To what extent are the curriculum and pedagogy employed meeting the needs of and accessible to marginalised persons? How have the curriculum, pedagogy and the broader learning environment been decolonised?
|Contribution to policy||G.1 (a) In the preceding 12 months, the faculty has initiated a review, implemented changes or assessed curriculum and pedagogy to address obstacles which impede student success. The review implemented changes or the assessment explicitly responded to colonialism, systemic racism or other examples of structural inequality and violence. (b) In the preceding 12 months, the non-academic department has initiated a review, changes or an assessment of aspects or processes within the learning environment (access to ICTS, communications on race, community safety, research methodology, etc) which impede full enjoyment of the teaching, learning or research environment. The review, implemented changes or assessment should explicitly respond to colonialism, systemic racism or other examples of structural inequality and violence.|
|Transformative interventions||G.2 In the past 12 months staff received training and/or capacity building on sensitively talking about oppression within classrooms and integrating content on anti-oppression into curriculum and teaching resources. Training and capacity building covered, but was not limited to, themes such as intersecting inequalities, decolonialism, HIV/AIDS, GBV, sexual and gender diversity, or transformation, inclusivity and diversity.|
|Knowledge and advocacy||D.3 In the past two years, research (including informal and activist research) has been conducted and/or published on either integrating anti-oppressive content into teaching and learning, or integrating anti-oppressive approaches to ensure the full enjoyment of the learning environment.|
One of the central demands of the #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall movements was for inclusive, accessible and decolonised education. This benchmark describes the actions departments and faculties could take to make the pedagogy, curriculum and the broader learning environment (including operations and administration) more accessible and relevant to marginalised communities. While more actions were undertaken in this area in 2021 than in 2019 and 2020, few departments and faculties were able to meet this benchmark. Part of the reason for this is likely due to some of the challenges caused by COVID-19 and emergency remote learning. Another explanation could be that colonial and hierarchical pedagogies are entrenched within the university and difficult to dislodge.
|Although not all benchmark criteria were met, many faculties and some departments reviewed aspects of the teaching, learning and research environment to be more inclusive of diverse constituencies or to respond to forms of structural inequality and violence. Non-academic departments were less active in reviewing their practices that may affect students.|
|Only a few faculties and departments initiated trainings on anti-oppressive methods with staff members, and fewer conducted or published research on integrating anti-oppressive approaches. While more actions were reported in 2021, it’s important to acknowledge that on average, only 40% of the Curriculum Support benchmark criteria were met.|
Which actions contributed to this benchmark?
The momentum behind decolonising the curriculum and pedagogy at UCT was negatively impacted by COVID-19 and the shift to emergency remote teaching and learning. In 2020, the focus was primarily on parity of online participation. With the lull in COVID-19 and the shift back to normal, more faculties and departments were able to return their focus to integrating content related to race, gender, sexuality and disability, or to integrate diversity, inclusion, decolonial or Afrocentric lenses. Beyond these efforts, a range of other examples were shared:
Who contributed to this benchmark?
Seven faculties and five non-academic departments contributed to this benchmark.
How effective were the actions?
This benchmark aims to capture the extent to which the curriculum and pedagogy employed are meeting the needs of, and are accessible to marginalised persons. In reporting on this benchmark, many faculties shared concrete examples of changes which attempt to decolonise pedagogy, curriculum and the broader learning environment. While these efforts are useful, It is unclear how these disrupt or trouble hierarchical power dynamics implicit in the student–lecturer relationship, the supremacy of the English language, or the dominance of Euro-American epistemic practices.
More actions that employ activist pedagogies, that counter curricula, and challenge capitalist approaches to education may be needed. These would allow for transforming curricula to move beyond integrating social justice content to shifting power dynamics between students and lecturers, and between the university and the participants (as opposed to their current construction as “consumers”) in the processes of producing knowledge.
An example of a good practice
Since 2020, the Humanities faculty has offered first-year level courses, named the Khanyisa Courses.
These specifically focus on decolonising education curricula through using content drawn from the African continent and unconventional teaching and learning methods. The purpose of the Khanyisa Suite of courses is to develop critical reading and writing skills in the Humanities.
In 2021, the Humanities Education Development Unit added new courses onto the Khanyisa Suite, which centres content that engages students’ life worlds and introduces them to the study of arts and social sciences in ways that are cognisant of UCT’s African location. Khanyisa Suite foregrounds the historical development of the discipline and is self-reflexive about the privileging of canonical texts and hegemonic perspectives. It facilitates the revision of those courses towards innovative teaching and delivery methods that may cut down on lecture periods, allowing more time for active engagement and skills development, as well as the option of allowing for multilingualism and translanguaging in the classroom. This also includes the re-conceptualisation of assessment methods that are aligned with a reflexive pedagogical approach, with a higher weighting on coursework (project work, tests, debates, essays, etc) and a lower weighting on formal exams.
In 2021, the OIC initiated a range of interventions that assisted faculties and departments to integrate content on and respond to inequalities in the classroom. The Building Brave Classrooms approach is based on the work of Sara Ahmed (2018) and aims to create brave rather than coddled conversation about key social issues. For example:
The transformation of the academic project is central to transforming the university as a whole. In 2021, entities had a renewed focus on reviewing curricula and integrating social justice content and lenses within their work. Many micro-interventions are present in faculties across the university. The interventions use race, gender, class and sexuality (among other factors) as inroads into thinking about healthcare, legal systems, social phenomena and our shared past. These micro-interventions are only present in some spaces within the university. For the university to achieve this benchmark, existing good practices need to be upscaled and shared within their relevant faculties to inspire other courses to also implement changes. In addition, transformation agents leading these courses should be convened to share good practices and to create opportunities for collaboration.
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