Confronting Systems of Oppression: Teaching and Learning Social Justice through Art with University Students
challenges of teaching for social justice
critical race femisystems ofnism
Social justice art education
systems of oppression
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn this study I attempt to shed light on the experiences of the teacher researcher and university students who explored social justice issues in an art education course. The primary purpose of this study is to provide insights in teaching practice and students' learning processes when the course is designed to examine systems of oppression through class discussions and art-based assignments. The study delves into what challenges and rewards the teacher and students experience in an art class focusing on social injustice. I conducted this study in a semester-long art education course, where I taught as an instructor, with twelve university student participants. The questions that guided by study were: 1) How do I understand my experience of teaching social justice issues through art in an undergraduate art education course and what do I continue to learn from it?; 2) In what ways do undergraduate students navigate and learn about social justice issues through class discussions, writing and art-based assignments? I utilized two methodologies, autoethnography and case study, in order to provide in-depth descriptions of the participants' and my perspectives. The theoretical frame I used was critical race feminism, which highlights the intersectional experiences of females of color. For the autoethnographic study, I collected data from the artifacts I created during the study period including researcher’s journals, visual journals, and audio narratives. I also collected data from the participants, such as pre-course questionnaires, reading responses, reflection notes, personal narratives, peer interview responses, audio narratives, and final art projects. The findings of the study reflect different challenges and rewards that the student participants and I experienced in the university course on social justice art. Themes included student resistance, the teacher's self-doubt, the students' vague understanding of social justice, a difficulty to understand the concept of privilege, and the lack of hands-on activities. The participants also addressed significant learning moments including, learning about colorblindness, personal reflections about their own social identities in relation to systems of oppression, and various art-based assignments they created during the course. Both the participants and I found strong connections between the teacher and students, a sense of learning community, and student empowerment as the rewarding experiences. These findings suggest the need for teachers to reconsider the meaning of a safe space, student resistance, and the role of emotions when they teach social justice issues. Furthermore, the findings suggest that female teachers of color need to positively acknowledge our racial, sexual, cultural, and linguistic identities and envision our roles as border-crossers and agents of change.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Art History & Education