Introducing QUINT PhD Fellow Cæcilie Ketil Hejl

Facilitating philosophical dialogues in schools led Cæcilie Ketil Hejl to wonder if there is a need for more professional development for teachers in this area.

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Based on the results of her research, Hejl will develop a tool for teacher development. Photo: Larissa Lily, QUINT / UiO

Now she is investigating the quality of dialogic teaching in the Nordic countries as part of QUINT's Nordic PhD network and based at the University of Southern Denmark.

What's your background? 

I have a master degree in Philosophy with a minor in Biology. During my master in Philosophy I was trained to be a facilitator in philosophical dialogue with children. This meant that I had the chance to come into different classrooms in different schools in Denmark and facilitate philosophical dialogues with children ages 6 to 15. In my experience, some classes were really good at engaging in these big questions. However, most classes had a lot of difficulties when they were invited to engage in a dialogic inquiry. This led me, and other facilitators in the research project Philosophy in Schools, which I was a part of, to wonder if there is a need for more professional development for teachers in this area.

Can you tell us about your PhD project? 

In my project I am going to make a qualitative analysis of what characterizes dialogic teaching in Danish and Norwegian classrooms, specifically in the subjects mathematics, social science and Danish/Norwegian. Based on the results of my analysis I will develop a tool for teacher development, which can be used by groups of teachers to supports didactic reflection and change the quality of their dialogic teaching.

Can you tell a little more on why some of the main topics of your PhD study are interesting and relevant? 

In the North we have a self-image of being very good at engaging in dialogue and using dialogue in our everyday teaching in primary and secondary classrooms. Nevertheless, me and my colleagues at The University of Southern Denmark often hear teachers express a need for tools and methods to introduce real dialogue in their classrooms. Real dialogue in this context means that the students actually listen to each other and inquire the same themes and questions. We have also worked together with great teachers who thought that they were very good at teaching their students to engage in dialogue, but when they saw how we facilitated philosophical dialogues, they realised that there was room for development of their teaching practices.

This has led me to wonder if there is a discrepancy between how we think the quality of dialogic teaching is in the Nordic classrooms and how it actually is. Therefore I want to take a closer look at what characterises the quality of whole class dialogues to find out if there is room for improvement. 

What are you hoping to find out?

I am hoping to be able to see some patterns in how whole class dialogue is used in the different subjects and in different national contexts. In this case I will be comparing Danish and Norwegian classrooms. My guess is that there will be areas of dialogic teaching that are neglected in certain subjects or in general. I also hope that the development tool for dialogic teaching that I will be creating will be useful for the teachers when I test it as a final part of my project. 

How is being part of a Nordic PhD network supporting your project?

Being a part of a Nordic PhD network is a great opportunity to discuss in detail the differences and similarities between the educational practices in the Nordic countries. I believe that we have a lot to learn from each other across boarders. 

However, it can also be a difficult task to conclude anything when comparing different national contexts, so I hope to have some great discussions around this topic with my PhD colleagues in the network. Furthermore, I think that there will be some very interesting opportunities for collaboration, coauthoring of articles and so on.

What motivates you and gets you up each day?

I really like to learn new things, which is probably why I have chosen to pursue a PhD. This interest of learning new things motivates me to say yes to new adventures both at work and in my private life. But I also want my children to have a great education, and I believe that future generations would benefit from getting better at engaging in dialogues with each other. That is why I think my work is especially important.

By Larissa Lily, QUINT / UiO
Published Dec. 18, 2019 1:48 PM - Last modified Dec. 18, 2019 2:27 PM