Inclusive Teaching and Learning – Blog Task 3 – Race.

Visit the Shades of Noir (SoN)

Shades of Noir is a creative platform that supports and showcases current artists, events and social issues of marginalized groups. It’s aim is to give students, graduates and staff a true representation of art and art history that perhaps our current society and curriculum does not.  By being an open, safe space for it’s users it encourages groups to articulate self-determination and liberate the struggles from oppressive structures both in education and society.’

The site should be considered a resource for all students and staff. It’s content primarily focusses on people of colour, however the articles and topics covered are applicable and educational to all. Teachers and students should be encouraged to use the site as a resource. In doing so they will uncover a diverse and representative range of creative and social influences. As well as acting as an educational tool, the site is also a place of community to BAME students, providing much-needed exposure and representation in the creative industry.

The case studies within the Curriculum section of the site were of particular interest to me. Not only do they offer invaluable first-hand insight into prejudice and racism, but significantly they also provide tangible suggestions as to how such cases can be avoided in the future. Significantly the examples given cover student and staff experience, and therefore offer a comprehensive insight from all perspectives. It is my view that these case studies should be promoted to staff at all levels so they are better informed of the challenges faced by their colleagues and students and be better equipped to support them.

My personal experience of working with a BAME student has taught how it important a sense of community connection is, whether that be race, faith or identity. My student has always excelled when he feels understood by his tutors and peers. When a tutor shows recognition and makes the effort to connect to a project the student feels vindicated and encouraged to continue working. On the contrary I have also seen my student become despondent and demotivated when his tutors have failed to appreciate his work on a cultural level. This is not simply a case of tutors encouraging their student, but more a case of them truly understanding them too. I believe Shades of Noir would provide valuable context to my students work. In turn it could have a positive impact on his work and mentality by providing a source of encouragement and community. I am sure he would learn a great deal from reading the case studies, as indeed I have.

Read Hahn Tapper (2013) ‘A pedagogy of social justice education: social identity, theory and intersectionality’, Pp. 411-
417 (and see diagram on p.426) 

What is social justice education? The article written by Hahn Tapper makes the argument that our universities will fail unless they can manage and reduce social conflict. To do so they must integrate social issues into their curriculum. This fragile situation highlights the disparities in ‘societal opportunities, resources and long-term outcomes among marginalised groups’.

Reading Hahn Tapper’s article on social conflict has introduced me to the series of studies described as ‘Contact Hypothesis’. This theory is said to have been devised by Gorden W. Allport who aimed to break-down social prejudice within education. Allport suggests that if two groups of people of conflicting opinions are encouraged to interact in appropriate conditions it can help to break down prejudice, preconception and resolve the conflict. The ambiguity here is that positive results are dependant on ‘appropriate conditions’ – as teachers how do we make sure the conditions are equal and correct? The Robber Cave experiment explains that intergroup activity and teamwork can greatly improve relations between peers, however if handled incorrectly they can also end up causing more harm than good. This experiment highlights the challenges faced by teachers in ensuring the environment they create is conducive to positive learning experiences.

It is further argued that even if the intergroup activity is successful inside the ‘room’ there is no guarantee it will change things outside. Although I can see this point of view I believe Contact Hypothesis theories should still be encouraged within our teaching. At the very least they will promote self-reflection and be the start of a critical thought process. In best case scenarios this self-reflection may then lead to a change in preconceptions and prejudices later on.

Trapper’s article on social justice education has been very reaffirming to methods that I already employ in my practice. I continue to find Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed to be an influence on my work and I am pleased that Trapper’s articles generally support Freire’s theories. Specifically it is the notion that ‘education provides venues for students to achieve freedom’ that I relate to. One of my primary objectives when teaching is for my students to gain a sense of freedom in their work. I try to aid my student to reach their potential despite their disabilities, and I think in many ways this is the ‘freedom’ that Freire describes.

The many artists and discussions on the Shades of Noir platform highlight that identity is an integral part of all student’s and professional’s learning. The same idea is discussed by Freire when he states that a student’s identity needs to be taken into account in all educational settings. I believe it is a teachers responsibility to understand their student’s ‘reality’ and reasons for studying. Our aim is to use a student’s passions and influences to direct their learning, to do so we must properly understand them ourselves first. The use of dialogue is an important element to achieving this goal. Freire explains that teachers must be ‘open to everything in the world’. True dialogue cannot happen if we are closed to contributions from others, in this case our students.

Watch the student film ‘Room of Silence’ from Rhode Island School of Design

One of many comments that stood out to me was when one student expressed how important it is that tutors and peers do not feel ‘nervous’ when commenting on her work about race. She stated that ‘I need you to say something about this, how am I meant to learn? I could be making the shittiest work about race and no one would tell me…’

We must acknowledge that students of minority groups are being brave to talk about racial incidences and this should be encouraged. Only by creating honest, open discussion can an issue come to the forefront and resolutions be a made. I wonder if perhaps now that this video has been made and the teachers of this faculty have seen these honest discussions there has been a change in their experiences?

