Radical Pedagogies

University of Kent, 11th & 12th January 2018.


Day 1

What gives life to critical and radical pedagogies.

Talking to 15 practitioners in West Midlands

What inspires, motivates, and sustains critical pedagogues in practice.

[group discussion around why attendees think radical pedagogy is important, what inspires/motivates us.]

Critical pedagogy – Freire – empowering students to critique. Teachers and students as co-creators of knowledge.

Critiquing oppressive forces.

Points raised in the group discussion

How can we support each other in our practice? How can we encourage radical pedagogy across the university…how do we achieve this as librarians? Through identifying titles for reading lists and communicating those to academics? Using social media to share resources, host discussions etc.

What experiences, values and beliefs led you? Personal experience of class oppression and consciousness. Racial oppression. Challenging marketisation.

Why is it important? Challenging ideologies. World is broken. World lacks dignity. Make students less defeatist. Have a critical lens on the world.

What inspires and motivates you to practice? Anger. The new – sensory, arts, IT. Reimagining education.

Most positive experience? Student feedback, transformation, student engagement in learning.

What sustains you? If you identify a crisis in your work, then you need to be able to identify and communicate what makes the work rewarding.

How do we support each other? Share resources through the library, use social media to highlight and share, circumnavigating the traditional publishers. Making discussion accessible. Become more transdisciplinary. Try to find a way to breakdown echo chambers to avoid limiting discussions to the same people all the time.

What is radical pedagogy to you…why is it important to you? What gives life to it? Importance of challenging the curriculum, bringing it closer to the lived experience of students. Breaking down the barriers, facilitating critical thinking and learning.

“Pedagogy shouldn’t need the word ‘radical’ in front of it.”

Critical Race Theory (CRT): a framework for liberating learning, teaching, assessment and the curriculum in Higher Education. – Dave Thomas (davethomasot on Twitter)

The problem: the ethnicity attainment gap.

CRT as a framework to enhance learning, teaching and assessment.

Differential between white students (78.4%) and BME students (63.4%) earning a good degree was 15% according to Equality Challenge Unit statistical Report 2017. Sense of belonging, pedagogy and the curriculum all factors in reinforcing the white privileged orientation of academia.

Cultural deficit theory shifts responsibility from the academy to the student, assumes that the student is “defective” and at fault. Deficit theories argue that black students have difficulties integrating into the university culture, because they are not prepared for university life due to ‘unrealistic expectations’ and compatibility of choice.

Kant’s racist analysis regarding engagement and creation of art and science by black men and women (1764).

Students increasingly aware of the attainment gap – see decolonisation of the curriculum and Rhodes must fall etc.

A liberating curriculum (inclusive learning and teaching):

“Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education refers to the ways in which pedagogy, curricula and assessment are designed and delivered to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all.” (Hockings, 2010)

Liberalism has failed to achieve parity between the races.

Racism is endemic and “normal” in our society.

“There is an urgent need to examine white privilege if we are to have any chance of understanding and addressing the subtle but impactful ways that women of colour experience gender inequality within higher education.” < Inside the Ivory Tower – narratives of women of colour surviving and thriving in British academia.

To liberate the curriculum need to look in content, in concept and in delivery.

Promoting microaffirmation – providing students with a “leg-up”. Legitisimise the students sense of belonging “you deserve to be here”. Recognising the students worth and promoting their attainment through small acts of kindness.

The ‘Student Journey’, Power Relations and the Development of Agency

Lecturers should embrace their inner imposter.

Project research: Towards a psychosocial pedagogy: the student journey, intersubjectivity and development of agency

Traditional HE modes are incapable of nurturing critical self-awarenesss, imagination and personal skills that will clearly identify then as world class professionals.

Are students being challenged to develop agency if they are just going down the “student journey” pathway which is presented as unproblematic and a series of simple steps towards completion. “We need to create more hazards”.

Power Intersubjectivity Unconscious Fantasy. (Lacan/Zizek)

Four intersubjective positions:

The Master

The University

The Hysteric

The Analyst

Universities dominated by the first two and suppresses the second two.

Master (How?) – Master/slave model. The tyrant – the master setting arbitrary tasks that need to be completed by the slave.

University (When?)– discourse of bureaucracy. Of rules and codes. Even though the straw man in Wizard of Oz demonstrates intelligence throughout the film, it isn’t confirmed for him until he receives the diploma.

