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Changing Educational Practices. Enabled and constrained from the perspective of Practice Architectures

Conference contribution
Authors Karin Rönnerman
Published in Symposia presented at NERA conference 6-8 march, 2019
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Language en
Keywords practice theory, practice architectures
Subject categories Pedagogy


This symposium is about changing practices in a time when Swedish education is discussed in different situations and contexts. In a time when democratic values are at stake in Europe, schools democratic fulfilling, as it is expressed in the national curriculum and the Education Act, is in need of scrutiny. Democracy is not teaching about democracy per se, rather acting democratically, which is something Dewey pointed at 100 years ago (Dewey, 19XX). One key way to strengthen teachers, principals and students in democratic education is to offer analytical resources to study and change practices. In ten different empirical studies, across different educational settings, from preschool to higher education, we addressed two fundamental questions: what is happening in this educational practice?; and, how can we understand it? The data were analysed using the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008; Kemmis, 2014), to investigate the educational practices and the conditions that enabled and constrained them in their sites. The ontological perspective of practice theory focuses on what is actually happening in education when teachers and leaders develop their practices in response to local conditions and arrangements. Practice is here understood open and changeable and are activities hanging together in time and space (Schatzki, 2002). From this, the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008; Kemmis, 2014), developed by Australian educational researchers, sees practices being comprised of forms of understandings (sayings), forms of acting (doings) and forms of relatings to one another and to artefacts (relatings) that hang together in a project. The practices are held in place by its arrangements which are cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political. In education, the five main and enduring practices are learning, teaching, leading, assessment and research, and professional development. So, in this research, the focus was not on the individual per se, but rather on the practices that unfolded in the site, and the conditions that enabled and constrained them. In this symposium we want to present the theory and discuss how it helped us in researching educational practices for change in the Nordic context. The different studies show how the complexity of education, and the need for change the everyday practices at a school site, are enabled and constrained by the conditions and arrangements that keep the practices in place. In other words, practices cannot be changed in isolation from the arrangements – they have to be developed simultaneously.

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