Standing Working Groups

Standing Working Groups (SWG) are small, thematically organized research groups within ISCHE, designed to coordinate research and discussion on a set topic, guided by specific research goals, for a set period of time.  SWGs are automatically granted two parallel session slots on the programme of each ISCHE annual conference.  Guidelines for the operations and establishment of Standing Working Groups are located in  Section 7 of the ISCHE Byelaws.



Growing up in out-of-home care:  Histories of children and youths in foster families and residential homes (2017-2022): Convenors: Joëlle Droux, University of Geneva (CH), Véronique Czáka, University of Geneva (CH), Jeroen J.H. Dekker, University of Groningen (NL), Els Dumortier, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (B), Aurore François, Université catholique de Louvain (B).

Description and main objectives: Since the late 1990s, forced out-of-home placement of children and youth became an issue in the public debate in several western countries, starting with Australia and Canada. When care leavers, who were placed out-of-home during their childhood and / or adolescence, decided in growing numbers to testify about their experiences, including maltreatment and sexual abuse, and to require explanation and / or compensation, the political authorities, responsible for forced out-of-home placements, in many countries mandated research teams to shed light on the long term history of welfare policies and historical abuse. Some of these investigations have been completed, others are ongoing or still in their early stages.  Focusing on the extent of abuse and mistreatment, including sexual abuse, which occurred in residential homes and in foster families, these investigations also touched upon a variety of related issues: origin and evolution over time of public policies regarding child and family welfare;  political and economic issues underlying these policies; categories and categorization of children and young people in relation to public intervention (orphans, illegitimates, delinquents, maladjusted, disabled…); social and cultural origins of those children in care; situations of the families and the individual vulnerability of the children behind out-of-home placement; the nature of educational institutions (private, public); the recruitment, training and profile of staff in educational institutions (lay / religious; gender perspective); the role of various experts and professionals in placement-related processes (psychiatrists, psychologists, judges, social workers, educationalists, etc.); educational and diagnostic methods and therapeutic practices applied in the institutions; attitudes and practices toward families. This whole line of inquiries not only touches upon past discourses and practices, but also resonates with current practices and professional interrogations in the ever-growing field of child and youth welfare. Fed by this steady stream of political and media interest and scholarly input, the issue of child out-of-home placement now and in the past has thus gained an undeniably audience in Western societies and public opinions over the last decade. Its societal and scientific importance justifies an in-depth analysis within an ISCHE SWG. The issue is not new for ISCHE. ISCHE 29 in Hamburg, 2007, was dedicated to the topic of “Children and Youth at Risk”, and in the last few years various individual contributions and panels were related to this field of research (Chicago 2016, Istanbul 2015). The establishment of this new SWG will make possible to create an invaluable platform of discussion for scholars and research teams on this topic. It will result into international comparisons on the history, experiences and memories of out-of-home care and education. This new SWG aims at the contribution to a debate of great topical importance, so enabling historians of education to get in touch with the concerns of society. This SWG aims to stimulate research in a wide range of geographical regions, which have been brought during various stages of history into contact with colonial and western-inspired child welfare policies (Latin America, Asia, Africa), but also in other political contexts (such as the Ottoman empire or former communist regimes).

For additional information and to become involved, please contact,,,,

Migrants, Migration and Education (2016-2021): Convenors: Kevin Myers (GB), Paul Ramsey (US), Christian Ydesen (Denmark).

Description: Academic history has always been closely associated with the development and consolidation of nation states. The institutions, practices and historiographies created by academic historians over the past two centuries were deeply imbued with nationalism. Academic history helped to create a national way of seeing the past, framing powerful collective memories and helping to form bonds of loyalty that remain potent across the globe. Contemplating this legacy, contemporary historians have been debating the problem of ‘methodological nationalism’. The history of education has arguably been particularly sensitive to the problem of methodological nationalism. Its foundational concerns with the origins and development of state systems of schooling relied on the naturalization of the nation state, a reification of its territorial boundaries and a more or less explicit concern with nationalising people, knowledge and spaces. Migrants, and the process of migration, were rarely accorded any sustained scrutiny. If migrants did appear it was often in the guise of ‘problems’ or ‘challenges’ to states whose policy agendas were often faithfully reflected in studies of assimilation, in the management of race relations, in the consolidation of ethnic identities and in the emergence of multicultural education policy and practice. More recently, the history of education has been undergoing a process of transformation in which themes of transnationality and internationality are key themes. Our goals are to consider, debate and discuss how migrants, and migration, can be written into the history of education; and to promote and develop empirical projects that cast new light on migrants and migration in the history of education. In doing so migration is defined, following the influential work of Jan and Leo Lucassen, as crosscultural movement (Lucassen, Lucassen and Manning, 2010). In these movements migrants traverse cultural boundaries of values, religions, technologies and political systems and, in doing so, facilitate processes of cultural exchange and negotiation with dynamic and unpredictable outcomes. This definition enables a focus on socio-cultural processes that are arguably particularly, although not exclusively, appropriate for historians of education. Indeed, our goal is less to lay down a particular method or set of concerns than to promote the study of migrants, migration and education at macro, meso and methodological/theoretical levels. Potential themes for study include:
• Macro: state/nation/empire building and education; educational policy making in respect of
migrants and migration.
• Micro/meso: migrant individuals and networks; movements and transformations in
knowledge; transmission of material culture; migrants as educational actors; migrant
educational institutions; intercultural pedagogy; migrant memory and educational agency;
• Theoretical/methodological: historiography of race/migration; postcolonial theory; whiteness

