Dr. Gary Pluim Wins Research Award from the Commonwealth of Learning

Dr. Gary Pluim (Assistant Professor, Orillia) has received an award from the Commonwealth of Learning for educational programming targeted toward global issues relating to youth. His work involves pedagogies that promote youth’s rights, political engagement, mental health, and action toward the climate crisis. This project builds on a SSHRC-funded research initiative titled “Educational Transfer Between Small States of the Commonwealth: A Vertical Case Study Analysis of the Professionalization of the field of Youth Work.” The study won a Partnership Engagement Grant in November 2019 and is scheduled to continue through 2021.

Gary describes the research as “a case study designed to capture the conditions that both permit and prevent educational transfer between small states”—countries with a population of approximately 1.5 million or less. The study follows the transfer of youth work curriculum between Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. He explains that youth work has emerged as a national priority in many countries, particularly in small states, many of which are located in regions where youth populations are proportionately higher than in those with larger populations.

Transferring promising educational practices between countries has been shown to be an effective means to address societal issues, as well as a way to attain educational goals and amass new knowledge about curriculum and pedagogy. Gary notes that recent advancements in online and distance learning during the pandemic have enabled increased access and accelerated opportunities for educational transfer.

However, the idea that curriculum can simply be transferred from one global context to another is also fraught with difficulties. As Gary describes, “cultural aspects such as history, language, political-economies, geographies and environments shape conditions for learning. The importance of place as a starting point in learning is well documented and entrenched in many educational traditions. Education transfer is also seen as a form of neo-colonization—post-colonial scholars point out the direct link between the imperial rule of the British and the ways that colonial relationships have endured through education transfer.” These issues are among the complexities that form the backdrop of this study and the context of this award.

This award was granted by the Commonwealth of Learning, an intergovernmental organization that promotes the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources, and technologies.