Takeaways from SweDev’s second teachers’ workshop

December 21, 2022

SweDev hosted its second teachers’ workshop together with 18 teachers in development studies.

Library Library. Photo: Patrik Göthe / Unsplash

Development studies is a broad field, taught in various departments across universities. Despite the broadness, there are many commonalities and much to be learnt from each other. How can we generate learning and greater collaboration across disciplines and institutions?

SweDev held its second teachers’ workshop in October 2022. 18 teachers from universities and research institutions across Sweden attended, including those that attended the first workshop, along with new participants. This workshop followed up with new questions and challenges that emerged from the first workshop, covering joint issues in teaching development studies, identified by SweDev.

The discussion provided space both for talking about challenges as well as how to move forward and learn from each other as teachers in development studies. SweDev’s working group on education – Jonas Ewald, Rickard Lalander and Muriel Côte – lead the discussion around three topics.

Shrinking resources in development education

One group discussed how research institutions are dealing with shrinking resources. It was noted that research takes a long time, and that funding for students’ work is at times challenging. While costly parts of students’ education, such as fieldwork, are important, this may be replaced by innovative solutions such as digital fieldwork, including students in larger research projects at the institution or conducting fieldwork closer to the students’ home cities.

What do we mean by development?

One topic covered delineating the scope of development education. Challenges in teaching relate to the implicit assumptions about what traditional development studies is. At the same time, “development” is a buzzword – up to each programme to decide its own definition. This comes with both pros and cons, as a more open definition of development is more conducive to a relational approach to development, although a narrow understanding may open up the question of where different expertise in development actually fits in and what should be taught to students in master’s programmes.

Objectivity and subjectivity in education

One group discussed dealing with subjectivity-objectivity and activist approaches in development education. The participants highlighted that it is important to be honest and self-aware about your position in relation to students. They also noted the importance of reflecting upon the activist approach in development studies with the students. In sum, objectivity could be regarded as impossible, and teachers are – in some regard – activists in their teaching as well.

The SweDev working group on education look forward to welcoming previous and new participants to the third workshop in 2023. Stay tuned for more updates!