22 January tutorial group

Group presentations of who we are and who our students are: – it was fascinating to hear about the different paths that have led us to being arts educators.

We were assigned reading partners – never having had a reading partner, I’m looking forward to that interaction. I have shared discussions in a more general way through a google doc with other colleagues which I really enjoyed and found that process productive.

One of our cohort described part of her working life as being comprised of “bits and bobs”.  Yet when she told us what they were – sometimes project based – or short engagements – revealed not only a rich experience that builds a creative practitioner’s life, but I think that it is by these varied length projects that we work in, with a variety of collaborators develops and encourages flexible responses to creative problems.

It also reminded me that Professor Orr mentioned in her lecture, the “imposter syndrome”  that some arts practitioners may have,  possibly due to the often circuitous routes we take as practitioners.

Buzzword activity with a specialist librarian. Her presentation of a history of librarianship as a political activity and her vocational passion for her work is inspiring. Our discussion on what inclusivity is and how it interacts / overlaps with diversity was a useful exchange. Between us we had some references to put into the grid immediately.

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw‘s intersectionality theory (1991) was discussed. It poses a useful idea with which to analyse the states or categories that describe people as interwoven and complex, a more nuanced and connected look than, often blunt, simplified and alienating categorisations.

Here’s a TED talk Professor Crenshaw delivered at TED Women 2016: The Urgency of Intersectionality.

I would go on to learn that African-American women, like other women of color, like other socially marginalized people all over the world, were facing all kinds of dilemmas and challenges as a consequence of intersectionality, intersections of race and gender, of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique. But in the same way that intersectionality raised our awareness to the way that black women live their lives, it also exposes the tragic circumstances under which African-American women die.

Intersectionality has since 1991 gained ground and is  reflected in the UK  in this Social Sciences paper by Emeritus Reader in Population Health Aspinall, P. and Song, M. (2013). Is race a ‘salient’ or ‘dominant identity’ in the early 21st century. The evidence of UK survey data on respondents’ sense of who they areSocial Science Research [Online] 42:547-561Available athttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.10.007.

“However, many of these different identity attributes are consistently selected, suggesting the possibility – confirmed in in-depth interviews – that they may work through each other via intersectionality. In Britain race appears to have been undermined by the rise of ‘Muslim’ identity, the increasing importance of ‘mixed race’, and the fragmentation of identity now increasingly interwoven with other attributes like religion.”

To me  this “sense of who they are” in the paper’s title, along with who is defining whom, and if people have the opportunity to be self-definingare relevant matters in the discussion of the collection and interpretation of demographic data, and the discussion on who our students are, how UAL defines them, the methodology behind the collection of data and how that data is used..

Featured image screenshot. TED (2016)  https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality (Accessed 30 January 2018).

Readings for tutor group discussions 22 January

From Lindsay Jordan:

The first reading is the most recent.  It is a chapter from a new book written by the president of a large private research university in the US. It’s the longest reading at 30 (small, large print) pages, but it’s also the more readable. There’s a lot to think about here, so I would spend the most time on this:

1. Aoun, J. 2017. A Learning Model for the Future. In Higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. MIT Press. pp45-75. (pdf attached)

Aoun presents an engaging look into the future of work, and its relationship to technology and education.

He identifies two things often overlooked by “analysts and futurists”:

terra incognita….Thus, even as machines take over routine labor, freeing us from repetitive or mundane tasks, human beings have a great deal left to occupy them.”

“Now, once more, technology is raising the educational bar.”

“In other words, a robot-proof education nurtures our unique capacities as human beings… And the most elevated of all human capacities is the one that may be the most elusive and difficult to define and therefore is trickiest to teach. This is humanity’s unique talent for creativity. “

I found it illuminating to read his summary of cognitive psychology theories that analyse creativity (“the process of having original ideas that have value,” Sir Kenneth Robinson (2106) in the most popular  TED talk of all time). Divergent  thinking requires creativity and is a very human act that (currently) can’t be duplicated by robots, yet

“Our education has mined our minds like we’ve strip-mined the earth, for a particular commodity,” says Robinson, insisting that there are greater treasures to be uncovered than mere academic performance.”


