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Meeting Pedagogical Encounters Halfway

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Abstract

This commentary offers a critique of literacy pedagogy that focuses solely upon a best practices approach to teaching and learning and argues for a relational pedagogy that relies upon diffractive thinking, reading, and writing.

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... Relational materialists advocate exploratory, risky, open ended, processual, fluid, moving, curious and responsive pedagogies (Snaza et al. 2016, Sonu and Snaza 2015, Nxumalo 2017, Leibowitz and Naidoo 2017, Taylor and Ivinson 2013, Hickey-Moody, Palmer, and Sayers 2016 which 'meet the universe halfway' (Spector 2015, 449, paraphrasing Barad, 2007. In tension with this, climate change is an incredibly urgent and massive problem and there are many obvious practices which can already effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ...
... Diffraction has been less discussed as a pedagogy, although educational literature developing this is beginning to emerge (Spector 2015, Lenz Taguchi 2010. Within these accounts, a diffractive pedagogy is figured as one where learning emerges from the collisions of waves such as students and the wider material world. ...
... Within these accounts, a diffractive pedagogy is figured as one where learning emerges from the collisions of waves such as students and the wider material world. A diffractive pedagogy therefore cultivates creativity, reconfigures bodies and subjectivities, is dynamic, non-linear, transdisciplinary, multi-modal, disruptive, unchartered, transcorporeal, interwoven, and one that troubles established categories (Hickey-Moody, Palmer, and Sayers 2016, Postma 2012, Spector 2015, Lenz Taguchi 2010. ...
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Engaging with new materialist/posthuman approaches to agency, in this paper I explore what might happen to the goal of cultivating climate action if we decentre the human from our climate pedagogies. Specifically, I engage with Karen Barad's concept of intra-action which argues that agency is not possessed by individual things or beings, but emerges through relationships. I work with experiences and occurrences from Climate Change Responses, an undergraduate social science course that I tutored in 2015 (CCR15). I explore how in CCR15, while trying to learn to better mitigate climate change, we became climate killjoys, resisting, challenging and disrupting pleasurable carbon intensive practices. Through these empirical examples, I show that 'climate intra-action' can enable us to attend to how human and more-than-human identities change through engagement with climate change; how our human capacities to affect climate emerge through acting-with more-than-human entanglements; and thus how unanticipated, different actions can emerge in climate change education. I therefore suggest that an intra-active approach to climate change education research and practice might enable less anthropocentric and more relationally attuned climate change 'response-abilities', for both teachers and students.
... In educational research and practice, there are insistent incentives to 'grow', 'up-scale', and 'scale-out' educational activities considered successful and efficient, making the notion of 'spreading' ubiquitous in educational research and practice (Spector, 2015). When educators experience that an educational activity results in a learning outcome that aligns with their educational purpose, there is often an inherent desire to share and spread this educational activity. ...
... When educators experience that an educational activity results in a learning outcome that aligns with their educational purpose, there is often an inherent desire to share and spread this educational activity. Even though tendencies for seeking 'best practices' and 'good examples' is present in other areas, there are recurring incentives in educational policy and practice of finding recipes or generalisable solutions to make education predictable and to repeat perceived successes (Pring, 2000;Spector, 2015). Examples of this search for linear predictability is the use of pre-and suffixes, such as 'up-scale' and 'scale-out', often taken from business and industry (Ford Foundation, 2006), indicating singledimensional processes. ...
... Examples of this search for linear predictability is the use of pre-and suffixes, such as 'up-scale' and 'scale-out', often taken from business and industry (Ford Foundation, 2006), indicating singledimensional processes. What makes such incentives problematic is that since education engages with human interactions in social settings, the complexity of these interactions (Spector, 2015) hinders the identification of simple causal relationships between an educational activity and learning outcomes (Pring, 2000). When coupled with a sense of urgency of 'solving' ESD challenges, the search for predictability risks outweighing careful considerations of the complexity of education. ...
