School of Education

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Sarah Amsler

Associate Professor in Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am an Associate Professor in Education. Prior to joining the School of Education, I held posts at the University of Lincoln (Education), Aston University (Sociology) and Kingston University (Sociology), and competed my PhD in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005. Over twenty-five years, I have worked in a range of educational settings including co-operative education, early years care, museums, non-governmental organisations, popular education projects, elementary schools, teacher education programmes, universities (in Central Asia, Britain and the United States), and transnational educational initiatives promoting systemic social and ecological change.

Teaching Summary

Pedagogical orientations | I am passionate about understanding the power of critical, dialogical, inclusive and transformative pedagogies, with a special interest in pedagogical practices for… read more

Research Summary

Research summary | My research asks a number of interlocking questions that tackle one big question from different perspectives. This question is: What learning can help us create not-yet imaginable… read more

Recent Publications

Pedagogical orientations | I am passionate about understanding the power of critical, dialogical, inclusive and transformative pedagogies, with a special interest in pedagogical practices for community-building, decolonisation and intercultural (including inter-epistemic) translation - both within the formal classroom, and as tools for transformative work elsewhere.

Courses taught | I teach 'Big Ideas in Education: Equalities, Inclusion, Rights and Justice' (BA Education), 'Practice-based Inquiry' (MA Education), and research philosophy and methodology on the School of Education's Doctoral Education and Training Programme. I supervise MA and PhD research projects in the sociology and politics of education, sociology and politics of knowledge, critical education studies, practice-based inquiry and action research, critical and feminist theory and pedagogy, and international and comparative educational policy and systems. Previously, I have designed and taught a wide range of Sociology, Philosophy and Education courses at all levels of university study.

Educational service | I am the Year-3 Tutor for our BA Education students, Co-ordinator of the ESRC Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Education Pathway at the University of Nottingham, Convenor of the School of Education's Doctoral Education and Training Programme, and postgraduate convenor for the Centre for International Education Research.

Current Research

Research summary | My research asks a number of interlocking questions that tackle one big question from different perspectives. This question is: What learning can help us create not-yet imaginable possibilities for self and social transformation which overcome the existing limits of our knowledge, sensibilities, capabilities, experiences and imagination? I seek answers to this question by asking some more specific ones.

(1) How and where are conceptions of personal and political im/possibility learned (and problematised)? How do we expand what's possible in a 'what works' world?

(2) How are different forms of hope and despair mobilised to open (or foreclose) possibilities for, or 'fronts of', paradigmatic innovation in educational policy and practice?

(3) What types of learning strengthen (or weaken) our capacity to be and become 'otherwise' to relationships, ways of being and social systems that oppress us and (through us) others? Specifically, how can teachers develop the stamina to practice transformative pedagogies in oppressive educational systems?

(4) What ways of knowing, pedagogical practices and organisational forms of learning nourish (and repress) relational and 'possibility-enabling' ways of being with others and the world?

(5) What does 'learning hope' look like in in the throes of the Anthropocene, and what are educators' responsibilities to the learners who must engage with the complex uncertainties and challenges of this damaged world? What can we learn from those who are learning to work with the 'not-yet' possible?

Rationale | These questions are motivated by a concern that while the roots of many local and global injustices lie in systemic problems of ecological violence, corporate domination, colonial relationships and cultural oppression, educational reforms often do not address these systemic problems, and there is often little attention paid to how these globalised patterns of systemic injustice shape localised possibilities for educational change, or to how they can be recognised and collectively interrupted at multiple scales. One of the patterns that currently interests me the most is the how the political construction of different forms of hope and hopelessness contributes to the perpetuation or transformation of this problem. I have a special interest in the geopolitics of this problem, particularly as manifested in colonial/imperial frames of possibility in British and international education.

Theoretical and methodological orientations | Homed in the fields of Sociology and Education, my interdisciplinary research on the politics of education draws on critical, feminist and decolonial theory, critical and transformative pedagogy, and the sociology and politics of knowledge. In my empirical studies of educational thought, policy and practice, I employ methodologies of critical discourse analysis, ethnographic case study, and interpretive and dialectical phenomenology. With others, I am currently developing practices of affective, prefigurative, relational and speculative social research as part of new inquiries into the ontological politics of making (and resisting) deep social change, and of being and becoming 'otherwise' within today's dominating social systems: capitalism, patriarchy and coloniality.

Research Affiliations

I am a member of the Centre for International Education Research in the University of Nottingham School of Education. I also belong to a number of international research-practice networks and collectives, including:

The Gesturing towards Decolonial Futures network uses 'three inter-dependent practices (of art, social cartography and pedagogy) to denaturalize colonial frames of reference and material architectures that make up the social context in which knowledge is produced within our current system. These practices aim to enable ways of doing, thinking, and being that are viable but unimaginable within the modern-colonial imaginary.'

The Women on the Verge network works to 'provide embodied and practical critiques of capital, coloniality and patriarchy at a time when the conditions for the reproduction of life on the planet are deteriorating at unimaginable speed and levels. Our critique is not contained by the words we have learned to speak under these conditions, but is attuned with life, affect, commonality, denaturalizing and nature, utopia, storytelling, possibility and prefiguring.'

I am also an affiliate member of the Critical Internationalization Studies, Creativity and Emergent Educational Futures and Decolonizing Teacher Education networks.

Past Research

2018 Women Strike for Life: New Feminist Movements in Transatlantic Perspective, George Mason University [CI, with N. W. Hanrahan].

2018 Writing for An Other World: Strengthening Transnational Partnerships in Post-Capitalist, Post-development and Post-patriarchal Social Research, British Academy [PI, with CIs A. C. Dinerstein and R. Gutiérrez].

2016 The Ethics and Politics of Possibility: Principles and Practices of Prefigurative Knowledge and Research, International Residential Research Workshop at Girton College, University of Cambridge (Independent Social Research Foundation) [PI].

2015-16 Practices of Possibility in Neoliberal Social Systems, Mid-Career Fellowship (Independent Social Research Foundation) [PI].

2014 Understanding Educational Inequalities in Rural Britain, Research Infrastructure Fund (University of Lincoln) [PI].

2014 Facilitating LGBT Medical, Health and Social Care Content in Higher Education Teaching, Research Infrastructure Fund (University of Lincoln) [CI, with Dr. Z. Davy].

2010-12 The Politics of 'Transformative' Culture in Popular Education and Arts (British Academy) [PI].

2009 Critical Media Literacy and Student Empowerment: The Possibilities and Limitations of Film in University Classrooms (Aston University Centre for Learning in Professional Practice) [PI].

School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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