Change your perspective!
Research on polarisation and antagonism
The ‘Change Your Perspective’ hub brings together scientific scholars and practitioners from various disciplinary perspectives, not only to discuss pressing issues in our society related to increasing polarisation, social divides and oppositions, but also to share insights based on research and practical experiences. For example:
A pupil in the classroom tells you:
'I do not trust the government and Covid 19 is all a conspiracy.'
How do these ideas originate? How can you react and keep contact with this pupil as a professional? How can we avoid extreme polarization in our democratic society? These are all difficult questions that have no simple answers…
The notion of perspective-taking constitutes the key concept within the hub. For instance, in research on teaching youth to take the perspective of others in discussing controversial issues as a teacher, in designing methodologies for finding common truths, or in recognising deep-fakes and conspiracy theories.
The hub members are interested in the question of how to create successful conditions to tackle potential controversies, divides and oppositions, with a specific focus on youth and education. They explore, among other things, how young people process information and how this affects their world view, their attitudes and behaviour as well as their interactions with others.
We explore perspectives and how they lead to conflict and polarisation. In doing so, we create opportunities for young people to switch perspectives.
The need to create common ground
Polarisation in mild forms can be beneficial for societies. In fact, it constitutes the fuel for our democracies, whereby oppositions and conflict are channelled and resolved in a peaceful way. Polarisation in more radical forms, by contrast, can threaten our democracies, open-society ideals, our sense of community and the social cohesion within schools.
As societal and political divides seem to be deepening across the globe, it becomes increasingly important to create common ground, develop new strategies and skills for cooperation and carefully consider what this mean for key competencies of young people and the innovation of education.
Three levels of research
While sharing a core theoretical focus on perspective-taking and polarisation, members are working on three distinct levels to answer their research questions.
Embedded in education
Next to doing research, the hub also engages in UU teaching programmes. Hub members Eva Janssen and Steven Raaijmaker are working hard to embed the perspective theme in the Utrecht academic community. In education, for example, this takes the form of a Bachelor's course, master classes and students who visit schools. The group is developing several courses, including courses for professionals, focusing on critical thinking, for example.
Taking perspective is particularly valuable in education, also in the context of lifelong learning.
The Filter Bubble Project: taking a perspective in the online world
The hub has received an IMPULS grant from the municipality of Utrecht (€150,000), in which a collaboration was established with Utrecht City School Boards, the City Library and Mira Media and which has been integrated with the grant received by DoY for The Filter Bubble Project: Taking a perspective in the online world. In this project, they are developing a game application for secondary education in collaboration with UU students from Computer Sciences and Pedagogical Sciences. Perspective-taking in the online world is a key theme within this project. The main applicant from Utrecht University is prof. dr. Mariëtte de Haan.
In the classroom: Awareness of and resilience against extremism
This project is in cooperation with Professor Beatrice de Graaf and titled TerInfo (website in Dutch). TerInfo provides historical context and pedagogical tools to deal with instances of political violence, radicalisation, terrorism or other political disruptive moments. The aim is enhance pupils’ awareness of and resilience against extremism in a democratic manner. The following three lesson plans have been developed from this project so far (in Dutch):
Podcast on education and terrorism
The podcast Visions of Education by Michael Milton and Dan Krutha: Teaching admist terrorism.
In episode 175, Michael and Dan chat with Bjorn Wansink about his new publication in Theory & Research in Social Education titled, "Teaching under attack: The dilemmas, goals, and practices of upper-elementary school teachers when dealing with terrorism in class.”
Collaborations and partners
The hub members are frequently asked by societal partners to provide lectures, training courses and research consultations and to participate in symposia. The hub works in close cooperation with various societal partners and develops specific products for these societal groups.
For example, the hub collaborates extensively with EuroClio, the European Association of History Educators, an international NGO that promotes innovation and progress in history education.
The hub researchers are valuable experts. They've helped us develop training materials and train teachers in schools in Europe. Our starting point is always to teach students how to think and not what to think.
Interested in the projects of the hub? Please contact Dr Bjorn Wansink via B.G.J.Wansink@uu.nl or +31 30 253 3700.
We collaborate with the following partners:
Council of Europe, Vreedzame School, School & Safety Foundation, Didactief, Municipality of Utrecht, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, EuroClio, Het Mediateam, VGN, NVLM, Dutch Center of Expertise ‘Mens- en Maatschappijvakken’ (MMV), Nji, Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).