Schooling is at a crossroads in a postmodern society. The need for more relational ways of engaging in schooling has been apparent for decades. Creating school harmony is the topic of this episode. With social constructionist practices, we propose alternate pathways to co-creating futures.
Season 5 is a Collaboration with the Taos Institute
This season of the Positivity Strategist podcast is a collaboration with the Taos Institute. We’re focusing on the topic of Constructionist Practices as Social Innovation. My guests in this season are Taos Institute Associates who’ve contributed to The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice. [Links are below.]
Author Bio and Chapter Title
Gro Emmertsen Lund, Ph.D. is an independent consultant and researcher and part of NOISE: Network of Independent Scholars in Education. She holds a Ph.D. from Twente University, a M.A. in Evaluation from the University of Southern Denmark. Her research on social exclusionary processes in schools has played a pivotal role in school development and practices of responding to interactive troubles. Gro is a keynote speaker in Europe and North America, sharing her research as well as exploring implications for praxis. As a Taos Associate, she has arranged international conferences in the Nordic countries. She is a published author and serves as a co-serial editor at the series Relational Pedagogy at the Danish Psychological Publisher. An organizational consultant, Gro works with organizational learning and improvement, leadership, organizational membership and cultural change processes.
Chapter Title: Creating School Harmony
Growing Into A Social Constructionist Approach
Gro grew up in a women’s collective and attended a liberal school that deeply influenced her way of living and interacting with others. Her mother and father divorced when she was three. They had very different world views: one conservative and one more revolutionary. Therefore, she learned at a young age that each can contribute to a better world when combined harmoniously. Her social constructionist orientation came in part from her mother, also a Taos Associate. Social constructionist ideas continue to bring her excitement, curiosity, new discovery and new connections every day.
School Harmony Can Address Interactive Troubles
Her chapter in The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice speaks of interactive troubles in schools. How we deal with conflict, bullying, rule violation, etc. has crucial implications on how we live together in schools but also in society. Unfortunately, punitive and authoritative approaches are still predominant, despite their negative consequences. It is clear that traditional structures in education clash with young people’s new ways of living in a global and digital world. Any resulting misbehaviors are addressed from the adults’ perspectives, leaving out what is important to the children.
Gro illustrates how to address interactive troubles with the story of a 9 year-old “non-compliant” boy. The teacher’s traditional approach focused on the individual, the problem, and the child’s “deficits.” After tapping into social constructionist ideas and relational thinking, the teacher realized that changing her usual language and response to that of showing appreciation and curiosity, she could completely shift the student’s behavior. The child responded in kind, showing engagement and enthusiasm. By inviting him to become more than his own self perception – reinforced by the perceptions of others – new opportunities and different ways of relating emerged. This story showcases how our own viewpoints shape what we are observing. We can develop new habits of seeing.
The Purpose of Education
How can schools best prepare our children for a future that includes climate change, consumerism, economic inequalities, conflicts, multi-cultural groups, pandemics and lack of resources? The moral purpose of education is much larger than academic achievements. If we were to elevate our sense of what’s most important, the purpose is to learn how to live peacefully, collaboratively, and sustainably with many world views. The current system is not geared toward that. We are at a crossroads. With more and more people choosing not to attend school, education needs to offer more flexible, innovative, and transformative learning environments.
Knowledge and Skills for the Future
In the school context, and any organization for that matter, the traditional way of viewing knowledge is the following: as content/curriculum/facts. The question we can be asking ourselves and our policy makers to determine what is required for our unknowable and rapidly changing world is:
What knowledge do we need today to co-create solutions for our collective futures? How do we create better social futures with this knowledge?
Inquiry, facilitation, experimentation, creation, reflection, and collaboration are the skills of the future. What if we were to connect with others in relational ways, and not just the content or subject matter we are graded on? Content can be found easily on the internet. How we relate more caringly and genuinely is a relational skill. Creating school harmony is a means to achieve greater connection between students, students and teachers and beyond into the wider world. Gro addresses the need to:
Shift from value-neutral knowledge to critical and appreciative sensitivity, and from universal to multiple thinking.
Why “Co-creating School Harmony?”
With so many diverse stakeholders involved in education, conflicts are inevitable. So how do we address them in peaceful ways that do not exclude “wrong-doers?” (Although the social constructionist orientation challenges this language because wrong-doing depends on whose perspective.)
The need for relational and restorative practices extends beyond schools. But schools are highly-regarded, traditional institutions where values and practices are based on hundreds of years of history. It is particularly important to do this work in schools because it shapes how students will engage as adults.
Innovations Inspiring Future Possibilities
Gro shares her enthusiasm of the wonderful innovations she has witnessed that are tapping into relational and social constructionist ideas: strengths-based pedagogy focusing on student interest and engagement; new ways of engaging with subjects; projects emphasizing design thinking; transformative learning; collaboration and so much more. Teachers have so many ideas on how to transform teaching but the structures of their organizations are not designed for innovation. She leaves us with the question:
How do we re-design educational systems and schools that empower teachers to explore all potentialities, and with their students?
To Connect with Gro
Books and Publications
- The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice
- Socialkonstruktionisme i organisationer – Kort fortalt
- Kulturudvikling i skolen – hvordan?
- Relationsudvikling i skolen
- Lund, G. E. & Winslade, J. M. (2018). Responding to Interactive Troubles – Implications for School Culture, Wisdom in Education: Vol. 8 : Iss. 1 , Article 1.
- Haslebo, G. & Lund, G. E. (2015). Practicing Relational Thinking in Dealing with Bullying in Schools. In: Dragonas, Gergen, McNamee, Tseliou (Edt). Education as Social Construction, Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications.
- Lund, G. E. (2017). Making Exclusionary Processes in Schools Visible. Ph.D.-thesis from Twente University.