CASE STUDY SEGREGATED TUTORIALS

In document Barriers To Maori Student Success At The University Of Canterbury (Page 113-118)

CHAPTER SEVEN: BOUNDARY MAINTENANCE

7.1 CASE STUDY SEGREGATED TUTORIALS

Environments that fulfil the Maori desire for separation and exclusivity are increasingly being recognized as conducive to and even necessary for positive scholastic outcomes. Such provision offsets the fundamental policy flaw that Parata (1994:45) identifies as “the failure to accept the intrinsic differences between Maori and pakeha, contaminated by a spurious notion of pakeha superiority.”Two examples of ethnically segregated tutorial groups that transpired as a result of student agency and engagement with institutional staff, highlight the benefits of “protective” boundaries. First,participants identified the advantages of segregated Writing and Study Skills (WASS)52 tutorials for Maori, a corollary of a long-standing positive relationship between Maori students and staff of the Academic Skills Centre:

i) …WASS, they set up things at Te Akatoki [the whare]…we find that a lot better than us going to WASS itself in this big hall and still feeling very much afraid to put our hands up and ask questions in that environment, but when we get one of those tutors over [at the whare] and its just us [Maori] in the room, its not a problem yeah, it sort of works for us. (Kahu-puha). ii) To be quite honest if that [WASS] programme wasn’t set up, my highest grade probably would

have been a B, that’s how beneficial that programme was…I didn’t care what lecture I had on during those sessions, I was there. (Rangiahua).

Further benefits are exemplified in the second example where in response to Maori and Pacific students’ requests for segregated tutorials, the Stage One Tutor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology personally conducted such tutorials in the second semester of 2003. This experiment proved highly successful: not only did grades improve but also all six students passed the second semester course, including those who had failed in the first semester. Attendance was consistently high and student engagement was enthusiastic:

iii) I liked the separate tutes that were for Maori students, we all did. We were able to open up and ask questions. In the mainstream tutes, the non-Maori students were asking questions, they seemed too clever to us, and we could not think of questions to ask in front of all those people, but when we were on our own, well, we fired questions left, right and centre…it felt good for us. (Hana).

In contrast Rangiahua discusses difficulties experienced in mainstream tutorials:

iv) I’d have to consider myself someone who is proactive and will speak out if I’ve got something to say but having said that…I found myself in the larger tutorials…putting my thoughts and my speech in check. I found myself running through what I was going to say…and then the moment’s past to make a comment. Why? Because I’m

psychoanalysing what I’m going to say…why am I doing that? Is it to be accepted by everybody else? I don’t give a damn about them, so why am I in this train of thought to do it, why am I putting myself in check like this…and because I’m mentally doing it, I’m…second guessing my own ability and…it’s inhibiting my learning. I look at others who make comments [in tutorials], who are of other ethnic groups, they don’t give a damn. I don’t see them psychoanalysing what they say.

In both the foregoing examples the tutors were non-Maori which serves to reinforce the fact that Maori desire for segregation relates to the provision of a culturally-safe environment that is devoid of deficit ideology that thwarts the academic progress and development of minority students in monocultural settings.

Valuable insights into the dynamics of minority group separation and exclusivity are provided by Alison Jones, who conducted research into the effects of segregating a class of women enrolled in a Stage III 12-week course in 1997 at an Aotearoa/New Zealand university. The two groups were separated on the basis of their ethnicity: Maori/Polynesian and non-Maori. Jones (1999:300-301) reports that Pakeha reaction to the division was generally hostile and their behaviour became “unusually passive and resentful”, whereas the response of Maori and Pacific students was uniformly positive and energetic. Jones uses the “politics of dialogue and voice” to examine the dichotomy of this experience.

Within the climate of democratic social practices, the need for multiethnic

communications has almost become the established norm in educational rhetoric. Jones (1999:303-305) notes that this quest for communication and democratic ideals, underpinned by the concept of “sharing”, has been further informed by the more radical proposal of “talking or working across difference”. Differences in power as well as ethnicity are expressed and understood through dialogue founded “on the

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WASS (Writing and Study Skills Programme) is the branch of the Academic Skills Centre providing course and individual tuition for students with English as their first language.

possibility of and the desire for mutual empathy”. Jones (1999:299) identifies the limitations of dialogue by invoking Gayatri Spivak’s (1994) question, “can the subaltern speak?,” not in the sense of the oppressed being silenced, but rather their resistance to speak. Radical educators attribute this desire for separation, rather than sharing, on the part of the subaltern as the failure of the liberal ideal of equality, which, while purportedly treating all people “the same”, functioned to marginalize the subaltern and render their oppression invisible. Conversely, radical educators propose that dialogue and mutual respect will facilitate the development of white students’ ability to “learn to hear and empathize with others” and ultimately, overcome the “culture of silence” that characterizes marginalized students in traditional educational settings. Advocates of dialogic pedagogy oppose the ethnic segregation of student groups. The alternative they propose is the pedagogy-as-dialogue model, which emphasizes “transparency, communication and accessibility” as all ‘subjects are “open” to others; creates an environment characterized by “sensibility” that facilitates an awareness of “difference;” and offers a mutual understanding of “oppression and privilege”. It is within this idealistic setting that respective groups may challenge and redress the “uncomfortable silences” and “closed borders” long contaminated by “colonisation and subordination”. However, this notion of “shared openness and accessibility,” Jones (1999:305-306) asserts, has dissimilar and contradictory meanings for members of the dominant and marginalized groups.

