Celebrating 20 years of educational research: reflections on two anniversaries

European Conference of Educational Research (ECER) Porto, Portugal, 01-05 September 2014

Researching higher education: 20 years of the Doctoral Programme in Educational Research, Lancaster University, 12 September 2014

ECER, 2014: In September 2014, I participated in two events each marking 20 year anniversaries in educational research. First, I attended the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER), held at the University of Porto, in Portugal. This is a large annual conference, attracting thousands of delegates each year from across Europe and beyond. It encompasses all aspects of educational research at all levels, from primary to higher, but papers are expected to have a European emphasis. The conference is organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and was given added significance in 2014 as this marked the 20th anniversary of EERA. This 20th anniversary also provided the overall theme for the conference which was ‘The Past, Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe’. Keynotes included Madeleine Arnot, a Professor of Sociology of Education at the University of Cambridge (paper entitled: Moralities and Mobilities: Sociological Perspectives on Contemporary Challenges to European Egalitarian Values in Education) and António Nóvoa, a full professor at the Institute of Education of the University of Lisbon (paper entitled: What is Educational Research for?). In fact, I attended several of the various keynote addresses at this conference, and you can see more information about these speakers and their papers at: http://www.eera-ecer.de/ecer2014/programme/keynote-speakers/

EERA and ECER are organised into a series of networks. Most of the papers I attended formed part of either the Research in Higher Education network or the Environmental and Sustainability Education Research network, and there were, as always, some excellent and topical papers in both. Dr Erica Morris and I authored a joint paper for the first of these networks, which I then presented. It was entitled Synthesising and applying assessment models to higher education practice: the disciplinary and the generic. I enjoyed delivering the paper not just because it ‘went well’ but because it elicited positive feedback and good ideas for the journal article that Erica and I are now writing, developed from our ECER presentation.

The ‘main’ ECER Conference is preceded by a one-day Emerging Researchers’ Conference, for PhD students and new educational researchers, for which I was invited to present a workshop, at a special event also organised in conjunction with the (EERA) Research in Higher Education network, the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), and the Centre for Research and Intervention in Education (CIIE, University of Porto). Prof. Dr. Liudvika Leisyte (TU University Dortmund) and I co-facilitated a dynamic session which we called Future prospects in higher education for early career researchers. It was a pleasure to co-deliver the workshop and I was delighted by the interest shown by and questions from the audience afterwards. We hope to provide a further workshop of this type in the future.

And so, back to the EERA 20th anniversary. The conference provided a real opportunity to look back on the development and impact of educational research in Europe, as well as look forward to its future, but in a time of some austerity and hardship for many– not least in the host country, Portugal. It was important, though, to mark this anniversary as well, and a special event took place at the striking Casa de Música, designed by the acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas. This included a performance by the University of Porto Faculty of Engineering orchestra and speeches from key EERA colleagues. This fantastic event provided a feeling of optimism as we marked 20 years of educational research with EERA.

For more information about EERA and ECER, please see the following link: http://www.eera-ecer.de

Doctoral Programme in Educational Research, 2014: Just days after the ECER Conference, I attended another anniversary event, this time hosted by the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University. This marked the 20th anniversary of Lancaster’s Doctoral Programme in Educational Research, which is one of the longest established programmes of its type. At the time of writing, I am completing the latter stages of my own Doctorate and a part-time student of this very programme, more details of which can be viewed at: www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/edres/study/docprog/docprog.php

Marking the 20th anniversary event at Lancaster.
Marking the 20th anniversary event at Lancaster.

The day brought together former and current students of the programme, with insightful sessions provided by three of its graduates, these being Ray Land (paper entitled: Toil and trouble: threshold concepts as a pedagogy of uncertainty), Debbie Anderson (session entitled: Maintaining a research focus in a busy career) and Linda Drew (paper entitled: Halfway up that staircase). These were interspersed with parallel workshops related to developing research ideas. The day provided some fascinating insights into educational research that graduates of the programme have since gone on to do, as well as, of course, motivation and advice for current students like myself. But its achievement of 20 years is itself noteworthy (a point emphasised in the closing remarks by Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University) and is another mark of the importance and ever- moving nature of educational research. The anniversary was also marked by the production of a new Handbook of Students and Alumni of the programme.

Overall, my attendance at these two anniversary events in Porto and in Lancaster provided a reminder that we, as educational researchers, serve varied and responsible roles, which we should try to enjoy and share with broader communities. They provided a marker for what has been done and a reminder that there is much that we can do in the future.

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