David Woodger and Sue Westman’s (StaCs) final report on their Teaching Fellowship project undertaken last academic year (2014-15):
Research, including HEFCE Differences in degree outcomes: key findings (2014) and the Equality Challenge Unit Equality in HE: statistical report (2014), have highlighted a gap in the attainment of Black and racial minority students in HE, even when other factors such as socio-economic status, level of education, age at entry to HE and family educational background are taken into account. Research sucha as the NUS Race for Equality report (2011) and Runnymede Aiming Higher report (2015) have also shown that Black and racial minority students are less satisfied with their student experience in HE compared to white students.
In order to make significant changes to the patterns and embedded nature of institutional racism prevalent in organisations, we need as academics in our teaching and learning in higher education to consider the approaches we adopt, specifically in teaching and learning methods and models, curriculum and staffing. The Race Equality in Higher Education (REHE) TaLIC Teaching Fellowship project sought to:
- identify issues in the teaching and learning environment faced by Black and racial minority students which impact positively or negatively on their engagement, retention and attainment;
- to gain insight into experiences of teaching and learning around race and racism;
- to improve the overall student experience;
- to raise the attainment of black and racial minority students; and to enhance the quality, development and dissemination of innovation and good practice in learning and teaching around race and racism.
The project aims drew upon two main contributions: 1) research drawn from student and staff experience on teaching and learning, including around race and racism 2) exploration of the experiential group work model, adopted in an undergraduate Community Development and Youth Work course, (the latter of which was developed by the Community and Youth programme) and sought to equip students with both experiential and theoretical understandings, enabling them to engage with professionals and organisations to address racism.
We undertook peer research using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with students chosen across Goldsmiths. Although there were many positive responses from the sample of 60 students, they also highlighted a range of concerns that impede their learning experience:
- a lack of diversity in the curriculum including in course reading lists, lectures and tutorials, thereby making their studies difficult to relate;
- a Eurocentric approach to teaching and learning;
- teaching and learning around issues of race, equality and diversity are either limited, marginalised or taught on a rather superficial and abstract level;
- difficulty for black and racial minority students to raise their perspective, as it is not always valued and sometimes tokenized or met with disapproval.
Furthermore, students identified that the above issues left them feeling disengaged and frustrated, feelings further exacerbated by the academic language, which many felt to be both challenging and exclusionary.
Many identified interactive small group work as being an aid to learning, as well as the appointment of more black and racial minority teaching staff.