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Erica Hagström
Erica Hagström. Photo: Melina Granberg View original picture , opens in new tab/window

New research questions human-centered pedagogy

Published: 21 September 2018

Pedagogy has historically and in contemporary research focused on human prosperity, where humanity is in stark contrast to the animal. New research at Luleå University of Technology shows that this approach is in need of renegotiation.

In the dissertation Between human and horse: Animals in the space of the educational relationship , Erica Hagströms studied the pedagogical relationship based on a specific human-horse relationship, namely that the researcher himself lived. The purpose of the study is to investigate, re-evaluate and renegotiate the conditions for what education can be.

In need of renegotiation

– Having talked about pedagogy, it has primarily been about human prosperity. This applies both historically and in contemporary educational research. The "human" is usually put in contrast to the "animal". I mean that "animalism" is a concept that needs to be met cautiously because of this contradiction and that it is characterized by a double bond. Thus, "animal affection" is used twice, both negative and positive, at the same time as living animals themselves are invisible or destroyed. It's this double bond that I think needs to be negotiated, says Erica Hagström.

The dissertation shows that educational opportunities can emerge in relational prosperity processes by questioning human centering.

– It opens up to new imaginers, thus a way of imagining pedagogy. By questioning human centering, it becomes possible to discuss ways of imagining pedagogy as a relational prosperity process, rooted in animal welfare. The relationship between what is understood as "human" and "animal" needs to be shaken in order for new ways of understanding the relationship to come forth, says Erica Hagström, saying that although her research does not investigate the classroom, it is possible to apply it in today's classroom education.

– The classic question of becoming human in a society must be put in other ways. Just because we do not see animals in the classroom does not mean they are not there or that people do not influence or are affected by other animals while they are in school. It is the anthropocentric order that shapes our gaze to not see other animals, not to be open for other animals to address us. Applying my research to the classroom would be to pay attention to the opportunities for animal-living in the classroom, and to allow other animals to address us. By that I mean how students can draw attention to the relationships with animals they actually belong in, just where they are.

Be characterized by consumerism

Erica Hagström is critical of the tendency to see students as customers and learning as a product.

– Our society, and thus the school, is characterized by consumerism. A consumerist relationship is expected to produce and deliver a product, and in school learning it is seen as that product. In such a relationship, the pupil (and the parents) is reduced to customers. Sometimes consumerist relations appear to be mistakenly confused with pedagogical relationships, but what happens here is that the relationship itself is consumed and educational opportunities are destroyed. Therefore, I want to highlight the occurrence of the pedagogical relationship. Such can not be produced or measured as an accomplished learning goal. Applying this to the classroom would mean not closing down the possibility of them. Discovering such events is a daily challenge for the new as well as for the experienced pedagogue.


Erica Hagström

Hagström, Erica - Senior Lecturer

Organisation: Education, Education, Language, and Teaching, Department of Arts, Communication and Education