June 5, 2020

vwkly-Education

Aim for Excellence

Inventing other spaces for European education: Summer School in European Education Studies as a laboratory for educational research in Europe

The Summer School in European Education Studies project This special issue of the European Educational...

The Summer School in European Education Studies project

This special issue of the European Educational Research Journal (EERJ) includes four articles that have been jointly authored by emerging researchers in the field of educational research in Europe who attended the Summer School in European Education Studies (SUSEES). These articles are the outcome of a collective writing experiment.1 In 2017 and 2018, during the laboratory sessions at the SUSEES, participants from different counties imagined and designed common writing projects on different aspects of education in Europe. Some of these projects have been fully developed into journal articles and are published here, thanks also to the tutorship of the SUSEES lecturers and the interest expressed by the EERJ former lead editors Eric Mangez and Maarten Simons. Some others are still ongoing writing projects and we hope that they will be published in the form of journal articles in the near future.

The opening of such an experimental space for collaborative ‘text work and identity work’ (Kamler and Thomson, 2007) has been, in our view, one of the most significant results of the SUSEES project. The SUSEES is a summer school, the aim of which is to involve emerging researchers from all across Europe whose aspiration is to study education policies, practices and outcomes assuming the European dimension as a privileged point of observation (see www.susees.eu). The objective of the SUSEES is to act as a multidisciplinary laboratory for emerging and established researchers, in which to develop critical thinking and research about education, its key dimensions and, relatedly, the ongoing formation of a European space for education (Lawn and Grek, 2012). In doing so, the summer school intends to contribute to the creation of a new generation of educational researchers with a critical awareness about contemporary changes in education policy, practice and outcomes, in Europe and beyond. Its scope is to nurture a space for reflection on how these transformations are affecting what education is, how it happens, what it means to be educated, and who are its subjects and ends.

As such, the SUSEES project stems from a synergy between the European Educational Research Association (EERA) Network 28: Sociologies of Education and a well-established group of educational researchers across Europe and beyond. The first two editions of the SUSEES have been realized by a consortium of international partners: the EERA Network 28 – Sociologies of Education; the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Naples Federico II; the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies of the National Research Council (IRPPS-CNR), Italy; the SAGE centre, University of Strasbourg; and the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. They took place at the SAGE centre, University of Strasbourg (in September 2015) and at the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Napoli Federico II (in July 2016). After the start of the project, the SUSEES was awarded in 2016 an Erasmus+-Jean Monnet Module Grant (574915-EPP-1-2016-1-IT-EPPJMO-MODULE). From 2017 to 2019, with Roberto Serpieri as academic coordinator, the SUSEES was held at the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Napoli Federico II, thanks to the joint funding of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, the EERA, the IRPPS-CNR and the University of Napoli Federico II.

More than 85 early career researchers and PhD students selected from almost 200 applicants from all over the world have attended the 5 summer schools. Each edition encompassed five intensive days of lectures, open lectures, workshops and laboratories, and discussions on European Union (EU) education studies and the adoption of a European perspective. In the five editions, the teaching staff of the SUSEES has included (in alphabetical order): Stephen J Ball, Jean-Louis Derouet, Sotiria Grek, Emiliano Grimaldi, Helen M Gunter, Paolo Landri, Martin Lawn, Eric Mangez, Romuald Normand, Jenny Ozga, Marco Pitzalis, Jay Rowell, Terri Seddon, Roberto Serpieri, Tiziana Terranova, Laurent Thévenot and Pat Thomson.

During the past five editions of the SUSEES, the lectures discussed diverse ways in which social theory can be used to frame, think about and explore a wide range of educational domains. These were discussed with a specific reference to Europe, Europeanization in education, and, relatedly, the constitution of a European space for education. The domains and theories discussed in the lectures have been mobilized as tools for the affirmative critique and the reinvention of education and educational research in Europe. SUSEES lectures have mobilized theory and theorizing as an act of thinking about a key set of themes and problems concerning the relation between education, educational research and Europe. With a different emphasis and pace, they have highlighted how theory makes visible specific research objects, confers relevance to specific research (and policy) problems, allows discussion of ethico-political perspectives, and, finally, enables us to imagine educational futures.