“The second reading is from nearly 100 years ago. It is an address given by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead at the opening of the Harvard Business School in 1928. It is interesting to see how Whitehead deals with the tensions between business and education; how he maintains his critical stance while still managing to flatter those present. The commonalities with the current HE context are also fascinating:”

2. Whitehead, A.N. 1929. Universities and their Function. In The Aims of Education and other essays. The Free Press. pp 91-101. (pdf attached)

“The Universities are schools of education and schools of research”.

The justification of a University is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and the zest of life, by uniting the young and the old in the imaginative consideration of learning.”

What strikes me the most when I read is the tone of his language – somewhat grand and little overblown –  “zest for life” “patriotism” “human endeavour” “amid the imperfections of all things human” and might be typical of language used at an formal occasion by academics in the late 20s  USA – though as Lindsay points out there is a balance between his critical analysis and perhaps, flattering those who paid for the founding of the Harvard Business School or worked toward it encouraging a positive emotional connection to their act of philanthropism.

Also noticeable is how absent women are from his writing – “intellectual pioneers of our civilization the priests, the lawyers, the statesmen, the doctors, the men of science, and the men of letters”, “few great men”.  1937 saw women admitted to a Personnel Certificate and were first admitted to the Harvard Business School MBA in 1963.


“The final reading is a philosophy conference paper on one of Immanuel Kant’s final works, the Conflict of the Faculties (1798). It describes Kant’s presentation of the Prussian model of the university as one of peaceful, creative conflict, and argues that we should practice this in today’s universities:”

3. Palmquist, S. 2004. Kant’s Ideal of the University as a Model for World Peace. In: International Conference on Two Hundred Years after Kant. 20-22 November, Tehran, Iran: Allame Tabataba’i University. [Online]. [Accessed 4 June 2015]. Available from: http://staffweb.hkbu.edu.hk/ppp/srp/arts/KIUMWP.htm

The things that stayed with me related to the idea of dealing with conflict – an essential debate in philosophy, politics, education, morality and spirituality.

“..the wisdom of preserving creative opposition

Near the end of his life, having established the context of a philosophical system that shows over and over how lasting peace is achieved only through the acceptance of creative conflict in a context of mutual respect

The purpose of this essay is to explore that relation by examining how Kant portrayed the ideal university not only as a model, but as a key player in establishing the very world peace that he elsewhere hoped—some would say naively—the whole world could enjoy.

 Introducing the concept of international law as enforced by a free “federation of states”, he lays out a framework of principles for cooperation between nations of vastly different cultures. His plan was a major inspiration behind the United Nations as it now stands, though the current body only partially implements the policies Kant recommends.

Thus, even with all its imperfections and awkwardness, the existing Part 2 of The Conflict of the Faculties provides ample evidence to enable us to conclude that for Kant the university was to be the primary context wherein, through the education of the public in an approach to law that is grounded in reason, the drama of the evolution of the human race from a random collection of warring nations to a single, peacefully coexisting partnership of nations with radically conflicting ideas, would evolve.

Kant sees conflict not as an evil to be abolished but as a preliminary step on the road to concord. “

This researcher’s broad definition helped me understand – and to question what we do in Universities.

‘Although he never actually used the term, Kant was perhaps the first to articulate the notion that universities could provide a public good through acting as a critical ally to national governments, the professions and society more broadly’. Joanna Williams (30 Aug 2014) A critical exploration of changing definitions of public good in relation to higher education 

Studies in Higher Education Volume number 41, 2016 Issue 4

 The positive look at the role of Universities today in post Brexit UK helps me remember.

Seven ways universities benefit society The Conversation (August 11, 2017) http://theconversation.com/seven-ways-universities-benefit-society-81072

Wednesday 17 January lectures

Professor Susan Orr

Dr Duni Sabri

I enjoyed being in the room with so many colleagues – it gave a sense of sense of scale of that you so rarely get of the people who work around you, and in different colleges. (However so many of our rooms are uninspiring and airless – but that’s another discussion).

