Global-local connections: what educators, who use community-linked and multimedia methodologies, can learn about critically engaging university students in development education

Cotter, Gertrude (2019) Global-local connections: what educators, who use community-linked and multimedia methodologies, can learn about critically engaging university students in development education.


Development Education (DE) asks educators to empower learners to “analyse, reflect on and challenge at a local and global level, the root causes and consequences of global hunger, poverty, injustice, inequality and climate change; presenting multiple perspectives on global justice issues” (Irish Aid, 2017: 6). However, at higher education level, DE can become removed from communities in our own locality. This thesis asks what educators can learn by integrating Community-Linked Learning (CLL) into DE at third level. Furthermore, we live in a multimedia world yet we seldom critically analyse how we use multimedia and its relationship to global power relations. The thesis asks how integrating multimedia learning (MML), alongside CLL, into DE pedagogy might encourage third level students to engage with DE. It also asks what impact such pedagogical approaches might have on the community partners with whom we work. The research took place over four years at the School of Education, University College Cork, in partnership with Digital Arts and Humanities. The thesis is grounded in a Critical Pedagogy theoretical framework with a DE lens. It also draws on critical theories relating to the field of CLL, MML and Critical Narrative. The questions are explored using a Critical Ethnographic methodology. Five student groups participated on a voluntary basis. Four ‘key student participants’ and four ‘key community partners’ (in Cork, Lesotho, India, and Iraq) agreed to participate in the research. The findings are based on the experiences of the eight key participants as they engage in a series of collaborative projects. Research methods include participant observation and narrative analysis based on digital stories, radio, creative arts, assignments and interviews. For students, linking to the ‘real world’ of communities both at home and abroad helps to develop core DE competencies. They are learning that what matters is the relationship and the process of working closely with communities. They are learning to slow down and reflect and know that it is not always about ‘getting the task done quickly’. Making connections with ‘global’ issues becomes grounded in meaningful relationships. Students move from the personal story, to community activism, to political understandings and actions at national and global levels. Because they learn in a real world and actions are often in public spaces (websites, radio, art gallery, online 7 educational fora), students take the work very seriously and want to do justice to the communities they serve. Community partners used new media primarily to return to the most ancient of human communication activities, that of storytelling. ‘Telling their story’ was cathartic and transformational at a personal level and part of a wider narrative at a community level. It is both a personal and a political act. The experience of the community and ability to autonomously lead the work is important. Many ethical and practical considerations arise, but returning to DE roots keeps the educator grounded. The role of the educator changes but has a critical role as facilitator and guide through the body of knowledge that is DE. The educator supports students to make connections between theory and practice and encourages critical reflection and understanding of systems of oppression that impact on people around the world. The findings also challenge the DE educator to consider their responsibility to question neoliberal models of education which serve economics rather than society. As humanity strives for freedom, DE helps us to embrace human interdependence and the power of solidarity, reflection and hope.

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