How does my curriculum match the needs of my learners (with consideration of equality and diversity)?
I work within an art gallery in an education team delivering arts based workshops that respond to and offer engagement opportunities for current exhibitions. My projects are often short predominantly single ranging to 4 workshops with the same participants, (although I do deliver ongoing workshops of up to 7 sessions I feel it’s more useful for my practise to consider inclusion, equality and diversity improvements within shorter sessions).
The amount of information I have before a session starts can vary and is co-ordinated with educators’ community members and the learning team at my place of work. I work with teachers to ensure that the session I am delivering is closely aligned with school/college/university curriculum as well as the opportunities proffered by exhibition content. I offer opportunities for development and new experiences. As an artist delivering sessions there are a number of key things I need to know such as access requirements and additional need requirements so that I can ensure that the activity I deliver is inclusive for participants with disabilities and additional needs (this often involves considering accessibility issues and the provision of engagement tools). I am however often not party to information such as participants learning style, ability, behavioural issues and other needs that might be pertinent to the delivery of my session. I am often reliant on the teacher I liaise with to ensure that support is in place for learners who may require it.
Instead there are a number of things I try to do to make my sessions as inclusive as possible.
Before the session/s
Where possible I try to establish a strong working relationship with teachers and lecturers to gain insights into participants.
I send session plans to teachers in advance of workshops and ask for advice on whether or not they think the session content would be appropriate for their learners.
I ask the teachers/ lecturers a number of questions about needs and requirements of participants, although I feel this is a key site for improvement. I am therefore considering ways of changing these questions to target inclusivity and equality and diversity more effectively.
I plan sessions with consideration of the needs of participants in relation to the information I am given. It’s very important in my teaching to allow participants an equal opportunity to experience artwork and to develop ideas. I am very passionate about making reasonable adjustments to enable students to engage with work, I frequently work with participants with learning difficulties and I think of methods of changing the way I deliver ideas or often engagement opportunities to include participants. I often supply additional handling tools within the gallery to allow participants to layer their experience – such as textured materials that invite sensory engagement.
I plan sessions with consideration of participant’s current learning (e.g. current themes in curriculum)
During the session
I set ground rules that where appropriate are negotiated with the participants. These ground rules often include creating a comfortable environment for sharing created work so that participants feel safe in expressing themselves.
I am very keen to take time to make adjustments and to step back to get a wider view of the session to observe any changes that may be necessary and try to give support where possible.
I use handling tools that extend the artwork and invite sensory engagement (audio and tactile) to allow learners a number of ‘routes in’.
For learners who I deem it to be appropriate to remove risk of anxiety I spend a lot of time considering routes into the gallery that are calm and metered. I focus on the transition into the space often working with learners to consider the building and context and vantage points into the space before entering galleries.
Other steps that I am very keen to take is involving young people who create great responses in helping other participants.
I challenge inappropriate use of language in sessions and address any issue that I feel may lead to participants feeling excluded or intimidated (e.g. due to matters of gender, race, class, religion or sexual orientation)
Due to the nature of my work engaging with a range of artworks, I am lucky that exhibition content very often leads to conversations around cultural engagement and people from diverse backgrounds. I am keen to encourage discussion around these aspects in a supportive manner.
Post visit – I use visits with a range of learners to inform best practise for future visits. I allow responses and interaction from learners to shape future sessions with the same and different learners.
The key area for improvement in terms of my practise here is asking appropriate questions from educators to give rounded pictures of the learners I engage with to aid my session planning.