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17 december 2020

Hearing the Third Voice

With the ongoing current debates on Black Lives Matter, diversity and inclusion, equality and equity and racism and discrimination in education, the field social sciences has proven to be very vivid. Documentaries on this topic are broadcasted, new initiatives are developed and national charters and action plans are formulated and being criticized in order to steer the inclusion agenda. Apparently, we are facing a transition, and there is no longer a withdrawal from collaboratively engaging in these topics. The transition into a new way of speaking and thinking, taking into consideration counter perspectives and narratives, as opposed to the former dominant ones, is real. Exclusion and alienation are topics of a long history of suppressed and marginalized groups in society and education.

There is room for the other, the unknown

With the recent polarized debates, there is a tendency of acknowledgment and reconciliation. The dominant idiom has been challenged and, little by little, there is room for the other, the unknown. During my PhD research on summer bridge programs to support underrepresented students in their access to higher education, a curriculum design study has been executed. The inclusive support strategy that was used to successfully engage these students in their academic study pathway, specifically addressed counter perspectives of all participants in these programs, that means teacher and students. What do you hear, when you listen carefully to someone else’s narrative, how does it entail one’s layered and hybrid identity, and more importantly, what does it offer to students in order to find agency when transitioning into higher education. A Third Voice has been the key concept of my thesis, the voice of counter perspectives, doused with narrative and identity capital that offers students the resources to overcome the lack of social and academic capital in order to succeed.

A voice that is only shared in careful and safe encounters: other people’s perspectives now seem meaningful, insightful and real, not only to understand the other, but particularly oneself through and with the eyes of the other. Mutual understanding often occurs in these encounters, based on a deep similarity approach. Working with narratives and storytelling in an academic setting means to be transparent and intuitive while simultaneously being critical. Only when the educational space is safe, students and their teachers are willing to address personal topics of identity, diversity, inclusion, racism and discrimination. Sharing stories and using them as qualitative content of the curriculum include a praxis of ‘doing inclusion.’

In essence, ‘doing inclusion’ should be about creating safe spaces in every board meeting or educational space in order to hear the counter perspective, to be appreciative of third voices of new and meaningful understanding. A Pedagogy of CIND encounter, as formulated in my PhD thesis, offers those ingredients needed to design and execute safe, brave and daring encounters of hope and trust. Working with critical, inclusive, narrative and dialogical pedagogies incite teachers, staff and management to act differently, to ‘do inclusion’.

Guusje Tavechhio

Dr. Guusje Tavecchio defended her PhD thesis Hearing the Third Voice by safe, brave and daring encounters on the 4th of November 2020. She works as Inclusion Coordinator at the National Agency Erasmus+ and as Postdoc Researcher at the EUR, on the topic Mentoring Urban Talent.

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