The Faculty of Engineering Economics and Management of Riga Technical University (RTU) is one of the partners of the six European universities to realise the Horizon project AECED “Transforming Education for Democracy through Aesthetic and Embodied Learning, Responsive Pedagogies and Democracy-as-becoming”.
The project has been awarded 2.1 million euros of EU Horizon funding and 630 000 euros of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding. The purpose of the international project is to enhance awareness, appreciation and understanding of democracy as lived and embodied experience, and to develop pedagogies to support this.
Democracy is one of the values along with human dignity, freedom, equality, rule of law and human rights, which the European Union is founded on. The history of mankind shows that democracy uniquely possesses features which most people consider desirable to prevent wars or rule by cruel autocrats; to foster prosperity and human development; and to protect people’s fundamental interests, rights, and personal freedoms. Therefore, the strengthening of democracy through embedding democratic culture which encompasses democratic values, thinking, feeling, and acting in educational institutions is of utmost pedagogical importance.
Democracy cannot be understood and enacted simply through cognitive learning which refers to mental processes that take place in the human brain. People are embodied beings connected with each other, their localities, communities, and the natural world engaging their feelings, awareness, and sensibilities in these interactions. However, education for democracy omits the fundamental dimension of learning linked to the emotional, aesthetic, and embodied roots of democracy. The overcoming of this gap is the main goal of the three-year Horizon project AECED which started on 1st April 2023. The project will develop an evidence-based, innovative aesthetic and embodied pedagogical framework with teaching toolkits and guides through ground-breaking, transdisciplinary participatory research on various educational levels including primary, secondary, higher, and adult education. The emphases of aesthetic and embodied methods vary across cases, from visual and narrative approaches to methods based on movement and senses.
The RTU team will elaborate and test a novice teaching and learning model which embeds a drama sketch method into the pedagogical practice for empowering democracy while learning different study disciplines first in three secondary schools of Latvia. Based on the research outcomes, the refined model with all the toolkits and guides will be offered for use to other educational institutions including universities. The holistic approach which interweaves aesthetic, cognitive, social-emotional and embodied learning will promote the development of whole personalities of students and teachers nurturing mutual respect and understanding concerning differences and commonalities amongst people and energizing the momentum vital to living democracies.
The consortium consists of six partners: