ReCreaDe at the University of Linköping
Marvin Farag (Participant)
Can education change society?
Nowadays, very little is left unscathed by the effects of the pandemic. Faced with the task of REcreating a real-life group situation discussing DEmocratic principles in education, set in an online environment, the ReCreaDe programme had to come up with solutions CREAtively.
Therefore, using an online meeting programme, participants from all over Europe shared their opinions about the what and the why of democratic education in an online setting. Concluding collectively that the how seemed to be underrepresented in classroom practice and teacher education. So, following the paradigm of democratic education, various workshops sought to further development of the participants through application of democratic principles and processes.
When students are empowered to use their individual and collective agency, they are transformed from passive to active recipients and participants in their education. Giving them the opportunity to make changes and engage democratically in their classroom and school clearly influences their environment for the better.
The Intent of Including Democracy in Education has a long and distinguished history including numerous movements aimed at transforming educational institutions in such a way that their means and ends meet the real-life needs and aspirations of this ongoing paradigm of producing critical and informed citizens. Dewey (1899, 1916, 1938) promoted the idea of democratic education as a path to engaging in an associated way of living—being in a community and becoming a citizen.
Subsequently, this rightly imposes the need to take the demands of those who do not benefit from the current way of organising society seriously. School must lead young learners to develop the skills necessary to face the challenges of living in a democratic society.
Participants were united in the view that fostering relationships in a democratic classroom is a powerful resource in empowering learners. Many of the participants spoke of students exercising greater accountability, access to materials and engagement in their learning if instead of teachers telling students what to do, they provide young learners the opportunity to explore their actions and their consequences for themselves. In this way, students will be enabled to participate in their education in a meaningful way as democratic members of their learning community.
Living by example, not discouraged by the restriction of an online setting, bonds and friendships were formed. A circumstance that subsequently culminated in the in-person intensive programme in Linköping, Sweden. There, curiously, it felt like a reunion of old friends. Online programme members and the connections they made among each other withstood the tests and tribulations of an online setting and persisted through the passage of time. A learning community had been created!
Becoming democratic educators, we recognised the importance of developing students' social and emotional skills in addition to their intellectual ones. We felt the importance of building relationships in a classroom to further students’ confidence in being recognised as an active participant in the democratic processes. And personally, I think it can be said that we realised the need to be optimistic about the possibility of lasting change but should not be romanticising it.