Archive for the ‘2/6 Alternative approaches to teaching’ Category

The ‘mixed reality’ game to spice up teaching:

The challenge:

This ‘game’ sounds complicated, but I’m sure when we actually get going it will all make sense! Although I am not actually teaching this topic in the next couple of weeks, the concept I would like to consider is that of ‘white privilige’. This is something we teach to first years during a module that is entitled ‘Promoting Equality and Citizenship’. The underlying theme of the module is to get students to think about and recognise power – and in turn, oppression and discrimination, in all its forms. Historically social work teaching took the stance of teaching about racism and anti-racism, and whilst this in itself is essential, the majority of students, ie the white students, would go through the motions of trying to understand racism, but not really getting it, as naturally they would all consider themselves to be liberal individuals who of course act in an anti-discriminate way at all times. More recently there has been a move to explore the concept of white privilige with social work students, and this can be a really challenging concept for them to grasp. It means encouraging them to see that simply by being white, they are accorded priviliges – often automatically and unconsciously – that black and Asian people do not have. And therefore they need to be aware of the power that being white and living in a predominantly white society gives them. It is imperative that the teaching of this subject does not leave them feeling guilty or upset about something they have no control over, but that it simply brings the issue to their attention, so that they can be mindful of it in practice and in life in general.

Teaching this topic is tricky, and students struggle with it – interestingly it is the white students who struggle, not the black ones, as this is something that they already know. We have to enable students to safely explore how this makes them feel, and occasionally there are real problems where some individuals will defiantly take the stance that ‘I am not racist just because I’m white’. When we first present this topic people are incredibly challenged, as it turns the usual approaches to looking at racism inside out. But, once students have ‘got their heads round it’ they are enlightened, empathic, humbled, and even more committed to working in an anti-discriminate way than they were before. Any ways to aid the teaching of this very sensitive and tricky topic are welcomed!

The intervention:

We met in Manchester City Centre and were paired up to go and find a teaching aid that would assist us to teach our concept in a way that would be more likely to be grasped and remembered. My teammate was Kevin, Kevin bought a clock to aid the teaching of his ‘problem’.

I chose a ‘Draw your own jigsaw puzzle’ to use in the classroom:

My rationale was that I could break up the individual pieces and give them to individual students, asking them to draw a picture or write a few words to describe their identity. As a group we would the explore the nature of what people wrote/drew and look at how many described their ethnic origin or skin colour as part of their identity. We tend to find that the white students do not describe themselves as ‘white’ because they rarely think consciously about being white. The second part of the exercise would involve some fun team work, where the group then have to put the jigsaw together (A1).

The results:

I have not had the opportunity to put this exercise into action as we don’t teach this module again until semester one, but I have shared it with colleagues and they thought it sounded like a good idea. Plus, a colleague from the PGCAP contacted me to ask if he could use my idea, which was really encouraging!

Lessons learned from doing the exercise:

The exercise had two strands – 1)  that it got us out of the classroom, mixing with others from the programme, and doing a task that was fun and memorable. And 2) that it gave us the time and space to think about using play with our students, as well as thinking of creative and alternative ways to help us get our point across. I love the way Stuart Brown talks about the benefits of play in adult education in this clip:

He talks about how 3D play ‘fires up the cerebellum, puts impulses into the frontal lobe and helps the development of contextual memory’. As well as considering how I could use more items within the classroom, I would also like to think of ways to get the students out of the classroom to ‘play’, as I am certain that having this experience myself will have added the development of contextual memory as Stuart Brown suggests. We do get the students out of the classroom visiting resources and services, but never do we get them out of the classroom to have fun – whilst also learning at the same time.

The intention is that this activity will aid deeper learning, as it is essential that students grasp the concept that is being taught (ie about ‘white privilige’). Simply standing in front of them and telling them that white privilige exists would not be enough for them to grasp the deep implications of this. They need to have the opportunity to consider the concept, to think about it, and to be challenged by it in order to achieve deep understanding and the implications for their work practice and it is intended that this activity would provide people with the chance to think deeply about this topic, catering for individuals who have a range of preferred learning styles and learning needs (K2; K3). This film demonstrates why it is important to engage different students in different ways to enable individuals with differing learning styles to all have the opportunity to construct meaning from what  they learn:

It is a film which is based on Biggs ideas about ‘constructive alignment’ and how the teacher must align the planned learning activities with the learning outcomes.

In terms of my specific idea, I believe it could be replicated – indeed, I will ask Carlo how he got on using it, and report back if within an appropriate time frame.

My partner in crime Kevin and myself after we’d presented our items to the group

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In memory of an inspiring young doctor who mused about life & death through her terminal cancer illness. Her husband, Chris now keeps the page updated.


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