In her critique of the radical pedagogical dialogue, Jones (1999:306) employs metaphors that are embedded in this discourse: space, voice and power. While space within the context of education denotes the perpetuation of “unjust social positions and fixed boundaries” wherein the other is excluded and consigned to the margins, Jones (1999:306) contends that this spatial metaphor, while invoking notions of “centres and (shifting) margins” inhabited by the privileged and others, unwittingly repositions white men in the centre from where indigenous peoples have been unjustly excluded. The logical extension of this argument, Jones (1996:306) asserts, necessitates

“inclusion” by shifting the marginalized into the centre. Thus, the provision of space for the “excluded other” requires a power-shift from the privileged to the marginalized by “establishing new boundaries with respect to knowledge most commonly

subaltern’s voice to operate as the vehicle for this power-shift through which equal participation and opportunity will be realized, arguing that this assumption disregards the complexities of power relations and disagreement among voices, together with the fact that the “authentic” voice is a utopian ideal. Moreover, Jones considers that the most important aspect of educational dialogue is the voice that is heard and not the one that is spoken.

In the context of asymmetric power relations, Jones (1999:307) maintains thatthe hearing of voices is an idealistic process wherein the privileged and the oppressed “will intermingle and ‘be heard’ in mutual communication and progressive understanding,” and essentially represents the granting of a hearing of the

marginalized voice by the dominant group. Moreover, this process is unilateral as the marginalized are immersed in and encounter the voices of the powerful on a daily basis. Accordingly, Jones (1999:308) considers that the real crux of the argument is “exclusion”, exclusion not of the subordinate group but the dominant group’s exclusion from being able to hear the voice of the marginalized. In a situation of not being heard, the subaltern’s desire to speak in a classroom is reduced dramatically; this is a point Jones (1999:308) reinforces with Umu Naraya’s (1988) statement that the marginalized “cannot fail to be aware of the fact that presence of goodwill on the part of members of the advantaged groups is not enough to overcome assumptions and attitudes born out of centuries of power and privilege.” Thus, the strategy of making space for multiple voices is efficiently reliant on the powerful wanting to hear different voices, and occurs in an environment where border crossing and acknowledging differences facilitate dominant group access to the thoughts, cultures and lives of others. Jones (1999:309) also challenges the assumption that enabling marginalized groups to express themselves in a classroom provides an opportunity for

empowerment, citing Homi Bhabha’s (1994:98)claim that having to respond to ‘the colonizer’s benign, maybe even apologetic’ queries as in “…what happened?” or “What is it like for you?”’ represents a “strategy of surveillance and exploitation” which reinforces the authority of the colonizer in that power “remains concentrated at the usual places – that is, with the powerful, who attempt to grant subjugated

In conclusion, Jones (1999:309-10) emphasizes that, despite the provision of space in the classroom for “sharing” and “dialogue”, Maori students in her study expressed scant interest in hearing their non-Maori classmates speak, and stressed that their daily immersion in the dominant culture eliminated the need for sharing. Moreover, for marginalized individuals “speaking across difference” involves “a defiant talking about” rather than sharing. In contrast, separation facilitated an all too infrequent but welcome situation that enabled Maori to learn in a comfortable environment amongst their own people.

Jones’ research is supported by an earlier study conducted by Rosens (1993:179) in the United Kingdom, who found that because of first-chance educational experiences, students’ fears of being labelled “failures” meant that multi-ethnic or “mixed” tutorials became sources of anxiety rather than productive experiences, whereas the segregation of students in an “all black” group permitted the exploration of ideas and verbal discussions which proved empowering. This space incited profound personal changes, and in the process students “began to express fear, grief and a new sense of self, but most of all, they allowed themselves to vent anger.” Rosen (1993:191) notes that white staff members, who were both nonplussed and frightened by the intensity of the anger students expressed, became conscious of the extent to which cognitive and emotional factors were interconnected. Group membership afforded students the security and confidence to perform at their optimum individual abilities, and as they were competing only with other blacks, individual students were able to confront their blackness, address their own strengths and weaknesses and develop new self- constructs. Rosens (1993:193) concluded that while black students entering higher education experienced a more intense sense of “otherness, …the intensity of feeling and reaction demonstrated depend[ed] on the degree of intransigence of both staff and students.” Prebble et al. (2005:70-71) support this view, citing Martinez and

Munday’s (1998) identification of collegiality and participative group dynamic in tutorials as important factors in minority persistence. This contention is reinforced in the following study.

In document Barriers To Maori Student Success At The University Of Canterbury (Page 113-118)