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Mickelsson, M. 2020. Sharing Good Examples, Then What? Investigations of Contingency and Continuity in the Scaling-of-ESD-Activities-as-Learning. Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences 17. 172 pp. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. ISBN 978-91-513-0859-3. This thesis aims to contribute to a deepened and nuanced understanding of scaling in environmental and sustainability education (ESE) research, specifically, to develop a conceptual framework for engaging with issues of scaling in policy and practice regarding education for sustainable development (ESD). Three research objectives are formulated. The first objective is to develop analytical methods drawing on transactional learning theory for conducting empirical investigations of meaning making concerning educational content in scaling processes. This objective is achieved through an iterative participatory research process including, scaling researchers and practitioners, resulting in the development of the conceptual framework of Scaling-ESD-Activities-as-Learning (SEAL). The second objective of the thesis is to examine how workshop participants' experiences and agency create conditions for the scaling of educational content in ESE. The objective is achieved through analysis of written reflections from scaling practitioners, reports on scaling ESD-activities and participatory research workshop discussions. The third objective is to investigate how educational content interplay with environments, such as natural and social environments, when scaling educational activities in ESE. This objective is achieved through analysis of the initial stages of scaling an ESD-activity and analysis of ESD-activities that have progressed to later stages of scaling. Four studies address the three research objectives: in three of the studies, empirical data was generated through participatory research workshops in Sweden, South Africa and Ecuador (Paper I, II, IV), while in one study empirical data was generated through a case study of an ESD-course in Southern Africa (Paper III). Drawing for its theoretical foundation on John Dewey's transactional approach to learning, the thesis emphasises the importance of considering experience and aspects of contingency and continuity in learning processes. The results of the thesis show that approaching the scaling of ESD-activities as learning enables the identification of conditions for scaling that is characterised by deep and meaningful improvement of practice, sustainability over time along with the ability to evolve when faced with changing circumstances. The thesis contributes to ESE research with temporal perspectives on the scaling of ESD-activities, i.e. by considering contingency and continuity in the scaling process, maintaining the relevance of ESD-activities over time and through changing circumstances. Furthermore, by considering multiple, on the face disparate, scaling efforts as part of the same scaling event, the thesis highlight how each iteration of scaling an ESD-activity can constitute learning opportunities for further developing the activity at hand.
... 3 Pring (2000) argues that since education presents a highly complex practice, and ESD especially so, there is both a 'pull' for ready-made ESD-activities and a 'push' for sharing what is considered successful. Arguably, this creates an interest among policymakers and practitioners of finding generalisable solutions for ESD in the form of 'best practices' and 'good examples' (Biesta 2014;Spector 2015). Pring (2000), Mochizuki (2008) and Spector (2015) argue that 'best practices' present oversimplified explanations to the 'spreading' of ESD-activities. ...
... Arguably, this creates an interest among policymakers and practitioners of finding generalisable solutions for ESD in the form of 'best practices' and 'good examples' (Biesta 2014;Spector 2015). Pring (2000), Mochizuki (2008) and Spector (2015) argue that 'best practices' present oversimplified explanations to the 'spreading' of ESD-activities. There are risks of designating standardised educational proposals for diverse groups of people that may impose a universalising worldview (De Andrade and Sorrentino 2014). ...
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This article aims to contribute to the knowledge of how the ‘scaling’ of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) activities is conceptualized in practice through transactional learning encounters. In the context of the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD, I discuss the re-actualisation of experiences as part of these encounters. The study is a result of data collected as part of a Re-Solve participatory research workshop held in South Africa in 2016, involving researchers and practitioners with experiences of ESD-activities in the Southern African region. To identify and analyse the transactional learning encounters a practical epistemology analysis (PEA) is used. The article draws on a Deweyan theory of learning as transactional encounters, supported with a tentative conceptual framework of scaling-ESD-activities-as-learning (SEAL). Throughout the study, I illustrate the transactional encounters, including the re-actualisation of participants’ past experiences of ESD-activities. These encounters enabled the conceptualization of contextually relevant concepts of scaling, thus constituting an enabling condition for reflective scaling practices.
... At the same time, as different theories come into conversation, they can generate disruptions and conceptual conflicts. We found that this messiness was "good to think with" (Barad, 2012;Spector, 2015). Grappling with theories-in-interaction demands that we "take the side of the messy" and "get lost" in keeping with Lather's (2009) claim that "this is a new geography where we are all lost to one degree or another, using such times to explore the philosophical and political value of not being so sure" (p. ...
... Our four theories are diverse, yet also share important similarities. Through discussion and shared reflection in liminal spaces (Sanford and Starr, 2017;Spector, 2015), we developed a model portraying the relationships between and among the four theories and identified research questions for future investigation. Our conversation allowed us to identify some of the relationships among theoretical traditions and to gain insight into how theory has informed our varying perceptions of the problem. ...
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Social and educational theories provide frameworks for interpretation and conceptualization. We explore how theoretical orientations have influenced our work in a project aimed at reimagining the work of our College of Education. The project called on faculty to support local schools through transformative action groups (TAGs), and to use this work to develop ways to better prepare future teachers and school leaders for work in challenging school and community settings. We examine some of the ways Educational Studies scholars put theories to work to advance desired ends, and propose another way to deploy theory in applied work: conversations through which faculty articulate and share theories about which they care. We describe the key theories that influenced our work during the project’s first years, including third space and Anzaldúan theories of social change, listening theory, and theories of arts integration and place-conscious education, noting how our theoretical commitments and the collaborative process produced new ways of thinking and working foundationally, inside and outside of the building.
