Supporting Transformation of our Organisations by Regenerating Inclusive Education
A new collaboration was born out of the 2 day workshop hosted by the University of Amsterdam in July 2019. Three of us – Mieke Lopes Cardozo (UvA), Alex Mormoris and Julie Allan (UoB) – connected over what we heard each other say over the two days and we were subsequently joined by Marieke Brand (UvA). The further addition of two student reps from UvA – Ece Ulkat and Veerle Engel – makes us a really strong team that’s ready to tackle equality, diversity and inclusion.
What brought us together was a shared interest in the potential for transforming our respective institutions through the vehicle of inclusive education. And this is what we plan to do: we will develop an action research project which seeks to identify the barriers to participation (that may be environmental, structural and attitudinal) and look for ways of transforming the institutional environment, curriculum and pedagogies to become more inclusive.
Crucially, we want to work in ways that are different from how we currently interact, design, collaborate, teach, supervise and write within our institutes and will seek co-creation together with students from the start. Our approach will be inspired by and will build on existing innovative student-focused initiatives (including, amongst others, the Student Ambassadors project in Birmingham Become a Postgraduate Ambassador or the co-created Critical Development and Diversity Explorations and Let Tell You projects in Amsterdam).
As the project name reveals, the STORIE team finds collective inspiration in the power of storytelling as an approach that is integral to our action research design. We see storytelling as a way of shifting the focus from a problem-solving or restorative approach to a more transformative approach that allows stakeholders to see themselves as having a (personalised) stake in the potential of institutional change (Mang and Reed, 2011: 30). Stories can expose inequalities and foster a collective recognition that these need to be confronted. Hence, our project design will include co-created collaborations with various student representatives and constituencies, as well as with a range of colleagues, institutional stakeholders and other relevant actors outside of our universities. We will engage with questions like: How can story-telling as a design approach, as well as a heuristic instrument, be applied to explore and address students’ and colleagues’ sense of belonging, and ownership in relation to their desired agency for transformation? How can story-telling also enable students and colleagues to identify barriers to belonging? How can we learn from and respond equitably to potential similarities and differences in the two institutional contexts?
Alex and Julie at UoB are delighted to have received internal funding to commence some of this work at Birmingham and we will be engaging with students in the simultaneous decolonising and re-imagining of the curriculum in specific areas within the School of Education. Marieke and Mieke are equally thankful to the financial support of the Chief Diversity Officer’s team at UvA, and look forward to developing this work in collaboration with students and colleagues in Amsterdam.