Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
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Embodiment, places and education: From early childhood to higher education (EPE)

This is an international collaborative project between researchers from the University of Waikato and Luleå University of Technology, Sweden.

What is the background to the project?

Analysing understandings of place and space in diverse contexts, beginning with the contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand and Sweden, and builds on an earlier similar project between Australia and Sweden. Our previous research and scholarship in phenomenology, subject formation, identity, being and becoming for learners in their educational space/place underlies this project. Its focus on notions such as embodied learning, diverse communities and values raises complex social, political and historical entanglements and assemblages. The project connects ECE space/place with things, energies and forces in the learning environment and learning.

Why is this research important?

The research responds to contemporary developments in designing learning environments, and explores complex influences and relationships between embodied learning, notions of place/space and learner subjectivities. It emphasises the importance of place/space in relation to contemporary issues such as cultural diversity, inclusion, refugee resettlement, and neoliberal, outcomes focused educational agendas.  It further responds to calls for increasingly philosophical attitudes and orientations in ECE, to offer insights into policy, design and practices in ECE and ITE programmes.

What are the key findings to date?

During the initiation phase of this project we have supported a Summer Research Scholar with a literature review which demonstrated that the key concerns arising for learners and learning in particular educational environments are with relationships, children’s voice, cultural sensitivity, responses to dominant ideals and pressures, globalization, sustainability and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and the view of child/parent as consumer in an age of market and profitability-driven ECE.

What are the most important facts to take away so far?

  • Learning environments impact on learners and learning in infinitely complex material and non-material ways,
  • Contextual features, including invisible, the non-human presence of forces, matter and energies are critical considerations in conceptualizing ‘quality learning’,
  • The complexity of these influential factors requires increasingly complex description and analysis,
  • Using philosophy as a method of analysis is expected to support such work.
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