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact, or

REFORPRO: Reformism (s), Progressivism (s), Conservatism (s) in education: what critical argumentations? (2016-1921): Convenors : A. Robert (France), F. Mole (Geneva), J. Pintassilgo (Portugal)

Description: Teachers all act according to what Sensevy called their practical epistemology (Sensevy, 2011). They organize their teaching on the basis of ideas pertaining to what they conceive as knowledge. These ideas constitute for them a kind of theory of knowledge which springs from practice, and controls it. But, more largely, every teacher acts according to a more or less coherent overall conception of his work and its meaning (a horizon of meaning). If the teacher’s task is constrained by legislation and regulatory documents, every teacher adopts a more or less critical position towards them in the discharge of his duties as well as in his political, union, or associative activism. It therefore seems relevant to investigate not only the tensions that may divide teachers between “conservatism(s),” “reformism(s),” and “progressivism(s),” but also to examine the critical arguments they use to foster or overcome these distinctions when some teachers endeavor to theorize their positions and practices. Now, the history of schooling inclines us to think that it is sometimes difficult to find out which position is really progressive in a context of struggles within societies. Likewise, deciding, in such a context, whether critical assessments of a given situation are to be considered progressive or not and why is no easy task. Indeed, it is not uncommon for teachers to adopt positions conceived as progressive on the political and social side and which are, at the same time, regarded as fundamentally conservative on the educative side; such a phenomenon was called demo-elitism (Robert, 2006). Conversely, a progressive, innovative educational view may be rooted in conservative political conceptions or in backward-looking, if not reactionary, philosophical options. For instance, eugenics, which can be considered historically and philosophically as a reactionary ideology, may have had advocates among the strong supporters of democratic schooling, such as Édouard Toulouse and Henri Piéron (Garnier, 2015). Among the numerous questions that may be explored, one concerns the determination of progressive positions within Hannah Arendt’s framework of the necessary conservatism of teachers (Arendt, 1972). How is it possible to identify progressive positions, given that the school is a conservative institution? Such a question underlines the fact that certain contradictions may prove to be important in teachers’ critical thinking: can an avowedly progressive position jeopardize, under certain circumstances, the things worthy of being preserved within the school? And, conversely, can an apparently conservative view prove itself to be a determined stand against the squandering of the cultural legacy which it is the school’s duty to preserve? The recent debates in France surrounding middle school reform (without prejudice to anyone’s position on that matter) may constitute in this regard a contemporary illustration of this issue. In any case, the Standing Working Group will strive to identify in the history of education (whether in long-run history or in the history of present times) situations emblematic of this debate pertaining to the various meanings of terms such as conservatism, or even reactionary philosophy, reformism and/or progressivism.

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact, or

History of Laic Education: Concepts, Policies and Practices around the World (2016-2021): Convenors: Adelina Arredondo (Mexico), Bruno Poucet (France), Felicitas Acosta (Argentina)

Laic Education SWG Call for Proposals for ISCHE 40 Conference (Deadline: Jan. 31, 2018)

Laic Education SWG Argument and Objectives

Description: National education systems’ conformation has been a result of nonlinear processes, which went together with the creation of the modern State, the development of capitalist production and the expansion of urbanization and market economy. Nation States have assumed the function to educate the citizens and sometimes built an absolute monopoly on the formal education in societies. To do so, limits between the roll of the State and the civil society had to be delimited. Secularisation and Laic education have been part of the States empowerment, although with different modalities, degrees, advances and backward movements and facing diverse adversaries. Against the conflicts that were caused for reasons of creed or religion, laic education became a principle and a desirable model to the interior of the nations and in international and transnational organizations. The objective of this SWG is to contribute to the explanation of the diversity of processes and conditions that made possible the transition from a religious to a laic education, as one of the fundamental strategies four building hegemonic power in modern States, as well as a mean for obtaining pacific coexistence and respect by the religious and cultural diversity in the world.