As teachers we should support, critique and encourage student’s individual and social identities in their education. If a lack of knowledge leads to a teacher failing to provide a full critique of a student’s work that teacher has two key responsibilities. Firstly they must direct their student to an appropriate colleague for better feedback, and secondly they must rectify the gap in their own knowledge. It is paramount to a student’s development to have access to communities and artists as reference points in contextual study. This is why the Shades of Noir platform and the case studies mentioned above can be so important – not only can it provide education to teachers looking to expand their knowledge but it can also provide reference points to students looking for inspiration.

Inclusive Teaching and Learning – Blog Task 2 – Faith

Religion in Britain- Challenges for Higher Education

‘It would be helpful for academics across many fields and other crucial staff such as counsellors and librarians and managers of residences and administrators supporting courses to have better knowledge of religion in Britain (and in the world) today …It would include better understanding of the way religion has figured in history and how it figures in social relations and policy today as well as of knowledge of different religions themselves.’ Page 20

This point in the text is something I relate to strongly. I am conscious that I do not have a broad understanding of religion in the UK today. As teachers we are always striving to update and gain knowledge in our subjects in an attempt to remain up-to-date with trends, skills and the industry. Unfortunately I do not feel we pay the same attention to broadening our awareness of faiths and religions in the UK today. The stimulus paper entitles Religion in Britain has highlighted to me how important this is. Student interaction is the first step to rectifying this issue. As universities and cohorts get bigger we must not let the lack of contact-time we have with each student affect the value of becoming engaged with their extracurricular lives. As a member of support staff working one-to-one I have the luxury of time to really get to know my students’ needs and preferences and I think this additional connection has had a positive impact on the way I teach.

Alongside focussed discussions at designated times I believe it would be equally valuable to make religion part of open and informal dialogue. One method of achieving this could be the introduction of text and references into the curriculum that encourage the students to learn about all religions. Religion is often talked about and taught in the same context as ethics and values, rather than on its own. As staff we should give the topic of religion more focussed attention and be more aware that it is very much in the ‘public sphere’.

‘…the burden of integration falls disproportionately on the minorities. If their members want to maintain any level of collective identity or solidarity, they have to work at it, while the majority do not.’

As teachers it is our responsibility to create integration within our academic communities. We should be doing this by encouraging multi-focus activities that cover religious (and other) boundaries. If we do not do this we may reduce the learning quality our students receive and perhaps more significantly may affect the connections they make with wider society.

An example of this type of activity is Angela Drisdale Gordon’s ‘Ice Breaker’ case study which can be found on the Religion, Belief and Faith Identities UAL website.  This interactive task encourages students to talk about personal interests and cultural backgrounds. It consists of students asking each other a list of questions and sharing answers with their peers. They cover a wide range of questions from ‘what is in your fridge?’ to ‘do you have a faith?’

This type of activity is a great opportunity for students to explain and share their personal preferences in an informal setting. It can cover topics such as name, gender, ethical viewpoints and religion. It also allows the teachers to be aware of their students’ needs. This is important because teachers are often the first point-of-contact between students and support services. Tutors also have the option of taking part in the exercise which promotes openness and equality between students and tutors.

This a good exercise for my students who often want to explain their identity to the class and would not have the opportunity otherwise. In regard to religion I would agree with Angela’s observation that there is a nervousness around the subject of faith. From my experience people are afraid of not knowing about certain beliefs. This exercise would provide a real opportunity for discussion within a safe space.

I have first-hand knowledge of how such an activity can promote understanding and acceptance among students. My current student was involved in a similar workshop in his first year which concluded with the presentation of a visual response to the questions asked. The 5-minute discussion which followed allowed my student to openly discuss his Asperger’s Syndrome to the rest of the group. He typically finds it very difficult to talk about his disability, but this exercise allowed him the environment to do so.

Both examples show the importance of conversation between peers and teachers to learn more about people’s identities. Aspects of which people sometimes struggle to discuss.

Creed Notes- Kwame Anthony Appiah.

Kwame’s theory that ‘religion is not just a matter of beliefs’ was the message that most resonated with me. Kwame explains that religion can be broken down into three sections; what you do (practice), who you do it with (community) and the body of beliefs.

I believe he is trying to teach that simply viewing a person’s religion by its beliefs can cause us to make assumptions that may not be true. Within every religion there are differing beliefs and values so we must remember to view people as individuals. Kwame enhances this theory by stating that when we focus on a person’s beliefs we overshadow the other two parts – practice and community. Each plays an equally important role in identity. Practice is passed down through family, and traditions can become part of life beyond a set of beliefs.

Kwame states: ‘When fundamentalists of religion say identity requires a set rule of beliefs or fixed readings of scripture they have fallen for the fundamental faculty’. Instead Kwame argues that religion is not simply a ‘set of rules’. Scripture is written in poetic stories that are interpreted and these interpretations change, or in some cases are completely abandoned over time. He uses the example of slavery to demonstrate this point.

Listening to Kwame’s theories has taught me how diligently we must avoid making presumptions around religion. We have a responsibility to avoid making judgments of a person based only on their religious beliefs – every person interprets faith, or lack of it, in a unique way. Taking a student’s beliefs as a means of understanding them would be misleading and damaging. We must remain conscious that religious identities have changed throughout history, as have community values. We must make sure our knowledge and understanding evolves too.

Inclusive Teaching and Learning – Blog Task 1 – Gender

Supporting Trans Students – Blog
It is clear from studying UAL’s Gender Diversity website that the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community are not talked about or understood well enough. The various articles emphasise the importance of using conversation and dialogue as a tool to educate. Such dialogue can benefit the staff as well as the students, making the university environment more inclusive to everyone. I believe I could use the website as an invaluable tool in my own teaching practice. Firstly by informing LGBTQ+ students of the help, support and communities available at UAL and secondly as a means to educate all students on the correct terminology and pronouns used when interacting with their peers. If indeed all students read the resources it would encourage positive conversation and a healthy understanding of an often overlooked topic.

Pay It No Mind – The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson – Video
This video of interviews gives a brief insight into the life of Marsha P Johnson, an activist trans woman who struggled to be accepted for who she was, and throughout her life showed huge courage and kindness to those she encountered. Today programmes such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race highlight how far modern society’s perception of drag queens has changed, from persecuted to celebrated. Unfortunately, prejudice still exists in some communities, but certainly far less than in previous decades, thanks in part to people such as Marsha P. Johnson who was not afraid to challenge our perceptions through the way she lived her life.

I likened Marsha P. Johnson’s struggles to the artist and activist Keith Haring. Best known for his graffiti art in New York, his later work often addressed political and social themes especially homosexuality and AIDS. Nowadays Haring’s work is mainstream, popular and often imitated, although the core themes often ignored. Recently the clothing brand Uniqlo collaborating with the Museum of Modern Art in New York to produce a collection of Keith Haring apparel. The description on the Uniqlo website makes no mention of Haring’s foundation supporting young people with AIDS/HIV or the gay rights activism he was so heavily involved with.

Understanding Patriarchy, bell hook – Read.
The first and most striking message I took from this text is the notion that women are as prominent in creating patriarchal roles in the family home as men. Hooks talk about her experience of patriarchy in her home via violence from her father, she explains how her mother enforced these roles by complying and accepting his role of power. Hooks also highlights how boys that come from single-mum homes are just as likely to be taught patriarchal roles from their mothers as women in such households are far more likely to idealize the patriarchal male role and patriarchal men than women who live with patriarchal men every day’. She explains that is it unwise to put the sole blame on men, this will not help rid us of patriarchy, ‘Separatist ideology encourages women to ignore the negative impact of sexism on male personhood. It stresses polarization between the sexes.’

Following on from this theme, the second message I identified within the text is the idea that men are also victims of patriarchy. Men’s inability to express emotion is increasingly mentioned in current affairs. Samaritans statistics show the highest suicide rate in the UK in 2017 was men aged 40–44. In Understanding Patriarchy hook argues that patriarchal roles have made the show of venerable emotion a sign of weakness and lack of power. She recalls her brother being taught that a boy should not express feelings’ from a young age. Then, in adult life hook talks of her friends’ need to conform to patriarchal roles in order to be ‘noticed and valued’.

Including these themes in my own teaching practice – a brief
A great way to get students engaged and aware of a certain subject matter is to create a brief surrounding that topic. Providing students with a challenge can encourage a reaction where a lecture or presentation might not. The three resources in this reflective blog cover a variety of gender issues and could be used as starting points for a research-led project. Students could be tasked with creating a visual response to one of the three resources. The current student that I support is on Illustration and visual media at LCC, with him in mind this could be anything from designing a new book cover to making an animated interpretation of one of the themes.

Being tasked with creating a visual response means students are challenged to truly analyse and draw their own conclusions. This process of research and interpretation is an important part of higher education in art and design, it is crucial that students learn the skill of critical thinking and analysis. Tutorials and critiques on the work would then provide a comfortable environment within which a conversation that some individuals may find difficult to discuss can take place. Facilitating a conversation also provides an opportunity for students to inform their peers of any gender preferences they may have.

I was conscious of using the correct terminology whilst writing this piece. Even after researching and educating myself of the correct pronouns and phrases I still found it difficult. I apologise in advance if my text contains any errors and would greatly appreciate any feedback.