exchange project?

February 2020

by Oona Piipponen

Most research on intercultural education, i.e. education that fosters the ability to interact effectively and appropriately with people from different cultural backgrounds, agrees that developing these skills, attitudes, sensitivities and competences is important in our globalising, increasingly interconnected world. However, it is not always clear to teachers in schools how intercultural education could be implemented effectively in practice. Our research project investigated a classroom-based initiative, focusing in particular on the participating children’s perspectives on intercultural encountering.

Many schools, especially in the higher grade levels, run a foreign exchange program with a foreign partner school. However, not all children in all schools can afford to take part in an international exchange where they can travel to meet the exchange partners in person. Yet experiences of encountering foreignness are important when growing up into a globalised world, because they help to develop the skill of taking the perspective of another. It is important to develop projects where children can learn to encounter strangers without having to leave their classrooms, so that intercultural encountering is not only an experience of the privileged classes.

The Study: An Intercultural Storycrafting Exchange

In our research study, we were particularly interested in understanding how children connect with other children when provided with a freer space to encounter the other. Children’s cultures of communication can be different to adults’ (Christensen, 2010). We decided to apply the Storycrafting method (Karlsson, 2014), which has been used over the years to promote children’s participation in matters which concern them.

An intercultural Storycrafting exchange project was developed to enable children (aged 10-11, n = 98) to encounter each other by sharing stories. The Storycrafting instruction says, “Tell me a story, any story you want. I will write it down exactly like you tell it. When the story is finished, I will read it aloud and you can make any changes or corrections.” Initially the teacher acted as a scribe for whole class stories, where children took turns adding to their shared tale. After they were familiar with the method, the children scribed for each other in pairs or small groups. The stories were sent to the partner class’s students, who responded with their own stories.

The researcher who was also working as a class teacher at the time collected ethnographic data that included the children’s stories, audio-recorded class discussions and comments, and background notes about the context in the classroom as well as the teachers’ email correspondence. All the data was analysed using thematic content analysis, and the themes were developed further to answer Goffman’s (1974) question in frame analysis: What is it that’s going on here?

The Findings: How Children Interpreted the Encounters

There were six ways that the children framed situations during the Storycrafting exchange.

Telling to entertain. Encountering was about having fun and telling humorous stories that were meant to entertain both one’s own classmates and the exchange partners.

Telling to challenge. Who dares to tell the riskiest story? These stories contained taboo subjects such as death, violence, illness, drunkenness and sexualised word choices. The stories may also challenge an authority figure, but this happened only in the “story world”.

Telling from real-life experiences. Sometimes the child interpreted the Storycrafting space as an opportunity to tell about people, things and events that are meaningful in their own lives, such as skateboarding, playing on the computer, pets, etc.

Telling from shared experience. Although the children knew the stories would be sent to a partner class, sometimes the teller wanted to tell a story that was shared with the scribe who was also a friend. The situation was framed as reaffirming their friendship through shared experiences.

The last two frames were related to how the children reacted to the partner class’s stories.

Responding defensively. When the children responded defensively, they tended to talk a lot about “us” and “them”, seeing the other class’s children more as exotic objects rather than equal partners. This frame was mostly identified during teacher-led class discussions, which led us to change the method towards a more participatory, less teacher-directed approach.

Responding sensitively. When the children responded sensitively, they entered into the story world and echoed a story’s theme in their own storytelling. They also showed an interest towards their exchange partners and asked questions where they tried to imagine the life of the other.

The study found that the teacher had a central role in enabling a participatory space to be formed that promotes reciprocal intercultural encounters. When the teacher resisted controlling the classroom talk too much and allowed children to bring their own interests and thoughts in their stories, the children’s talk also changed from focusing on the academic only and they could enjoy the stories and start forming a shared narrative culture. The shared narrative culture formed when the stories exchanged started influencing one another and the participants started taking more ownership of the Storycrafting exchange.

The intercultural Storycrafting exchange created a space for encountering a foreign exchange partner in a child-centred way. A participatory approach also seems to encourage the children to approach the exchange partners’ stories with curiosity and joy rather than stereotyping the other or focusing too strongly on comparing “us” to “them”. The project strengthened the children’s identities and class cultures. Despite not meeting their exchange partners face to face, many of the participating children appeared to feel fondness for them. Hopefully these experiences will help the children to engage in intercultural encounters in the future. This is something that we wish to investigate in upcoming research.

Oona Piipponen

Doctoral Student

University of Eastern Finland

oonamp (at)

Twitter: @OPiipponen

You can find the full research article behind this link:

Piipponen, O. & Karlsson, L. (2019) Children encountering each other through storytelling: Promoting intercultural learning in schools. The Journal of Educational Research, 112(5): 590–603. DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2019.1614514


Christensen, P. (2010) Ethnographic Encounters with Children. In: Hartas, D. (ed.) Educational Research and Inquiry: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. London: Continuum, pp. 145–158.

Goffman, E. (1974) Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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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