The question proposed by Susan Orr about what we knew about UAL was quite revealing. It’s one of those basic things that I’ve never thought to ask myself, and clearly many others haven’t either – but it is a logical place to start to examine who we are and what we do. The Google doc that Professor Orr started and was populated by the attendees created communal knowledge so quickly. The Google technology works well for large numbers of contibutors too, (once you get past the difficulty of logging onto the UAL wifi ) and I use it successfully with our students in various ways.

Another question Susan proposed was what are our particular approaches to learning in arts design and media?

For our MA Documentary Film practice I think that our approach is:

  • craft based
  • academic, including ethics of practice, collaborative practice and history
  • with a relationship to industry

Another idea Susan Orr mentioned from her recent book that resonated with me was in regard to


As makers we operate in the unknown and in particular in documentary film practice there can be a vision for the production, but the path to the artefact is anything but known.

Thinking about working with differently abled contributors who cannot give their consent (recording sound for Pratap Rughani’s film Justine) and the research work he has done and in particular his essay “The Art of Not Knowing” he quotes filmmaker and founder of Project Artworks (which pairs abled and differently abled artists together), Kate Adams:

“This is not work of certainty,” Adams says. “It is a work of doubt and the necessary honesty of self-questioning that allows self doubt to have its proper place in the process of developing a way of working.”

Ambiguity, not knowing and doubt are essential to the creative process and it should be considered in our pedagogy.

“Ambiguity is central to creative learning because it enables the individual students to gain confidence and autonomy as artists and designers. If students and tutors are unable to manage ambiguity in the learning environment the students may never pass over this ‘threshold concept’ (Osmond et al 2009) and become creative practitioners.”

Orr S., Shreeve, A. (2016) Knowing, not knowing and the unknown. Ambiguity and the locus of knowledge and power in student – tutor relations. The Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) SRHE International Annual Research Conference 2016: 7-9 December 2016. Celtic Manor, Newport in South Wales, United Kingdom https://www.srhe.ac.uk/conference2016/abstracts/0323.pdf





Parts of the second lecture on statistics Interpretation of statistics in an HE environment was signposted by Dr Sabri as usually bringing up emotive responses and it did – but also considered non-emotive responses from the audience. Delivering a quiz which launched straight into using categorisation of people (in this case UAL students) into groups by ethnicity without first explaining their development or use – which may have helped toward smoothing the “hackles around these issues” – perhaps. Or otherwise, allowing space to consider those issues.  Or talking about design bias and correction for it or language bias in questionnaires or demonstrate why there is no bias in these categorisations, if that is the case…

It provoked a lot of questioning and often in those situations there is no time in the schedule of the day to explore that questioning. The speaker has a talk to work through to its logical conclusion and a large audience who want to examine one part of the delivery can prevent getting to the place where the speaker wants to take the listeners. The categorisation of people (in this case UAL students) into groups by ethnicity, gender and sexuality, for instance, is instantly contentious. There are multiple issues around categorisation of people. Who is doing it and from what viewpoint? How are they using the data generated? All people have a right to be recognized and acknowledged by self-identification. Some don’t want to be identified by other people because they may be subsumed into a grouping that has no meaning to them and erases their identity in a deliberate political act of aggression. Others feel that organisations such as the University should recognize who their students and staff are and where they are from,  know their students and try to close the attainment gap.

“Thus, independently of the identity threat that results from the inclusion of an individual in a socially disadvantaged or otherwise unattractive group (value threat), theorists have proposed that people can feel threatened when they are viewed by others as interchangeable category members, in situations where they think they should be treated as unique individuals, or as members of another category (categorization threat; Barreto & Ellemers, 2003; Branscombe, Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1999; Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 2002). Because research so far has not systematically addressed the consequences of social categorization in this more general sense, we aim to assess how people react when others consider them in terms of a broader variety of categorizations, including seemingly ‘innocent’ group memberships that can elicit positive as well as negative expectations about individual group members.”

