Announcing: The Research Day Blog Publication Award

As we prepare for this year’s “Research Day” in EDST…

We’re eager to explore a range of topics in educational research under the theme of “Power Revisited: Practices Against Complacency in Education,” chosen in honor of our department’s 30th anniversary.

Research Day is a wonderful opportunity to bring your research interests and work to others in the department, and to engage in dialogue with EDST colleagues.

Presentations will take on many forms, including:

    • Traditional paper presentations,
    • Ignite presentations (20 slides in 5 minutes),
    • art, film, and performance pieces,
    • Poster presentations.

Additionally, the day will feature roundtable and panel sessions with formats like: panelist presentations, group discussions, book presentations, and informal Scholars’ Café sessions.

One exciting addition to this year’s Research Day is the introduction of the Research Day Blog Publication Award.

Current EDST students who present at Research Day and subsequently transform their presentations into blog posts will be eligible to win 1 of 5 $50 UBC Bookstore gift card prizes. Blog posts are typically 500-1,000 words and follow a public facing writing format. The winners of the awards will be selected by the Blog’s Editorial Board.

We are excited for this collaboration between the EDST Blog and Research Day, and to showcase some of the exciting work by EDST students!

Deadline extend to May 31st

Click here to submit to this award.

The blog has several examples of past Research Day presentations transformed into blog posts, including:

To aid students in the process of transforming their Research Day presentations into blog posts, we’ve created a short template (below).

The template is intended as a resource to help students get started thinking about writing for a blog audience, and distilling the essential pieces of their presentation to include in a blog post.

Download the Template Here


Submissions due: May 17th. Click below to submit.

Research Day Publication Award, Submission Button

Stay tuned for more details about this award at EDST Research Day.

Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to blog editor, Jessica Lussier (, for questions or support.

Prefigurative Education: The Case of Two Early 20th Century Educational Experiments (by Yotam Ronen)

This post was originally presented at the 2023 EDST Research Day.

EDST students and faculty are invited to share their own reflections, presentations, or memories from Research Day (see below for further details).

During the early 20th century, radical educational experiments were founded in various parts of the world. In this paper, I will introduce two such experiments—the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School and the Mount Gilboa Children’s Society and will analyze their practices using prefigurative politics—a term that describes the practices of revolutionary, non-hierarchical social movements. This analysis, I will argue, presents prefigurative politics as a robust analytical framework for radical education.





Prefigurative politics, or prefiguration, was first suggested by Boggs (1977) and Breines (1980). Both authors saw prefiguration as an attempt to realize direct democracy and non-hierarchical structures within social movements themselves, yet Boggs critiqued this attempt, while Breines saw it as an admirable commitment.

Since then, many scholars have weighed in on prefiguration. Kinna (2019) argued that prefiguration is an anarchist practice that rejects Marxist inconsistent reliance on using dictatorial means for libertarian goals. Raekstad and Gardin (2020) defined prefigurative politics as the “deliberate experimental implementation of desired future social relations and practice in the here-and-now.”

Noterman and Pusey (2012) combined critical pedagogies with anarchist practices to transform academic spaces into prefigurative spaces. They relied on DeLeon’s (2006) assertion that anarchism can inform critical pedagogies due to its insistence on ground up organizing, mutual aid, and free association. While there are other examples of the contemporary concern with prefiguration in education, few scholars utilized prefiguration for historical analysis. This study  aims to do so, and argue for this framework’s robustness. And so, I will now introduce two educational experiments—the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School and the Mount Gilboa Children’s Society.

Between 1916-1918, approximately 140,000 Chinese workers were recruited in aid of the Allied cause in World War I. Upon their arrival to France, Li Shizeng (1881-1973), Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) and a few other educators, founded the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School, where workers would be educated to participate in China’s modernization. After petitioning with his colleagues for the Chinese government to support this initiative, Cai established a teacher training program, gave lectures to workers, and wrote curriculum for the School.

The Workers’ School created a Chinese revolutionary enclave within its surroundings, and the presence of workers and intellectuals in France, as well as the political and educational theories used at this school, were shaped by migration, as this was a Chinese revolutionary experiment developed and executed overseas.




Another educational experiment spurred from a revolutionary movement with ties to migration. In the late 1920s, a radical educational experiment took place in Palestine under the banner of the Kibbutz movement—a voluntary, self-governing democratic community established by Jewish migrants to Palestine, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe. These migrants created communal experiments that were founded on shared property, direct democracy, and a desire for a classless society.

