Meaningful learning through the eyes of practitioner researchers

At the EAPRIL Conference 2019 held in Tartu – Estonia up to 500 participants were encouraged to reflect on the theme of “Meaningful learning in different settings”.

Meaningful learning, which is considered to involve a critical and deep learning approach, and being rich in creating links and connections, has often been set against rote learning. Prof. David Gijbels (University of Antwerp, Belgium) addressed in his keynote speech the concept of meaningful learning in the scope of higher education. Public expectations to install work-ready and lifelong-learning labour assume developing a deep approach to the learning process. Gijbels introduced the feedback-tool devised at the University of Antwerp with the aim of supporting learners’ self-analysis of their learning process (LEMO). The research procedures conducted with self-reports and eye-tracking technologies were analysed and discussed.

Prof. Jean Murray (University of East London, United Kingdom), discussed the issues of practice-based research within the time perspective. She introduced models of practice-based research of developing professional workplace learning. According to Murray this is closely related to the practitioner identity and agency. Therefore, practice-based research is believed to have potential to promote and reconceptualise practitioner agency and its place in the mediation of change.

Practitioner agency was also the main keyword of the first keynote speaker, Prof. Äli Leijen (University of Tartu, Estonia). Proceeding from Biesta and colleagues’ ecological three-dimensional model, it was discussed how context and circumstances affected practitioner’s agency. Leijen introduced in her presentation different ways of how reflection can support achieving agency. According to her, these approaches can be promoted within the workplace through different professional activities.

In addition to these keynote speeches, the EAPRIL conference hosted its guests with a wide variety of clouds, symposia, paper, poster and roundtable sessions. The topics of presentations ranged from primary education to tertiary teacher education and induction year, from emotional wellbeing at school to high technology. The presenters introduced their studies with the widest variety of methodologies – from photovoice to meta-analyses, from discourse analysis to critical creative hermeneutic data analysis. What was characteristic to all presentations at EAPRIL 2019 was their high involvement and, as a result, activating listeners through interactive solutions. Participants were challenged to think along and possibly even to rethink their models and conceptions. Meaningful learning wouldn’t you say so?

Katrin Saks (PhD) works as a researcher in the Institute of Education, University of Tartu, Estonia. Her main research areas are self-regulation, cognitive and metacognitive learning skills.

Margus Pedaste, Professor of Educational Technology at the University of Tartu, Head of the Pedagogicum and of the Centre for Educational Technology (Institute of Education), University of Tartu.