NAOMI ELLEMERS* AND MANUELA BARRETO Leiden University, The Netherlands. Categorization in everyday life: The effects of positive and negative categorizations on emotions and self-views

European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 36, 931–942 (2006) Published online 23 August 2006 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.333

A nuanced and considered conversation around “seemingly ‘innocent’ group memberships” is needed.



Reading journal: beginning

Wakulenko, I. (2015) Anastasia’s journals

Reading has been a lifelong source of wonder and pleasure, an escape route from the present, a dive into worlds, a transmission of knowledge, and a constant stimulation for my imagination and thinking. It is both precious and transformative and I cannot overstate how important it is to me.

The process of reading for pleasure has also been described as a form of play that ‘allows us to experience other worlds and roles in our imagination’. Education standards research team (2012). Research evidence on reading for pleasure. The Dept. for Education.

The image above is a photograph I took of one of my Grandmother’s journals, which she wrote in her nineties. She wrote in Russian, and as I can’t read it, a kind friend is currently, slowly, translating for me. Every word that comes back to me is a connection to my Grandmother whose voice I can hear when I read.

Here she writes about reading and some of what it meant to her in her early life, late in the 19th century living deep in the countryside surrounded by forest, in the Russian heartland, before electricity, her mother read to her and the other children:
Unknown photographer, (1916) Grandma with some of her siblings, and her parents priest Father Vasily and his wife Vera and .

“In the long autumn and winter evenings, when all of us children were sitting round the big table where a large lamp was burning, we listened to Mama’s reading.  She used to read us many excerpts, which we could understand, from the books that were most read. Later on, when we were already teenagers and reading for ourselves, we had to read what Mama had once read to us.  Father never read to us aloud, except for one fairy tale by Aksakov, “Alyenka’s little flower’, but only when we were ill. It was one of our favourite entertainments.  I still have that story even now.  My sister Sonya sent it to me in memory of days gone by.  We knew it almost by heart, but always enjoyed listening to it when Father read it to us as invalids.”

I’ve just looked this story up and found out that it was published by Sergey Aksakov in 1858 (Аленький цветочекAlenkiy tsvetochek), a version of Beauty and the Beast, which Grandma had told to me as child. Even more poignant for me, the Beauty in the Russian story was named Anastasia, which was my Grandmother’s name.

Illustration by Nikolay Alekseevich Bogatov (1854-1935) of the Russian fairy tale “The Scarlet Flower” (“Аленький цветочек”). Иллюстрация выполнена для альманаха “Волшебный фонарь”. In the public domain.

Russian author Leo Tolstoy as well as being one of the world’s greatest novelists and a great reader, whose writing my Grandmother much admired, worked throughout his life on questions of literacy and education and opened a series of free and radical schools for impoverished children, developed pedagogic theories and published works concerned with education. He interrupted his educational work by writing one of the world’s greatest novels War and Peace, and other novels. He was considered a man of dangerous ideas – including anarchism, vegetarianism and pacifism and although an aristocrat his practical support of the people was real. Here’s a link to some extraordinary footage (from Kenneth Clark’s Civilization) of Tolstoy’s death in 1910 a railway master’s cottage, showing people flocking to mourn him, and the funeral being repressed by the Tzarist soldiers.

Just as Tolstoy’s literary creations marked a step forward in the cultural development of mankind, so his educational doctrine made a unique contribution to teaching.

That the ideals of humanistic education and the principles of choice by the people, democracy and freedom in education did not, for Tolstoy, remain just a declaration or some kind of abstraction, is borne out by the methodological solutions put forward by him to the problems of education and by his practical activity as a teacher, an organizer of schools, the publisher of an educational journal and the author of textbooks for schools for the people.

Yegorov, S. F. (1994) Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). PROSPECTS: the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIV, no. 3/4, June 1994. p. 647–60.