Phd research

The Sustainable University. On actual, possible and desirable relationships between the university and sustainable development

This ongoing doctoral study discusses the phenomenon of sustainability in higher education from a number of angles. Its general aim is to facilitate discussions about the actual, possible and desirable relation between higher education and sustainability by offering a number of tools (map, typology, vocabulary…)  to foster an open, democratic, and critical debate on the subject.

By drawing on a number theoretical and methodological frameworks (the multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions, Laclau & Mouffe’s strand of discourse theory, topic modelling…) in relation to the wider philosophy of higher education literature, different conceptualizations of the “sustainable university” and their educational and didactical implications are studied.

Researchers: Maarten Deleye (PhD student, Uppsala university), Leif Östman (supervisor, Uppsala University), Katrien van Poeck (co-supervisor, Ghent University) 

Funder and duration: PhD at Uppsala University, August 2018 – end 2023.

Practical thinking while learning to program – novices’ in the computer lab

This project investigates the process of learning to program. Central is novice students learning hands-on — writing code — in the computer lab. The methodology is mixed methods using both a controlled study and surveys as well as interviews, observations, and video recordings in a naturalistic classroom setting.  With the help of pragmatic theory (as described by Dewey and the later Wittgenstein), students’ learning processes can be understood as ‘come to agreement’ and habitual actions when doing programming as ‘practical thinking’. Emotional experiences in the learning situation are connected to learning hands-on and seem to play a role in long-term learning. Insights in this area can improve programming education and hopefully shed some light on other areas in computer science as well as being useful in understanding other lab-dependent subjects.

Researchers: Kristina von Hausswolff (PhD student, Uppsala University), Anna Eckerdal (supervisor, Uppsala University), Maria Weurlander (co-supervisor, Stockholm University)

Funder and duration: The Swedish Research Council, grant 2015-01920 and Ph.D. at Uppsala University. Duration: 2016 – 2021

Learning in sustainability transitions: The role of collective emotions in continuity and change processes

This ongoing PhD project, which is part of the LESTRA project, discusses the role of collective emotions in learning in sustainability transitions. The project does not conceive of emotions as individual but rather as made in transaction with other people and shaped through their joint meaning-making. The aim is, thus, to generate insights into how such emotions can contribute to the emergence of creative solutions in group settings and thereby tackle lock-ins. 
The main empirical questions refer to how and where collective emotions emerge in the learning process, how they can influence the learning process and ultimately, how they might contribute to sustainability transitions in the long-term. With regards to the educational implications of this study, it will be investigated how such emotional expressions can be facilitated to allow for collective habits to change. 
The study will primarily draw on case studies of transitions-in-the-making in the energy system in Belgium and Germany. In these case studies, collective meaning-making will be analysed with a specific focus on collective emotions. 
Researchers: Juliane Höhle (PhD student, Ghent University), Katrien Van Poeck (supervisor, Ghent University), Frederik De Roeck (supervisor, Ghent University)

Teaching and learning about food and health in home and consumer studies

Food is a part of everyday life, and it is common knowledge that eating has significant impact on health and wellbeing. Swedish Home and consumer studies (HCS) has teaching and learning about food at its core. However, little is known about food and health as educational content in HCS, and how educational practices influence students’ meaning-making. 

This project therefore aims to contribute to the understanding of how teaching and learning about food and health takes place in the HCS classroom. One school class with students aged 14-15, and their two HCS teachers, were followed throughout one school year, using qualitative methods such as observations and interviews. The empirical data is processed using a pragmatic approach. Central concepts include aesthetic experiences, practical epistemology analysis (PEA), and educational functions (subjectification, socialization, and subjectification). 

Researchers: Gita Berg (PhD student, Uppsala University), prof. Ylva Mattsson Sydner (supervisor, Uppsala University), Eva Lundqvist (co-supervisor, Uppsala University)

Funder and duration: Uppsala Research School in Subject Education (UpRiSE), 2016-2024

Calling the existential into existence in climate change education

Research on the need for education to take into account the existential concerns of students, grows rapidly. This ongoing doctoral study discusses the appearances of the existential in climate change education as well as the didactical approach of it.  This study aims to create empirically grounded knowledge that offers teachers and researchers in climate change education a analytical lens to observe the existential in climate change education as well as a vocabulary and tools to reflect upon how to handle this existential dimension of climate change. 

Researchers: Ellen Vandenplas (PhD student, Uppsala university), Thomas Block (supervisor, Ghent University), Katrien van Poeck (co-supervisor, Ghent University) 

Funder and duration: PhD at Ghent University, start: August 2019.

Care beyond and in aesthetic moments of teaching and learning

This project is situated in the research field of environmental and sustainability education (ESE) in higher education and investigates the meaning of ‘care’ in relation to community and learning. It shall nuance our understandings of ‘care’ in higher education, and explore its various dimensions and ways of manifesting, especially during aesthetic moments within problem-based teaching and learning. The aim of this project is to give us insights in how teachers are already and can in the future deal ethically and educationally with evoking and provoking feelings in the context of ESE. 

Researchers: Charlotte Ponzelar (PhD student, Uppsala university), Leif Östman (supervisor, Uppsala University), Katrien van Poeck (co-supervisor, Ghent University), Stefan Bengtsson (co-supervisor, Uppsala University)

Funder and duration: PhD at Uppsala University, start: September 2021.

Learning in sustainability transitions: global considerations within the micro-politics of transitions

Alexander Deveux started in April 2022 as a PhD student for LESTRA (learning in view of sustainability transitions), a European Research Council funded project. Together with Katrien Van Poeck and Frederik De Roeck as supervisors, their team will conduct research on learning in sustainability transitions from a transactional perspective.

Specifically, the PhD project itself focuses on ‘global considerations’ within micro-processes of learning. It thereby acknowledges ‘meaning-making’ as situated practices, that nonetheless constitute more global consequences of human associations, conceived of here as collective habits. Making the link between learning and sustainability transitions offers us a peek into the workings of social change, and thus also the consequences of creative human transactions. In this regard the project wonders where and how individual learning transforms into new collective habits and therefore change.

In order to do so; this project proposes to study the potential links between meaning-making and ‘space-making’. Emphasizing the social production of space enables us to make visible change not only through meaning, but also by tracking material changes in space. As such, the project aspires to bring insights into the change and reproduction of collective habits through meaning and space, and their interrelations.

Last modified: 2022-12-20