In pursuit of a pedagogy for change

Youth Research Centre Seminar Series 2015

Presented by Associate Professor Helen Cahill, Youth Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Much of the work of poststructural philosophy has been to develop theories to help people understand how or why things happen the way they do. However less attention has been given to the pedagogical implications of these theories for those using education as a tool for social change. Once it was enough, at least within research, to elicit the 'voices' of the target group in order to gather insight into their needs. Once it was deemed enough, at least within the business of education and civic change, to involve the minority, the oppressed, the child or the young person and to create opportunities for their active participation or partnership. Since the poststructuralist turn however, this has increasingly been shown to be necessary, but not sufficient in the business of change. Poststructuralist theory is used to argue that in an era of individualization, the threats to wellbeing, civic contribution and personal expression are increasingly internalized in nature. Consequently the individual views the world through the frame of his or her own biography. However this frame, and what can be seen within it, is largely socially constructed. To address this de-politicising press towards self-reference, individuals must be able to engage with the way in which social norms colonise the very desires and fears that drive their behavior, and be able to capture the way that institutionalized practices govern and shape what is imagined to be possible and what is held to be fair. This paper discusses the use of accessible and engaging pedagogical strategies through which to assist students or research subjects to recognize the way that social norms work to shape hope, fear, desire and behavior. In this it makes a contribution to the growing need for pedagogical approaches which assist participants to engage critically and compassionately with their world and its possible future.

Associate Professor Helen Cahill

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Associate Professor Helen Cahill specialises in the use of participatory strategies within youth research and teacher education.

She uses poststructural theory to inform innovation in the use of drama as a transformative pedagogy for wellbeing and communication. She has developed a number of violence-reduction, gender rights, sexuality and HIV education programs for women and marginalised young people in developing countries within the Asia-Pacific region, and is a leading innovator of Australian evidence-based school-based wellbeing interventions addressing issues of mental health promotion, social and emotional wellbeing and drug education. Her teaching profile includes leadership of courses in the promotion of student wellbeing within teacher education. She has extended experience in positioning school students as co-educators within teacher and medical education.