The GLBTQ Educational Equity (GLEE) Project was the context for my doctoral action research at Oulu University, Finland. The GLEE Project received 3 years of funding (1999 to 2002) from the EU Socrates programme to develop (with an international training team) a Leadership Training Course for European school teachers. The main objective of the course was to empower teacher participants to develop and carry out actions within their own school communities and form transnational projects to promote GLBTQ educational equity.
These actions included, for example, workshops for colleagues, school counselling initiatives, integrating GLBTQ issues into the curriculum, and production of materials on GLBTQ educational issues. Following the course, the participants became part of an internet-based support network called GLEENET. This network provided a resource centre as well as a space for communication between participating teachers to support their own local actions and transnational projects.
During the GLEE Project my role as the researcher was to collect and analyse data to assist the development of the Leadership Training Course, and construct pedagogical theory and practice to foster teacher empowerment and promote GLBTQ educational equity. Critical pedagogy provided the theoretical foundations and starting point. Using a methodological approach based on critical action research, the research began with the planning of a Leadership Training Course with the training team.
Empirical data was collected prior to and during the course, as well as afterwards when the teachers returned to their schools to carry out their action plans. The data was used to analyse the course and the ways in which teachers were empowered to carry out actions in their schools, and also the barriers that they faced. Reflection on the results led to the modification of the pedagogical principles followed by the planning of a further course. The methodological approach was therefore praxis with spiralling cycles of action and reflection to construct counter-heteronormative pedagogical theory and practice.
A Pilot Leadership Training Course took place in 2000 and was followed by another Leadership Training Course in 2002 (both in Oulu, Finland). After the second course the EU funding for the GLEE Project ended, along with the collaborative work with the training team. At this stage I began to focus on dissertation writing whilst continuing to collect data (mostly through GLEENET), on the activism of the teacher participants in their schools. The data included reports on the individual actions of teachers, as well as a transnational project called Towards an Inclusive School (TIS). The TIS Project was created by 5 course participants and received EU funding from 2003-2006.
At the dissertation writing stage the aim of the research was to use the data collected during the GLEE Project, including data on the post-course actions of teachers to: (1) evaluate teacher empowerment and activism, (2) construct principles and practice for an empowering pedagogy, and (3) evaluate the efficacy of action research as a counter-heteronormative praxis. Overall the aim of the research was therefore to evaluate the possibilities and limitations within the GLEE Project to foster teacher empowerment and promote GLBTQ educational equity.
The research culminated in the doctoral dissertation which was defended at Oulu University in 2009. The title was Promoting Educational Equity through Teacher Empowerment. Web-assisted Transformative Action Research as a Counter-Heteronormative Praxis. The results of the research and the contributions to knowledge that the dissertation makes can be found at: http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9789514290572/index.html?lang=en
I am continuing to develop Queer Action Research in Education (QUARE) as a counter-heteronormative practice.
I am currently researching the ways in which Buddhist philosophy can inform Transformative Pedagogy. My focus so far is on Engaged Buddhism. Also I am researching ways to integrate the principles of Transformative Pedagogy into Education for Gross National Happiness (GNH). This led to a Transformative Education for GNH Action Research Project in Bhutan beginning in January 2011.