Yorkville University was well represented at the world’s largest gathering of education researchers earlier this month in Toronto.
Billed as a five-day showcase for “groundbreaking, innovative studies”, the prestigious 2019 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting took place April 5 to 9 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, drawing upwards of 25,000 educational professionals from around the world – among them, Yorkville’s own Dr. Ellyn Lyle.
Lyle, the Dean of Yorkville University’s Faculty of Education, flew in from New Brunswick to chair an AERA symposium on Fostering Relational Pedagogy: Self-Study as Transformative Praxis – one of two book projects she acted as sole editor for last year.
“AERA is the largest Education conference in the world so, if you are there representing your university, it is an acknowledgement of the quality of work that’s done at your school, which I think is important,” she said.
Of the roughly two dozen scholars who contributed chapters to Fostering Relational Pedagogy: Self-Study as Transformative Praxis, Lyle invited five – including Sepideh Mahani, Yorkville’s Associate Dean and Chair of Education Leadership – to join her on the AERA symposium panel on Sunday, April 7.
Their goal for the hour-and-a-half symposium, she said, was to “really speak heart to humanism in how we teach, and learn, and engage.”
To those ends, Lyle spoke to her own studies in the field, which focus on how teacher identity resides in the foundational beliefs and assumptions educators have about teaching and learning – beliefs and assumptions that develop both inside and outside of the classroom, “blurring the lines between the professional and the personal.”
“The research that I have done in teaching speaks to who we are as people and what we do in our professions,” said Lyle, who started her own career in education as a public high school teacher in Prince Edward Island.
“Sometimes that takes the form of self-study, sometimes it takes the form of auto-ethnography, sometimes it takes the form of doing very practical, workplace-oriented projects for people, and sometimes it takes the form of identity work – but our humanness in learning is central in all of my work.”
Mahani – who immigrated to Canada from Iran in middle school, then returned to the UAE upon completing her education – spent her time at the symposium speaking about the experience of trying to bring that relevance into teaching in an all-women’s school.
Also on the panel was Métis doctoral student, Jennifer Markides, from the University of Calgary, who Lyle says “talks really honestly and openly about how she gets positioned versus how she can position herself,” Lyle said.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan spoke about growing up in Apartheid South Africa and learning to see through and across identities.
Jodi Latremouille, of Thompson Rivers University, addressed the hermeneutic ecological perspective in Buddhism “from a very poetic place about our responsibility to know self if we are to live consciously and conscientiously.”
Lastly, Lyle said Simon Fraser’s Kate McCabe spoke graciously about “how the experience of self colours how we engage with people,” noting that McCabe included a vignette of a soundscape she recorded when she was in radiation for breast cancer. “She talked about the wholeness of learning to live when she thought she was facing death.”
Having that diverse range of panel voices from very different places, perspectives, and experiences come together, Lyle said, only served to further the argument “that we are all humans, bringing our human experience into teaching and learning.”
“If we don’t acknowledge our humanness, not only are we doing a disservice to education, but it’s also dishonest,” she argued. “If we pretend objectivity – which, of course, we cannot have as thinking, feeling human beings – then it taints both the rigour and the validity of the research we do.”
Lyle, who developed Yorkville’s Master in Educational Leadership program, is next scheduled to present at the 2019 Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference, which takes place in Vancouver from June 1 to 5.