Position Paper “Critical and Practice-Oriented Educational Research” (CPER)

CPER (Critical and Practice-Oriented Educational Research) brings together scholars involved in research and teaching in the field of education. Its activities aim to highlight and strengthen research feeding into the Ph.D. programme “Studies of Bildung and Pedagogical Practices” at the Faculty of Education, Arts and Sports (FLKI) of the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL), anchoring this programme internationally.


In this context CPER is a forum for discussion and exchange on educational scholarship and its theoretical and methodological foundations as well as its relation to various practice fields. It seeks new research directions and collaborations across disciplines and borders. By improving FLKI’s Ph.D. programme in its scientific relevance and practice orientation, it will help reform doctoral education as well as expand educational research.


CPER sees the following areas at the centre of its activities:

  • praxeological and critical educational epistemology and theory;
  • methodology and methods of practice-oriented educational research;
  • potential of educational concepts (e.g. Bildung, danning) for educational research and pedagogical practices


In this sense, CPER’s activities and knowledge contribution are based on a principal openness towards what “critical(ity)”, “practice-oriented(ness)” and “education(al)” might mean in any given context, while being informed by the following understandings:


Critique and (post-)criticality in educational research

CPER’s activities foster criticality, for instance by distinguishing and evaluating (Roitman 2014) key component parts of educational phenomena (Barad 2007) and/or exposing unchallenged dominant assumptions, ideologies, and mythologies – in short: knowledge/truth (Foucault 1988) underpinning research and practice in education and exerting power (in terms of official curricula, established ways of teaching and learning, subject/identity formation, and the like). They involve ongoing scrutiny of knowledge we discern, adopt, and convey – and the situating thereof in its social, cultural, and historical context. Evaluations of processes, structures, and mechanisms at work in education may likewise entail a search for improved knowledge and practice, as well as democratisation and collective emancipation (Klafki 1976; Mollenhauer 1973), conscientisation and decolonisation (Freire 1970), etc. geared towards a more just and equal society. Criticality may thereby extend to the self, so as to increase awareness of one’s positionality and practice as a researcher and member of society (Schön 1983; Bourdieu 2003).

In sum, CPER is informed by traditions of critical theory, -pedagogy, and -reflection against the background of neoliberal marketisation which has worked to hollow out elements key to these traditions, such as educational equality, social justice, and diversity. It is also aware of limits posed to critique (Felski 2015) and post-critical tendencies in educational research invested in opening up conditions of possibility for equality, diversity, etc. through ongoing articulation of principles with which to work in education (Hodgson, Vlieghe & Zamojski 2018).


Education, Bildung and danning in educational research

CPER adopts a broad and dynamic understanding of “education” as something that is related in essence to doings or practices and which points to a complex dialectic interplay between self and society (Jobst 2014). It is mindful of different contexts from which various forms of education might emerge, be they of a more formal, non-formal or informal kind. Informed by Germanic, Nordic and other (e.g., Slavic) traditions, it devotes special attention to concepts of Bildung, danning, and the like (Gustavsson 1996/2013; Liedman 2002; Siljander 2007; Hörner, Drinck & Jobst 2010), developed with particular reference to the informal sphere. Here, CPER assumes in addition that a comprehensive understanding of education in the sense of Bildung or similar is extremely relevant to understanding educational processes in the formal sphere (i.e., schools and other explicitly educational institutions, or “didactical” practices). Education then refers to transformations, not all of which can be captured in end results. Indeed, CPER assumes a processual life-course perspective referring to processes both of self-formation and of transformation by and of society, which involve material elements and various mechanisms (i.e., interacting cultural, social, political, economic, technical, material, and self- and group-formational forces).


Practice-orientedness in educational research 

The practice-orientedness of CPER’s focus, rather than implying a stress on the applicability of knowledge generated through educational research, points to praxeological or performative dimensions to education centred upon. CPER thereby does not assume any a priori, artificial boundaries, e.g., between theory and practice (Taguchi 2010), but the stress is on education in the broadest sense, as a lens which may pry open supposed divides and dichotomies. Any kind of practice thereby comes into view, from established teaching and learning practices to more inconspicuous practices (e.g., practices relating to street art, food advertisements, and disinformation campaigns). Again, attention is focused on transformations in education – rife as they may be with tensions (e.g., between disciplining and liberation, institutional determination and subjectivation, reproduction and change). CPER, in its dynamic praxeological (if not just human-centred) approach to “education”, adopts an interdisciplinary perspective favouring the articulation of content as well as form of education, yet eschewing any dogmas, including in terms of empirical methods, or normative dimensions like values, attitudes, competences or virtues upheld. It advocates multi-scalar analysis, and a pluriverse of knowledge drawn from sources as diverse as anti-/postcolonial-, critical race, gender and queer-, and environmental sustainability and justice thinking.  


Major challenges for education and educational research

Some of the major challenges relating to education and educational research that CPER wishes to address correspond with those outlined in the OECD Education 2030 position paper (OECD 2018) written partly in response to the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. These concern the following:

  • climate and environmental issues;
  • economy and improved economic institutions;
  • social challenges (e.g., migration and increasing inequality).

More specifically, CPER’s interests relate to challenges around sustainability (not only in terms of climate/environment but also of safeguarding culture, languages, knowledge, identity etc.), equality, equity, social justice, vulnerability, diversity (e.g., in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality). In addition, more ideological challenges come into view as well, relating among other things, to neo-liberalism inspired marketisation of education; prioritisation of policy and related marginalisation of teachers, pupils, and parents as agents in the shaping of meaningful education; fragmentation of practice; post-truth-ism, disinformation, polarisation and related devaluing of practice-generated expertise; and democratisation (e.g., in terms of more socially representative and decolonised curriculum development). Likewise, more strictly academic challenges (such as community outreach and engagement; and delegitimisation of scientific knowledge) inform CPER’s activities and knowledge contribution. Overall, it favours systemic or comprehensive approaches to such challenges, for example, in the case of climate change taking into account both natural (e.g., climate mechanisms) and societal systems (e.g., climate response, mitigation and social consequences of climate change/environmental degradation) (Eidsvik 2020).



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