Designing out discrimination
Teaching difference and exclusion: audiences, assumptions and practices
Academics working across the social sciences and humanities are often faced with the task of teaching ‘difference’ and inequality. This pilot study investigates key issues involved in teaching gender, class, ‘race’, ethnicity and sexuality as sites of social inequality, exclusion and identity politics. It focuses on the following questions: whom do we teach and what are the assumptions underpinning our constructions of the audience when teaching inequality/ difference? What are the effects of those assumptions? How do we teach inequality/ difference and how do our assumptions affect our teaching practices? In what ways do lecturers reflect upon and negotiate these issues? Clearly, these are questions of interpretation, experience and sense-making: they therefore relate to the production of meaning and call for the use of qualitative data.
The methods used were focus groups (carried out by the researchers as a collective) followed by semi-structured interviews, carried out separately by members of the research team). Access was gained by ‘snowball sampling’ and interviews were conducted with colleagues across a range of subjects. Field diaries were also kept by the researchers (as practitioners in the fields concerned). The results reveal two key issues: the ‘definitional power’ of lecturers, and ‘minoritised’ students.
‘Definitional Power’ of Lecturers:
This pilot study uncovers some challenges associated with teaching ‘difference’ but has not investigated students’ perceptions of themselves, each other and lecturers. Instead it makes a series of recommendations aimed at promoting reflexivity and debate among lecturers, and makes proposals for possible future studies that could incorporate empirical research into students’ experiences. Key recommendations include: