Dr Rebecca Harris
"Over the course of their studies, our students can have a massive impact on the lives of children and young people. To do this, our students need to be open to ideas and be prepared to change how they think, to stretch themselves and others, and reflect deeply on their practice. Education to me is about challenging people to think differently, and to realise that things don't have to stay as they are."
Dr Rebecca Harris is an Associate Professor at the University of Reading who has been involved in education for nearly 30 years. She specialises in the practice of history teaching, action research, curriculum policy and development, diversity, citizenship, trainee teacher/teacher development and transgender issues.
In recent years Rebecca was involved with the Pestalozzi Programme for education professionals of the Council of Europe and as part of the History Programme has worked on approaches to teaching history in a divided society through strengthening diverse, inclusive, democratic societies.
"The role of the teacher as a guide or facilitator has changed over the last few decades and more research is needed into the kind of education we need as society continues to change. In the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump's US election victory understanding human rights, democratic participation and open minded dialogue are even more key to ensuring a healthy and sustainable democratic society."
Rebecca Harris's work looks to ensure this is reflected in education. "By challenging preconceptions and enabling students to think creatively about teaching from different perspectives and cultures this work ensures trainers, teachers and other educational actors are educated and supported in their role as professionals, given the culturally diverse environment they work in."
Her history work has involved workshops in Cyprus with teachers from both sides of the border looking at developing pedagogies that explore historical events from contrasting perspectives, and promoting greater understanding of alternative views of the past and why that matters.
Rebecca initially started as a participant in one of the Council of Europe's first Pestalozzi Programme modules for teacher trainers in 2007, and has subsequently led various modules, summer schools and workshops, and has also been involved in writing projects, such as the Council of Europe's 'Teacher Education for Change.' Her principles regarding challenge - experience - reflection became a key principle of the programme and has further resulted in modules on education for the prevention of crimes against humanity.
The Council of Europe Pestalozzi Programme has since been turned into Learn to Change, Change to Learn (L2C) a non-governmental organization (NGO) that brings together experts from different backgrounds with the aim of developing democratic and inclusive practices by drawing upon their experience of working with hundreds of teachers.
We bring these principles into teaching at University of Reading, allowing our students to realise their full potential and participate effectively in society, transcending traditional ideas when needed and accommodating change."