Participatory, pedagogical and creative methods for reimagining higher education in social justice trans/formations

Year: 2021

Author: Burke, Penny Jane, Lumb, Matt, Bunn, Matthew

Type of paper: Symposium

This paper draws on work within the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education that seeks to develop a feminist, decolonising praxis to reimagine equity in higher education. Turning toward participatory, pedagogical and creative methods for advancing understandings of the role of higher education for social justice trans/formations, we focus on our responsibilities with and accountabilities to marginalised communities. Equity in higher education is an enduring policy focus in many nation states with the UK and Australia having developed significant frameworks and accountability processes. These include government agencies, reporting processes, research schemes and large-scale funding initiatives. The global proliferation of this field has led to a discursive reconstruction of the purpose of higher education and its ‘place’ in global societies. This paper engages with the tensions that form when trying to ‘make a difference’ in policy and practice via feminist, decolonising research praxis that conceptualise equity throughcritical sociological lenses; tensions that emerge in relation to historically formed ontological, epistemological and methodological contestations and commitments. Drawing from a body of work that focuses on embodied subjectivities, positioning and positionalities, we foreground the importance of equity praxis that is committed to deep forms of critical reflexivity – of our fluid, ongoing, fixed and/or “sticky” positioning(s) in and across complex power relations and differences. We hold to this because we see it as a possibility for engaging those who tend to benefit from the ‘invisibilisation’ of their relative privilege in hegemonic social and cultural arrangements. In this, we are exploring the role that different research methods can play in disrupting and countering hegemonic systems and practices when framed by feminist, decolonising praxis.While new methods continue to be developed and refined, and challenge scientistic and epistemic boundaries, adopting participatory, pedagogical and creative methods carries significant risks through working at the edge of legitimacy whereby methods can be made legitimate, illegitmate, challenged or discredited. This paper thus explores ways that method is being reimagined and what the obstacles are in forging new ways forward for educational research.