T-learning as activism research school

The t-learning transformative knowledge network is developing a virtual, interconnected, on-line research school to support young researchers undertaking research focussing on transgressive social learning for social-ecological sustainability in times of climate change.

The research school will focus on emancipatory and sustainability processes, and will support the role of research in bringing about social change (research as activism). This recognises that research is complicit in moral action that generates knowledge with both human and more than human beings. Such  research seeks to enrich the common good in direct ways that are linked to social activities and practices.

In the research school we encourage researchers to develop and share new methodologies that are co-engaged, and that are transformative in nature, and that actively support t-learning processes. The t-learning research school foregrounds cognitive, epistemic, social and environmental justice, and therefore does not de-couple the learning from processes that aim to bring about political, cultural, social and environmental change.

Between 2016-2018, the t-learning transformative knowledge network will host three on-site research school meetings. Key elements of these on-site research school meetings will be shared on-line in the form of on-line research courses, research-based reading lists, and reports on research methodology being developed in the research school in the form of webinars and related research  methodology texts.

Visit the resources page for some of the materials that are being used and produced by researchers in the t-learning transformative knowledge network.  And keep an eye open for new on-line short courses that will be launched and offered off this platform in 2017. 

Research methods

T-learning research requires giving attention to co-engaged forms of learning and emerging action for change.  It involves multi-voiced engagement with multiple actors engaged in various individual and collective learning actions in diverse settings. As such, t-learning research methods are often also co-engaged learning methods.

Co-engaged t-learning centred research approaches involve:

1) Creating spaces for building trust, empathy, imagination, and changed practices
2) Working with people’s matters of concern in participatory and dialogical ways
3) Bringing new knowledge and action to the fore for engaging learning challenges at the climate-water-energy-food security-social justice nexus
4) Encouraging change-oriented learning actions that are critical, expansive and creative
5) Using narrative and aesthetic approaches to accommodate multiple ways of knowing
6) Being transgressive and challenging, yet morally intuitive and empathetic

Some of the methods that are used for t-learning research include:

  • Co-engaged focus groups: Here, questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members and raise questions in dialogue with researchers. Collectively, the group focusses on a shared matter of concern. Learning is collaboratively mediated through a process of balancing differences. Researchers take on the role of allowing that which is not known to be uncovered collectively, acting as responsible participants in the research process.
  • Arts-based methods: These have potential to bring together multiple ways of being, knowing and doing through various genres and creative disciplines. In t-learning co-engaged approaches, researchers work with theatre, visual arts, music, dance, participative mapping, narrative and social sculpture processes that awaken and facilitate new ways of learning that are transformative and transgressive.
  • Counter-hegemonic mapping: This aims to re-appropriate traditional forms of mapping that avoid mind-body blindness and include indigenous forms of knowledge. These methods also enable emancipatory social learning processes to emerge through the mapping itself. These methods allow people to express and analyse the realities of their lives and conditions, to plan themselves what action to take and to monitor and evaluate the results.
  • T-learning change laboratories or reflexive social learning workshops: these combine scientific knowledge; indigenous, lay knowledge and organisational knowledge; and reflexive knowledge. The intersection of these forms of knowledge stimulates re-negotiation and self-reflection leading to building shared views of changing activities. From this, new practices, tools, models and methods are developed in participating communities.
  • Empatheatre: Narratives are embodied through a co-engaged process that brings together actors, writers, theatre makers into a dialogical process with individuals and communities experiencing injustice. Drawing from real interviews and conversations, stories are re-enacted and staged using various forms of forum, documentary, verbatim, research and applied theatre models. The method aims to inspire and develop a greater empathy and kindness in spaces where there is conflict or injustice.

Research ethics

At the centre of t-learning research is a co-engaged ethical responsibility of all in the research process to do no harm and engage in practices of care. Researchers are positioned as caring researchers who are responsible participants and/or reflexive justice practitioners, empathetic apprentices and formative interventionist researchers oriented to the collective well-being of people and planet. These facets of the caring researcher situate moral action and ethics in the ongoing relationship that researchers have with those with whom they generate knowledge, both human and more than human, aiming to enrich the common good.

A Constant Conference

The constant conference or the ‘confluence’ is an online platform that researchers and other partners use to share their theories, readings, methods and pedagogies. The platform allows for cross-pollination of ideas, insights, experiences, and research.

We use a conferencing tool that combines webinars, online conferencing, forums and online document editing to create work together, and to keep the research school alive between in-person gatherings that are hosted by the Transformative Knowledge Network, and by participants from the three TKN sub-networks that form part of the greater ISSC Transformations to Sustainability network. Any specific outputs that emerge from the constant conference will be made available at our resources page. The specific commons spaces that are active at the constant conference are:

  • Methodology Commons (for sharing t-learning methodology developments)
  • General Conference (for general t-learning meetings and communication events)

Click on the thematic buttons below to join into the conferences (these will be by invitation).  Please contact us via the project email contact (see contacts) for the password if you would like to contribute to the forum as these are password protected online work-rooms.

Method’s Commons
Constant Conference