Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

AHESS Miles: Performing environmental education: activism, justice and public pedagogy

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Supervisors: Dr Emma Miles; Dr Elsa Lee; Dr Eva Aymamí Reñé; Dr Joel Chalfen

Location: Cambridge 

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Wednesday 24 April.

Apply online by 3 March 2024

The context for this study underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive, multi-generational approach to pedagogy concerning climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation.

Recognising the pivotal role of education in addressing these interrelated environmental challenges, there has been a significant surge in research within educational institutions aimed at advancing environmental sustainability education.

However, it is noteworthy that, at a recent European Conference on Educational Research’s Network 30 on Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (EERA), out of 100 presentations on ESE research, not a single one exclusively focused on public pedagogy.

Public pedagogies are understood as ‘spaces, sites and languages of education and learning that exist outside of the walls of the institution of schools’ (Sandlin, Schultz and Burdick, 2010).

Occurring in public spaces that should be accessible to all, these pedagogies tend to be driven by the pursuit of social justice rather than excellence and have the potential to impact across the generations.

This discrepancy observed at the EERA conference indicates that the primary emphasis in education is currently placed on preparing the next generation, while our understanding of engaging the current generation in power lags behind.

This dynamic inadvertently distances current generations from addressing these pressing problems, as the responsibility is disproportionately placed on future generations. This not only delays the pursuit of urgently needed solutions but also impedes the possibility of prompt and effective interventions.

This situation embodies an example of intergenerational injustice, where the burden of responsibility is shifted onto the least powerful, allowing the most powerful to continue living beyond planetary boundaries, thus severely limiting the prospects of future generations.

To effectively engage generations in power, not bound by the confines of their own time, we must transcend the limitations of institutionalised education and the ideological linearity it promotes.

Exploring alternative spaces, places, avenues, and practices becomes imperative, shedding light on the unfolding present and the shared moment of crisis devoid of predetermined measurable outcomes. Performance, with its multifaceted nature, provides a unique lens through which we can approach these intricate challenges.

Additionally, understanding embodied practice's pivotal role in education enables critical analysis of concepts like sustainable futures. Furthermore, when performance is viewed as a socio-political practice, it becomes instrumental in defining public pedagogy, encouraging learning beyond traditional educational settings and behaviours.

Over recent years, public pedagogy has taken various forms, including emerging in protest movements and performances inspired by the growing global awareness of interconnected environmental crises.

These performances encompass a spectrum of expressions, from slow marches to dances, and from sleep-ins to sit-ins. Some acts of resistance take on characteristics of civil disobedience, while others align with principles of non-violent and democratic protest.

Key objectives

With this in mind, our primary objective for this scholarship is to invite applications from students who aspire to explore the emergence of public pedagogy, with a particular emphasis on the role of performance and performance theory.

Additionally, we welcome applications interested in investigating the impact of slow and gentle activism on societal transformation by reshaping relationships with local and global environments.

Art, in its various forms, plays a pivotal role in acts of public pedagogy, making it an essential aspect of our inquiry. We encourage creative and innovative proposals that explore the intersection of the arts with public pedagogy in the context of environmental crises.

The successful applicant will work with supervisors in both the School of Education and the School of Creative Industries, acknowledging the interdisciplinary nature of this research. We welcome applicants with experience of previous work/study in education, environmentalism and/or the arts.

There will also be the chance to work alongside the EEJ (Education and Environmental Justice) Collective at the School of Education at ARU. The EEJ Collective serves as a hub for early career scholars, facilitating collaborative reading and research on topics related to the intersection of Education and Environmental Justice.

The collective actively engages with artists to enrich learning and enhance communication about the complexities inherent in these two broad areas of praxis. Successful candidates who apply for this scholarship will become part of this collective, joining a diverse group of scholars from across the UK, Europe, and beyond.

If you would like to discuss this research project please contact Emma Miles: [email protected]

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Funding notes

The successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers the tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2023/4 this was £18,622 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.