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Draft Statement on our School’s Philosophy of Pedagogy and Curriculum

Wednesday, 17 March, 2021

12 March 2021

As a School, we are committed to teaching literary and cultural representations of gender, sexuality, race, class, capitalism, colonialism, disability, and environmental crisis through a critical lens. Housing multiple subjects - English, Drama, Film, and Creative Writing - we seek to offer our students a diverse and multi-media curriculum.

A key aim of our curriculum is to integrate across our modules a better historical awareness of the conditions of power under which scholarly knowledge and ‘canons’ have been produced, whether by framing mainstream texts to draw out contexts such as patriarchy, class, heterosexism, race, slavery, migration, imperialism, and/ or globalization; by introducing texts, theories and practices that foreground the theoretical and creative interventions of writers of colour, those from minority ethnic backgrounds, women, LGBTQ+ scholars, and other marginalized voices; or by interrogating how our own institutional context is shaped by the complexities of Ireland’s relation to empire and capitalism, past and present.

We support Decolonising the Curriculum initiatives: we are committed to continually revising our curricular structure and pedagogy, and since 2018 have begun introducing new modules and changing course structures from Level 1 onwards to foreground imperial and neo-imperial contexts, a process which has been informed by conversations with students, a School-wide survey about inequality and access, and ongoing workshops with EDI class representatives as we continue to change our provision of modules.

We believe that curricular reform should not be limited to ‘adding in’ single modules or texts; instead, all teaching staff have a responsibility to consider how (neo)imperial, gendered, classed, and racialized histories condition representation and knowledge formation. Our pedagogical methods focus on providing students with the critical and literary tools to interrogate ideas of canonicity, aesthetic value, and knowledge, while at the same time we seek to understand how students from increasingly diverse backgrounds are impacted in different learning environments.

We welcome feedback on our teaching from students through formal feedback mechanisms, staff consultation hours, and regular communication with our class representatives and EDI student representatives.

Structural Inequalities

We acknowledge that changing syllabi and pedagogy - what we teach, and how we teach - is not enough to address systemic and structural issues of inequality in higher education.
The School is committed in active and ongoing ways to producing structural changes through initiatives in our Arts and Humanities programmes that seek to address structural inequalities and barriers to access. These include working on the UCD Arts and Humanities 'Thinking Creatively'; seminars for second-level students in DEIS schools; core contributions to the UCD Access to Arts, Humanities, Social Science and Law programme; and actively supporting recent changes to how students can choose to do a degree in English, Drama,

Film or Creative Writing by arguing for expanding entry routes to BA degrees for FETAC/QQI students; mature students and open learners. As a School we want our student and staff body to better represent the diversity of the world outside the academy - recognising that this can only happen through significant material investments in structural changes, implemented at University level and across the Irish higher education sector. Such changes might include, but are not limited to: the creation of student bursaries for marginalised groups at undergraduate and postgraduate levels; improved university resourcing for support and accessibility services for minority staff and students; curricular reform and development across all disciplines and colleges; social justice and pedagogy training across the University; the development of positive action initiatives in hiring and progression for marginalised groups; funding for new tenured posts as well as research centres in key areas of underrepresented scholarship; improved conditions of employment and payment rates for casual staff; continued development of measures aimed at widening participation; actions to support the abolition of direct provision; ongoing analyses of student attainment gaps and structural inequalities in recruitment; and dedicated monitoring of the implementation of EDI regulations. While we cannot implement these changes on our own, as a School we do advocate for them and continue to develop the conversation.

This statement of the School’s philosophy of pedagogy and curriculum is a work in progress. Since Term 1 2020/21, and on the back of a School-wide student survey (Term 2, 2019/20), we are in the process of running regular staff-student EDI forums focused on our subjects, with the goal of actively involving and collaborating with undergraduate and postgraduate students in developing a roadmap for School-organised curricular and pedagogical initiatives, which will feed into statements like these. Our next meeting will be held before the end of term 2, 2021. If you would like to get involved please contact our Head of School, Professor John Brannigan.