The aim of this conference is to explore critical applications of social theory in the field of education. Specifically, the conference will focus on 3 applied areas:

  1. Theory application to research spans different elements of the research process: from conceptualisation of research problems, operationalisation of research questions via the development and design of theory influenced research instruments through to the analysis and discussion of research findings.
  2. Theory application to teaching calls for a constant (re)examination of a changing world through different, complementary and often interdisciplinary lenses that allow educators and learners to explore the pathologies of the world from different angles.
  3. Theory application to education policy and practices implies an appreciation of how academic knowledge and evidenced based practice should contribute to informed decisions that shape and have impact across the different education sectors.

The role of social theory in education research is that of enabling a multi-disciplinarity inquiry of education while at the same time providing education with a contextual base from which critical perspectives can be built. Education research has often been criticized for its decontextualizing nature which tends to fall victim of ‘a logic of common sense’ (Whitty, 1997) that does little to problematize contemporary education. Nonetheless, a counter movement has developed with researchers seeking to assert the value of education as a critical discipline with transformative societal impact. Social theory is at the centre of this intellectual movement that aims to elevate the status of education research and thus provide a much needed credibility to this field of inquiry.

This conference highlights the crucial role of theory as an essential tool to both understanding and transforming education. In so doing, it brings to the fore assumptions surrounding theoretical language as jargonised and impenetrable and instead offers reflections, perspectives and experiences of the essential role of theory in applying ideas to practice.

A key theme of the conference will be the importance of engaging in theory hybridisation in education work. The organisers of the conference are keen to move beyond monological approaches to theory application and to make hybrid theoretical work a common place in education research, teaching and policy making. In some cases, drawing on the work of a single theorist – as that of Arendt, Bourdieu, Butler, Foucault, Fraser or Spivak provides enough conceptual breadth to aid knowledge development, but many educators may feel restricted by a single theoretical perspective and compelled instead to draw on multiple theories. Approaches to hybrid work – combining different theoretical traditions and lenses – will find a space in this event in that this conference seeks to foster different types of innovations regarding theory application in education research, teaching as well as policy making.

Who should participate in this conference?

The conference is designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences, including research students and staff across career stages, educators from the different education sectors, policy makers, knowledge and community workers leading educational initiatives who are or wish to be engaged in the application of social theory in education research, teaching and/or policy practices. The conference will speak to those new to social theory as well as those well versed in its application.


We invite contributors to submit an extended abstract (750 words) to one or more of the 3 core Conference Strands around which the conference is organised:

  1. Theory and education research: Conceptualisation and operationalisation of research
  2. Theory and pedagogical practice: The teaching of theory
  3. Theory and education policy: Impacting lives and education practices

Conference topics

Conference topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Language, knowledge, culture
  • The state, governance, political economy
  • Social change, civil society, social justice
  • (in)equalities, identities, intersectionality
  • Curriculum, decolonisation
  • Globalisation, mobilities, migration
  • Practice(s): teaching, research, methodological
  • Education futures