Hysteric (Who?) – what’s my purpose? Who am I? Should be embraced more.

Analyst (Why?) – the analyst mobilises curiosity. Goes out into the world and challenges and exposes contradictions. Like Toto in Wizard of Oz – exposing the wizard and therefore the contradictions.

The Master – students as empty vessels (see Freire). Default mode lecturers bring to the classroom. The model universities are tacitly promoting. Not helpful in the production of agency.

The University – rules and regulations that have increased in the last 10–15 years [*the inherent contradiction of free markets and marketisation – increase of bureaucracy*]. University discourse produces anxieties and produces individuals good at navigating bureaucracy. Universities want students to be both consumers and scholars.

The Hysteric – university creates hysteric individuals because of the bureaucracy it creates. But at least when they are hysteric they are agents – displaying emotion, imagination etc.

The Analyst – the position to aim for. Whereby teacher is taking a backseat. Leaving ego behind and allowing students to take on analysis and production of knowledge. With minimal encouragement from the lecturer, critiques and creates knowledge.

Forces are against us enabling an analyst discourse.

Four questions to ask…

How can students be provided with opportunities to develop agency? Agency

What do we need to change about our bureaucratic rules? Bureaucracy

How can lecturers be encouraged to locate their ‘inner imposter’? Duplicity.

How can students be encouraged to locate their curiosity, their ‘inner Toto’? Curiosity.

Lecturers are part of the problem and need to recognise and challenge this.

Some Versions Of Transition (Benjamin Poore)

Runs a module on the transition from A-Level to HE. Asks what are the norms of literary criticism. Pedagogical forms that English as a subject uses.

The word transition is “over-determined”. The word transition to point to a physical or geographical move. Universities are now no longer the centre of the students lives. Transition reminds us that higher education is and always has been in transition. Management and government interference leads to a constant anxiety and insecurity. Notion that a degree is a transitional step towards a career or progression. Students from different backgrounds increasingly engaging in areas that were traditionally populated by middle class, grammar educated individuals.

The word transition is a condition of the educational experience.

Education as a series of thresholds, where we continually begin something again. To what extent should the transitional process be embedded into the curriculum.

Concept of transition needs to be de-coupled from problematic and unsettling terms such as resilience.

[Group Discussion]


What is left unsaid or unacknowledged in the teaching of your discipline? How do we know, and why might this be so?

Radical pedagogies – how to increase my impact as a teacher upon WP and BME students? Sheree Palmer.

19% attainment gap at university of kent

What strategies would you use with each student to impact upon student engagement and attainment.

Student A – white, both parents attended university, financially stable background, attended a local selective grammar school. < Maybe used to a more traditional method of learning (eg essay writing).

Student B – black, financially stable background, lived in Nigeria between ages of 2 and 8, first in family, attended a comprehensive school in London.

Student C – WP background, financially unstable – including periods of emergency council accommodation, first in family, attended a comprehensive school in London.

Important not to make assumptions.

Key principle of effective lesson design: design for individual members of your audience.

Improving the degree attainment of black and minority ethnic students: https://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/improving-attainment-of-bme-students/

How would you teach Things Fall Apart by China’s Achebe differently to Emma by Jane Austen? Important to consider the social and cultural context of the text. If you don’t teach the context as well, how can people understand the text. For example, without understanding the culture, how can you properly understand Things Fall Apart? This is what BME students experience with the texts they read from the English literary canon.

[threshold concept interview: https://vimeo.com/27771228]

Teaching strategies: http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au/hattie-his-high-impact-strategies/

Don’t assume anything. Tests students knowledge and engagement as you go. Be aware of possibility of cultural barriers to seeking help or assistance.

Intercultural perspectives in EAP: putting international students on the map

International students feel marginalised.

Internationalisation accompanied globalisation and marketisation. Revenue generation, but could also be transformative if knowledge sharing, cooperation and integration are embedded. But the main driver of international recruitment is money.

EAPs often bundled in with other services such as libraries, when perhaps that isn’t the most appropriate place for them.

International students are marginalised, although they are “elite” (financially able to be international students)…they are “othered” very quickly upon arrival. Lack of engagement from “home” students because there’s a fear their grades will be affected. Tendency to focus on what students lack rather than what they contribute (eg language skills etc). Additionally face a hostile environment outside of the institution.

Encouraging critique – encouraging international students to engage with their environment. Recognise what they bring to HE – rich experiences; their own knowledge; understanding of different cultures and languages. Analysing their own position encourage self-awareness ad asking them to consider their own cultural perspectives.

