Welcome to Team Four On The Floor’s exhibition! Above is a short video we produced to talk about lightbulb moments for us in the world of inclusivity, as an outcome of our studies on the PGCert.
Ally Robinson – White Curriculum
Luis de Gama – BME Attainment (Black & Minority Ethnic)
Alison Carlier – Inclusive Language
James Wright – Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Yasmin Stephens – Accessible Learning Environments
See below for a transcript.
Ally – White Curriculum
What do you mean by white curriculum?
Throughout our education we are taught through the eyes of a white Eurocentric male perspective. Coming from a photographic background I now see how my initial introduction to photographers, know as the ‘canons of photography’ were all white men.
Why does that matter? Why shouldn’t our curriculum be white?
Well, I realise now I was missing out of a plethora of diverse work from so many photographers’ male and female, from a multitude of cultures and countries who could have informed and enriched my work.
We are almost unaware that the curriculum is made of ‘white ideas’ by ‘white authors’, as a result of colonialism; this has made it seem normal. We therefore rarely question what we have been taught.
Can you give me an example?
I can give you a long list of male white photographers but would struggle to think of other ethnic minorities artists. When you suddenly realise what you are missing you feel somewhat cheated. This is something I am actively addressing.
Minna Salami makes the argument that ‘ we should not dismiss, white, western or male thinking simply on the premises that it is white, western or male’, and I agree with that, there is room for all in a diverse, inclusive creative education. But the curriculum must not exclude or privilege one group over another.
So what can we do to make sure things change?
We can make small changes now, by re-assessing reading lists, looking at the work of artists and theorists globally and introducing them to our learners. After all, there is no age to learning, being more inclusive and diverse adds value to us all.
Luis – BME Attainment Gap
I am going to talk to my son Gabriel about the BME attainment Gap.
Gabriel is 15 and he is Mixed raced from a White British Mother and myself an African European person.
What does BME means? And why do we need the classification?
BME is the acronym for Black and Minorities Ethnic. The government uses this to CLASSIFY people that lives in this country that are from a different ethnicity or race from a white British one. So, for instance Africans, Asians, Gypsy settlers, mixed raced, me and you.
According to the Policy makers we need the classification to have an understanding of the British Population, its geographic distribution, different social problems and how the government set provisions to better support everybody. The question on Ethnicity first came about on the 1991 Census of the population.
Why is there a BME attainment Gap?
This is the current gap in retention and grades in higher education and in relation to employability prospects, meaning jobs.
77% of white students receive a 2:1 in comparison to 61% of BME students.
And 6 months after graduation 61% of white students were in full time jobs in comparison to 54% for BME Students. There is a 26% Gap in Attainment.
What can you do as an educator to address this problem?
Well I think as an Educator I can always raise the awareness of this issue and promote the discourse through diversity of curriculum but most importantly encouraging BME students to engage more in learning and bring forward and research aspects of they own culture. So perhaps they will find a new sense of value and motivation and the whole class can also learn from it.
What are my real chances to succeed in life taking into account what you just told me?
Just being aware of the problem, will hopefully help you, in re-shaping your approach to studying. But ultimately respecting everybody’s different ethnicities and cultures and being proud of who you are.
Alison – Inclusive Language
What has been a lightbulb moment for you on the PGCert?
Realising that the language surrounding the arts and creative art education is privileged, coded and exclusive. What I had always loved about Fine Art theory and philosophy actually turns out to be exclusive and excludes many people
What are your thoughts on language and the arts?
Back in Unit 1 I was reading about Bourdieu. He did a study called ‘The Love of Art’ in 1991. He found that the middle classes are more likely to visit galleries due to their ‘cultural capital’ and this wasn’t due to either cost or the location of the gallery. This makes them more likely to be able to decipher language surrounding the arts. They are more able to decode it. Whereas other groups of society are less likely.
How can we use more inclusive language in Higher Education, both in the classroom and in the curriculum?
We need to use clear, plain English, avoiding jargon. We need to test to see that we have been understood. We need to be aware of our own taste cultures, and draw from global sources and the student’s own culture and experience in our inclusive assessment.
James – Autistic Spectrum Disorder
What’s the link between autism spectrum disorder and creativity?
Psychologists from the University of East Anglia and University of Stirling have found that people with high autistic traits produced fewer responses when generating alternative solutions to a problem. However, the responses they did produce were seen as more original and creative.
The National Autism Society say that an autistic perspective can lead to unique ways of seeing the world, along with an ability to maintain intense focus, to adopt unconventional angles in problem solving, or to spot errors that others may overlook.
A shift towards creative divergent thinking will allow autistic students the opportunity to express themselves through their work in a more personal way, and those in the creative industry should welcome this.
What issues can autistic students experience during their time at university?
As a young adult transitioning from school to higher education, there is a large pressure to make friends, which can cause anxiety for many people, especially those with ASD. Courses like Film Production in particular are largely based on group work, so the difficulty to make friends but also work collaboratively with others may amplify the issue further.
The necessity for self-expression and bottom-up thinking in art can be an obstacle for autistic creatives, though some students may have an improved ability to pick up new skills quickly, especially those surrounding technology.
Sensory sensitivity, communication and repetitive behaviour are also issues that affect an autistic student’s experience at university.
What can we do to help those with autism spectrum disorder in higher education?
When possible, curriculums, learning spaces and support infrastructure should be shaped to fit the needs of autistic students. Tara Sims from the University of Brighton states there are a number of key elements for success on the transition to Higher Education; these include:
- clear and timely information
- staff who have knowledge and understanding of autism
- pre-entry orientation events
- specialist mentoring
- accessible services
As educators, we need to use visual and other ‘non-verbal’ methods to communicate, allow students to share their interests and above all, be flexible and keep an open mind.
Yasmin – Accessible Learning Spaces
What has been a lightbulb moment for you on the PGCert?
Students with a disability are finding it extremely difficult in higher education with accessibility to learning spaces. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) reported disappointing educational outcomes for many students with disabilities. Problems include low academic performance, high dropout rates, and poor post-school outcomes (National Council on Disability, 2003).
This doesn’t surprise me as even if our taught sessions are inclusive, if students aren’t able to access the rooms we are teaching in it creates an inclusive learning environment.
So what can I do as a tutor to help students with a disability?
Being organised before each session can really help students, emailing and asking if they might need any assistants getting to the room could really ease these students minds. Also by being organised you can ask to book a room which is easily accessible.
If the physical learning space isn’t ideal for inclusive learning we need to alter the session to accommodate for disabled students. Providing assistive technologies is key. This could be recording the lectures, people learning from home via Skype or preparing and knowing about a range of assistive technology to aid different disabilities can instantly help individual students.
If everyone in education is aware of the issues around accessibility it will help to create a more inclusive environment. Once you put the inclusivity cap on designing a teaching session becomes much more rewarding and you can be confident as you know it will be either physically or digitally accessible to all.