Love as pedagogical praxis with refugee children

Year: 2018

Author: Kaukko, Mervi, Wilkinson, Jane

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

He [a refugee student in primary school] needs mothering, he needs fathering, he needs socializing, he needs – so, it’s yeah, positive reinforcement, prizes and [pause]. I’ll use the word love because I think that that’s what they need, ultimately. (Teacher, Australia)
Building on our research on refugee students’ views on educational success (Kaukko & Wilkinson forthcoming), this presentation discusses the role of pedagogical love (Zembylas 2017, Freire 1994) in supporting refugee students’ academic achievements and overall school wellbeing.
We explore pedagogical love through a practice lens, in particular, the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis et al 2014), which helps us to move beyond the overly sentimental, general or abstract ideal of love into showing how love as a practice unfolds within real, tangible practice architectures of classrooms. Situating love within the arrangements of specific sites gives us tools to analyse how love as a practice comes to be, is sustained, transforms or dies. As these practice architectures can be explored and theorized, they can also be transformed (Kemmis et al 2014; Kemmis et al 2008
We present initial findings from interviews with refugee students and their teachers in Finnish and Australian primary schools with a high number of refugee students. We show that love is a co-constructed praxis (rather than an individual emotion or a skill) among refugee children and their teachers, and how it is enabled by well-thought through combination of philosophy and practice. We also show how pedagogical love may be constrained by standardised curricula with their emphasis on performativity and testing.