This movement’s first educational institution was the Mount Gilboa Children’s Society, which operated between 1926-1929, and was attended by 40-60 children and had 6-8 teachers. Its founders—David Idelson (1891-1954), Yehuda Ron-Polani, Eliyahu Rappaport (1889-1952), and a few other educators—decided to build a school where children could live in community with their peer group in preparation for life in adult communes. Children at the Society had almost complete autonomy, and educators relied on a combination of trial and error and a conviction in socialism in their educational practice.

Prefigurative politics appeared in both projects. In the Children’s Society, educators created a model of a future community, hoping that through it, children will create their own version of this type a life with the same ideological commitment. Participants’ writings show that they investigated what such a society could look like, and topics like personal property, discipline, and one’s place in a collective, were frequently discussed. These testimonies show that students and teachers were experimenting with community building while balancing ethical commitments, communal needs, and personal freedoms.

There was also prefiguration in the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School. Following a crisis in China that transformed the idea of education from an exclusive privilege to a mass project, educators at the Workers’ School saw education as a catalyst for China’s modernization. In their vision of a future society, workers possessed manual skills, an intellectual education, and a moral foundation. To realize this vision, educators supplemented training during the workday with intellectual and moral education after work, combining lessons on history, geography, and art, with moral subjects like treatment of animals, life in community, and similar topics, with some topics taking a revolutionary tone. Here, the future was embodied in the worker, who will build the nation as an educated individual who is ready to collaborate with others on the basis of mutual aid.

Prefigurative politics framed the approaches taken at both the Overseas Chinese Workers’ School and the Mount Gilboa Children’s Society, as each project created articulations of parts of its imagined future. However, differences between the two projects, as well as these projects’ shortcomings, are easily discernable. The Workers’ School did not create a model village of the future, and the Children’s Society did not emphasize technological training. Where students in one project were all adult workers in a foreign land during war, students in the latter were a heterogenous group of children and teenagers between wars and in an area that was comparatively calm. Furthermore, where educators at the workers’ school seemed comfortable supporting the interests of powers whose practices they resisted, educators at the Children’s Society argued for a liberated society while ignoring the Palestinian communities around them.

These differences and inconsistencies show that the implementation of prefigurative politics reflects the context in which education happens, and that this context is fraught and messy. It forces us to acknowledge that context influences one’s ability to understand their plight, and thereby imagine their future—two factors that are crucial for the prefigurative move. Lastly, inconsistencies force us to understand contradictions within each educational experiment’s own historical contingencies and recognize the humanity of those who attempt to create a better world.

*Full list of references below


EDST students, faculty, and staff are warmly invited to share reflections, photos, and other memories from Research Day 2023.

Present a paper, poster, performance, roundtable at research day?

Consider turning your presentation into a blog post like this one! Posts typically are 500-1,000 words long and may include links, images, links, audio, video, and other forms of multimedia.

Have a question about submissions? Photos to share from Research Day? Send an email to blog editor (Jessica Lussier) at

You can check out the blog’s full call for papers here.


Bailey, Paul. 2014. “Cultural Connections in a New Global Space: Li Shizeng and the Chinese Francophile Project in the Early Twentieth Century.” In Print, Profit, and Perception: Ideas, Information and Knowledge in Chinese Societies, 1895-1949, edited by Glen Dudbridge and Frank Pieke, 17–36. Leiden: Brill.

Breines, Wini. 1980. “Community and Organization: The New Left and Michels’ ‘Iron Law.’” Social Problems 27 (4): 419–29.

Cai, Yuanpei. 1920. “Huagong Xuexiao Jiangyi (Materials for Overseas Workers School).” In Cai Jiemin Xian Sheng Yan Xing Lu, edited by Xinchaoshe, 483–569. Beijing: Xinchaoshe.

———. 1984. Cai Yuanpei Quanji: Di Er Juan. Edited by Pingshu Gao. Beijing: Zhongguo Shuju Chu Ban.

Chen, Sanjing. 1986. “Huafa Jiaoyu Hui Sheli Huagong Xuexiao.” In Huagong Yu Ouzhan, 126–27.

DeLeon, Abraham P. 2006. “The Time for Action Is Now! Anarchist Theory, Critical Pedagogy, and Radical Possibilities.” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies (JCEPS) 4 (2).

Dirlik, Arif. 1991. Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

Fitzgerald, John. 1995. “The Nationless State: The Search for a Nation in Modern Chinese Nationalism.” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 33: 56–86.

Gao, James Z. 2009. Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800-1949). Lanham, Matyland: Scarecrow Press.

Kinna, Ruth. 2019. The Government of No One: The Theory and Practice of Anarchism. London: Penguin Random House UK.

Noterman, Elsa, and Andre Pusey. 2012. “Inside, Outside, and on the Edge of Academy: Experiments in Radical Pedagogies.” In Anarchist Pedagogies – Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education, edited by Robert H. Haworth, 175–200. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

Raekstad, Paul, and Sofa Gradin. 2020. Prefigurative Politics: Building Tomorrow Today. Cambridge, UK; Medford, MA: Polity.

