Marcel writes

about anything that concerns teaching, learning, educational technology & human rights and citizenship education


Populist times

It has been a while since I wrote a post and ever since, it looks as if we inhabit a different world.

A book that has my attention at the moment is the fantastic”What is populism?” (2016) by Jan-Werner Müller (see picture).

Just one advice: read it!



How to be alone.

Being alone for almost a week now is a revelation. As a father of four children, as a husband to my lovely wife, as a teacher educator involved in teaching and guiding many student teachers both offline and online, more or less around the clock, I hardly ever get to be alone for such a long time. I believe the last time this happened was on a work trip -alone- to Indonesia back in 2014. However, that trip was filled with other obligations than during my current activity, I met more people there then I do now.

On this trip I combine teaching practice visits in and around London with a four day trip to my university in Bath. I have spoken to my supervisor about my dissertation and I do literature research on campus (and off-campus). And I do it alone.

This brought me to buying Sara Maitland’s book “How to be alone” (2014), from the School of Life series.


A wonderful little, yet densely written book about cultural assumptions and implications about being alone. And, with constructive ideas on how being alone (not: lonely) can be a very positive experience. I love the book.

Besides, I like to be together too.


Education as construction, reconstruction and deconstruction: Dewey meets Derrida.




Education is often perceived as instruction or the passing on of knowledge, skills and attitudes on to the next generation. An intriguing passage in the book mentioned in the previous post, [John Dewey’s Philosophy of education. An introduction and recontextualisation for our times (Garrison, Neubert, Reich 2012), p. 148-159] deals with how educators can view education alternatively, whilst taking the learners perspective seriously: the education process as an ongoing chain of construction, reconstruction and deconstruction. At the intersection of Dewey as a philosopher of reconstruction and Derrida as a philosopher of deconstruction, education can be viewed as a continuous process in which learners are asked to construct, reconstruct and deconstruct their views, the language they use, the texts they read or the images they see in order to take steps to deeper learning about their meaning. When this is, for example attached to concepts such as their own identity, or their perceptions of other people’s identities, interesting dialogues, that can help to foster intercultural understanding, will emerge in the classroom. This asks for great teachers, who can manage and facilitate such classroom interactions. A good example of a technique that can be used to facilitate such interactions is the philosophical dialogue. The chain of construction-reconstruction-deconstruction can be used deliberately by making use of philosophy for children (or P4C), but will ask for proper preparation by the teacher. Sources that can be used for this are for instance:

The Philosophy Foundation, and The International Council of Philosophical Inquiry with Children








Excavating John Dewey’s philosophy

Setting out to construct the theoretical framework for my master dissertation, I currently read Garrison, Neubert & Reich’s (2012) “.

In their introduction, the authors stress the importance Dewey attached to experience as a locus of learning. Construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of language in participative democratic experiences is seen as the heart of true democratic learning, where democracy is both means and end. The book ends with interesting intersections of the ideas of Dewey with those of very interesting and seminal thinkers such as Zygmunt Bauman, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Emanuel Levinas and Richard Rorty.

My fascination for the theme of democracy and society could not have been fueled better than by this highly interesting work. After this, readings from Dewey himself (1916), Osler & Starkey (2010), Carr, Zyngier and Pruyn (2012), Silova & Hobson (2014) and others will further inform the framework for the dissertation. Empirical research on ITEPS student teachers’ perceptions on the teaching of democracy and human rights will be analysed against the background of these frameworks.


Novels that open up worlds.

The last couple of months I have been reading two remarkable novels that opened up worlds in ways non-fiction could never do.

These novels are: Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission (2015) (Submission), Kamel Daoud’s Meursault-Contre-enquête (2014) (The Meursault Investigation).



Each of these novels evoke a world that has changed my world view. Houellebecq, in his novel Submission, writes about a university professor in Paris in the near future, who slowly, and for his own reasons, lets islam slip into his life. This happens against the background of emerging political islam in France. Written in a beautiful style, the author invites the reader to imagine a dystopian societal landscape, sending shivers down the spine and meanwhile leaves the reader without any illusions about our post-modern society. Both political islam and western humanism are heavily criticised.

The second novel I recently read is The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. It should be read as a response to Albert Camus’ novel The Stanger. A present-day cry in the dark against colonialism, giving voice to the assassinated Arab man in Camus’ novel, the book is an honest defence of existentialism, humanism and the right to choose a path of individual faith. The author offers deep insight into post-colonial Algeria and describes in full beauty what the struggles in North Africa look like and how current day hatred in the world can be explained and mostly: almost felt. Best sentences: “For me, religion is like public transport, I don’t use it. Ik would like to go to that God, walking if I have to, but not in an organised group trip.” A revelation.


“Can educators make a difference?”- I am certain they can.

Can educators make a difference

Since a few weeks, I am getting involved in a very interesting global research community, holding the intriguing title Global Doing Democracy Research Project, established by Paul Carr and David Zyngier. On the website, the purpose of this community is described as follows: “An international project examining perspectives & perceptions of democracy in education to develop a robust & critical democratic education”.

