Maria Rönnlund, new professor of educational work, has studied pupils’ participation and influence at school. She also leads the research group RECEUM, which studies the expansive field of early childhood education and school-age educare.
Text: Elin Andersson
Maria Rönnlund, professor of educational work at Umeå University since 1 May 2021, worked as a subject teacher in Swedish and French for many years. During her time as a teacher in lower secondary school, she thought a great deal about how to increase pupils’ influence and participation at school. And these are topics that she has chosen to study more in-depth in her role as a researcher.
By participating and trying to influence your education and time at school through different councils, pupils were expected to learn about democracy. Often, however, the effect was reversed as the councils rarely encouraged active participation or actual possibilities to influence.
Maria Rönnlund, Professor at the Department of Applied Educational Science.
“As a teacher, I could see that I reached a better result in classes where pupils participated actively in planning the teaching, but also that it wasn’t always easy to make them willing to participate. Class council and pupil’s councils activities were also challenging. By participating and trying to influence your education and time at school through these councils, pupils were expected to learn about democracy. Often, however, the effect was reversed as the councils rarely encouraged active participation or actual possibilities to influence. When I got the chance to start my doctoral studies, I hence chose to study how schools teach democracy, partly the democracy fosterage intended to take place through pupils’ participation in planning and evaluation of the day-to-day teaching, and partly the democratic fostering through class and pupil’s councils.”
Growing interest in research on early childhood education
In 2021, Maria Rönnlund took on the role as head of research for the research group Research in Early Childhood Education, Umeå University (RECEUM) hosted by the Department of Applied Educational Science. RECEUM gathers researchers and lecturers with an interest in research and education concerning early childhood education and school-age educare.
“Educational sciences studying young children, not least research about pre-school and educare organisations, is an expansive research field, both in Sweden and internationally. And RECEUM is a part of that expansion. As new head of research, I would like RECEUM to continue to be a creative and safe research environment with a high ceiling. Another important role of such a growing field is to initiate new collaborations and attract new staff, and to monitor and work to ensure there are good career paths on various levels for those who are not yet active.”
Most researchers active at RECEUM have many years’ experience of educational work with young children, and that is a great advantage to the group.
COVID prevents practice based research
In RECEUM, there is a desire to unite research with practical application, and to build successful networks and collaborations between researchers, teachers and representatives of pre-schools and educare.
“Most researchers active at RECEUM have many years’ experience of educational work with young children, and that is a great advantage to the group. The research group also has a tradition of interdisciplinary and international collaboration, and a tradition of outreach with the Swedish National Agency for Education, responsible organisations and teaching staff. But to researchers who are dependent on visiting schools and pre-schools, the pandemic has certainly thrown a spanner into the works. Data gathering at schools, educare and pre-schools has had to be postponed and projects put on hold. To then resume research projects isn’t always easy as pupil groups and teacher teams often change from year to year, which leads to the need for certain renegotiations. This is an experience we’ll learn from in the planning of future projects.”
In the immediate future, Maria Rönnlund will focus her research and teaching activities on the education and fostering of young children.
“That will be interesting and exciting. I also look forward to collaborating with colleagues that I haven’t previously worked with.”