LabSchoolsEurope: Participatory Research for Democratic Education

Lab Schools, which is the common abbreviation for Laboratory Schools, typically connect educational research and practice. They achieve this through their close cooperation with a research institution as well as their involvement in and with research.
The history of Lab Schools goes back to the first Laboratory School in Chicago, which was founded by John Dewey 120 years ago. Taking up Dewey’s aim of bridging practice and research and enabling students’ meaningful participation to learn living in a democratic society firsthand, Lab Schools have gained new prominence across Europe in the last ten years. For the first time now, European Lab Schools and their research partners come together under the heading “LabSchoolsEurope: Participatory Research for Democratic Education”.
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In December 2019, all project partners from Austria, Czech Republic, England, France and Germany met at Laborschule Bielefeld for the kick-off meeting.

Collaboration across borders

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At the kick-off meeting ideas and next steps for the project work were discussed.
Launched in December 2019, LabSchoolsEurope brings together a total of ten institutions from five countries across Europe, namely Austria (University College of Teacher Education Vienna, Praxisvolksschule Vienna, Praxismittelschule Vienna), the Czech Republic (Laboratorní škola Labyrinth, Masaryk University), France (Lab School Paris, École des hautes études en sciences sociales), Germany (Laborschule Bielefeld, Bielefeld University), and the UK (University of Cambridge Primary School). The project ends in December 2022 and is kindly funded by the European Union under the Erasmus+ program line for Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education (grant no. 2019-1-DE01-KA203-005003).

Putting ideas into practice

The work of the LabSchoolsEurope project partners is guided by six main objectives:

  1. to document and analyse the research approaches and organisational structures of European Lab Schools,
  2. to develop democratic practices for teaching in heterogeneous classroom settings at primary level and to make those available to the public,
  3. to facilitate professional learning for educators and researchers within the project, 
  4. to support teaching practices from a democratic and pedagogical point of view,
  5. to further strengthen the cooperation between schools and universities,
  6. to establish a European network for lab schools

In order to achieve these goals, the project meetings at each project location are an essential element of the overall project work. These meetings allow all practitioners and researchers involved to experience the everyday school life as well as to foster an understanding of the pedagogical and research practices at the respective institution. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic temporally put a stop to the in-person meetings, until the project partners were able to meet again in 2022.

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The first project meeting after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic took place at Labyrinth in Brno.

Sharing democratic practices is another major component of the LabSchoolsEurope project. Therefore, the project partners currently gather and prepare materials that introduce the different democratic practices of each institution. These materials are supposed to be an inspiration for interested educators all across Europe to see what other schools are doing in the area of democratic education. All documents and materials are available on this website and created as Open Educational Resources.

Programm line: Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships (KA203)

Duration: September 2019 – December 2022

Grant: 422,250 €

Project lead: Dr. Christian Timo Zenke, Benedict Kurz, Prof. Dr. Annette Textor

Project coordination: Christine Drah, Katharina Kemper

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