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact, or

Objects, Senses and the Material World of Schooling (2015-2020): Convenors: Kazuhisa Fujimoto (Japan, Keio), Ian Grosvenor (UK, Birmingham), Noah W. Sobe (USA, Loyola University Chicago) and Mirian Warde (Brazil, UNIFESP)

Objects, Senses and the Material World of Schooling SWG 2016 Annual Report is available here

Description: The “object lesson” or the “intuitive method” was a significant nineteenth and early twentieth century pedagogical innovation in many settings around the globe yet it has generally speaking not yet received systematic, concerted history of education research attention. Of particular significance are the ways that ideas and practices related to teaching through/with objects and in relation to the senses circulated trans-nationally. Many were the ways that information about this set of innovations circulated, including for example the reports of C. Hippeau (1803-1883) and F. Buisson (1841-1932) who, like others either on their own initiative or commissioned by various governments, produced detailed reports on new developments in the educational field in America and in Europe.   Object teaching could be praised for its modernizing qualities, its alignment with the child´s nature, as well as for its effectiveness in improving teaching practice. Moreover, it is our contention that this pedagogical movement reorganized pedagogical practice in in depth and breadth that historians of education have only begun to explore.

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact or

Touching Bodies in School SWG (2014-2019): Convenors: Diana Vidal (Brazil, USP), Ines Dussel (Mexico, Cinvestav) and Marcelo Caruso (Germany, Humboldt University)

The Touching Bodies SWG 2015 Annual Report is available here.

Description: In contemporary schools, it is almost impossible that bodies touch other bodies without being questioned or put under suspicion. School regulations, moral orders, and pedagogical discourses have established that teachers and students have to keep their distance. Also,  students’ peer relationships are similarly scrutinized. It is not only old punishment practices  that are forbidden; bodily expressions of kind and care are practically vanishing from the time-space of schooling. These changes are related to shifts in our understanding of violence; what passed as rituals of initiation in the past may now fall into the category of bullying, and what was perceived as caress and warmth may now be read as sexual harassment or assault. It seems that we have never talked so much about bodies in school. We have never given so much attention to teachers and students as individuals, subjects of desire, anger, sadness or happiness. There was never so much fear of touching each other, hurting each other, affecting each other.  Or was there? How was the contact between bodies theorized and practiced in schools in the past? Which languages were used to talk about it? Which strategies and devices were designed to deal with this touching? When did ‘hurting’ become a pedagogical problem? When did rights and protection enter this space? What other transformations are we seeing today?

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact or

Mapping the Discipline History of Education SWG (2014-2019): Convenors: Eckhardt Fuchs, Rita Hofstetter, Emmanuelle Picard and Solenn Huitric.

Mapping the Discipline History of Education SWG Argument and Objectives

The Mapping the Discipline SWG 2016 Annual Report is available here.

The Mapping the Discipline SWG 2015 Annual Report is available here.

Description: In the context of the growth, complexification and internationalization of higher education and research, it had seemed to be fruitful to map the history of education in Europe since the early nineties. Our goal is to create a current and retrospective assessment of the discipline’s institutional grounding and of the knowledge produced by its practitioners, stretching across national and cultural borders. Ultimately, the program will help to increase interactions among scholars and facilitate the creation of collaborative research agendas, thereby augmenting the standing and visibility of the discipline. It aims to describe the recent evolution of History of Education in order to make it more visible and, in knowing it and in reflecting on it, to reinforce its foundation and legitimacy. It may also serve as reference for prospective planning and for establishing a research agenda.  This mapping will focus on the emblematic traits that characterize any discipline: its institutional foundation (Institutes, departments, posts), communication networks (associations, scientific events, means for publication), the structures of socialization and education of the new generation (curriculum, diploma, doctoral theses) and the ongoing renewing of knowledge produced by the discipline (research, epistemological foundation, research methods). Transcending internal debates and defying boundaries of all types, our research program seeks to further the self-reflexive study of the discipline through the creation of collectively built databases. Via a shared virtual platform, such databases will provide common access to a catalogue of researchers and institutions, media outlets and studies on the history of education, irrespective of their institutional and geographic moorings. Collective discussion of the data and analyses produced will contribute to create synergies between historians of education in order to elaborate a common research agenda and to reinforce the base of the discipline.  Additional information at

For additional information and to become involved: Please contact Rita Hofstetter (, Emmanuelle Picard ( or Eckhardt Fuchs (



Gender SWG (2012-2016): Convenors: Adelina Arredondo (, Christine Mayer (

The Gender SWG 2015 Annual Report is available here.

