Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Pedagogy, Education and Praxis Research

Pedagogy, Education and Praxis (PEP) is a cross-institutional, collaborative research program which brings together researchers investigating the nature, traditions and condition of pedagogy, education and praxis and how they may be developed in different national contexts and various educational settings. The institutions participating in the network are Charles Sturt University, Australia, Leiden University, the Netherlands (coordinated by Dr Ben Smit), the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (coordinated by Professor Karin Rönnerman), Åbo Akademi University, Finland (coordinated by Professor Petri Salo), and the University of Tromsø, Norway (coordinated by Associate Professor Eli Moksnes Furu). Bilateral Memoranda of Understanding to Cooperate in Research and/or Letters of Intent have been established between a number of the lead institutions in the collaboration. At the 2012 meeting two nodes of the PEP International network were welcomed: The Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota, Colombia (led by Associate Professor Doris Santos) and Griffith University, Australia (led by Associate Professor Peter Grootenboer).

The PEP international program emerged out of a series of discussions about the way in which the bureaucratisation and de-professionalisation of education were now eroding the moral, social and political commitments that informed pedagogical practice until the recent past, and a shared conviction of the need for a form of educational research committed to reviving and restoring these commitments. The outcome was the formal creation, in 2005, of an international research program that would create and support a collaborative network of scholars committed to:

  • reviving and reconstructing the classical concept of 'praxis' in ways that make it applicable to a critical analysis of the present condition and future development of educational practice, and
  • conducting research that would expose impediments to, and promote the development of, praxis in different educational settings and in relation to a variety of educational issues as they emerged in a variety of national contexts.

Encouraging a reflexive dialogue between the European traditions of 'pedagogiek' and the Anglo-Saxon tradition of 'educational philosophy and theory' continues to provide theoretical resources for understanding how the concepts of 'education', 'pedagogy' and 'praxis' are understood in the different traditions of thought and practice of countries participating in the PEP international collaboration.

Researchers participating in the collaboration meet regularly to manage the research program, to plan collaborative initiatives, and to encourage the cross-fertilisation of ideas. Research groups facilitated from the lead institutions differ in their specific areas of research interest and their particular ways of working, but they have all attracted research students, acquired research funding, produced significant publications, conducted high quality research projects, and hosted exchange visits of researchers in the fields defined by the program's aspirations and aims.

The strength, vitality and sustainability of the program result from a research strategy developed and continuously revised at a series of planning meetings held since 2005. This strategy has already produced some notable achievements:

  • The creation of a collaborative international research community of established scholars, early career and post-doctoral researchers and doctoral research students.
  • A 'Pedagogy Education and Praxis' book series with six inter-related books examining the condition of educational praxis in different countries.
  • A substantial number of scholarly research papers published in leading research journals.
  • Keynote presentations at major educational research conferences.
  • Dissemination of the program's research achievements through papers and symposia at major international conferences, 2005-2012 (including the European Conference on Educational Research, the Australian Association for Research in Education; the Nordic Educational Research Association; and the Collaborative Action Research Network). 
  • International Doctoral Schools attended by doctoral candidates from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (accredited by the University of Gothenburg; 7.5 higher education credits for European Union doctoral candidates):
    • 2017, Boras, Sweden Researching Professional Practice: Critical Perspectives on professional development;
    • 2016, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Researching Professional Practice: Critical Perspectives on leading;
    • 2015, Åbo Akademi, Vasa, Finland. Researching Professional Practice: Site based education development;
    • November 4-7, 2013, Tromsø, Norway: Researching Professional Practice: Opening communicative spaces; 25 candidates; 
    • November 22-28, 2012, Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia: Researching Professional Practice: Transforming theory, policy, practice; 16 candidates
    • October 3-7, 2011, Gothenburg: Researching Professional Practice: Challenges and issues in action research; 13 candidates;
    • December 6-10, 2010, Wagga Wagga: Researching Professional Practice: Spectator and participant perspectives; 22 candidates;
    • April 20-24, 2009, Gothenburg: Researching Professional Practice; 18 candidates;
    • February 11-14, 2008, Wagga Wagga: Understanding and Researching Professional Practice; 11 doctoral candidates;
  • Significant grants of research funding from national funding agencies and host institutions, and a Swedish Research Council Networking Program Grant 2010-2012 for travel and support (840,000 Swedish kronor or about AUD $125,000).

Research Agenda

The program's research agenda is organised around five general research questions to be answered through

