Where have you come from; where are you going?
In the seminar I realised that this question can be answered from a number of perspectives. It can be about one’s position within the university, or one’s own personal career trajectory within that wider framework. It can also be a geographical question, in terms of where one grew up and where one finds oneself now – and what happened in between to get from one place to the other. It can also address one’s emotional place in the world and how that has changed.
Being a public blog I will here answer the question in terms of my place within the university and my career trajectory. I have been teaching since 2008, first teaching English as a foreign language in Paris, then teaching Cultural and Historical Studies to students at London College of Fashion. In the past few months I have taken up a more senior position at Chelsea College of Arts, as Theory Coordinator for BA (Hons) Textiles. This has involved a shift from working within a department of ‘theory’ people, delivering CHS to students form many different courses, to being ’embedded’ onto one course only. I am enjoying the aspect of my new role that allows me to plan the curriculum, and develop an exciting and (hopefully) nourishing programme of theory that will help the students in their studio work and also help them in their capacity for conceptual thinking more generally.
This role has, however, left less time for research, which is a big shift from the period during which I studied for my Ph.D.. Once I am settled in the new role I hope to allot more time for research-based activities, both for its own sake and because it underpins the teaching that I deliver.
Where have your students come from and where are they going?
I teach a very diverse group of students, both at LCF and Chelsea College of Arts. Many students are international, and some of them have English as a second language. In terms of their aspirations, these are diverse in that textiles feeds into a number of different industries, such as fashion, interiors and scientific projects. Students might go on to work in the more commercial aspects of the field or might become textile-artists in the field of fine art. Some students continue to postgraduate study, and some go into university teaching themselves.
What role does education play in this movement?
Education can involve an unfurling of the self: getting in touch with your interests and skills. Sometimes education can show you what you the things that you don’t want to engage with – in my case studying Law showed me that this kind of career was too stifling for me. Education can also be about developing networks of contacts in the arts, which carries over into industry. It also equips students with the skills they will later need, such as giving presentations, drafting exhibition proposals and developing the practical and creative skills they need to be successful textiles or fashion designers.
Lastly, education allows for an expansion of the self through an expansion of the mind. In a more prosaic sense it also helps build students’ repertoire of creative references as well as key theories that are central to making sense of the art and design world.
What are the politics of inclusion?
Teaching that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all. It involves designing the curriculum and assessment in a way that allows everyone to participate. It means incorporating the themes of diversity, equality and liberation into the content of the teaching itself. So in my case, when I choose visual examples, I try to incorporate a range of different ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities and genders so that each student can identify with at least some of the examples I present.
When assigning readings, it is also important that the authors come from a range of different perspectives. Ideas can be oppressive as well as enlightening, after all. For example, when discussing feminism, this could mean including bell hooks, who critiques second wave feminism for its white, middle class bias, alongside feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler (both of whom are white, western writers).
Teaching materials themselves should also be accessible: avoiding too much text on PowerPoints; using multimedia examples to engage different learning types.
Introducing a new group of students
Play | Unlearning |
What opportunities do you give your students to get to know one another?
Experiment as a group: ask questions of one another.
Interruptions/accidents make the environment more alive (as opposed to seminar room as a pre-programmed environment).
Hidden curriculum: what are you telling the students without realising it?
What is our role as educators?
Enabling | Facilitating | Engineering an environment in which things can happen (like Rousseau with Emile? Piquing Emile’s curiosity was key in that case.)
Catalysts? | Speeding up the learning process | Intensification | Tipping point.
Often about instinct/emotion when it comes to the visual – ambiguity – how can something so instinctual be learnt?
Teacher has to comfortable in the environment or the student won’t be.