The Gender SWG 2014 Annual Report is available here.

Description: Historians of gender and education are finding the concept of transnationalism very useful for a deeper understanding of historical change and situations. Transnationalism addresses networks, ideas and practices which transcend national boundaries yet are linked to them and can affect and reflect national developments. Its study illuminates the fluidity of concepts of gender, education, culture and nation in time and space and the significance of individual or group action – a factor which allows the role of those usually marginalised within power structures to be better appreciated. It also raises questions across the continents concerning internationalism, globalization, colonialism and/or post-colonialism, contentious terms which again concern power relations. Thus, this focus should appeal to a wide range of historians and regarding to the relationship gender and education in history, it could cover: • The significance of transnationalism as an organising concept in gender and education history. • A critique of gendered historical terms, language and symbols and exploration of how they are transferred, transformed, imposed or resisted in their passage across borders and in different times and contexts. • Methodologies and theoretical approaches for exploring the interrelation of transnationalism, gender and power in gender and education history.
Proposals related to this range of issues may be submitted by anyone active in this research field. The meetings of the SWG are similarly open to everyone interested in questions of gender. Publications in a variety of formats are being considered (as themed or special journal issues or standalone books).

For Ruth Watts’ Bibliography of Gender-topic articles in Paedagogica Historica, 1994-2012, click here.

For Ruth Watt’s history of the Gender SWG (1994-2012), presented at the 2012 ISCHE meeting in Geneva, click here for the paper, and here for the accompanying powerpoint.

Teachers Critical Thinking SWG (2010-2015): Convenor: André Robert (

The work of the Teachers Critical Thinking SWG has resulted in the publication La Pensée critique des enseignants: Éléments d’histoire et de théorisation  edited by André Robert and Bruno Garnier (University Press of Rouen, 2015). pensee critique SM

The Teachers’ Critical Thinking SWG 2015 Annual Report is available here.

The Teachers’ Critical Thinking SWG 2014 Annual Report is available here.

Description: The concept of critical thinking tackled in this standing working group should be understood in a stronger sense that just protests and claims made through the channel of ordinary trade unions and political parties (though unions and parties can sometimes be relays of such a thought). By thought, we understand a kind of discourse that is part of a true intellectual and rational development, giving consistency or even a form of logic system, to arguments and ideas (around operations of conceiving, judging, reasoning) – and not just opinions, even coming from particular individuals or groups. In coordination with this definition, “critical” refers to the tendency of a mind that does not allow any statement without having experienced the rational legitimacy, testing various discursive proposal with discriminant reason (the Greek verb crinein, from which come the verb ‘criticize’ and the noun ‘crisis’, meaning originally to sort). The construction of the distance and externality, provided they comply with the requirements of rational argument, is thus the foundation of critical thought, in the sense meant by Theodor Adorno: “When the culture is accepted in its entirety, it has lost the ferment of its truth, which is negation” (Adorno, 1955, 1986).   Critical thinking in the teaching world will be considered in several senses: -thinking from teachers and/or educationalists as unique individuals; -thinking coming from teachers organizations, networks, think thanks or groups operating as “collective intellectual” (Bourdieu, 2001); -thinking from outside personalities influencing the world of teachers in one way or another; -educational thought in a more generic sense, impacting the teaching practice. It will consider original examples of critical thinking, justified along the previous guidelines, or at least revisited at an original angle.


The Standing Working Group Educational media in comparative perspective, convened by Eckhardt Fuchs, Ian Grosevenor and Daniel Lindmark came to the end of its work in 2012.  In 2009 the SWG Comparative Lexicography in Theory and History of Education” convened by Luciana Bellatalla completed its work.  Two SWGs wrapped up their work in 2007: Teachers Union’s (RESEAU) and Cross Cultural Influences in History of Education.  From 1998-2012 what is presently the Gender and Education SWG operated as the History of Womens’ and Girls’ Education SWG.