Socially Just Pedagogies: Spatialised Strategies And Students From Refugee Backgrounds

Year: 2015

Author: Wrench, Robyne, Garrett, Robyne, Paige, Kathy, Soong, Hannah, Stahl, Garth, Geer, Ruth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In ‘developed political economies’, such as Australia, educational institutions are under attack from a convergence of neo-liberalising forces and neo-conservative agendas. Significant here is an impulse for rendering complexity associated with contextual and social justice issues invisible or insignificant. Consequences include prescribed curriculum and standardised or reductive forms of teaching amongst others. There is a concomitant presumption of homogeneity in students, which fails to reflect the diversity of student populations in schools located in regional contexts of inequality. This diversity includes students from refugee backgrounds, who may experience multiple forms of disadvantage resulting from their spatial (dis/re)location or enforced mobility. In this paper we argue that an interplay of spatial, contextual and pedagogical factors are central to addressing social justice barriers and concomitant equity gap that may be experienced by students from refugee backgrounds. Our specific interest is in possibilities associated with what Foucault refers to as ‘different’ spaces or ‘heterotopias’, as these exist in schools as means for enhancing engagement and learning outcomes amongst students from refugee backgrounds. In adopting a relational view of space we draw on Lefebvre’s spatial triad that incorporates spatial practice (perceived space), representations of space (conceived space) and spaces of representation (lived space). We argue that in exploring spaces of representation, as lived and experienced in particular schools, possibilities exist for revealing localised, contingent forms of knowing, and specifically spatialised practices that counter dominant understandings of schools, students and pedagogical practices. Empirical data from case studies, conducted in schools located in the western and northern suburbs of Adelaide, which focused on initiatives specifically designed to enhance engagement and educational outcomes for students with refugee backgrounds, will be drawn on to support our line of argument. We conclude by suggesting that thinking spatially about social justice bears a potential to broaden insights, understandings and possibilities for action in relation to schooling, as well as the recognition of contexts of injustice and practices for just educational outcomes.