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Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 1

February 14, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Looking at the ‘Student Diversity at UAL‘ webpage, I started to ponder on how I would answer those 3 questions provided in our brief. It’s a pretty overwhelming page as it’s filled with a lot of information, though it is all useful. As a female, British Indian, Dyslexic student myself, I did wonder how a student would cope with looking at all of this with regards to Intersectionality.

Whether I am interpreting this brief correctly or thoroughly enough, I am not sure, but here goes:

  • How could you apply the resources to your own teaching practice?

I was intrigued by the small little ‘Supporting transgender students‘ blog page. I thought it contained useful information (albeit simple) that would be good to include on the university’s main website so that everyone visiting the website would know that teachers at UAL have an awareness.

In particular, I think  that the link provided to ‘Gendered Intelligence‘ is an essential form of training for teachers to undertake. From my own experience of working in UAL’s Disability Service I think it is hugely important to continue refreshing your awareness of Disability, so I don’t see any difference in teachers making an effort to refresh their awareness of gender fluidity and continue to revise or update knowledge of appropriate or used language around Gender Diversity.

In fact, just as I believe that Disability Equality training should be compulsory for staff at universities, why isn’t Trans Awareness and Inclusion training also essential? I would always find this information and resources received from these training sessions to be useful tools to help build a students’ confidence, especially in the context of teaching art & design subjects, where students often create work which expresses their own selves or their situation in life.

  •  How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?

Thinking about this aspect feels a very exciting and creative area for me. I would definitely think about setting this subject within a Graphic Communication Design brief. Without writing a full brief here, it could involve students researching the support networks/social groups for Gender Diversity out in the public realm already, and getting them to look at these organisations’ branding. What does this brand say about that organisation? What audiences are they speaking to? Is it different from the audiences they want? How has their branding design influenced that? I could then ask students to rebrand their researched organisation, to capture a different audience. One of the key learning outcomes from this type of brief could be to build an awareness amongst peers that is positive and supportive. Not only that, I would hope it would build students’ design skills to integrate this awareness in their professional practice.

  • Can you cite examples?

I don’t have any direct examples of integrating this into my teaching practice, as I am just beginning as part of the Teaching Within programme. But as an example of a reference, ‘Centred‘ is a type of organisation I could use as a starting point in the brief I mentioned above. I could ask them questions about branding, about providing illustrations for their organisation to attract a different audience and capture a wider support network. This I hope would act as a catalyst to the students researching their own organisation to re-brand. It may either have their attention by widening their minds to learning about social groups and networks they were not aware of before, or it will challenge them to reinterpret organisations they are already familiar with, from a design perspective.

Sustainable systems and positive human agency

November 6, 2015 in PGcert

I spent the majority of time on this topic wondering what ‘sustainability’ actually means.

I did three pieces of reading, which first made me feel perplexed, then a bit annoyed, and finally slightly more comfortable.

1) Perplexed

An enhancement guide for Sustainability in the Curriculum

This guide doesn’t explain definitions of ‘sustainability’. It says that sustainability is not just ‘related to our physical environment’, but what is it related to? The closest thing to a definition is the quote from UAL’s strategic aims, ‘To create a culture of social and environmental awareness in order to develop and integrate sustainable and ethical practice throughout all aspects of our life and work.’ (University Strategy 2010-15)’.

2) Bit annoyed

Dawe, G., Jucker, R. & Martin, S. (2005) Sustainable Development in Higher Education: Current Practice and Future Developments. York: Higher Education Academy 

This goes through different definitions of Education for Sustainable Development (EDS). There are variations on three factors: environmental, social and economic.

Dawe et al present different criteria for EDS. One is ‘Acceptance of limits’, related to the idea that ‘we are living within a materially non-growing, closed system’. This is based on a model called ‘The Natural Step’, accompanied by a picture of a person draining too much water from planet Earth via a tap. The tap represents technology (not cutting edge technology, given taps were invented in the 1800s!).

The Natural Step

I react against this definition. I think education is about not accepting limits. Are we really living in a finite, closed system? For example, fossil fuels might be limited but what about the other ways we might be able to create energy?

There’s a great book called ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ which is all about dispelling the assumed limits that we place around ourselves and going beyond them. I think we should want students to be proactive, innovative and taking action, and not see themselves as consumers who are fearful that our resources will run out.

In the workshops I deliver, there is a focus on empowering the individual. (Dawe et al do talk about the ‘empowerment of the learner’.) Developing speaking skills is not just about better communication, it’s about your agency as a human being and doing something that matters to you. It’s about breaking limits, taking risks and helping create a future that is better than some of the dystopian futures I hear about in the context of sustainability.

3) Comfortable (ish) 

Sterling, S. (2013) Future Fit Framework: An introductory guide to teaching and learning for sustainability in HE

Sterling gives much clearer context for ‘sustainability’. More importantly he relates it to ‘graduate attributes’ and how graduates should prepare themselves for the world. He sums it up here:

‘In a nutshell: sustainability education prepares people to cope with, manage and shape social, economic and ecological conditions characterised by change, uncertainty, risk and complexity.’

A German view of sustainability literacy seems the most practical to me. This checklist (Michelsen and Adomssent 2007, p22) includes: the ability to deal with uncertainty, working in an interdisciplinary way, being participatory, the ability to plan, feeling empathy, motivating yourself and reflecting on wider concepts.

All of these things I understand in relation to developing enterprise and employability skills, and particularly to speaking skills. For example, being participatory (something I explored in Topic 2, Equalising student participation) and feeling empathy (when giving feedback, there is a need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes).

Sterling sums up: ‘..the sustainability learner will be characterised by such qualities as resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, systemic and critical thinking, enterprise, and a co-operative and caring outlook.’ (p 23)

This is exactly the kind of skills that I want to help students and graduates develop. Though I do still wonder if sustainability is something that can mean what you want it to mean.

I thought about sustainability when I designed and delivered a day of workshops this week on collaboration and presentation skills. I worked with two year groups on the Documentary Film MA at LCC. In the morning, the graduating students acted as mentors to the new students, and gave feedback on their presentations. In an afternoon workshop, the new students gave feedback on the graduating students’ presentations in return.

This ecosystem and reciprocity will carry through to next year, when the new students will be graduating and will act as mentors to the next intake of students.

In these sessions, the students are:

  • Resourceful (reflecting on ideas and articulating them)
  • Participative (each person speaks)
  • Supportive (give constructive feedback to peers)
  • Collaborative (two year groups working together)

There is a circular sense of sustainability about it. But I also feel that these skills encourage positive human agency, with the voice helping turn thought into action).

Sustainability and innovation

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