For more information, please check:

The research group has published its first book in 2012 entitled: “Can educators make a difference? Experimenting with and Experiencing Democracy in Education” (Carr, Zyngier, Pruyn, 2012). The book is a real inspiration for educators who are in search of a legitimate alternative for right-wing neo-liberal or neo-conservative agendas for (international) education and in my view it offers great opportunities for answering Biesta’s question (2015): “What is education for?”

The project has inspired me to the extent that it will lead to my master dissertation, I am currently drafting my research proposal about ITEPS student teachers’ perceptions on democracy and citizenship (education) in their percieved role as future international educators in relation to social justice.

To be continued.


Why skepticism is needed in the debate about technology in education


Currently I read this great book by Neil Selwyn (2014) Distrusting educational technology: critical questions for changing times and it really is, as the back of the book says, “a much-needed critique”. However I very frequently and hapily use technology in education, both as an educator as well as in my role as a master student, this book really got me thinking deeply about the issue and is shaking the very foundations of my thoughts on what technology can do for education, especially in the humanities. Selwyn systematically critiques four genres of educational technology, being “virtual”, “open”, “games” and “social”, examining underlying ideological values and drivers. Instead of taking the various advocates’ ideas and promotion of these four genres for granted, the author deliberately looks at the engine of educational technology and discovers the deeper connections between inequalities in the online and offline worlds. A true demystification of technological promises as “freedom to learn anywhere, any place, anytime”, “free access for all”, “better understanding” and “democratisation” takes place before the reader’s eye and leaves him/her dazzled…


A great critical source for everyone who wants to study a topic related to educational technology!



A new start!

The academic year has started again. Fresh new faces with high expectations look at each other in the gym, during the speech of the university’s location manager. Will these expectations all come true? High hopes for the future, is this course, this profession a good choice? Will I be able to tackle my challenges this new year?

Then, my first lectures of this year, research and academic methods. I am pleasantly surprised by the enthousiasm I encounter, the students are really motivated to start studying again. Interesting to witness how their energy interacts with mine and how this dialectic process that we call ‘education’ slowly takes its course. It is a privilige to be an educator.

Conclusion (and this is always tricky after a long holiday): there is still something to learn after 25 years of teaching. This time it is about how students’enthousiasm can fuel mine instead of the other way around. Mighty interesting job!


Amazing article on personalised learning

Currently I research options for personalised learning (PL) in the ITEps curriculum and I came across this article:

Jones, M.M. & McLean, K., 2012. Personalising Learning in Teacher Education through the use of Technology. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(1).

Besides conceptual discussions about personalised learning and its(far reaching) implications, a really useful model on the introduction of PL is part of this paper.

Jones & McLean (2012) discuss how ICT could contribute to a more personalised curriculum for teacher education and what teacher educators can do to systematically promote it.

A must-read for teacher educators I think.


New research insights on the emerging labour market for international teachers

Currently I have the opportunity to study online at Bath university. My current research stretches from writing about the relative position of ITEPS in relation to theoretical ideal models of international education, to the nature and function of (more) personalised learning within the course that I currently teach, Democratic Citizenship.

Regarding the first issue, I am lucky to have access to many very interesting sources, such as a great book, authored by Bunnell (2014), entitled The Changing Landscape of International Schooling, which offers me loads of new insights into this extremely interesting sector of international education. The phenomenal growth of the sector, described by Bunnell in numbers from 6,000 international schools in 2012 to over 11,000 international schools in 2022, employing over 500,000 English-speaking teachers obviously has one important implication: according to Bunnell (2014) until 2022, a further 200,000 teachers will be needed!!

That is great news for our students, who indeed are massively being welcomed at international schools as student teachers all around the world currently.

Another insight here is that international education is unbdoubtedly interwoven with international capitalism and globalisation, meaning that many international schools worldwide are businesses, market driven organisations, brands even.

That this fact will have all kinds of implications for equal access to education, study opportunities and global justice goes without saying. A very interesting question will become, for the ITEPS consortium: how will we, as public universities, deal with the frictions and challenges that this will bring about with the mission statements of our universities? In this light, I currently write about the question to what extent ITEPS positions itself in relation to an ideal model of international (teacher) education.

My other piece of research deals with personalised learning by students (and consequently, how they deliver their version of personalised education to pupils). This highly contested notion brings about many theoretical and practical issues. Is education a modern or a post-modern enterprise? Are personalised and individualised learning the same? How can personalised learning be organised? Who is in charge? Should effects of personalised learning only benefit the individual or should there be social effects, benefecials effects “back into the group”? Let alone the many dilemmas that this concept brings to teacher educators. Jones and McLean (2012) offer great meaningful student experiences with IT for learning. Great stuff to dive into and that makes me even more passionate for my job and about my current learning curve. A steep one!

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