... Rather, it sought out difference. As Spector (2015) described it, while reflection returns merely an image of the same (see Barad, 2007), "diffractions do produce differences; in fact, if a difference doesn't emerge, then a diffraction hasn't occurred" (p. 448). ...
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This chapter draws on theories of new materialisms that assume the discursive (language, ideology, emotions) and the material (physical space, material objects, bodies) are always entangled and act together to produce phenomena. We use these theoretical concepts to persuade readers that the ways we perceive, judge, and discriminate based on social-class difference are literacies that we acquire and produce across time and space. The authors argue that these literacies are acquired by the body through our material-discursive intra-actions and are often felt viscerally, even when we don't have access to language appropriate for articulating what we know. We use vignettes from teacher education courses to support a call for tending to the body, space, social-classed texts, and emotions in the design of curriculum and pedagogy aimed at approaches to teaching and learning that are sensitive to social class.
... As the world is currently being made and unmade, the archives of our body won't escape neoliberalism altogether, but we can actively work to create spaces that intentionally try to offer something different-a space of experimentation, a space of playfulness, and a space of possibilities. As Karen Spector (2015) penned so eloquently, "I am advocating a pedagogy of relational being, which can never be boxed, or distributed, or sold" (p. 448). ...
Article
Neoliberalism has both feet firmly planted in educational contexts around the globe (United States, Australia, United Kingdom). Due to the precarious nature of unstructured play and its unwillingness to fit neatly into a neoliberal framework of quality and high returns on investments, play for play's sake has taken a backseat to standards, “evidence-based” curriculums, and high-stakes testing. These changes are often justified as a way to “mind the gap” or as a way to build a quality workforce in years to come, however, there is a large body of research (including a call from the Pediatrics Association) that suggests play for play's sake is necessary for wellbeing, humanization, and learning itself.
... What we present in this article is not an attempt to provide an answer to how this might be possible, but rather to highlight the ongoing process that opens up possibilities for a different present. As aptly indicated by Spector (2015), 'there are no best practices that escape the constraints of time, space and mattering; there are only pedagogies that materialize moment to moment' (p. 448). ...
Article
This article presents a diffractive arts-based narrative that results from a re-turn of our work with subjectivity and memory in relation to our involvement with teaching social justice and diversity in education. Through intra-action, we explore the entanglement of subjectivity and memory in working towards different possibilities for more response-active social justice curricula and pedagogy. The concept of nested-time informs our diffractive narrative as we engage with our experiences and becomings in a non-linear and collaborative way. We use the concept of shared responsibility as an intermezzo to memories of discomfort, emotions of guilt, self-doubt, messiness, frustration, and complexity and the way these might help us to think and act differently. The diffractive memory-stories thus create possibilities for response-activeness as we imagine new responses and actions against social injustices and sufferings in our classrooms and in our communities.
... Posthumanism (e.g., Davies, 2014;Kuby, Rucker, & Kirchhofer, 2015;Spector, 2015;Thiel, 2015a, 2015b) provides conceptual tools for making sense of the ways in which discourses (e.g., languages, ideologies, and ways of being) and materiality (e.g., human bodies, material objects, and space) enfold one another, creating something new in their connection. This is a shift from theories that center humans and their individual actions and behaviors as if they are autonomous beings not shaped by and shaping the materiality and language/ideology practices around them. ...
... This kind of readily available (and often-repeated) justice-oriented pedagogical storyline stands in contrast to other pedagogical ways of being that are also proposed as just and ethical in teacher education. One example is the notion of meeting pedagogical encounters halfway through a relational, diffractive pedagogy (Spector, 2015), which presumes that teachers and students are always changed through encounters when all are open to being changed. Another example is a critical pedagogy that emphasizes openness to unpredictability and ambiguity (Jones, 2014), or a more compassionate, critical, justice-oriented pedagogy (Conklin, 2008;Conklin & Hughes, 2016) that asks teacher educators to model the same kind of compassion and openness to preservice teachers that we ask them to model for their future students. ...
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In this article, Stephanie Jones and Hilary E. Hughes suggest that particular discursive lessons are readily available in justice-oriented teacher education which might influence a pedagogy that crowds out responsiveness, the experience of the student, and the role of gender and feminism in teacher education. They contend that changing the place of teacher education to include unpredictable community settings requires pedagogical responses that defy predictable storylines and ready-made discursive lessons common in teacher education. The lessons learned contribute to justiceoriented teacher education and an emerging trend for including community-based experiences in teacher education, and highlight the importance of feminist storylines for the incommensurability of misogyny and racism for teacher education.
