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Absolutely! However, in order to transform the existing oppressive structures, we as educators need to help our students to become aware of oppression – not just in the context of the broader culture, but in the context of their own lives. By enabling students to see oppression in their own actions, languages, and lives, challenges their way of viewing and thinking about the systems that support this oppression. Consequently, they begin to develop a voice from which to speak out against this oppression – become activists and champions for the oppressed – for what is learned cannot be unlearned.mmreegParticipant
My art history classrooms are a bit non-traditional in that they are exclusively online. Therefore, my “round-table” discussions take place via Blackboard Collaborate or IM. In order to draw my students into an active community of learners, I use these optional discussion forums as a time for students to select topics or art to discuss and for us to (truly) explore together, as equals. I have found that by asking students to bring their topics/art pieces to the table at the time of the discussion, we are all forced to look at the thing from a fresh and spontaneous perspective, myself included.
The historical nature of the course lends itself to a defined power dynamic: teacher as the bringer of knowledge, student as the vessel in which that knowledge is to be poured. In facilitating conversations with my students, my goal is to guide them to look deeper, become confident in looking, and find a voice through which they can take these discussions beyond this classroom. My “guidance” is not directing them, but rather providing a foundation and giving them the appropriate language and support to move forward in their looking.
When these discussions were first introduced into my virtual classroom, I noticed (after reading through the transcripts) that students were directing their questions and comments to me instead of their peers. The log appeared to represent 5-6 one-on-one conversations with the instructor. Being cognizant of this dynamic in the discussions, I more easily recognized it and worked shift the conversation by challenging students to look to their peers and inviting others into the discussions.
Observation, recognition and reflection are key in determining where these imbalances are occurring in the classroom and how to shift the dynamic.