June 03, 2019

Reflections on the Warwick Education Conference Antiracist Pedagogy Workshop – Abigail Ball

I recently attended a Warwick Education Conference workshop on antiracist pedagogy run by Mark Hinton from CLL and Lydia Plath from History. The session was also supported by Meleisa Ono-George, co-lead of the WIHEA Learning Circle called ‘Anti-Racist Pedagogy and Process in HE.’

Research undertaken by Universities UK and the National Union of Students (amongst others) has shown that students who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) have substantially different attainment, progression and experience in HE compared with those students who identify as White. These differences have been attributed to practices and processes within HE that disadvantage particular groups of BAME students (Ono-George and Awesti, 2019).

The purpose of this workshop was to raise awareness of antiracist pedagogy and to provide a safe and supportive environment for participants to discuss the topic and associated issues. The session included a really useful introduction to race and racism which was very interesting and helpful in setting the context of the workshop.

For one of the activities we were divided into two separate groups - those participants who identified as White and those participants who identified as BAME. Blackwell (2010) describes this as a black feminist approach which uses racially separate groups to remove the burden of representation from BAME students. She adds that this process enables BAME students to discuss their own antiracist interests, issues and requirements without the need to represent BAME students as a whole. She further adds that this teaching approach supports the development of discussion that differs from the accepted hegemony (hooks, 1994).

This was a really strange experience and I personally have never been divided into groups in this way before, but it did definitely change the dynamic of the group and the discussions that took place. As someone who identifies as White I was grouped with other similar participants and we were asked to consider our identity and how we described ourselves, in smaller sub-groups. For me personally I found it quite hard to describe myself and I found I was thinking about class which is not something I usually consider. Although I know my ethnic background, I did not particularly want to discuss something that felt very personal with relative strangers and I wonder if this was how everyone felt?

We then switched into different sub groups and discussed the impact that antiracist pedagogy might have on our teaching practice. I found myself wondering if technology is as colour blind as I had assumed. Does someone who identifies as White have a different experience with technology compared with someone who identifies as BAME? I have no answers to these questions and came away from the session feeling unsettled and not sure how to embed antiracist pedagogy in my teaching – although I am definitely going to try.

At the start of the session, the facilitators commented that we would not find reassurance from the workshop and that we would not find easy or ready-made solutions and they were right. Whilst I gained a better understanding of some of the issues, I found that the workshop led me to question my teaching practice, the institutional norms that I work within and the society that I live in.

References

Blackwell, D.M. (2010) ‘Sidelines and separate spaces: making education anti‐racist for students of color.’ Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(4), pp. 473-494.

hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Ono-George, M. and Awesti, A. (2019) Anti-Racist Pedagogy and Process in HE. Available from: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/academy/activities/learningcircles/anti-racistpedagogyandprocess (Accessed 22nd May 2019).


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