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Diffraction, as conventionally defined, is a term for one among a number of wave phenomena. Since the 1990's, when it was introduced by Donna Haraway, it is also a concept within feminist methodology. While particularly the cyborg figure – the cybernetic organism – already in its mainstream scientific-technological scope involves both fantasy and innovation, the term diffraction is in its conventional meaning descriptive. In this paper we are interested in the broad strokes of how the novel diffraction concept is taken in use. To develop a sustainable approach it is not solely the founding texts that are of interest but as much how they are furthered and taken in use. Fifty-one papers are investigated, published in peer-reviewed journals from 2001 to June 2016. The opposition to traditional contemplation-reflection Haraway sets as target when introducing the novel concept is the point around which the dynamics evolve. That far, the novel concept could be just any metaphor, like describing thinking things through as ‘reflecting’. It is understood that the novel concept builds on a metaphor. Several authors however claim an interdisciplinary connotation, especially to physics. It gets problematic when descriptions, elaborations and motivations of the use of the novel concept dually imply authentication from a connection to physics and, redefine wave phenomena into forms that are not supported by the natural sciences.
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Diffraction is the term for a wave phenomenon that has been studied in the natural sciences since two hundred years. 1 It is currently widely employed in experiments and as analytical tool in physics, chemistry, biology and, their intersections with engineering science. Today, one also meets colleagues and students, who are interested in 'diffraction' as feminist methodology. The interest appears lively in traditional humanities and social sciences subjects as well as among scholars and students working with transdisciplinary technology studies. What has happened in-between is that, in the early 1990's Donna Haraway initiated the development of a novel, feminist, diffraction concept. She suggested this term as an alternative to reflection as metaphor for-simply put-thinking things through. 2 The novel conceptualization of diffraction is yet another instance, where Haraway has brought a term from science and technology to feminist and gender studies. In 2007 Karen Barad made Haraway's invention one of the major themes in her book Meeting the Universe Halfway and her work has supported the continued interest in the concept. Having studied and worked with wave theory and some of the range of analytical applications developed from it, I find that the novel terminology requires some amount of dedicated attention. From an interdisciplinary point of view, there is a difference between this transfer and other examples of Haraway's influence along the line of interdisciplinary feminist re-conceptualization. While particularly the cyborg figure-the cybernetic organism-already in its mainstream scientific-technological scope involves both fantasy and innovation, the term diffraction is in its conventional meaning descriptive. It merely represents an understanding that 'under such-and-such circumstances waves behave like this-and-that'. The question has thus appeared, of how to relate to this novel concept. It seems to bounce back and forth, to and from various disciplinary directions of feminist and gender studies, gaining new forms and meanings on the way. Thinking this through has become a dimension of relating in a contemporary manner to feminist theory and debates-in one's teaching as well as research. It is not evident how one might understand the new concept and the possibilities to communicate around it. Notably, my driving force is the need to relate to what evolves collectively, as part of the interdisciplinary exchange within the realms of feminism and gender studies. Unless students and colleagues had repeatedly brought the concept to my attention, I would have passed it by. The challenge implied thus points to the broad strokes of how the novel diffraction concept is taken in use and, how this use is motivated. Such a focus has a value of its own. By no means is it interchangeable with studies of the key texts behind the concept.
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The theme of teacher as reflective prac titioner has become an important rally ing point in current efforts to reform teaching. Wildman and Niles discuss the rhetoric of reform and balance it against the realities of promoting teacher reflec tion. The authors caution that reform ef forts will fail if crucial conditions for reflection are disregarded.
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This book describes the classrooms and homes of working class children struggling not only to learn to read but also to deal with the kind of subjectivity that literacy simultaneously holds out to and refuses them. One theme threaded throughout the book concerns the ways in which students' engagements with literacies are connected with their own histories. The chapters draw upon mixed genres, including narrative histories of children's lives and engagements with literacies, interpretive readings of other histories of engagement with literacies, and essayist reflections on educational theory and practice. The narratives highlight how working class students engage with middle class literacies and how those engagements are interwoven with relations with others. Two chapters describe how two working class K-2 students participated in literacy practices as they moved between the social worlds of home and school. The histories of these children are framed by reflective chapters that also consider narratives written by adults (educational scholars and literary writers) looking back on their experiences growing up in the working classes. The book argues that feeling and valuing are integral to what it means to know. An appendix presents a staff review of one kindergarten student's learning. (Contains 112 references.) (SM)
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The curriculum literature has much to say about the ecological fallacy embodied in the ‘best practices’ movement. The work of Schwab anticipated much of it by reminding us of the dangers of trying to control classroom practices from afar, with the use of theoretical representations of classrooms that were, by definition, never fully like their real counterparts. The North American discourse on the quality of teaching can be substantively improved by being understood through this important Schwabian lens.
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Building on the concepts of professional competence that he introduced in his classic The Reflective Practitioner, Schon offers an approach for educating professional in all areas that will prepare them to handle the complex and unpredictable problems of actual practice with confidence, skill, and care.
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