Faculty of Education research celebration considers theme of ‘basic education’

Pictured left to right: Pam Millett, Qiang Zha, Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla , Carl James

“What is basic to education?” was the theme of the Faculty of Education’s annual Research Celebration, where leading researchers assembled to discuss this question and to celebrate research excellence within the Faculty.

Held during the summer, the event opened with Heather Lotherington, associate dean research, talking about the high calibre of research coming out of the Faculty and acknowledging the Faculty’s many major research accomplishments.

“More than $20,000,000 in research funding was awarded to professors over the 2018-19 academic year to support a number of cutting-edge research projects and initiatives,” said Lotherington. “Today’s celebration is an opportunity to highlight the excellence of research within our Faculty and to learn more about the breadth and range of research being conducted by our colleagues, many of whom have been recognized locally and internationally for their scholarship.”

Lotherington’s opening comments were followed by a panel presentation featuring professors Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla, Carl James, Pam Millett and Qiang Zha, which addressed the question “What is basic to education?” Each panellist responded in relation to their area of research.

Pictured left to right: Pam Millett, Qiang Zha, Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla , Carl James

The responses

Pam Millett: “What is basic to special education is access to the programs and services needed by students, when and where students need them. We need to ensure that ‘building capacity’ at the school level does not translate into simply downloading the provision of specialized services onto school teams who do not have the support or resources to deliver them. Policies in special education need to be evidence based.”

Qiang Zha: “To answer this question, I refer to my study of liberal arts education in contemporary universities, and I argue liberal arts education is basic to university education. Nevertheless, liberal arts education must go through transformation – in response to meta changes in society at large, such as massification of university education, knowledge-based economy and globalization. Ideally, it would comprise three essential elements: humanist education, cognitive education and global education. Humanist education is fundamental for fostering critical thinking and a strong sense of social consciousness and responsibility; cognitive education is necessary to educate students for a world full of unscripted problems; and global education is crucial for developing a global consciousness and ethical thinking around the world.”

Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla: “I have been studying the root of the word ‘basics.’ For the Greeks, it meant: that on which we step and take steps. Considering this, an early childhood education that goes back to basics is an education that starts with the acknowledgment of where do we stand and the history of this ground base that we call land. Therefore, an early childhood education that goes back to basics is an education that first asks questions such as what does it mean to educate in a settler colonial society?”

Carl James: “Education needs to be a space where learners can self-actualize and self-construct their identities. It is imperative that education at its most basic must expand individuals’ capacities to arrive at their own constructs of themselves and their own learning. Education requires not the stipulation of the facts, concepts, skills and values that make us all ‘culturally literate,’ but the creation of the conditions necessary for all people to participate in the creation and recreation of meanings and values – in a word, in the remaking and reshaping of legitimate knowledge.”


Other highlights of the event included video responses by Dadaab students who are a part of the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees project and current MEd students. The students answered the question within the context of their own personal experiences and journeys as York students.

Dean Lyndon Martin then recognized faculty members who demonstrated excellence in research and teaching by presenting the Dean’s Research Impact Award and the Faculty of Education Graduate Teaching Award. The awards were presented to professors Heather Lotherington and Roopa Desai-Trilokekar, respectively.

“Both Heather and Roopa are deserving recipients of these awards that recognize research and teaching excellence in our Faculty,” said Martin. “Through their innovative scholarly work, mentorship of graduate students’ research and dedication, they are further demonstrating York’s commitment to excellence in research, teaching and scholarship.”

The event closed with a research speed dating activity facilitated by professors Gillian Parekh and Vidya Shah to support the continued reflection between individual and collective faculty research agendas and the regressive “back-to-basics” context of current times. Set up in two rows with chairs facing one another, faculty members had the opportunity to share their reflections on the following questions: How does the “back- to-basics” approach to education impact my research/work?; What kinds of interventions can my research/work produce to interrupt the “back-to-basics” approach to education?; and, As a faculty, how can we collectively respond to a “back-to-basics” approach to education?

“I thought the event was fabulous,” said Lotherington. “The Research & Awards Committee’s novel participatory approach to the annual Research Celebration involved implementing the Mentimeter and research speed dating activities, as well as sharing event hosting. The invited panel was excellent: incisive and probing; and the speed dating was met with a spirit of fun by attending faculty members, who got to learn a great deal about the research of their randomized partners in a very short time.”

Lotherington said the Office of the Associate Dean Research will pursue further new participatory opportunities for faculty members to share research, both formally and informally, welcoming all stages of the research process from idea formation through to grants and research methodology, and on to publication success, including the full scale of faculty research endeavours from small and internally funded studies to mega, international research networks.