Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Avoiding “Front Street Pedagogy” in higher education  (#72)

Chelda Smith 1
  1. Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, United States

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 As this conference aims to build and sustain global partnerships for learning and development, this study illuminates the need to collaborate with other nations, particularly those that intentionally recruit diverse students. This paper is part of a larger ethnographic study at Southeast University, a public research institution that intentionally recruits ethnic minority students. The participants discussed here are seven women of the African diaspora in a Diversity course and two ethnic minority professors. Data were collected through six months of participant observations, fieldnotes, interviews and various artifacts. In an attempt to humanize participants and reinforce the findings of the study, triangulation tactics were heavily exercised. Data were analyzed through three tiers of coding – open coding, then axial coding leading to emergent themes (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 1995).

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) is the guiding framework for this study. CRP references “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Ladson-Billings, 1994 p. 17-18). I analyze the use of CRP in diverse courses, specifically with minoritized populations. As the facuty attempted to be culturally relevant, Black students felt stereotyped and underserved. Their construction as course content resulted in resistance within a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Despite faculty efforts to legitimize disenfranchised aspects of Black culture, students characterized the pedagogy as a “Front Street” practice. According to the urban dictionary, “Front Street” references the involuntary exposition of an individual or communities’ unfavorable circumstances or characteristics. When disparities of achievement, criminality, economics, and health were discussed, Black students felt negatively overrepresented. Consequently, their cultural competency development stalled and consciousness shifts were obscured. This project discusses potential answers to questions regarding how to critically diversify higher education and enhance the capacity of faculty to be culturally relevant.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This presentation addresses the Navigating Uncertainty and Complexity subtheme of the conference because it is situated in the hitches of inclusive pedagogy in post secondary spaces, particularly when recruitment of more diverse students is promoted. For example, study participants, who were heavily recruited for their diverse experiences and perspectives, rejected monolithic constructions of their ethnic culture in university courses, policies and practices because such practices are problematic and counterproductive to their learning and development. Similarly, discourses that frame diverse students in a single culture group hinder equitable learning experiences for all constituents. Thus, the conference theme Learning for life and work in a complex world is relevant to the experience of these participants and broader groups of ethnic minority students at posts secondary institutions. This study speaks to their complex navigation of higher education.