Methodologically, the SUSEES has been designed to act as a laboratory for educational researchers to develop interdisciplinary thinking and research about education in Europe. Participants have been involved in a 5-day, 52-hour module, where every year the SUSEES lecturers have presented and discussed specific theories and related methodological developments and demonstrated how these are mobilized in their own work. The lectures have addressed a wide set of educational topics. These many topics include: the political sociology of the European Education Space (Lawn and Grek, 2012); the changing role of knowledge in the governing of education in Europe (Normand, 2016; Ozga et al., 2011); the shifting forms of education in Europe (Mangez and Vanden Broeck, 2020); the digital governance of education (Landri, 2018); the relation between education policy and the making of educational subjectivities (Ball, 2019); possible uses of the ‘sociology of engagements’ for the understanding of education and education policy (Thévenot, 2006); educational leadership (Gunter, 2016; Serpieri, 2016; Hall et al., 2017); and educational evaluation (Grimaldi, 2019) (for a detailed outline of the SUSEES study programme see http://www.susees.eu/study-programme/). The scope of the lectures was to provide participants with new insights into the potentials of those theoretical and methodological resources in producing new research questions on education. Within a methodological framework that has been tuned and improved year after year, the SUSEES lectures have been followed by dialogic and dynamic laboratory and groupwork sessions, where participants have been asked to elaborate on the approaches presented in the lectures, to link theoretical resources with research questions and to develop autonomously common writing projects. To facilitate this process, in each edition the participants have also benefited from a capacity-building seminar on ‘academic writing’ (Thomson and Kamler, 2012), feedback closing sessions, and the continued support of experienced tutors after their attendance at the SUSEES.

The SUSEES has also produced a massive open online course (MOOC), which is permanently hosted on the SUSEES website (http://www.susees.eu/susees-mooc/) in open access. Through the MOOC, researchers, teachers, students and professionals can benefit from the lectures, readings and didactic materials proposed by SUSEES lecturers in each edition of the summer school, beyond the life of the project.

Establishing a laboratory for educational research in Europe

The idea to establish the SUSEES as a permanent laboratory for educational research in Europe originated in the intellectual space of the EERA Network 28: Sociologies of Education. It has been enacted by a group of scholars who shared the intellectual project to critically question our educational present and the government of education and educational research in Europe and beyond, mobilizing social theory and theorizing around a common set of problematizations that concerned knowledge, power and ethics in both education and educational research.

In such an intellectual project, the making of a European space for education and educational research has been addressed at once as a problem, an object of critical inquiry and a space for possibility. SUSEES scholars acknowledged that the making of such a new educational space was ‘in a constant process of becoming’, and yet some of them shared the concern that this was and still is a process that seems to have been overtaken by a globalizing regime in which neoliberalism, new public management and the tyranny of a technical and instrumental rationality have altered the form and function of education (Lawn, 2001: 182) and, relatedly, of educational research (Ball, 2010; Normand, 2016; Ozga et al., 2006). The critical reading of our educational present was that education is being ‘transformed . . . into a learning space’ (Lawn, 2009: 506) harnessed by the policy imperatives on a knowledge economy, commercialization and the discourses of human capital, reform, competition and diversity (Ward, 2012). Relatedly, educational research is converted into a de-politicized and technicized knowledge endeavour (Fenwick et al., 2014; Thomson, 2006), where the educational researcher ‘is limited to, and by, the agenda of social and political problems defined elsewhere’ (Ball, 1995: 259) and by solutions already embedded in the practices of the sciences of learning and policy (Biesta, 2007; Ozga et al., 2006). Interestingly, this reading of our educational present was also the object of a theoretically informed debate at the SUSEES, with an alternative problematization proposed by Mangez et al. (2017) and Vanden Broeck (2019), who framed education as unfolding in a context marked by functional differentiation, the rise of self-referentiality, the pursuit of efficiency and the creation of deterritorialized mechanisms for technical, impersonal coordination, and identified the challenge in the connection of education with values, projects and points of reference, in order to reconstruct universes of reasonable meanings.