  • theoretical studies of the concepts of pedagogy, praxis and praxis development as they have come to be understood in different intellectual, theoretical and cultural traditions, and
  • empirical studies informed by, and critically informing, these theoretical studies, by bringing them into dialectical confrontation with how praxis and praxis development are instantiated in the practical realities of teachers' work and careers.
  1. What is educational praxis? Here the aim is to articulate a coherent theoretical account of 'educational praxis' and of what might count as 'the development of educational praxis' that can be used to critically examine contemporary educational and pedagogical practices and to inform empirical studies of how, in different national contexts, educational praxis develops through various stages of the teaching career, from initial teacher education through to the continuing professional development of experienced teachers and teacher leaders.
  2. How, in different national contexts, is good professional practice ('praxis') being understood and experienced by teachers?
    Here the aim is to explore differences in the ways educational praxis is understood by teachers at various stages of the teaching career, from initial teacher education through continuing professional development to experienced teachers.
  3. How, in different national contexts, is good professional development (praxis development) being understood and experienced by teachers?
    Here the aim is to investigate how teachers' capacity for educational praxis does (or does not) develop at various stages of the teaching career, from initial teacher education through continuing professional development to experienced teachers.
  4. How, in different national contexts, are the changing cultural, social, political and material conditions for praxis and praxis development affecting the educational practices of teachers?
    Here the aim is to explore how the changing conditions for pedagogy and education are differently forming and transforming praxis and praxis development at various stages of the teaching career, from initial teacher education through continuing professional development to experienced teachers.
  5. What research approaches facilitate praxis and praxis development in different international contexts?
    Here the aim is to examine existing approaches to 'practice-based' and 'praxis-related' research (for example, educational action research) and develop a more adequate understanding both of the forms of research that can promote the development of praxis, and of the conditions under which this kind of 'praxis research' might be conducted (and by whom), in different educational settings.

Research Plan 2016-2020

At the international PEP meeting in Vasa, Finland in 2015 a new research program was developed for the period 2016-2020. The broad theme of action research and practice theory informs this program.

The 2016-2020 research areas are:

  • Leading
  • Teacher Education - including Initial Teacher Education ITE and Continuing Professional Development CPD
  • Diversity and Social Justice
  • Higher Education Pedagogy
  • VET, workplace learning and pedagogical leadership

Research Plan 2011-2015

The 2011 Gothenburg meeting decided to explore educational praxis in a wide range of contexts through action research projects aimed at locally sensitive, site-based education development in the different conditions pertaining in the countries participating in the PEP collaboration. A number of action research projects in the program listed in Appendix 1 of the original document arising from the 2011 meeting aimed to give fine-grained access to the conditions for praxis in different sites and levels of education in our countries, and to the conditions for professional learning and leadership at different stages of the teaching career. 

At the 2012 meeting these projects were used as a basis for identifying themes across the projects in the Action Research and Practice Theory empirical research program. These three themes are:

  • Theme 1: Creating communicative spaces
  • Theme 2: Partnerships and recognition
  • Theme 3: Responding critically to changing historical conditions

These themes have led to the formation of cross-national collaborations, which will permit further exploration of the five research questions for the PEP international collaboration enunciated above. For example, at the 2013 Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) meeting, a symposium consisting of Theme 2 members will examine international perspectives on partnership and recognition. 

These themes will continue to inform our investigations of the practice traditions that have formed the work of educators and pedagogues in our different countries. They also allow us to explore how action research itself, taking different forms that have been shaped by different practice traditions in our different countries, can be understood as a practice shaped by the different kinds of practice architectures (cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements) to be found in the diverse sites in which our action research projects are being conducted. Thus, for example, we see differences in the forms taken by action research in different countries and settings – for example, Nordic action research shaped by the folk enlightenment tradition, 'emancipatory' educational action research in Australia and Colombia shaped by a version of critical social science, and practical educational action research in the tradition of the human sciences in the Netherlands. 

Research Plan 2008-2011

Between 2008 and 2011, the main strategic priority for the PEP international collaborative research program was to integrate an interconnected series of empirical projects on 'Praxis Development throughout the Teacher's Career'. This was achieved through the conduct of three cross-national empirical projects:

  • Leading and Learning: Developing ecologies of educational practices (Australia, Norway, Sweden), investigating the interdependencies between practices of leading, professional learning, teaching and student learning in schools;
  • Education for All as Praxis (The Netherlands, Australia, Finland, Sweden), investigating practices of exclusion and inclusion, social justice and democratic education in schools; and
  • The Practicum and Praxis (Sweden, Australia, Norway), investigating the role of, and alternative models for, professional experience (the practicum) in initial teacher education programs.

As distinct from the specific outcomes and findings of these separate projects, now emerging in conference presentations, articles and books, the purpose of this overarching program was to

  • disseminate the outcomes of these projects through a planned program of scholarly publications, research reports and conference presentations,
  • make international connections between these projects by exploring how different intellectual and research traditions shape ways of understanding pedagogy, education and praxis in different national contexts,
  • promote dialogue between these different traditions in order to extend the theoretical and methodological resources available to researchers and practitioners, and
  • attract international funding for travel, translation and other support to maintain and strengthen the program as a cross-institutional, international collaboration.

The September, 2011, PEP international meeting in Gothenburg received reports of the progress with these separate cross-national empirical projects and also considered draft chapters for the book (in preparation) Pedagogy, Education and Praxis: A conversation of traditions emerging from the theoretical and empirical work of the international collaboration so far. The draft chapters gave accounts of the European tradition of Pedagogik and the Anglo-American-Australian tradition of Educational Philosophy and Theory, both of which have been made vulnerable by the imposition of technical, neo-liberal approaches to school development initially adopted by OECD member states and now being imposed through development programs in all parts of the world.

Contact

For further details regarding the Faculty of Arts and Education's Pedagogy and Praxis Research Priority Area, please contact Dr Susanne Francisco, sfrancisco@csu.edu.au.