Outside Space Learning; Place Spaced Learning; Critical EAP.

Getting students to draw a mind map to create a visualisation of how they see the world.

Dismantling the curriculum in higher education

Open Access article: https://olh.openlibhums.org/articles/10.16995/olh.66/

Education as a process – about spiritual growth, about what’s inside you. The rule of money dominates the curriculum. Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life provides a useful framework… eg “how to keep coming up against histories that have become concrete, histories that have become as solid as walls”. What do we do to address the fact that some can pass through walls but some cannot?

An HE policy narrative with three pedagogical functions:

1) the fetishisation of human capital – a particular subjectivity pr ,ode f attention/orientation

2) the proletarianisation of academic labour through competition < attrition on labour rights, use of tech to performance management to control staff (and also students). Competition will make this worse.

3) frames with internalisation of performative responses

A narrative that analyses academic and student ill-health or quitting, and in particular of a rise in anxiety.

Universities are anxiety machines.

Policy narrative flows from the treasury.

No exaggeration to say that our country’s future depends more than ever on the success of our HEIs. We will not forget the underlying values of HE…joy and value of knowledge pursued for its own sake; pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful. Uncompromising in our protection of students’ interests…insist on value for money for the student [and] also for the taxpayer. The higher education sector in England is well suited to market mechanisms driving continuous improvement. – Barber, M. (2017) Securing student success. Government consultation on behalf of the Office for Students. [https://consult.education.gov.uk/higher-education/higher-education-regulatory-framework/supporting_documents/HE%20reg%20framework%20condoc%20FINAL%2018%20October%20FINAL%20FINAL.pdf]

Pedagogy of hate: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/26793/

Reflections on a #WhiteCurriculum: http://www.dtmh.ucl.ac.uk/reflections-whitecurriculum/

Olufemi’s decolonising the english faculty – the impact of the library in terms of tackling institutional racism.

Anti-curricula – a course of action http://www.universityofutopia.org/sharing

Is it possible to do something different within the university? Or is the game up? If the game isn’t up, what can you do?

Is another world possible?

  • Extend democracy into/through the curriculum
  • Uncover alienated-labour: private property; the division of labour; and commodity exchange
  • Eliminate the social division of labour between owners and non-owners
  • Less harmful relations of production
  • Natural science fused with philosophy – inter-disciplinarity
  • Global educational commons and critical pedagogy

Day 2

The problem with silent students – it’s you, not them

How does student participation and contribution play out? https://padlet.com/lsequeira04/radkent18

Pedagogical factors as to why silent students are seen as a “problem”

Disciplinary pedagogies – Socratic method, debate, case study

Talking = learning

Cultural and social factors as to why silent students are seen as a “problem”

Sound bites, tweets

Being shy or introverted are no longer acceptable personality traits

Good oral communication skills > confidence > leadership > professional success

Where does this take us?

Deficit model > teachers tend to adopt the saviour mode, tough love

Euphemisms, excuses and exceptions – cultural stereotypes, pop psychology > low expectations

Reinforce the dominant pedagogy, privilege oral participation.

Not helpful to assume that because there is no contribution in class, that the student is not learning and able to contribute.

[Group discussion – points below]

Is oral contribution the only way to engage with the topic or material?

What impact does this have on the students’ needs and priorities? Do adjustments need to be made?

Who has agency?

What is lost/gained in the process? What is the trade off?

What message are we sending our students and society?

Discussions around the use of silence to break up a session – have a period of silent reflection with the group.

Rather than having group discussions, have a period of individual writing first to allow individuals to compose and reflect upon their positions before sharing. This was found to benefit the group discussion, much better than just jumping straight into the discussion.

It starts in the classroom

Model active listening skills.

Create an environment where all reasonable views are welcome (not just those we agree with).

Encourage and demand thoughtful, critical debate rather than opinionated or dogmatic beliefs.

Acknowledge and commend constructive contributions (especially those based on listening and learning from others).

A return to cutting and sticking…punk pedagogy and zine making in HE.

What place does/might punk have in teaching and learning? Anything that takes the teaching away from what was intended. Encouraging of a DIY culture.

Punk pedagogy/pedagogies: liberation, do it yourself, critical awareness, active learning, empowerment and collaboration.

