Welcome to Non-Affirmative Theory and Research in Education – An International Research Program

The aim of this research program

The research program aims at advancing empirical and conceptual research related to Non-Affirmative Theory of Education (NAT).

The program brings together researchers in education, curriculum, Didaktik, policy research and educational leadership.

The network has an interest both in the theory of education, empirical research, and for research supported developmental work.

What is non-affirmative education theory?

Non-Affirmative Theory of Education (NAT) is a promising contemporary approach to education. It is based on a theoretically elaborerad view of how intentional and institutional educational intervention connects with the learners activity to reach beyond existing ways of relating to the world, others and oneself.

That education is non-affirmative means that educational activity establishes a reflexive space for human growth. This space is pedagogically critical. While it recognizes both the learner’s life-world and societal interests, it does not affirm these uncritically. In this sense education is about provocation to self-activity and self-reflection.

NAT sees the relation between education and other societal practices like politics, economy and culture, as non-linear or non-hierarchical. This means that education is neither sub-ordinate or super-ordinate to politics, economy or culture. Rather, all these practices stand in a discursive relation to each other.

The approach conceptually frames multi-level research on curriculum, teaching, educational leadership and governance.

Non-affirmative theory takes a stand on relational, contextual and paradoxical issues of education. It is relational by aiming at understanding human learning and personal growth as related to pedagogical activity. It thereby avoids the limitations of reductionist approaches, such as traditional learning psychology. It is contextual as human growth as a person and cultural being is historical and cultural. Regarding the paradox of freedom in education, assumed human freedom is considered to make education possible, while education is necessary for reaching cultural, or practical, freedom. The approach emphasizes education for individual autonomy, political citizenship, cultural awareness and moral reflexivity.

Where does non-affirmative education stem from?

NAT questions contemporary instrumental policies in education reducing education into schooling. NAT draws on the modern classics of education theory as Humboldt, Herbart and Schleiermacher, and later Dewey, but in a critical fashion. This research program is based on interpretations developed by Dietrich Benner and others (eg. Benner, 2015; Uljens, 2001; v. Oettingen, 2012; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017; Benner, Meyer, Peng, & Li, 2018).

This research program draws heavily on prof. em. Dietrich Benner’s reconstruction of general education (Allgemeine Pädagogik) during his research first in Münster and later at the Humboldt university in Berlin.

This specific research program was officially launched at the 8th Nordic Conference on Curriculum Theory, November 7-8th, 2019 at Åbo Akademi University, Vaasa, Finland.

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