Well, Hahn Tapper is not for the faint-hearted. The academic approach to forming sentences which, generally, quote theory after theory have left me quite confused. But I’ve struggled through and have tried to get the gist of Intersectionality and Social Identity Theory.
#1 Create experiences for the Students WITH them, not FOR them.
This is a concept that I understand but have seen little evidence of it. I note that the method I was taught throughout my entire history of Education was by the Rote Learning method. Teachers would tell me what I needed to learn (Banking System of depositing information into a Student’s Brain account). My homework was a disaster (where I was supposed to think independently but found it difficult to apply the lessons into other forms) but I passed all my exams. The teachers may not have known that they were in a position of power, merely teaching us. But it is suggested that Teachers and students’ could or should engage in habitual, critical reflection, a model that takes into account their identities – equal terms ?
I understand and acknowledge that the students have a history of experiences and we, as teachers, should listen to these and take the diversity of these experiences on board within the classroom. I’m unsure if “Teachers and Students identities would ever be tied to one another in an interlocked relationship” (Rozas 2007) but terms such as “Intergroup Work”, “Conflict transformation”, “Affirmative Contact” (“Contact Hypothesis”) and “Social Identity Theory” leave me cold, wiser, but cold.
We need to know out students if we are to teach ‘with’ them not ‘to’ them. How we, as teachers, can implement briefs in such a way that they are inclusive to all 65 students in one class is a huge challenge. Yes; sort them into groups (but keep them all inclusive), sit and study their backgrounds, sit and chat with them for a few hours individually for only then we can teach with, not to, them.
I am not against the theory or, indeed, the practice: but I am completely bamboozled by the pragmatics.
#2 Education is used to presume the Status Quo.
The Social Identity Theory (SIT) suggests we should “not [aim] to get power, but to reinvent power” (Hahn Tapper, A. J. cited in Evans, Evans, and Kennedy 1987, 226). We should be transforming the stars quo rather than perpetuating it. Education should be utilised to enhance freedom and choices rather than exert a restriction or boundary or hierarchy. I bring with me a set of beliefs, understandings and reasoning but they are on my own terms not shared by anyone else so why am I continuing to teach students ‘in my own image’, with my own baggage, my own limited experiences? Hahn Tapper (2013) suggests that by imposing my own set of “ideological based set of information on the students” I should be creating opportunities for students and guiding them to “teach one another about social identities and intergroup dynamics using critical thought”; to steer and re-address the status quo by a democratic process rather than a dictatorship.
Steering discussions within a group of students will be a new experience for me. I can throw in curved balls, Rubik’s cubes etc. but I would need to ensure that references are all inclusive. Since starting to teach I have assumed that the students have instincts, imagination, their own histories but lack the tools to express these. I find it interesting to consider changing the ‘status quo’, the existing order of things, present customs, practices, and power relations so that I am almost a student myself… perhaps this is way too simplistic an idea.
Social status is not equal, we do not live in a Utopian society but perhaps we help strive to create one by making our educational process one of equality in diversity and in status. We all have a lot to learn, no matter how young, how old, how experienced, how naive.
These thoughts and understandings from Hahn Tapper’s article have part inspired me, part confused, part unnerved me. My ignorance of my own ignorances leaves me with much to think about but I will always question what I read and what I am told – if it makes sense (to me) then I can adapt but if it is verging on hyperbole or Academic theory then I struggle a little to integrate the data into what little teaching experience I have. I can not use this as an excuse but truly need time, patience and a thesaurus to move forward in my teaching practice.