Overall, as SUSEES lecturers we were concerned about a scenario in which it is assumed that relevant research questions are essentially ‘questions about the effectiveness of educational means and techniques, forgetting, among other things, that what counts as “effective” crucially depends on judgments about what is educationally desirable’ (Biesta, 2007: 5), or in which educational research mainly attaches itself to ‘the industry of educational reform’ and supranational policy agendas, and turns itself into a ‘problem-solving technicism (that) operates within the hegemony of instrumental rationalism’ (Ball, 1995: 259). Our uneasiness had also to do with the marginalization of the epistemological questions in the field of educational research, and the related request to play a role as researchers in a field of knowledge where it is taken for granted that there is an ‘objective world out there’ that is located in a stabilized space and time, is directional and measurable and can be known through the adoption of ‘technologies of the observer’ (Popkewitz, 1997: 21). As Grimaldi (2015: 51) has recently argued, this form of re-regulation of educational research ‘creates a problem of positionality for many educational researchers and is yet producing the division of the field into constellations of ruling and subaltern coalitions’ and this is producing significant governmental effects, especially on the new generations of educational researchers.

The SUSEES project has been an affirmative act of criticism towards this form of governmentalization of education and educational research. The SUSEES has been thought of as a space built around the problems of knowledge, power and politics in the field of educational research, a space for the creation of a community of interest in which to develop ‘shared meanings or even oppositional views within a common (European) landscape’ (Lawn, 2001: 182). It has been and still is an experiment in the construction of a European space for educational research as a kind of intellectual homeland (Lawn, 2009), an imagined space where to nurture the possibility for educational research to contribute to the shaping of the discourse, language and priorities of education and educational research and the creation of ‘desirable educational and research futures’. As a space in which to ‘think differently about education and its prospective future’, the SUSEES is ‘framed by the belief that the stakes of educational research are social and political as well as epistemological’ and is inspired by an aesthetics of educational research as a praxis of emancipation from the constraints of the educational present (Grimaldi, 2015: 50).

Re-imagining the politics of educational research

Theory and theorizing play a central role in the SUSEES project. Theorizing as a practice for (re)inventing education and educational research demarcates its distinctiveness (Ball, 1995; Marres et al., 2018). Our problem was to mobilize theory in order to reflect, together with emerging scholars in the field, on the nature of knowledge in and on education as a collective resource, raising questions about ‘what knowledge is produced and legitimized’ through educational research, ‘how it can be mobilized and used, and whose resource it is’ (Ozga et al., 2006: 10). Theories provide principles of ordering that embody ‘cultural theses about’ what a subject is and should be; they generate views about modes of living; they ‘inscribe differences, divisions and exclusions’ (Popkewitz, 2013: 13). Mobilizing theory did not mean, however, replication or application of ideas, nor the affirmation of new orthodoxies. Rather, we use the word ‘theorizing’ here to emphasize the will to develop a particular intellectual stance (Murphy, 2013: 5) that engages with the concepts and theories of our present in a relentless practice of fashioning and refashioning. Theorizing involves the continuous production of concepts as a way to relate, as educational researchers, to our educational present in complete mobility rather than in the attempt to immobilize life (Dean, 2010: 12). The distinctiveness of the SUSEES project lies in taking seriously the idea that such an intellectual stance has a performative effect (Callon, 2007) in constituting education as an ethico-political issue. Intended in this way, theorizing creates fields of visibility, a complex web of lights and shadows, and, at the same time, it displaces a political rationality, enacting visions about education, community, social order and individuality (Dean, 2010). Its relevance lies in the role it plays in the game of truth about education, producing legitimate educational and research problems. Moreover, theorizing has ethical implications, in so far as it produces a web of ethical subjects which includes authoritative voices (researchers, experts, agents) and objects to be studied, and opens up the possibility to think and talk about specific alternatives and/or futures.

It is from this perspective that the lectures, groupworks and conversations at the SUSEES have the overall aim to mobilize theory and engage young and senior scholars into collective theorizing in order to make possible the production of alternative outlooks on education, the creation of new communal spaces for educational work, and the enactment of ‘networks and capacities to easing and shaping the production of . . . education, creating the conditions of possibility for the development of mobilities, knowledge flows, funded programmes, projects, sponsored tasks; communication nets and associations’ (Lawn, 2009: 520). Thus, the SUSEES is an invitational space, whose participants are free to use and develop the ideas expressed, to share and exchange them for the creation of new landscapes of educational research and the production of new discursive constructions of ‘Europe and education’ (Lawn, 2009: 520).

The cosmopolitan turn and cosmopolitan subjectivities in education research

The four articles included in this special issue are significant effects of the enactment of the summer school. They are the outcome of a writing experiment oriented to find a balance between theories, methodologies and empirical materials. Such a writing experiment, tutored by SUSEES lecturers after each edition of the summer school, was inspired by a distinctive pedagogy. During the capacity-building seminar on ‘academic writing’ and the laboratory sessions at the SUSEES, participants were invited to share their research interests, which they did, and they declared their areas of potential interest and engaged in lively discussions that led to the imagining and planning of possible papers. During the laboratory sessions in particular, participants constituted writing groups and wrote joint abstracts to focus their ideas, using the tool of the ‘tiny text’ (Thomson and Kamler, 2012). SUSEES was the ‘learning and communal space’ where scholars who did not know each other built collaborative relationships. The closing session of each summer school was dedicated to the open discussion of the abstracts and writing projects. With the careful support of a SUSEES mentor after each summer school, groups have completed their writing projects, bringing countries, contexts, theories, methodologies, data and analyses together – something perhaps not possible in their individual universities. Writing was, thus, an inductive and creative act, where scholars were invited to position themselves not just as ‘guests’ of academic conversations but as active participants and shapers (Thomson and Kamler, 2016).

As an effect of this pedagogical approach, diverse perspectives and methodological tools characterize each article. It draws attention to the analytical procedures aimed at presenting the findings, discussing the outcomes, and developing the implications of the elaborated frameworks.

The articles are the outcome of an event (the summer school), of the mixing of research projects, and the successful collaboration of young European researchers. They are, accordingly, a vivid enactment of a contingent Europeanization of the education research area, and, at the same time, an expression of the potentiality of mixing different research perspectives by performing and investigating a common object of interest. They are examples of a way of doing research where the role of the theory is not peripheral. They instead acknowledge the importance of theories in generating questions, driving the empirical investigation, constructing and giving sense to the data collected, without overdetermination of the reading of the education policy and practice under scrutiny.

The articles are also the end-product of a repeated effort to take a European dimension in education research. The European dimension was not a simple adjective or a mere geographical location of the summer school. It was instead an issue always on the table, proposed as an offer to escape from the methodological nationalism to consider the increasing relevance of transnational dimensions in the understanding of education policy and practice; that is, as a means to take the situated character of any knowledge endeavour seriously, and to problematize the often implicit and ‘unnoticed’ nationalism of some instances of educational and education policy research. In that respect, these four articles are exemplars of the cosmopolitan turn in education policy research (Ball and Shilling, 2017). The cosmopolitan view brings to the forefront the transnational and intra-national interdependencies in education policy, questioning the ‘national’, but also ‘the European’ intended as a fixed identity, and recognizing the fluidity of these unities of analysis. ‘Europe’ and ‘EU’ are not integrated identity but analysed as a locus of difference, more as worlds under construction and in permanent tension. The European dimension, therefore, as a chance for a comparative project, and/or as an unfinished project, is intertwined with other regional and international dynamics.

The articles offer, in particular, four examples of the shades of the cosmopolitan turn. The different sensibilities of the researchers and the confrontation with the theoretical resources discussed during the summer school constitute the blend of the articles that assume diverse critical tones.

In their article ‘School actors’ enactment of a performative accountability scheme in Russia: tensions, dilemmas and strategies’, Galina Gurova and Marjolein K Camphuijsen analyse how a global idea – that is, performance, or test-based accountability reform – is put into practice in Russia. The investigation illustrates that schools are not passive recipients of education reforms but play an active role in the processes of translation of reforms. Any global policy idea, in other words, is not implemented straightforwardly: it depends on the way schools mediate it. While frustrating from a rationalistic and managerial view, this finding invites us to read the complexity of school change through a more sophisticated lens. Theoretically, Gurova and Camphuijsen draw on the notion of ‘enactment’ that opens the ‘black box’ of schools. Schools are not intermediaries that transmit the impulses of reform passively without adding anything new; they are instead active mediators. To get an understanding of the local translations in Russia, Gurova and Camphuijsen draw on Maguire et al. (2015) and Ball and Maroy’s (2009) investigations. They can then direct their attention to the local regimes of practice, and, at the same time, recognize the diverse logics, expressive or instrumental, whereby schools mediate the impact of performance-based accountability. What emerge, therefore, are multiple accounts in which schools are not only subject to reform, but do policy.