What are zines – paid for/free, chatty, information driven, diversity within their themes, cut and stick together/DIY, accessible language, intellectual labour/cheap production, simplicity, personalised/localised, appropriation, reflective writing.

How might zines allow the pursuit of punk pedagogical ideas?

How might you use ‘zines in your own practice? Or, why might you not?

Flooding: an overwhelming approach to teaching messy histories

Flooding in the sense of being overwhelmed with information. In history – demonstrating how messy and complex history is, and how difficult it is to draw conclusions from materials. Use one large wall to create a chronology of historical events.

[Exercise: In the context of Nazi Germany]

Exercise allows individuals to see the messiness of history. Helps to place individual events within their wider context – micro and macro histories. Enables a historical narrative to be outlined and explored, enabling students to identify themes, discuss why particular patterns emerge, analyse and think critically about the history of the Nazi party.

Perspectives functionalist historians believed that the complicated Nazi state, the impacts of war, striving to meet industrial demands all created the “twisted road to Auschwitz”…in other words, the holocaust was the result of inter-connected events.

The Art of an Education – Shahidha Bari

“One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.”

Emile, or On Education. – Rousseau

Teaching is always about teaching citizenship. Current dilemma – good citizenship is not to do with the state.

Danger to the state that higher education is just another of its operative arms. Universities used as an outsourced border control.

State also views us as the complete opposite, through measurement, bringing supervisory regulation. Universities warrant supervision.


Has little faith in the university, but everything in the teachers. The academy is an instrument of governmentality. Designed to train docile bodies for the purposes of a capitalist state, to silence our dissent, to follow rules to become obedient citizens.

There is no such thing as a safe space, only safer spaces. We cannot say there is a liberal space when we have lecture halls named after colonialists, when funding is received from homophobes etc.

Derrida, The principle of reason: the university in the eyes of its pupils

“Today, how can we not speak of the university?”

Impossible to disassociate the work of teaching with the conditions of that work.

Openness not co-opted by the neoliberal system, appropriated for creating the labour the neoliberal system desires. An education for an education’s sake, rather than for purely creating a workforce for the benefit of the economy.

Edward Said, Humanism and Democratic Criticism

History that is “still open to the presence and the challenge of the emergent, the insurgent, the unrequited and the unexplored”.

[Said quote]

“What is to be done here, now, with what we are as agents?” Spivak asks.

Spivak, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalisation

Spivak answers: “…teaching that is the uncoercive rearrangement of desires”

How do we teach freely unhindered by curriculums, our own agendas.

Office for Students stamp and seal on the marketisation of higher education. Difficult to criticise without being seen to be against student interests. The marketisation of the university is done. We can, however, refuse to be docile. We can teach in ways to ensure students reject the conditions.

We must teach gently. We should cherish the meeting spaces on campus. We should remember ourselves as students. Consider casualised labour. Need to turn our eyes to the structural inequalities within and across the academy. The most radical thing we can do it so to teach optimism despite ourselves. “Optimism is stupid” but it is necessary to avoid defeatism, to resist the status quo requires optimism.

How do we invoke our colleagues to join our cause?

Co-operation, not competition: learning and teaching for the post-capitalist economy

“Competition is the law of the jungle, but co-operation is the law of civilisation.” – Peter Kropotkin

New co-ops – Vaughan, RED and HE experiments in Lincoln.

Co-operative College, Manchester – towards a federated university.

JISC discussion lists: CHEN, CUF.

“The ideal of the average pedagogist is not a complete, well-rounded, original being; rather does he seek that the result of his art of pedagogy shall be automatons of flesh and blood, to best fit into the treadmill of society and the motionless and dullness of our lives.”

Emma Goldman, 1906.

Housing co-operative – more than a co-operative about ensuring decent housing…wider co-operative than that, incorporates learning and education.

What is co-operative education?

Critically reflective – collaborative working…provide a space for engaged dialogue and learning.

Developing pedagogies

1. Learning about the co-operative movement

a) Studying co-operation explicitly across disciplines.

b) Co-operative studies within a discipline.

c) Embedding co-operative learning.

2. Learning landscape of co-operative higher education – co-op itself as site of pedagogy.

3. Co-operative pedagogy: student as producer, co-operative, democratic and academic labour.

Creating collaborative reading lists and/or reading groups.

Peer assessment

Jigsaw – personal stories – distribute to students.

A theory/The Theory – what texts? Heterogeneous.

Call theorists by their first names.

Reflections and Connections – Sian Harris