Enlivening pedagogies to create a sense of belonging – insights from UJ scholars

On Thursday, 18 October 2018 a group of about 16 ECP lecturers, joined University of Johannesburg, lecturers and scholars Prof Kim Berman and Shonisani Netshia for a participatory workshop that sought to discuss and explore what it really means for teaching when issues of decolonisation, transformation, social justice, democratisation and inclusion are in the forefront of classroom pedagogies and practices.

A sample of the creative outcomes produced during the workshop

Faced with the challenge of how to enlivening their pedagogies to create a sense of belonging for all their students, Berman and Netshia, sought to reconfigure their Art and Design classrooms in ways that would create a safe space for their students while fostering deeply reciprocal relations among students. Much of their approaches work with the relational ‘metaphor’ to promote ethical and equitable relationships between students in their classrooms. Their starting points are appreciative inquiry and capabilities approaches and an authentic acknowledgement of the many resources that students bring along to the classroom. Recently they published their research on this topic in the SOTL in the South journal. It was this article that prompted the request to Kim and Shoni to assist lecturers in ECP progammes in Architecture, Design and Interior, to address similar questions about how to translate debates about decolonisation into meaningful pedagogic strategies.

Shoni Netshia and Kim Berman (centre of the table)

The workshop took a hands-on approach and lecturers were engaged in the same activities discussed in their journal paper. Activities like encouraging empathetic listening and non-verbal creative tasks that asked participants to share their passions and co-create meaning in response to the question ‘How do you feel about the challenges you face in your classroom?’

The session was concluded with a thoughtful discussion about student evaluation and assessment in the visual arts disciplines. Again participants were encouraged to consider deeply philosophical questions about what is the core of education, what is useful and how can the designer’s self-identity be nurtured and given expression not only through classroom practices, but also through all important evaluation moments.  At the end of the session most of the participants left the workshop with a sense of rejuvenation – maybe it was the opportunity to work creatively with paints, crayons and visually express ideas, maybe it was an opportunity to grapple in practical ways with what it means to bring a decolonization and democratization lens into pedagogic practice, or maybe it was because we were also given a safe space to co-create meaning and engage with our colleagues in equitable ways.