Keynote speakers

NERA 2025 - A Pedagogy of Hope: Gratitude, Diversity and Sustainability in Education
Kerry Howells

Dr Kerry Howells is based in Australia and has spent nearly three decades researching, teaching and practising gratitude. She is currently a visiting professor at Tallinn University. Prior to this she was an academic in the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania for 16 years. Kerry’s work is underpinned by a deep philosophical exploration of gratitude and its practical implications for educators and leaders.

Kerry’s first book, Gratitude in Education: A Radical View draws on case studies from school and university contexts. This book has been used internationally to guide the development of educational programs and strategic change in universities, schools and Early Childhood education. In 2023 she published a co-authored book, Gratitude Practices for Teachers, which draws on this book to offer practical applications for educators as they navigate their everyday challenges. This text also includes strategies from her 2021 publication, Untangling you: How can I be grateful when I feel so resentful? which is written for a general audience and explores the dilemmas of accessing gratitude in the midst of difficult relationships. This book has won four international awards and is being translated into six languages, including Estonian.

Arjen Wals

Arjen Wals is a Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University where he also holds the UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. Furthermore, he is a Guest Professor at the Norwegian University for the Life Sciences (NMBU) and the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from Gothenburg University in Sweden.

His work focusses on enabling, supporting and assessing ecologies of learning that foster sustainable living by inviting more relational, ethical and critical ways of knowing and being. Much of the research Wals engages in focusses on the development of Whole School Approaches to sustainability and the decolonization of education.

Mirjam Kalland

Mirjam Kalland is a Professor and former Vice-Dean of Research at the Faculty of Education, University of Helsinki. Her main research interest is early childhood development in different contexts, lately especially in supporting parenting and children’s social-emotional development within Early Childhood Education and Care. Her research draws on interdisciplinary approaches and integrates themes of social justice and multilinguism in studies on childhood social-emotional development. Recently she has been focusing on the role of hope in the lives of children and young people, and as a mediating factor between childhood adversities and educational outcomes. She has been developing several mentalizing based interventions and a pedagogical approach intended to support hope and agency in young children.