Grant holder
Kristen Nawrotzki, Independent Scholar, Helen May, University of Otago, New Zealand, Alessandra Arce Hai, Universidade de Sao Carlos, Brazil, Larry Prochner, University of Alberta, Canada
Project status

Research examining the transnational circulation of new education ideas over the first decades of the twentieth century.

Project summary

This research reflected the transnational circulation of new education ideas over the first decades of the twentieth century (Passow, 1982; Popkewitz, 2005; Röhrs & Lenhart, 1995) by exploring case­ study schools in five countries:

  • Jardim de Infância da Escola Caetano Campos in Sāo Paulo (1896­1930);
  • The Malting House School in Cambridge (1924-1929) directed by Susan Isaacs;
  • The Hietzing School in Vienna co­founded by Anna Freud (1927­1932);
  • John Dewey’s laboratory school at the University of Chicago (1894-1904)*;
  • The experimental station schools, Moscow, Russia (1917-1925)*

This project had two main objectives. To describe and explain the process of educational innovation in transnational perspective, considering the circulation, implementation and adaptation of new education ideas. Following on the work of Maderia (2012), the researchers aimed to determine the “networks of pedagogical discourses” (p. 163) within particular socio-political spaces, including networks of prominent figures along with those who have received little attention, mainly women teachers.

The second objective was to investigate the intersection of theory with practice in the ways teachers were selected and prepared to work in new ways in the schools. To borrow from sociologist Bernstein (1990), the researchers asked: How did teachers learn to engage in the “invisible pedagogic practice” (p. 68) that was the hallmark of the new education? Through careful archives-based research this research compared the different ways in which the case study schools addressed this question.

Key findings

In the Kindergarten in Brazil we were able to identify two different periods for the works produced. The first, was marked by the application of Froebelian methodology inside the kindergarten together with Pestalozzi’’ intuitive methodology and Norma Calkins ‘object lessons’, due to the emphasis in Normal School to prepare teachers according to Pestalozzi’’ ideas and ‘object lessons’. The second, was marked by the New School, with ideas circulating in the Normal School having a direct impact in the work of the kindergarten.

The broader outcome of our research has been to trace the long footprint in relation to teaching and learning and teacher education as a consequence of the Malting House experiment - in the combined and separate careers of Nathan and Lawrence.

We were able to find Evelyn Lawrence’s submission to the Plowden committee on behalf to the Froebel Foundation - and submissions from Nathan calling for a reform of higher education and in particular the training of teachers.

Research on the Hietzing School called into question some of the main assumptions of extant research on the school. Evidence from the Freud Archives in Washington DC suggests that these are highly debatable, and that the roots of some of the school’s most interesting pedagogical experiments may indeed have laid not with its most famous educators but instead with Marie Briehl, who also taught at the school and was the most progressively-oriented, professionally-trained educator and who had connections to revisionist Froebelians in New York.

Next steps

The archival research and team meetings and collaboration for this project were so fruitful that the researchers are planning a follow-on project beginning in 2020. Tentatively titled Froebelian Endeavours, New Education and the “Researched” Child from the 1900s to the 1960s - the new project will follow the ‘long reach’ of the historical actors and concepts we’ve focused on in our case studies so far, with a focus on how they developed and advocated research on, about, and with children.


Arce Hai, A., May, H., Nawrotzki, K., Prochner, L. & Valkanova, Y. (2020). Progressive pedagogies in experimental schools, 1894-1932: Transcontinental connections. (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

Arce Hai, A., & Prochner, L. (2018). Aproximando-se da ‘caixa preta da escolarização’: uma análise da Revista do Jardim de Infância (1896-1897). In A.C. Bortoleto Nery (Ed.), Pedagógica na Ibero-América: local, nacional e transnaciona. São Paulo, Brazil: Alameda. (This was not a Froebel-Trust-funded part of the project.)