Grappling with Social Inequalities in the Classroom
This activity will be offered on-site (at EDLAB) and take place on 24 May and 14 June.
The recent global upsurge of social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter has put issues of social inequality centre stage. There has been a trend at Dutch universities to make issues of diversity and inclusivity a more central focus in teaching and research. On one hand, this climate of identity politics and political correctness may cause insecurity among university teachers with regard to their courses and participating students. On the other hand, we have a responsibility as teachers and educators to create an inclusive space that fosters learning and development for a diverse student body. We touch the lives of young people who are at the beginning of their careers and who come from a variety of backgrounds. In this training, we will examine our role as teachers and educators in a reflexive way. We will reflect on what we do and how we do it. The overarching theme centres around questions of social identity and what role this plays in the classroom. How does our race, class, gender, sexuality and ability status affect our viewpoint on what we teach and how we teach it? How does our positionality, notwithstanding our good intentions, influence what and who we see and do not see in the classroom? Scholars in the field of social justice pedagogy argue that in dealing with positions of privilege such as whiteness we need to learn to tolerate discomfort so as not to harden positions of power and privilege in the classroom. We need to develop an ethic of vulnerability. A vulnerability that implies being intellectually and individually humble, being willing to revisit one’s social position and to implement the changes that the process of self-reflection may set in motion. This is an attitude that is part of our social responsibility as teachers who teach well and teach all.
- Session 1: 3.5 hrs onsite, 24 May, 9:30 – 13:00
This first session will focus on issues of bias in the classroom that stem from our own socialization (e.g., what we are consistently exposed to and with whom we are used to interact). We will see how biases can affect our teaching and the students’ learning and co-create ways to minimize their impact in order to foster more equity in the learning process. As preparation for this session, and to try to tailor it to your needs, we will ask you to anonymously share short descriptions of critical situations exemplifying diversity and inclusivity issues that you have encountered or imagine encountering in your teaching activities. These can be related to any teaching activity or role (e.g., managing the classroom, tutorial tasks, lectures, feedback, assessment, etc). In your descriptions try to be as concrete as possible.
- Session 2: 3.5 hrs onsite, 14 June, 9:30 – 13:00
In this second session, we will examine how the positionality of the teacher, i.e. their identity in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality and ability status, impacts students as well as classroom dynamics on a deeper level. As educators we are sources of inspiration for our students in many ways, and yet, who do we give adequate time and space to speak? Who do we listen to attentively? Whose contribution do we value? In other words, who do we, as teachers and educators, deem credible knowers in the classroom and how is this related to the positionality of the students? Or the other way around, who do we wrong in their capacity as knowers due to their positionality? On the basis of scenarios, examples, group work and written self-reflections we will discuss ways of being with discomfort and ways of showing vulnerability. The goal of this session is to sharpen our attunement to the power dynamics as they are playing out in the classroom and to begin to develop an ethics of vulnerability and critical hope. Part of this vulnerability is a willingness to risk exposure and an openness to new perspectives. Critical hope entails the confidence that discomfort will be an opportunity for profound learning about the other and oneself.
These sessions are part of the Global Citizenship Education trajectory at UM. UM’s strategic programme, The European University of The Netherlands, states: “UM (…) imparts on its students the core values of global citizenship”; “We will integrate competencies such as global citizenship and 21st-century skills into courses for students, enabling them to continue their personal and professional development after graduating”. Not every teacher will immediately know how to translate these lofty goals into action. Therefore, three independent CPD modules have been designed to help programme and course coordinators, planning group members, educational designers and interested teaching staff to understand what Global Citizenship Education (GCEd) entails and to embed (aspects of) GCEd into their teaching. All modules have been designed in such a way that they can be followed independently of each other.
Birsen Erdogan (FL), Uli Mueller (UCM) and Catia Pinto Teixeira (FPN) are members of the UM GCEd working group and have monitored faculty implementation of GCEd initiatives at their respective faculties.
Birsen Erdogan (FL) is a lecturer of International Relations at Maastricht University. Her main interests are critical theories in International Relations, Critical Security Studies, Turkish and Middle Eastern politics, and discourse analysis.
Ulrike Mueller (UCM) is a senior lecturer at University College Maastricht and a US-trained sociologist with a focus on how hierarchies of power affect subjectivity formation. Her area of expertise is critical whiteness and critical race theory.
Catia Pinto Teixeira (FPN) is an assistant professor at the Department of Work and Social Psychology. Her research revolves around intergroup relations and focuses specifically on social inequality and social change, power dynamics and the experience of privilege, collective protest, discrimination and well-being.
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