Race: Hahn Tapper (2013) ‘A Pedagogy of Social Justice Education: Social Identity Theory, Intersectionality, and Empowerment’

I found this reading very interesting. I haven’t looked much at Social Identity Theory before, yet a lot of what was written here resonates with what I try to do with my students, or at least have tried to do over the past academic year.

I used to feel that it was my job to provide all the content: to deliver knowledge and explain it, to have activities to help students get into and grapple with ideas, make space for them etc. While this came from good intentions, it over-emphasised my role in the room- I was taking too much on, and actually not ‘creat[ing] experiences with, and not for, students’ as Freire advocates. Over last summer, I reflected on this and decided to try a new approach: to see seminar and workshop spaces as primarily collaborative- an exchange- a place where I might introduce a talking point, or ask for students to volunteer responses from the ideas presented in the lecture- and then to guide and contribute to the discussion, as appropriate, thereby becoming part of the conversation without dominating it or presupposing that mys students had particular views, knowledge’s or experiences.

The result has been incredibly exciting, as I have learnt so much from my students, and have been encouraged and humbled by their perceptions, insights, and lived experiences. The in-class discussions were vibrant, seeing students sharing stories, photos, videos, and listening to each other. I would physically mirror this exchange by pulling up a chair and sitting in a circle with them¬†rather than standing in front of or amongst them. Even a gesture like this can reshape the dynamics of a conversation, perhaps contributing to the reinvention of power that Freire writes about, as discussed in this article by Tapper: ‘it is impossible to think of education without thinking of power… the question… is not to get power, but to reinvent power’ (p. 414).

All of this has realised in my teaching practice the need for teachers to ‘create experiences with, and not for, students, integrating their experiences and voices into the educational experience itself’ (414). Reconceptualising the aims of our session from instilling knowledge into the students to creating a space for a dynamic exchange and exploration of ideas, encouraging diverse perspectives and experiences, has generated for me a¬†different way of thinking about what the classroom can be. A place for the continuation of exploration and thinking that takes place parallel to other contexts in the students’ lives, but here pushed deeper and wider, woven together, by the mutual exchanges taking place in the room, at times facilitated, at times led by myself as tutor. This has resulted, I think, in my role and perhaps identity, being tied to those of the students.

I am eager to continue to reflect on this process, especially to explore ways to facilitate conversations and exchanges that are not dependent on verbal articulation: this is the mode of discussion that I am most comfortable with as an individual, but I recognise that this is definitely not universal, and would like to explore other things: collaborative in-class projects, perhaps… and other things! I need to research this more, but if anyone has any ideas or strategies they use, I’d love to hear more from you.

Also, this may not particularly relate to the Tapper article, but on my Internet perambulations this morning I saw a comic that I thought was really pertinent to our unit- and perhaps a great way to sign off my last blogpost for it.

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