Nicola Tagoe, Project and Resources Lead, Academic Enhancement
Welcome to the second in our series of Spotlight On… articles, giving you an insight into each of the three strands lead by the AEM & Attainment team.
Today we speak to colleagues leading the Decolonising Pedagogy & Curriculum strand, including Jheni Arboine (Educational Developer: Academic Enhancement) and Carole Morrison (Senior Lecturer, Academic Enhancement Model; Associate Lecturer, PgCert in Teaching & Learning).
Could you tell us about what you’ve been doing on the strand?
This strand recognises that decolonisation is a complex and contested term. It has been developed to support course teams in discussing decolonisation as a group and thinking through together the implications for course teams.
Our approach is to offer a supportive and critically challenging space for open and authentic conversations around decolonising work. The aim is to help course teams formulate action plans and interventions to enhance the student learning experience and close the awarding gap. Decolonising work is an ongoing process and not a task that can be completed quickly, nor does it have a fixed end point.
Since September 2020 we have been supporting 7 course teams from across the 6 UAL Colleges to self-facilitate an initial series of workshops around Exploring positionality and Why is the sector focusing on decolonising curriculum and pedagogy?
We have now moved onto leading three facilitated workshops with course teams around What is decolonising the curriculum?, What is decolonising pedagogy? and Decolonisation: putting it into practice which will take place over the Summer and Autumn terms.
As an example of the AEM activity that may take place within a particular college, at London College of Fashion (LCF) we have worked with:
- Technical staff, to build on the feedback from a decolonising presentation in Summer 2020 with more resource and information. This included establishing a Decolonising the Curriculum Community Network and a one-day Decolonising the Curriculum Teaching & Learning Away Day.
- The Cultural & Historical Studies department, to start conversations with Dr Gurnam Singh to explore approaches and responses to decolonising curriculum and pedagogy.
- The Dean of Academic Strategy, to run a College-wide mapping exercise of decolonising activity to inform and shape practice.
What have been the key themes emerging from the discussions?
During the workshops, colleagues discussed:
- The link between decolonisation and the impact on the student experience.
- Attitudes towards decolonisation, and the responsibility that lies with everyone to commit to decolonisation as an ongoing process.
- The need to be purposefully reflective, and in particular, the importance of allowing silence when facilitating productive spaces to think and reflect.
- An appreciation of workshops in providing them with the opportunity to begin conversations around decolonisation, engage in open discussions and ask questions.
What approaches are course teams taking in their learning contexts?
This year we have introduced a new aspect to the Decolonising Pedagogy & Curriculum strand, the provision of leadership mentoring sessions. This was initiated to acknowledge the support required to allow staff to navigate sensitive conversations around race, bias and decolonisation. To date the bookings have been made by Programme Directors, Course Leaders, Pathway Leaders and Year Leaders.
This aims to provide a safe/brave space for those in leadership positions to reflect on their leaderships styles and respond to a set of questions as a way of having a conversation about strategic [KPIs], operational [policy] and managerial [procedural] issues which can be related and constructively aligned to decolonising pedagogy and curriculum. We encourage staff on the strand to take up the opportunity, and book a Leadership Mentorship Session during the Introduction and orientation session.
Here are some of the observations we have noticed since the introduction of the leadership mentoring, and feedback that has been received from course leaders on how this has supported the delivery of self-facilitated sessions:
- Enhanced the experience of the strand, making it more meaningful for those involved.
- Additional leadership support has led to greater ownership around delivery of workshops.
- Course leaders have built increased confidence in facilitating honest and challenging conversations.
- Comments by course teams that the opportunity to meet and engage in discussions of this nature are not common.
- The potential to embed decolonisation through a legacy of leadership.
How do you see the work of the strand developing in future?
Our conversations around decolonisation have reminded us that we all involved in a much wider process across the university. Decolonisation has been highlighted as a priority within our Anti-racism Action Plan, and the ongoing work of the Decolonising Arts Institute, Shades of Noir, and committed colleagues across the university helps us all to move forward.
Decolonial perspectives are embedded within all of the three AEM strands, and we are keen to move towards facilitating open workshops to engage with a wider number of staff across the university, particularly welcoming new members of staff to join the discussions.
Find out more
For a deeper insight into the topics discussed within this article:
- Visit the zine blog – Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education
- Listen to a podcast – Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives in Higher Education – the story behind the zines