In their article on digital devices, Romito et al. also underline the importance of policy enactment. However, they bring non-humans, here digital software and the platform SORPRENDO, to the forefront. Following the policy instrumentations (Lascoumes and Le Gales, 2007), and socio-material approaches in education (Fenwick and Edwards, 2010), the three researchers develop research on the entanglements of digitalization, datafication and Europeanization. Software becomes an entry point to a complex assemblage made of a local case (Italy) and the unfinished processes of the making of the European education arena. They are interested in the policy of lifelong guidance, a key focus of the European lifelong learning (LLL) strategy. In so doing, they decided to focus their attention on software called SORPRENDO intended to improve the quality of the guidance services in Italy. Methodologically, the article develops a semiotic analysis of the platform as well as a close-up analysis of its use, by highlighting how the software contributes to shaping the forms of education practice. In doing so, the article describes the entanglement between the guidance rationality that is enacted through SORPRENDO, that draws on the English model of carrier guidance, the development of the European strategy of LLL and the new orientation in education policy in Italy aimed at the implementation of the European strategies.

In the article by Alison Milner et al., the cosmopolitan view activates an exercise of comparison among three European cases – the Netherlands, England and the Republic of Ireland –

concerning teacher collaboration and network governance. As in the case of Gurova and Camphuijsen’s work, Milner et al.’s article tries to gain an understanding of how global ideas such as network governance and teacher collaboration are reflected in national policy documents. The comparison, here, starts from a careful presentation of the critical literature on network governance (Bevir, 2010; Rhodes, 2007), and from the hypothesis that teacher collaboration is increasingly proposed as a remedy strategy to counter the logic of competitiveness among the educational actors promoted willy-nilly by the same implementation of the network-model. The article reviews the policies of teacher collaboration of the three countries, by drawing methodologically on critical discourse analysis, concluding that teacher collaboration is not a priority of these governments. While teacher collaboration as an idea is present in the public discourse, in practice the emphasis on teachers and their professionalism is aligned with discourses of school effectiveness and improvement. Also, the discourses on network governance in the three countries privilege a shift toward the marketization of education.

Finally, the article by Sanja Djerasimovic and Maria Luisa Villani draws attention to the subjectivities of researchers in the European educational research arena. Processes of subjectivation accompany the fabrication of the European education space. New subjects emerge and new types of academic researchers develop. The summer school, in that respect, has also been a chance for emergent researchers coming from diverse countries of Europe to discuss the characteristics of these new subjectivities. The transformation of academic identities in the new regime of accountability driven by the orthodoxy of new public management and by the dominance of the Mode 2 of knowledge is widely discussed. Within this frame, Djerasimovic and Villani offer an exploratory work on the fabrication of new academic subjectivities, by assuming a bottom-up approach and bringing to the forefront the voices and the narratives of the first carrier researchers working in education research. Their article provides, therefore, a glimpse of the construction of the new European researcher. By drawing on Giddens’ theory of identity, and on 13 narrative interviews with mobile European early carrier researchers, they identify four types of researchers: Individualist-Philomath, Mode 1 Academic (Aspiring and Established), Mode 2 Academic, and Student-Neophyte. The typology reveals a tension between the commitment to the traditional values of academic work (passion for knowledge, attachment to the discipline) as core characteristic of Mode 1 of knowledge, and the opening to a spirit of entrepreneurship and pragmatism, frequently associated with the Mode 2 of knowledge, that is more problem-oriented and that flourishes in a scientific world made of complex partnerships between public, private and civil society. Here, frequent mobility and periods of job precariousness do not prevent researchers from recognizing the opportunities offered by the ‘openness’ of the European space for research against the sense of closure that is mostly associated with the work in national environments. The research suggests, therefore, that the fabrication of the European space for research is a vehicle for the promotion of new cosmopolitan subjectivities in education research.

Declaration of conflicting interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We acknowledge that the SUSEES has been made possible by co-funding from the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union – Jean Monnet Activities – Project 574915-EPP-1-2016-1-IT-EPPJMO-MODULE and the financial support of EERA, University of Naples Federico II and the IRPPS-CNR

ORCID iD
Emiliano Grimaldi https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1085-1127

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Paolo Landri is a senior researcher at the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies of the National Research Council in Italy (IRPPS-CNR). His main research interests concern educational organizations, professional learning and educational policies. He has recently published Digital Governance of Education: Technology, Standards and Europeanization of Education (Bloomsbury, 2018).

Emiliano Grimaldi is associate professor of sociology of education at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Naples Federico II. His research concerns the sociological analysis of education policy and practice, with specific reference to governing, digitalisation and social justice policies.