Falling into an anti-racist pedagogical rabbit hole.
I was recently commissioned to create an annotated bibliography for a module that I work on. This required me to locate scholarly publications for including works that 'identify potential barriers to achievement as well as successfully tested assessment approaches that take into account a variety of alterities including disability, race, class, gender, religion, and sexuality'. This led me to happily fall into a research rabbit hole that will heavily inform my teaching this year.
Anti-Racist Pedagogy is a paradigm located within Critical Theory utilized to explain and counteract the persistence and impact of racism (Blakeney, 2005). I initially understood this pedagogy as only having a space within fields and areas of learning that explicitly focused on race and diversity. However, through reading guides such as The Anti-Racist Discussion Pedagogy: An introductory guide, Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future and An Anti-Racist Form of Assessment: The C.A.P Model: Creative. Academic. Practical’, I quickly understood this not to be the case.
Since I began working in schools in the early 00s, I have felt strong discomfort with the structure of the UK education system and its focus on attainment and lack of diversity of teaching methods. Despite my teacher training, I felt I did not have the knowledge and complete understanding of how children, young people and adults learn to successfully challenge some of the thinking that existed within the institutions. In our schools and universities, we focus on targets, grading and assessment without questioning how these systems may be set up against our learners. It has only been through reading books like 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere that I have come to understand that the way I was taught to teach was basically the banking model of education. I was teaching to learners rather than with them.
This teaching-centric model causes learners to see their educator as the person with power, the person with the authority and the transmitter of all knowledge the learner must require, makingthem passive. In this model, learners have no control or agency. The only action that is required of them is to receive this knowledge, store it and demonstrate that they have it by way of performing well in assessments. As Freire states, 'The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.' (1970). This serves to reinforce societal inequalities, perpetuate problematic hierarchies and objectify learners.
In his guide, Inoue (2015) asserts that the narrative of students disliking writing is a result of widespread racism present in hegemonic writing assessments, that is assessments based on whiteness and dominant academic discourses. He challenges readers to not only take the stance that teachers’ assessments of student writing should do no harm to minority students, but that they should also go a step further by using writing assessment as a vehicle to promote social justice. This has led me to question how I mark and provide to students regarding their writing. This academic year, I intend to provide supplementary sessions on academic writing as I have done before, such as ones that focus on constructing paragraphs and paraphrasing authors but also on responding to feedback and using grading criteria to score work. This will help me to decentre my authority and more equitably share power within my classroom as Inoue suggests.
I have also created Discord servers for each cohort of students I work with to create a more informal space outside of the university that will hopefully encourage a more authentic shared discourse and sense of community. This space will also serve to encourage greater student to student interaction, which has been proven to empower students and create astronger sense of self. These are very small steps in the right direction; I know that incorporating anti-racist pedagogy is never going to be a quick fix or something that is achievable without institution-wide interest. Yet, we have to start somewhere and this is a rabbit hole I am happy to be falling down.
Blakeney, A. (2005), 'Antiracist Pedagogy: Definition, Theory, and Professional Development', Journal of Curriculum and Peagogy, (2(1)), pp119-132, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15505170.2005.10411532
Chew, S., Houston, A. and Cooper, A. (2020), The Anti-Racist Discussion Pedagogy: An introductory guide to building an anti-racist pedagogy in any discipline through instructor reflection, clear communication guidelines, and inquiry-based discussion, Packback, Available at: https://sph.unc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/112/2020/08/Anti_Racist_Discussion_Pedagogy__1.pdf
(Accessed 3 Sep 2021).
Escayg, K. -A., (2020) ‘An Anti-Racist Form of Assessment: The C.A.P Model: Creative. Academic. Practical’, Faculty Focus, Available at: https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/an-anti-racist-form-of-assessment-the-c-a-p-model-creative-academic-practical (Accessed on 3 Sep 2021)
Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Bloomsbury, London, UK
Inoue, A., (2015), Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future, Palor Press LLC, Colorado, USA