Ron-Polani, Yehuda. 1929. שיחות וישיבות של חברת-הילדים בבית-אלפא (Conversations and Meetings of the Beit-Alpha Childrens Society). Beit-Alpha.

Sheridan, James E.; 1975. China in Disintegration: The Republican Era in Chinese History, 1912-1949. New York: The Free Press: A Division of Macmillan, Inc.

Ta, Chen A.M. 1923. Chinese Migrations With Special Reference to Labor Conditions. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Ts’ai, Yuan-p’ei. 1972. “Ts’ai Yuan-Pe’i on the Aims of Education, 1912.” In Chinas Response to the West: A Documentary Survey 1839-1928, edited by Ssu-yu Teng and John K. Fairbank, 235–39. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press.

Xu, Guoqi. 2011. Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.


How to Write Research Differently: Examples from a Comic Poetic Inquiry

This presentation was originally given at the EDST 2023 Research Day.

EDST students and faculty are invited to share their own reflections, presentations, or memories from Research Day (see below for further details).

How to Write Research Differently: Examples from a Comic Poetic Inquiry

A Research Day Workshop by Gabriella Maestrini

Location and Length: The Multipurpose room was configured with tables so that everyone could sit around and face each other. The group of 10 was split into two groups of 5. The activity lasted about 1 hour.

The idea for the workshop on research day came from how I had approached writing my dissertation on humor in life, disaster, and pedagogy. In writing this dissertation I wanted the content reflected in the form which brought me to write in a rather fragmented comic poetic form with cartoons, poetry, reflections, stories, conversations, and analysis.

Taking a comic worldview approach, researching humor needed to be reflected in the voices that I created throughout the dissertation. I provided an example of how I had written a short piece on copyright acknowledgement in the dissertation where I demonstrated that it is possible to step outside of the conventional approaches to writing while maintaining academic rigor.

This comic poetic approach combined with the many voices, was then the basis for this workshop. Academically I drew on Faulkner, Ulysse, Richardson and Prendergast for my theoretical frames, which I briefly introduced through PowerPoint slides. Creating found poetry or stories can come from observations, field notes, interviews, photographs, doodles, books, and articles.

It is paying attention to the unexpected twists and turns in stories and the multiple voices that became the idea of a multitude of comic and poetic voices that I wanted to have the participants of the workshop experience. This led me to create an experimental and collaborative approach. Here is the slide with the workshop instructions:

For a longer piece I’ve published on comic vulnerability, click here.

There were ten people in the workshop that were divided into two groups each armed with flipchart paper, markers, and seated around tables. The instructions were to think of multiple voices while each participant was to write down words randomly on the paper. Above you can see the possible prompts.

Group 1’s first chart paper

After about ten minutes, I asked them to start thinking of patterns within the words, and how they could set up an opening line to their piece. Starting from there, the two groups diverged in their outcomes. The first one setting it up as a concise poem that started out with the one word that had coincidentally appeared twice on the page ‘nostalgia’:

Group 1’s second chart paper

While the second group wrote an opening line to a story where the participants tried to incorporate as many words as they could from their page. On a second piece of flipchart paper, the creative expressions took shape.

Group 2’s first chart paper

Group 2’s second chart paper

At times, I guided asking questions about whose voice they wanted to show, where they wanted their story to go and how they could use the context (the main story) to set up an unexpected comic ‘punchline’. The above pictures show the process and the results.

The two groups came to very different results: one was more poetic in nature, the other more narrative. What both had in common was that everyone had a great time doing the exercise, letting the creative juices flow and not editing or censoring the process. Laughter was a common occurrence.

In the debriefing, after sharing the results with the others reading them out loud, we spoke about the workshop experience. The most common comment was that although they initially did not know where the random words would lead them, the participants were surprised that cohesive stories emerged. Some were going to use this brainstorming/writing approach in their classes or use it in their own dissertation writing as a creative outlet.



EDST students, faculty, and staff are warmly invited to share reflections, photos, and other memories from Research Day 2023. Reflections may take on the form of short narratives (such as this one on CSSE 2021 from EDST’s Yotam Ronen), summations of panel sessions, or other takeaways from the conference day.

Present a paper, poster, performance, roundtable, or other type of presentation?

Consider making your presentation into a blog post like this one! Posts typically are 500-1,000 words long and may include links, images, links, audio, video, and other forms of multimedia.

Have a question about submissions? Photos to share from Research Day? Send an email to blog editor (Jessica Lussier) at

You can check out the blog’s full call for papers here.