Silences in Teaching

Les voix du silence dans l’académie

Joy Mighty

For many students at our institutions, the experience of learning in the context of diversity is not positive. We must find ways of making all students feel that they are part of a classroom community, regardless of their identity:

I attended a course on race relations that purported to incorporate equity concerns but had nothing on Aboriginal peoples, apparently because Aboriginal people were not considered a minority group . . . . When I received feedback from my professor on my paper, I was told to address racial groups other than Aboriginal peoples. I felt it was a devaluing of the Aboriginal experience.

—Michelle Daigle

Teaching for inclusion means using instructional methods that foster respect for differences:

A wheelchair ramp is an alternate mode of access for the physically disabled so that they may access the same benefits as others. Similarly, being allowed extra time gives the learning-disabled extra time to process what they know. My reading speed will always be slow. But having extra time gives me the chance to compete with others. Extra time is like being provided with a wheelchair ramp. I simply ask for equal access to the experience of learning that others already have.

—William Wegenast

We must use collaborative and interactive pedagogies, consciously modelling the value of diversity in our teaching, and we must examine our teaching practices and the assumptions on which they are based, routinely asking ourselves: do our methodologies perpetuate the silencing of marginalized groups?

[University X] focuses on tradition and spirit, such as the emphasis on its 150-year-old buildings and plaques and its own flag, almost as though it were its own country. Such an emphasis on history, which includes a history of marginalization, has meant that, as a queer coming to [University X], I have felt silenced . . . . Teachers are not prepared to deal with gay issues . . . . In the absence of a process for addressing gay issues in the university, I think that we have a system that endorses hate.

—Rob Bickford